My “Hun” on a Pedestal

F100 on stick Lakenheath
F-100 at RAF Lakenheath, England  © Frank Duarte. Jr.

 

I just rediscovered another old love, so beautiful without bombs and rockets and drop tanks slung under her wings! She’s one of the “huns” (F-100) I flew in combat, who now spends her retirement years on a pedestal welcoming visitors to RAF Lakenheath, England, near Cambridge, my last duty station as a USAF fighter pilot and the birthplace of our son. My grey matter is more like charcoal matter these days, but I can still recall forty-seven years ago, in 1968-9, on the opposite side of the planet from Lakenheath, angel #048 took me into combat and brought me home safely every time I flew her, and if memory serves she was the one who even took a hit without flinching for me once. I was on a low angle strafing pass over the jungle of Southeast Asia when I took a 50-caliber slug in the left leading edge wing slat, three feet from the fuselage and six feet from the cockpit. I must have been diving right down the 50 cal gun barrel and it was part of my target, though I did not see its muzzle flashes nor realize I’d been hit.   

CIMG4623A 50-cal is a belt fed weapon that has downed a lot of planes in the history of air warfare. I doubt the gunner gave me “the whole nine yards” (27 feet of the ammo belt), but it’s a reasonable assumption, from where the bullet hit, that there was a lot of lead in the air in close proximity to my face that I was not aware of. But, as Stonewall Jackson proclaimed, God has numbered our days, and until they are up, he was safe in his saddle (and I in my cockpit) no matter how much lead (or steel) was in the air. I was firing four 20-mm cannon (the silver bullet above to the left of the belt of 50 cal bullets) at a rate of 1700 rounds per minute in his direction, and my bullets exploded on impact. I was doing 400 knots and jinking around while he was stationary. It was not a fair fight—the best kind in war. The enemy has my admiration for having the courage to stick to his post and fire away at me as I bore down on him. He was obviously a better than averageF-100 silhoutte headon shot—an F-100 head-on is a slender silhouette and he hit one of the slenderest parts—but I was a pretty fair shot too, so it was most likely the last thing he did on this earth. Our bombs and bullets made such a helter-skelter pile of smoldering kindling out of the jungle that we could not know for sure.

The copper-jacketed, steel-core 50-cal bullet jammed the left wing leading edge slat, rendering it inop, so my final approach to landing was a bit testy—my wounded angel kept wanting to roll left. I compensated with a few more knots of airspeed and right rudder and #048 kissed the concrete more passionately than normal, and all ended well by God’s grace. And today she resides on a well-earned pedestal and I in an easy chair, and it appears she is aging better than I.

 

 

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2 Responses to “My “Hun” on a Pedestal”

  1. buz heuchan Says:

    How very cool, JD, to have a final resting place for an old friend.
    There is no doubt as to why He brought you thru those times. God bless !

    Like

  2. MB Says:

    The Old Girl has not aged a bit….. God Bless you sir!!!!!

    Like

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