By Lou Drendel
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Additional info for Thud (F-105 Thunderchief)
He told Locher that they would be back in 30 minutes to pick him up, and that he was to flash his signal mirror at the first A-1 he saw when they returned. ‘Sandy 01’ and ‘02’ then flew back across the Red River to bring the Jolly Greens in for the pickup. ‘Sandy 01’ and ‘02’ led the SAR force across the Red River and proceeded into the area. Buchanan saw the mirror flash and told the survivor to ‘pop’ his ‘smoke’. The Jolly Green soon saw the latter and slowed for the pickup. Once the survivor was on board, they headed south to cross the Red River Valley one last time.
This aircraft was one of the final 19 ‘survivors’ that were transferred to the VNAF in November 1972. There is no record of its fate (Gary Koldyke) By October 1968 there were three A-1 squadrons operating at Nakhon Phanom, and with the 6th SOS at Pleiku, the high water mark (100+ aircraft) was reached for the USAF A-1 in Southeast Asia. This would soon change as the war seemingly began to wind down for the Air Force following the cessation of Operation Rolling Thunder on 1 November 1968. With the disbandment of the 602nd SOS on 31 December 1970, the 1st SOS was the last remaining USAF Skyraider squadron in-theatre.
When being trained to fly the Skyraider, the VNAF upgrade pilot would be in either the right or left seat, depending on the phase of their training. More than 50 per cent of the missions flown by the unit during this period were in the training category, as reported at the end of 1964. There were initially 20 qualified Skyraider pilots in the squadron, but by the end of the year this number had increased to 31. By March 1965, the requirement to carry a VNAF observer had been removed, and at the same time the markings worn by the Skyraiders of the 34th TG reverted to those of the USAF.