Letters from the War – Thailand 8

John Norvell F4 Backseat

The following excerpts are from  letters that were written to my wife and others during the Vietnam War, while I was stationed in Thailand. Because of the nature of the events, the letters seldom told the entire story to loved ones.  Some things were best left unsaid.  In some instances, I have added to the story to make events clearer than they were in the letters.

28 July 1973: Did we have an adventure today! We flew down to Cambodia and on the way back our #2 man lost his left generator so we had to divert to Ubon. When we landed and had just touched down our left main gear blew, so we ricocheted all over the runway and finally came to a stop. It was like riding a balloon that the air had been let out of. The #2 man had to take the barrier (arresting cable across the runway) because of course we were stopped on the runway, he didn’t have a choice.  Between the two of us we shut down the Ubon runway.  There were probably F4s diverting all over Thailand.  Well never say I don’t do anything in a big way.

2 August 1973:  Well there was a lot of excitment in the squadron.  Bob Schrader and Ed Shroeder, I am not kidding you, we call them the Schrader-Shroeder twins were ferrying an F4 down to Korat and had to bail out .  The plane crashed and in the process did some damage to a Thai village.   When they were on the gound, the villagers attacked them.  Shroeder had to pull his gun to defend himself. I don’t know all the details, but it was the first time I actually heard of someone pulling out his 38.  When the dust settled, they came back by C-130, the details aren’t fully known yet what happened.  That’s more than irony when you have to defend yourself in friendly territory.  I suppose Uncle Sam will be buying a whole Thai village. 1

11 August 1973: It appears that with the end of the war we will be flying only training missions, but nobody knows for sure yet.

13 August 1973: I think that I have flown my last combat mission; tomorrow I have the duty desk and a dental appointment Wednesday (August 15). I view this with mixed emotions: relief and yet I know it’s silly, but I would like to go down on the last day of the war. I feel sort of disappointed.  13th TFS patch

15 August 1973: The end of the war is here. I ended up flying anyway on the last day.

F4 sunrise over Cambodia 1973

F4 sunrise over Cambodia 1973

They scheduled me although I had a dental appointment. In fact we were the last flight from Udorn to go into combat during the Vietnam war–that’s some distinction I think. We were scheduled to sit QRF (alert Quick Reaction Force)  and they scrambled us about 9 am. We flew down near Phnom Penh and dropped our bombs about 10:30 this morning–11:30 p.m. your time. I find it hard to believe that the war is over.   The war ended at 12 noon.

Most people are celebrating at the club. Tomorrow we are going to start training, they have a big schedule all worked out. Strange to be in combat one day, training the next as if nothing had happened.   Well as Sonny and Cher sing “The Beat goes On.”

Postscript on August 16 1973 training missions began as if we had never been to war.  I would remain in Thailand until April 1974 when I would be reassigned to fly air defense missions off  Alaska intercepting Soviet aircraft.


1 The date of the ditching may be incorrect, I could not find the exact letter and added this event from memory.

For a more complete discussion of the last mission of the Vietnam War than I included in my letter home see


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in 13 TFS, American History, Cambodia bombing 1973, Combat, F4 PhantomII, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang, U Dorn RTAFB, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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