F-100 Plaque Dedicated at Plaza of Heroes
A crowd of more than 75 former F-100 pilots, crew members, USAFA graduates, friends and family members attended an emotional plaque dedication today (June 11, 2021) at the Southeast Asia Memorial Pavilion at the Air Force Academy.
The special plaque — honoring and remembering those who flew the North American
F-100 Super Sabre during the Vietnam War — joins 21 other plaques at the Plaza of Heroes honoring Air Force Academy graduates who flew or were crew members of various aircraft that were part of the conflict.
The F-100 Super Sabre provided close air support and flew interdiction sorties from 1964 through 1971. The F-100 “Hun” flew 360,665 combat sorties, suffering 191 combat losses with 88 pilots killed in action. Aircrews from more than 25 fighter squadrons flew combat sorties in the conflict, with major South Vietnam F-100 bases at Bien Hoa, Phan Rang, Tuy Hoa and Phu Cat.
Nine USAFA graduates were killed in action flying the F-100. The fallen are Capt. Michael L. Hyde ’60, 1st Lt. Donald D. Watson ’62, 1st Lt. John C. Hauschildt ’62, Capt. Charles L. Moore ’62, Capt. James M. Brinkman III ’62, 1st Lt. John P. Skoro ’63, Capt. Clarence J. Hemmel ’63, Capt. Thomas E. Clark ’63, and Maj. Laurent L. “Lee” Gourley ’66.
Two F-100 pilots — 1st Lt. Elmon C. “Mike” Caudill ’68 and 1st Lt. Charles L. Kollenberg ’68 — died in a C-123 crash heading home after completing their combat tour.
Two other F-100 pilots — Capt. Hayden J. Lockhart Jr. ’61 and Capt. Guy Gruters ’64 — were shot down and held as POWs in North Vietnam and released in 1973.
The names of all 13 graduates are etched in the F-100 Super Sabre plaque now displayed in the Plaza of Heroes.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Donald Sheppard ’62 opened the dedication ceremony with an invocation, praying for the fallen.
“Their loss was not in vain,” he said. “They were doing what they loved, flying fighters for their country. It’s sad that they are gone. But as we touch the names on this plaque, they are with us once again — young, smiling and laughing. We see their faces, we hear their voices, they are not forgotten.”
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Edward Bracken, vice president of the F-100 Super Sabre Society, served as emcee for the afternoon. He recognized family members of the fallen who were in attendance for the day’s ceremony.
Bracken noted that more than 1,500 pilots flew the “Hun” during peace and war. He told the crowd that the Super Sabre Society is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the F-100 pilots. He said plaques similar to the one now hanging at USAFA were produced and are hanging at Nellis Air Force Base and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Thomas Griffith (USMA ’63) — Super Sabre Society president — was the keynote speaker for the day’s event. He read the names of each of the USAFA graduates who perished during their time with the F-100 in Vietnam and provided a brief biographical sketch of each.
“As we dedicate this plaque today to these 13 very special heroes … I’m honored beyond words just to be standing here,” he told the crowd, “representing the hundreds of pilots who flew the F-100.”
Choking back tears on occasion, Griffith shared stories of several of the fallen USAFA graduates that he personally knew.
“I’m extremely proud to have flown with and served with many Air Force Academy graduates, unfortunately many of their names are on plaques throughout this memorial plaza,” he said. “We all sincerely regret the loss of these outstanding men. But one thing positive — we all have to remember — they died doing what they loved. They all died doing what they volunteered for, and they all died doing what they were committed to. And I can think of no better tribute than that.”
As he finished his comments, Griffith joined family members of the fallen in attendance to unveil the plaque, created by sculptor Jim Nance ’71.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the crowd read aloud a poem, titled “One More Roll,” written by Commander Jerry Coffee in 1968.
We toast our hearty
comrades who have
fallen from the skies,
and were gently caught
by God’s own hand
to be with him on High.
To dwell among the
soaring clouds they’ve
known so well before.
From victory roll
to tail chase,
at heaven’s very door.
As we fly among
them there, we’re sure
to head their plea.
To take care my friend,
watch your six,
and do one more
roll for me.
A reception for the attendees followed at Doolittle Hall.