VMFA-542 - In the Vietnam War


UPDATED: 28 Dec 04

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VMFA - 542

Submitted by Gunny W

I was in VMFA-542 in DaNang in 1968. I joined VMFA-542 in Iwakuni, Japan in Jan 1968 where it was part of the 9th Marine Amphibious Brigade (MAB). We were supposed to rotate back to Chu Lai at the end of the month.  However, the spy ship USS Pueblo was captured by the North Koreans on the 23rd of Jan.  We were told that the 9th MAB was going to recapture it.  So, we stayed in Iwakuni through Feb and Mar.  We then went to Cubi Point, P.I. at the end of March to shoot missiles.  

Toward the end of April, the decision was made to send us to Da Nang  to replace the last F-8 squadron in country.  I was on the advance party and we found that none of the ground support equipment for the F-8 would work with the F-4B (F-8 used 60 Hz power and the F-4 used 400 Hz).  So, we sent a message back to Cubi.  They took the Navy equipment that we had been using in Cubi, painted it green and had it sent to Da Nang!   VMFA-542 was operational the first day in country.  The Major in charge of the advance party was awarded a Bronze Star. 

Before I went home in December  we had  lost two planes to ground fire.   On 23 May an F-4B doing close air support near the airfield in Da Nang was hit by small arms fire, both crew members, Capt Crowell and Capt Poole ejected from the aircraft and were rescued.  On 19 September another F-4B flying on a bombing mission over North Viet Nam was also struck by small arms fire.  Both crew members were lost, Capt John A. LaVoo (pilot) and Capt Robert Holt (RIO). 

As an interesting aside, the "satisfied customers" sign over the door of the "seat shop" had three names on it! Always confused FNG's because everyone knew an F-4B had two crew members! "The Story" behind the odd number happen earlier in the year when one of our planes was hit by ground fire during a night bombing mission over North Viet Nam. On the F-4B, if the pilot's canopy came off first, often times the RIO's canopy would not come off, trapping the RIO in the pilotless plane. When this plane was hit, the pilot's canopy came off. The RIO did not wait to see if the pilot had ejected or not, he immediately ejected, only to see the plane fly off with the pilot still in place! Realizing that his RIO had ejected, the pilot and his wing man stayed in the area and protected Lt. Doyle Watson until he could be rescued. 

 Gunny W


VMFA-542  at Chu Lai in 67/68 and Da Nang in 68.

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