JANUARY 2 Over the Red River Valley, North Vietnam, Operation bolo commences as three flights of F-4 Phantoms under Colonel Robin Olds, the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, mimic the usual routes flown by F-105 Thunderchiefs and lure a large party of unsuspecting MiG-21s into combat. The Communists are badly bested and lose seven MiGs— this is the largest single-day tally of the war.
JANUARY 18 An Air Force Titan IIIC launches eight defense communications satellites at a single throw.
JANUARY 27 Tragedy strikes Cape Kennedy, Florida, when the Apollo space capsule on the launching pad catches fire, killing Air Force lieutenant colonels Gus Grissom and Ed White, and Navy lieutenant commander Roger Chaffee.
FEBRUARY 22 Near the Cambodian border, Operation junction city unfolds as the 173rd Airborne Brigade drops into combat from 23 C-130 Air Force transports. This is the first such tactical deployment of the war and is part of a large search-and-destroy operation with the Army 1st U. S. infantry Division.
FEBRUARY 24 Over Dalat, South Vietnam, a Cessna O-1 Bird Dog flown by Captain Hilliard A. Wilbanks, 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron, flies down low firing his rifle and smoke rockets in support of some South Vietnamese rangers; he is shot down and killed, winning a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.
MARCH 10 Over North Vietnam, an F – 105 piloted by Captain Merlyn H. Deth – lefsen, 354th Tactical Fighter Squadron, makes repeated passes at Communist antiaircraft positions, allowing other aircraft to complete their bomb run; he wins a Congressional Medal of Honor. Another F-105 flown by Captain Max Brestel manages to down two MiG-17s in one day.
MARCH 10—11 Over North Vietnam,
Air Force F-105s and F-4s operating out of Ubon, Thailand, strike the Thai Nguyen steel factory.
MARCH 11 Near Hanoi, North Vietnam, the Canal des Rapides bridges are attacked by Air Force warplanes.
MARCH 15 The Sikorsky HH-53B, the largest and fastest helicopter available in the Air Force inventory, performs its maiden flight.
MARCH 22 At U-Tapao, Thailand, a new B-52 base is constructed to alleviate the congestion at Andersen Air Base, Guam.
MARCH 25 At Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, the primary role of strategic reconnaissance falls upon the 6th Strategic Wing, which flies a variety of RC-135 aircraft.
April 3 In Washington, D. C., Paul W. Airey gains appointment as the first chief master sergeant of the Air Force. As such he is tasked with advising the service leadership on enlisted personnel issues.
April 10 At U-Tapao, Thailand, B-52 bombers begin staging their first combat missions ofthe war. Due to their proximity to Vietnam, in-flight refueling is not necessary.
APRIL 19 Over North Vietnam, flying an F-105 Thunderchief, Major Leo K. Thorsness, 357th Tactical Fighter Squadron, completes his bombing sortie, then fights gamely against Communist jets and antiaircraft fire as a diversion for other aircraft; he manages to down two MiG-17s and wins a Congressional Medal ofHonor.
APRIL 26 Over North Vietnam, Air
Force bombers are finally allowed to attack Communist airfields at Kep and Hoa Lac. However, airfields within the boundaries of Hanoi remain off limits.
April 28 At Ramstein Air Base, West Germany, Air National Guard KC-97Ls participate in Operation creek party; this is the first time that the ANG has contributed to operations supporting military contingencies.
An Air Force Titan IIC missile hauls five Vela satellites aloft, which are designed to test the explosion of nuclear weapons back on Earth.
May 31 Over the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, a KC-135 Stratotanker piloted by Major John H. Casteel, 902nd Air Refueling Squadron, manages to refuel six Navy fighters which were extremely low on fuel. Casteel and his men win the Mackay Trophy.
May 31 Over North Vietnam, the A-12 high-speed reconnaissance aircraft performs its first 3 hour, 40 minute mission. It is flown by CIA pilot Mele Voj – vodich.
June 1 In Paris, France, pair of Air Force
helicopters recreates Charles Lindbergh’s solo transatlantic flight in 31 hours and 9 aerial refuelings. This is also the first nonstop flight by helicopters from New York to Europe.
June 5—11 At Wheelus Air Force Base,
Libya, the Air Force relocates 8,000 U. S. and European citizens after the six day war erupts between Israel, Egypt, and Syria.
July 1 A Titan IIIC missile places six additional satellites into Earth orbit as part of the Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP).
July 30 At Fort Worth, Texas, the General Dynamics F-111 variable geometry (swing-wing) fighter performs its maiden flight.
AUGUST 10 In Washington, D. C., the Senate Appropriations Committee eliminates $172 million from the F-111B program intended for the U. S. Navy once critics felt the aircraft would be too big and heavy to land on carriers.
AUGUST 11 Over North Vietnam, two
spans of the Paul Doumer Bridge is destroyed by F-105s of the 355th and 388th Tactical Fighter Wings, which flew in from bases in Thailand.
AUGUST 21 Over North Vietnam, a record 80 surface-to-air missiles are launched at attacking U. S. warplanes; this is the highest tally for the entire war.
August 24-September 4 The American government enacts another round of bombing suspensions in a futile attempt to encourage peace talks with North Vietnam. The Communist regime fails to respond or reciprocate.
AUGUST 26 Over North Vietnam, an
F-100 piloted by Major George E. Day is brought down; Day, captured and badly injured, makes several failed escape attempts; he receives a Congressional Medal of Honor.
AUGUST 28 The advanced Lockheed U-2R performs its maiden flight, although only six are acquired by the Air Force and six by the Central Intelligence Agency.
SEPTEMBER 9 Over South Vietnam, Sergeant Duane D. Hackney shows remarkable courage while rescuing a downed Air Force pilot and he becomes the first enlisted man to receive the Air Force Cross.
October 3 The hypersonic X-15 research rocket plane piloted by William Knight reached a new world speed record of 4,543 miles per hour (Mach 6.7) at 102,100 feet.
In St. Louis, Missouri, the new McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II is rolled out; this is the first version with an internally mounted 20mm cannon.
October 16 At Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, the first General Dynamics F-111 arrives for operational testing. In addition to featuring swing-wings, the craft can also fly nighttime, terrainfollowing flight paths.
OCTOBER 24 Over North Vietnam, the large aviation complex at Phuc Yen is struck by a joint force ofAir Force, Navy, and Marine Corps warplanes.
OCTOBER 30 Over North Vietnam, Communist troops launch six SA-2 Guideline missiles at an A-12 passing overhead; none hit the aircraft, but missile fragments are subsequently found in a frontal fillet area.
November 9 Inside Laos, an HH-3E rescue helicopter piloted by Captain
Gerald O. Young is shot down while attempting to rescue an Army reconnaissance team. Though wounded, he refuses to be evacuated and evades capture for 17 hours until he can summon his own rescue mission. He wins a Congressional Medal of Honor.
Over North Vietnam, an F-4 Phantom II piloted by Captain Lance P. Sijan is shot down; he manages to eject but is badly injured and tortured. Sijan manages to escape but is recaptured, and he dies of illness on January 21, 1968. Sijan is the first U. S. Air Force Academy graduate to be awarded a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor.
November 15 The X-14 hypersonic research plane piloted by Major Michael J. Adams breaks up in flight after entering into a spin at Mach 5, killing him. He wins a posthumous set of astronaut wings.
November 17-December 29 Over Southeast Asia, Operation eagle thrust unfolds as C-133 and C-141 transports convey 10,000 paratroops and 5,000 tons of equipment from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam. This is also the longest-ranging aerial troop transfer of the war.
DECEMBER 8 Over Edwards Air Force Base, California, an F-104 crash takes the life of Major Robert H. Lawrence, the first African American selected by NASA to serve in the astronaut program.
December 29 At Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, a chapter closes as the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing retires its last remaining RB-47H.