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Dyess airpark holds Airman’s tale
Retired Lt. Col. John C. Wright flew 140 missions over Loas and North Vietnam in the F-105 in 1969. The F-105, dubbed the “Thud” by its pilots, was one of the primary strike bombers of the Vietnam War. Most of Wright’s missions in the Thud were strikes on convoys and troop concentrations. (Courtesy photo)
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Dyess airpark holds Airman's tale

Posted 11/15/2012   Updated 11/15/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs


11/15/2012 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Many visitors walk down the paths of the Linear Airpark at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and see a wide range of static displays, but do they ever stop and wonder about the men and women behind the aircraft?

The name Lt. Col. John C. Wright is painted along the F-105 display there. This is his story.

"I was often asked why I became a pilot, and that was always easy to answer," Wright said. "I became a pilot because that was what I always wanted to be. I started in the jet age, flew in the jet age and finished in the jet age."

Born on July 12, 1930, Wright's love for aircraft started at a young age. He grew up near Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, where his uncle was stationed at the time, and spent hours observing planes and servicemembers.

"When my uncle was stationed at Randolph Field, I would stay with him as much as I could," Wright said. "I would walk to the flight line behind the marching cadet units, sit on a bench at the flight line and watch the cadets do their training flights."

As a teenager, Wright's passion drove him to join the military for an opportunity to be around aircraft.

"I was 15-years old when I joined the Texas National Guard," he said. "I lied about my age to get in. I was placed with a weather unit as a weather observer, which got me near the planes and pilots."

Taking advantage of this opportunity, Wright would soon start his flying career.

"I would ride in the back seat of the T-6 whenever I could," he said. "After awhile the pilots were so used to letting me fly with them, they began to teach me flying techniques."

During his five years in the National Guard, Wright graduated from high school and finished two years of junior college. He then attended pilot training at Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, and Williams Air Force Base, Ariz. A year later in 1951, he graduated from the aviation cadet program, but would have little time to celebrate.

"I graduated as a second lieutenant jet-qualified pilot and married my childhood sweetheart that same day," Wright said. "Then I had to go across town to Luke Air Force Base for my jet combat training in the F-84."

During his long career, Wright flew more than 20 aircraft and completed hundreds of missions including 100 missions over North Korea in the F-84 in 1952 and 140 missions over Loas and North Vietnam in the F-105 in 1969.

The F-105, dubbed the "Thud" by its pilots, was one of the primary strike bombers of the Vietnam War. Most of Wright's missions in the Thud were strikes on convoys and troop concentrations. During missions, Wright had close calls from enemy anti-aircraft fire and aircraft.

"In 1968, North Korea captured a U.S. Navy intelligence ship, the USS Pueblo," Wright said. "America didn't want North Korea to get a chance to find all the secrets that the Pueblo held. I was picked to take 12 F-105s to South Korea with orders to sink the Pueblo. Twelve F-105s against 200 North Korean Migs. We waited three days to launch from South Korea, while the North Koreans were getting Migs from all over Noth Korea and China to stop us."

"Luckily the mission was called off," he said. "It would have been certain death."

After a long career with the Air Force, Wright continued to fly until a small stroke got in his way. He now resides in his home state of Texas with his wife of almost 60 years.

"Of all the aircraft I had the pleasure to fly, the F-105 was my favorite," he said. "The F-105 will live in my heart as the best of the best."

"I miss being in the cockpit," he added. "But I've been blessed with a great past and made some history. Very few people will ever get to take as many aircraft into the air or do as much as I have been blessed to do for my country."



tabComments
5/26/2014 6:03:55 PM ET
What base did you fly f105's fromI was in Takhli in 1967 68
John Porter Walker Jr PM, 37726
 
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