Posted by: Waring Hills | 16 May 2009

A Marine Skyhawk Pilot’s Vietnam Nightmare!

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).

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