Flight Academy Camp Now Enrolling

A Marine Skyhawk Pilot's Vietnam Nightmare!

Facebook Twitter Email
Lieutenant Colonel John Souders USMC (Ret.) next to the A-4 Skyhawk.

Lieutenant Colonel John Souders USMC (Ret.) next to the A-4 Skyhawk.

Just I was getting ready to give a program on the A-4 Skyhawk yesterday, one of our visitors boldly asked me how much I wanted to know about the A-4.  I quickly took him up on his offer after I learned he was a Vietnam Marine Corps pilot who flew with VMA-311 based at Chu Lai from 1968 to 1969. Lt. Colonel John Souders flew 360 missions in Nam and finished his Marine career with over 1100 hours in the A-4, 850 hours in the F-8 and 100 in the F-4.

VMA-311 squadron patch

VMA-311 squadron patch

I asked him for his best story (as I do with all our veteran guests) and here is his tale:

I was standing hot pad alert in 1968 at Chu Lai. We had four sections of Skyhawks ready for action, some with snake and nape (snakeye bombs and napalm), some with forward firing rockets and guns, and a couple of slick snakes. As I was one of the last pilots to arrive at the hot pad ready room, the few beds found there were filled and so I had to make due with a bench to rest upon.

While awakening a call to action, the Klaxon sounded loudly and we sprinted to our jets. After our scramble, we were given a vector north  and the target must have been close, less that 100 miles, as we were suddenly there and cleared in hot by the FAC (forward Air Controller).  As I rolled in, suddenly the sky was dark with enemy fire, my A-4 began to roll and smoke filled the cockpit, I reached up for the face curtin and pulled, my body felt the impact of the air from my high speed ejection and all of a sudden… I found myself rolling hard on the deck of our hot pad ready room floor, screaming “EJECT!” as my buddies looked at me with glee in their eyes…

Thanks for your story and your service Colonel! Semper Fi!

VMA 311 Skyhawk seen from an USAF Skyraider (another Douglas aircraft).

VMA 311 Skyhawk seen from an USAF Skyraider (another Douglas aircraft).

Facebook Twitter Email

4 thoughts on “A Marine Skyhawk Pilot's Vietnam Nightmare!

  1. The A-4′s of VMA-311 from February 1968 to June of 1970 were meticulously cared for by the check crew boys. Disassembled, fresh powerplants installed and reassembled in less time than it took to shave! Metal shop, Avionics, the “seat” shop and the demanding fellows at maintenance control all performed with the synchronicity of a Swiss watch. I still remember the smallest of details of the A-4, the the many fine pilots that flight tested them for us. They really were the best!

    D. Mott
    USMC 66-70
    VMA-311 68-70

    • Hey Danny… Swiss watch, eh?

      How ’bout that box of parts left over in Check Crew that we couldn’t figuare out where they went? Or so we told the test pilots. Then sent them off on the test hop with our covers over our hearts. :)

      (SGT) Bob Wheaton Chu Lai 69-70

    • My Father (now a spry 85) was one on the C.O.’s of 311 in 1968. One of the few things he likes to talk about was how pissed off he was back then. He felt his maintenance people worked in deplorable conditions doing the impossible without enough spare parts,huffers or shade.
      Thanks for keeping my Dad safe.

      • Hi Chuck!

        I well remember your dad as CO of our squadron at Chu Lai. His safety and the safety of all his pilots always was at the forefront of our efforts. While he may not remember me in particular, my recollections of those days and the utterly fantastic A4 Skyhawks still are among my finest memories.

        Wish the Colonel well for me!

        D. Mott
        USMC 1966-70
        Tomcat 2/68-6/70

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>