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Bob Hudson

Vietnam War Phantom RIO helmets gear flightsuits

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Doc Ward was a Navy Flight Surgeon (first in his class) who became a self-taught RIO - radar intercept officer - for the F-4 Phantom (and later the F-14 Tomcat). As a rear-seater, he flew combat missions in Southeast Asia with VF-154 off the Ranger in 1972-73. His family let me take photos of his logs: the last page shows him with just over 2400 hours flight time.

The flight gear shown here includes four helmets which I assume cover the period from about 1971 to 1994, when he retired from the Navy Air Reserve after the Phantoms were retired (his last flight in 1994 was in an F-14A).

I put some of the gear on a makeshift mannequin stand. There's a 1968 flight suit, an MA-2 torso harness, a G-suit and a "REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT" safety flag for a bomb ejector rack. I'd guess it's from an F-4.

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I found the log pages which sum up his flight time during the Vietnam War. Look at his 1972 F-4J time as it begins to build until by December, when the Ranger is part of Operation Linebacker II, he reaches almost 25 hours of combat flights in one month. Again, he was the squadron flight surgeon, but Phantom RIO qualified. I spoke with a pilot who often flew with him and said they once went after targets in an area where - had something gone wrong - it would have been downright embarrassing for the Navy to have to explain what the heck a flight surgeon was doing there.

 

The Ranger was on station until August 1973 before returning stateside. His last month of combat Phantom flights with VF 154 was May 1973 when he accumulated over 31 hours.

 

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This looks like a lot of stateside training flights before embarking on the Ranger:

 

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Incredible grouping! I love those decorated helmets, and to have them attributed with the grouping is special.


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FROM WIKIPEDIA:

 

On 18 December 1972, the Linebacker II campaign was initiated when negotiations in the Paris peace talks stalemated. Participating carriers were Ranger, Enterprise, Saratoga, Oriskany, and America. In an intensified version of Operation Linebacker, bombing of North Vietnam above the 20th parallel and reseeding of the mine fields were resumed, and concentrated strikes were carried out against surface-to-air missile and antiaircraft artillery sites, enemy army barracks, petroleum storage areas, Haiphong naval and shipyard areas, and railroad and truck stations. Navy tactical air attack sorties were centered in the coastal areas around Hanoi and Haiphong, with 505 Navy sorties were carried out in this area. These operations ended on 29 December when the North Vietnamese returned to the peace table; on 27 January 1973, the Vietnam cease-fire came into effect, and Oriskany, America, Enterprise, and Ranger, on Yankee Station, cancelled all combat sorties.[8]

 

And here's his log for this two month campaign:

 

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His last month of flights from the Ranger, and below that his last flight ever before retiring as a Captain.

 

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I found a label on the bomb ejector rack safety flag: it is indeed for an F4: the label shows it as "END ITEM".

 

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In November 1990 POPULAR MECHANICS used a photo of him to illustrate an article about the build-up to the first Gulf War. He is not mentioned in the article but his name can clearly be seen on his flightsuit name tag. "Connie" is a nickname that's been with him since early childhood and no one remembers why.

 

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Quite a career! Did he receive Air Medals for his combat time?


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"I have only two men out of my company and 20 out of some other company. We need support, but it is almost suicide to try to get it here as we are swept by machine gun fire and constant barrage is on us. I have no one on my left and only a few on my right. I will hold." (Message sent by 1st Lt. Clifton B. Cates. USMC, 96th Co., Soissons, 19 July 1918 - later 19th Commandant of the Marine Corps 1948-1952)

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Today I had time to look more closely at the all-yellow helmet, plus a nice F-4 model: each had a surprise - his name on them. Most surprising was seeing his name painted below the canopy on the model. He was with VF-21 Freelancers on the Ranger then.

 

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Wow! Love this grouping Bob! Those helmets are amazing!

 

Rick


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Collector of WWII M-1helmets and WWII Airborne items

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Wow! Love this grouping Bob! Those helmets are amazing!

 

Rick

 

He kept all of them and it provides an interesting timeline. This afternoon I started looking through the other other helmets, torso harnesses, etc. and tried putting together some period-correct mannequin displays.

 

One thing I didn't find until after I took down the Vietnam-era display was his apparent first pair of aviator's gloves, 1960 contract. Maybe someone who's been here can tell, did fighter flyer's gloves always get as dirty as the palm of these?

 

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Great group Bob , nice find.


Always looking for uniquely marked helmets, WWI and WWII American Field Service items, WWII and earlier USMC items and named or numbered medals and medal groups.


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I was able to match a period flight suit to each helmet. There are two helmets for VA 302, his last unit before retiring.

 

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In addition to flight suits and helmets there is a CSU-13B/P g-suit dated 1990, an undated MA-2 torso vest, and a 1985-dated MA-2 with added pockets/pouches. Which is likely to be older, with or without added pouches?

 

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As with many of the items, the anti-g garment is named:

 

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One of his uniforms has FIGHTING 302 embroidered on it, but someone removed his name. They also removed the sewn-on Captain's eagles, but luckily I found them in one of the boxes I got. They can be sewn back on:

 

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Did some more research on the model, which has the names of "Doc Ward" and "Charley Celler"

 

"Charley" was Commander Charles J. Cellar Jr who received the Distinguished Flying Cross and eight Air Medals. He retired as a Captain.

 

The Phantom he and Doc Ward shared has a bit of history:

 

 

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