Army jets in Vietnam War? Possible military "poser".

I just had a strange experience with a man who I am going to be working closely with - “apprenticing”, you might say. This is not someone on the internet trying to impress girls. This is a man who is internationally renowned in his field, essentially at the pinnacle of success in his career, extremely good at what he does - in short, someone you definitely want to be associated with.

I was in his office today and I saw an old black and white photo on his wall. It was a picture of him, as a young man, wearing a flight suit and standing beside a fighter jet. Surprised, I asked him: “you used to be a pilot”? He said, “a long time ago.” I asked him when the photo was taken. “Vietnam war,” he said.

I did not ask him any further questions. I had other things I needed to talk to him about and I also know that veterans often don’t want to discuss their service.

I would have accepted what he said, and not thought about it much more, were it not for one thing: his official biography - the several versions of it both online and in print - says that he served in the Army.

I was not aware that the Army flew fighter jets in Vietnam.

I desperately want this guy to be telling the truth, because I like him a lot (I have known him for a while), I want to work with him, both for the very valuable on-the-job experience and because he’s just a great guy to work with.

Did the Army, in fact, fly fighter jets in Vietnam? How likely is it that he is telling me the truth?

One does not need to be a fighter pilot in order to have one’s photo taken next to a fighter jet.

He could have flown as a pilot in an AF or Navy jet, but not been the pilot in command. I know several folks who have photos of themselves in and next to F4s in Viet Nam, and they weren’t even pilots.

I may be incorrect, but the Army had most, if not all, of the helicopters and many fixed wing observation craft. He could have caught a ride with a buddy.

Are you sure it was a fighter?

This link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_United_States_military_aircraft#Army shows that the Army flies jet propelled passenger aircraft (and a prop driven reconnaisance aircraft).

Here’s the wiki list for equipment used in the Vietnam era: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapons_of_the_Vietnam_War#Combat_aircraft

I do not know what year the Army had all fixed wings transferred to the AF but I thought it was during Vietnam. How old was the picture, it is possible I suppose.

My google-fu:

The Army lost 5 OV-1A and OV-1B aircraft in Vietnam. While not fighters, they may have looked like them at a glance.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_losses_of_the_Vietnam_War#USA_fixed-wing

Dunno if that’s any help.

The Grumman OV-1 Mohawk was a turboprop aircraft, not a jet.

The US Army did have some fixed wing aircraft during the early stages of Vietnam, primarily light for field logistics and observation, but also some light attack aircraft. While the Army has been specifically prohibited from flying fixed wing aircraft (with a few very minor exceptions) they have had test programs to evaluate the use of particularly fixed wing craft for specialized roles like forward observation and surveillance that wing-wipers don’t want to risk their candy-asses doing. (Apologies to all candy-asses out there in their powder-blue pj’s…I’m just repeating what Army types said to me without prejudice ;).) In particular, the Army did apparently evaluate some version of the Douglas F3D; that’s the only jet aircraft I can find that the Army may have operated, but doubtless there are others in limited use.

Questions
[ul]
[li]Are you sure it was a jet aircraft?[/li][li]Did he actually claim to be a pilot, or just crew?[/li][li]Are you sure your coworker didn’t cross services once or more (not unheard of; I actually had a teacher who’d been a jarhead, an Ranger, a sailor, and again a jarhead in that order)[/li][li]Does it really matter?[/li][/ul]

In my experience, most would-be paper tiger commandos are plenty willing to tell you about their experience fighting Commies in Singapore, drug lords in the Azores, Muslim terrorists in the Falkland Islands, and and Chinese in Libya, usually while sporting “Mach-10s” in both arms, flying Cobra gunships while lobbing daisy-cutters out the window, and generally being astonishingly full of shit. Your coworker seems to be surprisingly demure for someone who is presumably falsely representing himself as a pilot.

Stranger

Yes, it is certainly possible that he was a helicopter pilot and happened to get his picture taken with a jet fighter for whatever reason. If his official biography says he was in the Army and he never brags about his fighter jet piloting exploits, then one photo on the wall of his office does not make him much of a poser.

Yep. Having spent a lot of time with my Dads veteran buddies, many of whom had chests covered in fruit salad from WWII (not to mention an occ lost limb, etc) , I find that real combat vets are very reluctant to talk about combat. If you ask, they will come up with tales of sadistic DIs, bad chow, practical jokes, and what not, but little in the way of combat.

But as Stranger sez, fake vets will spout off with tonnes of BS.

A friend of mine has a picture of himself sitting in the cockpit of a F-18. He isn’t a pilot, but he writes software for F-18 maintenance trainers. People just like to have pictures of themselves next to cool stuff.

Christ, it’s a bit obsessive.

If you go through life believing everything you hear without thinking about it, maybe. I don’t know why you feel the need to be snide about it.

1966

That’s practically be best way to spot a fake. Vets will talk about combat with each other, but generally not with civilians. It isn’t shame or pride, but just the fact that unless you’ve been there and done that, you have no context for the reality of combat versus the John Wayne/Sylvester Stallone/Chuck Norris film experience, which isn’t anything like actual combat service (being 98% tedium and 2% stark terror). Being in combat is a bonding experience (and sometimes a scarring one as well) unlike any other, and people who want to talk it but haven’t lived it just sound like immature jerkwads.

BTW, the DHC-4 Caribou is a great aircraft. I’ve jumped out of one a few times for sport diving and it’s a hell of a lot more comfortable and quicker to altitude than a Twin Otter. Of course, it’s nothing like dropping over Laos at 30kft in a HALO jump, flak blasting all around, into the midst of the enemy in order to take out a key Commie leader with a customized Remington 700 with an infrared scope at 1000 yards in high wind, and then sneak out to the coast and swim back to Malaysia…

Total bullshit after the sport jumps. See how easy it is?

Stranger

It’s possible to transfer between the Army and the Air Force. My father did it as a commissioned officer. His rank transferred.

All he said was that he was once a pilot, and that the photo was taken during the Vietnam War.

He did NOT say that he flew that plane, or that the plane was flown in Vietnam, or even that he was ever actually in Vietnam. He could have been an Army pilot, flying that type of plane in Europe, or even at a training base in the US – and still telling you the truth.

Based on my experience in a Veterans Service office, his minimal responses and reluctance to tell you details makes me believe that he was NOT BS’ing you.

Any chance you can ID the fighter ? In 66, I would probably guess it was either an F-100 or an F-105. I think that would be about the right time for the introduction of the Fast FAC program.

Declan

Note that you asked when, not where was the picture taken. Saying “Vietnam war” gives you the timeframe, but not necessarily the location: he could have flown a jet out of Aranjuez or Rammstein during the Vietnam war, and the answer would have been truthful.

On preview, “what t-bonham said.”

It’s a while since I read it, but IIRC Robert Mason’s Chickenhawk describes an incident where his UH-1 unit shares a base with an F-4 squadron, and pilots from both units go up in the other’s aircraft for kicks. Mason certainly fits the OP’s description - army pilot in Vietnam who could have been photographed beside a fast jet - could even, on one of these joyrides, have flown one.