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F-105 combat pilots reunite one last time

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. S.A. Gamboa
  • 355th Wing Public Affairs

Former F-105 Thunderchief pilots held a reunion at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 2-5, 2022.

After approximately 15 years of get-togethers, this reunion was arranged to have as many combat pilots of the F-105, nicknamed “Thud,” come together one last time.

“Most of the guys are in their 80’s, so that’s the reason why this is the last one,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas ‘Waldo’ King, a former F-105 combat pilot and reunion coordinator.

Many of the pilots who came were assigned to the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, during the mid-1960s to early 1970s, where they saw combat in Northern Vietnam during the war.

After the U.S. drawdown from Southeast Asia, the 355th TFW was inactivated from Takhli in 1970, reactivated at Davis-Monthan in 1971, and redesignated to the 355th Wing in 2019.

For the last hoorah, King organized events that would make a lasting impression for those who were able to come.

“Only guys that logged combat time in the F-105 are here so it is a unique reunion,” said retired U.S. Air Force Col. Frank Peck, a former F-105 combat pilot. “Every time I’m near an aircraft, pilots or the flightline, I love it.”

Their first event on base, was watching an A-10 Thunderbolt II Demonstration Team training demo.

What made this more unique, was that the A-10 that flew honors all 355th TFW pilots who were prisoners of war and missing in action with a memorial and a Southeast Asia camouflage paint scheme; the same paint scheme the F-105 had.

“It was memorable,” said King about the demonstration. “Especially the right side, where they had the names of the POW and MIA F-105 pilots. It was an honor.”

Following that, they visited a couple of familiar squadrons.

Spanning across seven decades, deactivations and reactivations, the 354th and 357th Fighter Squadrons remain an integral part of the 355th; this being one of the main reasons to host their last stop at Davis-Monthan.

“The 355th was one of the combat wings at Takhli [AFB] Thailand, and it has two of the squadrons that were active then,” said King. “So that is why we decided to come here.”

They also set aside time to talk about the history of the 355th Wing and build comradery between present and past pilots.

“We came here to educate the young 355th pilots on the historical background of their wing and have them tell us what all their combat operations were after the 1970s,” King added.

They capped off their visit with an event at the Pima Air and Space Museum where they honored those who could not be there, one last time.