From making history to future take-off

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michael Cossaboom
  • 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
As he pulls up a chair and sits down, a smile comes across his aging face. He clears his throat and adjusts his glasses while glancing around admiring photographs and memorabilia from his time serving as a pilot in Vietnam. He brushes back his silvery hair once more as the cameras start rolling and he begins to tell his story.

Retired Lt. Col. Allen Lamb, former Wild Weasel pilot, said it all started one day when he was having lunch with a colonel. The colonel told Lamb about a mission that he would like Lamb to volunteer for, but he would only tell Lamb what it is if he volunteered.

During the peak of the Vietnam War in 1965, Soviet-supplied surface-to-air-missile systems, ground based weapon systems designed to fire missiles and bring down enemy aircraft, were making quick work of U.S. planes in the skies, causing air support to be near non-existent.

Top Air Force leaders knew that if the war was to be won, they would need pilots to volunteer to fly in at low levels and take out the SAM systems before any more American lives were lost, said Lamb.

Lambs and the other Airmen who volunteered for this mission were called Wild Weasels, tasked with destroying the enemy's air defenses.

"Without air support we could not fight and win the war," said Lamb.

The Weasels attacked by flying one Weasel in to get picked up by an enemy radar and enemy air defense system, and as that plane was being tracked, another Weasel would fly in and destroy the SAM system, said Lamb.

Lamb, the leader of the Wild Weasels, flew numerous missions as a Weasel in Vietnam, but there was one mission that he said stood out.

In December of 1965, Lamb was on a routine sortie over North Vietnam in search of an enemy SAM system. Despite enemy anti-aircraft fire and knowledge that another SAM system was in the immediate area, Lamb made repeated strafing passes at low altitude resulting in the destruction of the SAM system.

For Lamb's accomplishment that day, him and three other Airmen were awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, making it the only time in history all crew members on the mission received the DFC, said Lamb

Lamb and the rest of the Wild Weasels were the originators of the suppression of enemy air defenses combat technique. Today the 20th Fighter Wing incorporates these strategies and is the Air Force's largest combat fighting wing.

"SEAD is a unique capability and Shaw itself is 50 percent of the SEAD mission," said Maj. Jesse Breau, 20th Operations Group chief of standardization and evaluation. "There are three bases with six squadrons across the USAF and we have three of those squadrons. We're a low density, high demand asset in the sense that every time we fight a major war, SEAD is going to be required there."

Lamb set a standard for future Air Force pilots while fighting for his country. The tactics he used and mastered is something the Air Force will utilize for years to come.