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DFC Society | OGTA debrief LATEST NEWS

28 January 2023

LIVE from Boys Town, Omaha, Nebraska OGTA DEBRIEF, DFC Society Member John Mollison, Colonel (Ret), USAF, 'Who's the Guy in Back?'

On 28 January, 2023, DFC Society member Colonel John Mollison, USAF (Ret), was interviewed live as part of the Old Guys and Their Airplanes "Debrief" series in association with the DFC Society. The Debrief streamed live from Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, where Col. Mollison was raised and later served in Executive Leadership.

Col. John Mollison flew 171 combat missions as a WSO at Phu Cat AB and then Udorn RTAFB after Phu Cat closed in 1971, and he was awarded 3 DFCs. DFCS Executive Vice-President Warren Eastman also participated in the Debrief, providing context about flying as a WSO, especially in combat.

Col. Mollison flew the F-4 at Phu Cat with legendary DFCS member Jonathan Hayes who served 3 tours in the Vietnam War. Jonathan flew 356 combat missions and was awarded 5 DFCs. The Debrief tells the story of their Mar 1971 mission during Lam Son 719 for which both received a DFC. The Debrief also told Col. Mollison’s compelling life story as a graduate of Boys Town.

Col. Eastman flew 270 combat missions in two combat tours at Korat RTAFB and Udorn RTAFB, and he was awarded two DFCS.

This Debrief explored the role of the fighter Weapons System Officer (WSO), also known as the Guy in Back (GIB) in the F-4 Phantom. In the Air Force, Phantom WSOs were rated Navigators qualified in the fighter or reconnaissance mission. Originally, the Air Force assigned pilots as fighter GIBs, but later adopted the Navy model of non-pilot rated aviators as GIBs. Navy and Marine F-4 GIBs, called Radar Intercept Officers (RIOs), were Naval Flight Officers. Currently, fighter WSOs in the Air Force fly the F15E Strike Eagle, in the Navy the F/A18F Super Hornet, and in the Marines the F/A18D.

In an interesting side note, Col. John Mollison is the namesake of interviewer John Mollison of Old Guys and Their Airplanes.

On the Friday evening before the Debrief, Boys Town held a VIP meet-and-greet at which the OGTA video was shown. Artist John Mollison presented the picture of the Jonathan Hayes/WSO John Mollison F-4 in which they flew a DFC mission in Lam Son 719. On that mission, they were supposed to drop M-36 Willie Pete to generate a smoke screen for South Vietnamese withdrawal. Weather precluded, so they dropped at about 25 feet AGL instead, generating fires that resulted in numerous secondary explosions of NVA ammo. The flight lead was the squadron weapons officer who made the decision to do that drop.

[L-R Warren Eastman, Artist John Mollison, Susan Hayes (widow of Jonathan Hayes), Col. John Mollison

Col. John Mollison entertained questions about his AF career, combat flying, and his Boys Town experience. The event was held in the Boys Town museum. On display was the actual Oscar statue from the Boys Town movie in 1939.

Following the Debrief on Saturday, Father Boes, the President of Boys Town, fifth in succession from Father Flanagan who founded Boys Town, invited the team over to his house for drinks and conversation. We got lots of good insight into Boys Town and how they operate treating today’s problematic youth and how their approach has adapted over the years as our society’s issues evolve. He was also interested in DFCS and what we do. Father Boes wears a cowboy hat and boots - black to match his priest attire.

Saturday evening, we held a team dinner at which Warren Eastman presented Honorary Membership certificates to Susan Hayes and artist John Mollison for their extraordinary support of the DFC Society.

Image: At Father Boes' House
[L-R Rick Lingberg (OGTA), Warren Eastman, Father Boes, John Mollison]

OGTA Debrief

“Who’s the Guy In Back?” Featuring 3x DFC recipient John Mollison + livestream Q&A with Mollison and featured guest, 2x DFC recipient Warren Eastman.

Boy's Town's Facebook Live Event Site

Military Tales YouTube Channel

Bring Colonel John Mollison 'Who's the Guy in Back' into Your Classroom or Group!

Click HERE to explore the two free main components of the Colonel John Mollison Educators Kit which were designed to allow the individual teacher flexibility in addressing their specific needs. 

20 January 2023

DFC Society Member Royce Williams Awarded Navy Cross, Shot Down 4 Soviet Migs in 35 Minute Korean War Dogfight

On January 20, 2023, DFC Society member Royce Williams, CAPT (Ret), USN, received the Navy Cross – the highest military decoration given by the U.S. Navy – from Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro for a dogfight that occurred 70 years ago in the Korean War. The ceremony took place at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

On November 18, 1952, US Navy Task Force 77 was operating at the north end of Korea. Royce Williams was flying the F-9F-5 Panther with squadron VF-781 aboard the USS Oriskany as part of Task Force 77. On that day, Royce had already flown a strike mission and was on his second mission as Combat Air Patrol to protect the Task Force.

Seven Soviet Mig-15 fighters were detected coming south. The other three aircraft in the Panther formation had mechanical issues, leaving Royce in a one vs. seven dogfight that lasted an incredible 35 minutes. Royce shot down four of the Mig-15s and likely damaged two others.

Royce’s aircraft also suffered significant battle damage, with 263 bullet holes counted after landing. Out of ammunition, with hydraulics lost, aircraft control compromised, and the last Mig-15 at his six o’clock, Royce used elevator input to evade the pursuit until he got into the clouds. He then successfully landed on the carrier at high speed to maintain what controllability he had.

After landing, Royce was sworn to secrecy over the event because at that time the Soviet Union was not officially a combatant in the Korean War. Because of sensitivities with Korean War negotiations and a risk of accelerating the conflict with direct American to Russian combat, the incident was obfuscated and rendered classified. The dogfight was scrubbed from U.S. Navy and National Security Agency records. Williams never told anyone about it, not even his wife nor his pilot brother, until the Korean War records were declassified in 2002. The record of the incident in Navy records said only that he shot down one enemy (not listed as "Soviet") plane and damaged another, for which he was awarded the Silver Star.

However, the dogfight was recorded in Soviet archives which were released after the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s. The Soviet records confirmed that of the seven MiGs, only one returned to its base.

On January 20, Royce’s Silver Star award was finally upgraded to the Navy Cross with full acknowledgement of the four confirmed kills.

For a detailed recount of the story, click HERE.

Royce Williams Figher Engagement Story

In his words, click HERE.

OGTA Debrief

On 2 December 2020, educators, teachers and leaders had the opportunity to meet and interact with Korean War hero, Capt. Royce Williams (ret)

The interview was part of the Old Guys and their Airplanes “Debrief” series and brought to the public, free of charge by the  Distinguished Flying Cross Society (DFCS), South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB), South Dakota Air & Space Museum and  San Diego Air & Space Museum. 

18 December 2022

NFL Kansas City Chiefs Observed Linebacker II 50th Anniversary Honored Capt. Robert Thomas & Derrick Thomas DFC Society Participated

On December 18, 1972, the opening night of Linebacker II, B-52 call sign Charcoal 01 was the first B-52 shot down. After the aircraft was hit with two surface-to-air missiles, two of the crew were killed instantly from the missile attack. The remaining crew parachuted from the flaming aircraft. Three would survive and become POWs. The copilot, Capt. Robert Thomas, was KIA. DFC Society Board member Bob Certain was the navigator.

Robert Thomas’ son was Derrick Thomas, the legendary University of Alabama and Kansas City Chiefs linebacker. He earned consensus All-American honors, at Alabama, and Kansas City selected him fourth in the 1989 NFL Draft. During his career, he received nine Pro Bowl and three first-team All-Pro selections, along with setting the single-game sacks record. Derrick Thomas passed away from injuries in an automobile accident in 2000.

During the Salute to Service celebration at halftime of their home game against Jacksonville on November 13, 2022, the Chiefs unveiled the 2022 Salute to Service patch and a Linebacker I & II Shadowbox. The Shadowbox includes black and white pictures of Capt. Robert Thomas and Derrick Thomas, and a print of the B-52 Charcoal 01 aircraft by award-winning artist, author, and producer John Mollison,
media advisor and Honorary Member of the Distinguished Flying Cross Society. It also includes a Charcoal Rubbing bearing the name ROBERT J THOMAS in honor of the call sign Charcoal 01 that was taken from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, as well as a Salute to Service challenge coin and the Salute to Service patch.

The Chiefs have displayed the Shadowbox in their Hall of Honor. Click HERE to see the Shadowbox story on the KC Chiefs site.

The KC Chiefs invited Bob Certain to attend the ceremony and be interviewed the following day. However, he was unable to go, so the Chiefs sent a production team to San Antonio where Bob lives. During the interview, Bob presented a DFCS plaque to the team, honoring the occasion. The Chiefs will post the plaque by the Shadowbox.

The Chiefs have posted the story of Charcoal 01, including interviews with Bob Certain and John Mollison, on their web site. Click HERE to read more.