July 2023

Jul 2023

Due to Vietnam, Fred was redirected to fighters, qualified in the single seat version of F-105 and was off to Korat Thai Air Base, Thailand in Oct 1966 where he participated in the Rolling Thunder Campaign/Package 6.  His unit was tasked with a wide range of missions to include destroying the enemy in concentrated positions, taking out bridges, Supply depots, etc.  Fred often flew 2 combat sorties a day and accumulated 118 combat sorties in 6 months.  He had some close calls, but he was always fortunate enough to make it safely back to base.  He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and 13 Air Medals during the war.  Following Vietnam, Fred continued to serve the USAF in various positions, retiring in 1983 as Director, Public Affairs for NORAD and Chidlaw.  His love of flying never diminished.  He spent many years as an FAA Flight Instructor and is an FAA Master Pilot.  Fred and his wife Cathy live in Durham, NC.  They have 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 2 great grandchildren.

About the Guest

Col Fred Watkins

On Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th, 1941, at the age of 9 Fred made up his mind to serve and set a goal of becoming a pilot.  Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the Georgia Guard at 17 years old while still in High School.  In 1950, his unit was activated due to the Korean conflict.  Fred’s high school career was interrupted as he was transferred to Kentucky where he served in Base Operations and earned his High School GED diploma while there.  He applied for and earned an ROTC scholarship to Duke University in 1952 where he had several classes under the legendary historian and Reserve Major General I.B. Holley.  Graduating from Duke in 1956, Fred was off to pilot training, fighter lead-in training and then F-100 training.  Upon F-100 graduation most of his class was redirected to SAC, as was Fred, and he became a B-47 pilot in 1957.

War Stories Session

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