[Featured image: Air Force F-105 “Thunderchief” aircraft of the 34th Tactical Fighter Squadron dropping bombs on North Vietnam during Operation ROLLING THUNDER. (U.S. Air Force photo)]
1942: 1st Lt. Ed Dyess, who would be one of the war’s first flying aces had his records not been lost, leads a daring raid against Japanese supply depot at Subic Bay. With his P-40 fighter set up to fly as a dive bomber, Dyess destroys multiple buildings and destroys or damages numerous ships in his three sorties.
Prior to the raid, Dyess led 20 of his fellow 21st Pursuit Squadron pilots on America’s first amphibious landing of the war. The pilots landed on Luzon Island’s Aglolomo Bay, wiping out an entrenched force of Japanese troops. Dyess will be captured in April, surviving the Bataan Death March to lead the only successful American large-scale escape from Japanese captivity a year later.
After his repatriation, he returns to flying, but dies during a training flight when he opts to stay in his flaming and crippled P-38 “Lightning” fighter to avoid civilian casualties on the ground. Texas’ Dyess Air Force Base, home of the 7th Bomb Wing, is named in his honor.
1943: Elements of the U.S. Army Air Forces and Royal Australian Air Force intercept and all-but-destroy an entire Japanese troop-transport convoy in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea. Several enemy ships, scores of enemy aircraft, and thousands of enemy soldiers will be sent to the bottom.
1965: 100 American warplanes cross into North Vietnam, targeting an ammunition dump at Xom Bang. Six aircraft are shot down, five pilots are rescued and one is captured. Operation ROLLING THUNDER has begun.
Over the next three-and-a-half years, 864,000 tons of bombs fall on the Communist nation – more tonnage dropped than either the Korean War or the Pacific Theater of World War II. Nearly 1,000 U.S. planes are shot down during ROLLING THUNDER, with over 1,000 aircrew killed, wounded or captured. Unfortunately, tight political management by the Lyndon Johnson administration means the military isn’t allowed to hit targets of strategic value.