- AFHF Member Authors
All F-105 Thunderchief Losses Vol. I: 1955-1966
by W. Howard Plunkett
This book’s two volumes are a follow-on to my first book, F-105 Thunderchiefs – A 29-Year Illustrated Operational History, published in 2001 by McFarland & Company. That book detailed the histories of the 103 surviving F-105s in the world’s static displays. The book also identified all 118 retired Thunderchiefs that were scrapped. The book focused on 221 tail numbers with photos of each one and with stories and pictures of scrapped carcasses.
This book tells the stories of all Thunderchiefs that did not survive. It describes chronologically the 613 F-105 accidental and combat losses beginning with the first accidental crash on 16 Dec 1955 and ending with the last operational loss on 26 August 1981.
Due to maximum page-count publishing limitations, the book is divided into two separate volumes. Volume I describes the losses of the first 327 F-105s between 1955 and 1966. Volume II includes the 286 losses during 1967 through 1981.
Each loss is sequence numbered by the date of its crash. The losses include one F-105A, 34 F-105Bs, 495 F-105Ds, 61 F-105Fs and 22 F-105Gs. In detailed narratives, the two volumes describe the circumstances of each loss and the fates of all pilots and the back seaters in “F” and “G” models. The losses are presented in eight parts corresponding to eight time periods.
The book includes photos of many aircrew members, mostly from Air Force on-line sources.
In addition to stories about the men in each F-105 loss, the loss descriptions include narratives by crews of Jolly Green and Pedro helicopters and HU-16 Albatrosses searching for and retrieving downed F-105 pilots and EWOs most often with accompanying A-1E Skyraiders with call sign “Sandy.” Between 1965 and 1972, rescue crews trying to save downed F-105 pilots and backseaters launched 177 missions to crash sites in North Vietnam, Laos, South Vietnam, and northern Thailand, 11 of which, for various reasons, were recalled before attempting the actual rescue. The 166 attempted rescues succeeded 141 times in retrieving a downed F-105 aircrew – an 85 percent success rate. Their search and rescue (SAR) stories tell of the bravery and dedication of these men whose motto is, “That Others May Live.”
The chronological narratives in these two volumes give a unique but depressing view of the history of F-105 operations. As losses mounted, the Air Force and Republic Aviation worked to correct deficiencies in the design and manufacture of the Thunderchief. This book tells of these improvement programs that the loss descriptions show were obviously needed.
As detailed in the book’s two volumes, the 613 airframes crashed for various reasons (mostly engine problems) — a 74 percent attrition of the original 833 Thunderchiefs.