Fighter pilot in paradise

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Eileen Meier
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs
More than 58,000 members of the armed forces lost their lives in the Vietnam War. Of those, 11,000 were under 20 years old.

The numbers of the men and women who can still tell their stories of what went on behind the front lines of the war continues to dwindle.

Jack Doub, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel, is a distinguished one of those few who can recap on his accounts more than 40 years ago.

"It used to break my heart to think about all those young men we were flying support for," said Doub. "We'd see the dust off of choppers come in and pick up 20 to 30 guys. It was a national tragedy.

"Due to political consideration, we couldn't bomb the big airfields or ports," added Doub. "If they would of let us hit those targets, that war would have lasted about a month."

Doub was a seasoned pilot on his first tour to Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, in 1967. He commissioned with the Air Force a little over a decade after World War II, following in the footsteps of his father who was a naval officer.

After graduating in 1958 from aviation training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, Doub flew the F-86 Sabre at Nouasseur Air Base, Morocco, and then onto Moody AFB in 1959. The F-86 was the first of the many Sabre models he'd fly in his career, all the way until his last day in the Air Force.

He left for his third and final tour to Vietnam in 1969, which was initially a 90-day TDY that turned into a six-month stay. A particular mission sparked his interest, and he made his way to an elite group of pilots called the Misty forward air controllers (FACs).

"What we were doing up there was important," said Doub. "We shut everything down. There was nothing left moving in North Vietnam by the end of 1970."

As an all-volunteer group that formed in 1967, they were eventually known by their radio call sign "Misty." The pilots flew high-risk missions in Laos and North Vietnam, scouting enemy territory, aiding in rescue missions and occasionally taking out enemy targets themselves.

"If we could verify the target, we'd call it in and fighter pilots would be diverted to us," said Doub. "We would shoot a Willy Pete rocket (white phosphorous smoke) to mark it, and the fighters would roll in."

The legendary F-100 Super Sabre's were used by the Misty FACs for detailed surveillance operations and were vital to ground commanders when sending troops out into the dangerous and dense jungles of Southeast Asia.

Doub says the initial cadre of pilots decided on the F-100F Super Sabre because it was a two seater and could cruise at low elevations without using the fuel-consuming afterburner.

Two sets of eyes and a longer airborne duration gave the FACs a greater advantage in locating enemy ground forces, but unfortunately a quarter of the Misty FACs were shot down by the enemy.

"We are called the Pair of Dice (paradise)," said Doub. "This squadron dates back to World War I and is the oldest, continuous active duty fighter squadron in the Air Force ... We are very proud of that."

Defying standards and regulations of the Air Force, Doub and his mates started a tradition in 1967. On the zipper of their flight suit, they wore a pair of red dice on a chain.

"I was told by generals and colonels that as soon as I returned to my quarters, to remove the dice from my flight suit," added Doub. "I'd say 'yes sir,' but we never took them off.

"I still have a few pair I carry in my briefcase, and if I'm going to be around anyone meaningful I put my dice on them. We are a very spirited, allstar fighter squadron, 1967 in particular. I was just proud to be hanging on to those guys."

After retiring in 1977, Doub went on to fly commercial planes for another 21 years. He retired for the second time in Europe where he was living at the time. After missing his grandchildren, Doub moved back to the states where he spends six to seven months out of the year in Valdosta, Ga. The rest of his time is spent in his hometown of San Diego, Calif.

Doub is accredited with 572 flying missions as an F-100 pilot in SEA and was the last person to fly the F-100C model. He also flew 102 missions as a Misty FAC and treasures his days as a fighter pilot.

A children's book was written about Doub's childhood, where he explains the very moment he knew what he wanted to do when he grew up. One day he had accompanied his father to work at the San Diego naval base.

"I was six years old ... he had to work one Saturday so I took my lunch in a paper bag," said Doub. "While he was working, I was outside watching the naval fighters beat the field up. I said 'Pop, that's what I'm gonna do. When I grow up I wanna be a fighter pilot.'

"He was very proud of that, and he got to pin my wings on."