|By Carmelo Turdo|
The aircraft carried an M61 20mm cannon, and could accommodate an 8,000lb. bomb load in its internal bay (this would later be fitted with a fuel tank and the ordinance carried externally). The original specification was for a nuclear strike aircraft for NATO operations, but the aircraft was transformed into a tactical conventional strike aircraft for its role in the upcoming combat action in Southeast Asia. In the hands of U.S. Air Force crews, it carried the war to North Vietnam, "Going Downtown" to Hanoi on numerous occasions. The aircraft was also a formidable fighter, claiming 27.5 air-to-air victories. Nearly half of F-105s produced in all models were lost in combat. They were retired from all service by 1984.
Many volumes have been written chronicling the development and combat operations of the F-105 series, but two stand out as riveting, first-hand accounts of F-105 missions over Vietnam - Thud Ridge and Going Downtown - both by Jack Broughton. Both are highly recommended.
Below is a sample of intriguing black and white prints, provided courtesy of the Gerald Balzer Collection of the Greater St. Louis Air & Space Museum, featuring the F-105 in development, in combat and during a brief assignment to the USAF Thunderbirds April-May, 1964. The Thunderbirds transitioned back to the F-100 following a fatal accident when F-105B Thunderbird No. 2 flown by Captain Gene Devlin broke apart during a low pass during a performance at Hamilton AFB, CA on May 9, 1964. A memorial in Captain Devlin's honor was dedicated in November 2013.
Another look at the main combat production model F-105D Thunderchief comes from a memorial to armed service members currently at Fairview Park in Centralia, IL. The placement of the F-105 was inspired by the service of Clinton County native Ltc. William Pachura, who flew 129 combat missions in Vietnam in the aircraft on display.