WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force’s newest aircraft, the A-1H Skyraider, was placed on display and unveiled to the public during a recent dedication ceremony in museum’s Southeast Asia War Gallery.
U.S. Air Force Skyraiders in Southeast Asia are often remembered for their support of search and rescue (SAR) missions. Operating under the call sign “Sandy,” the A-1’s extended loiter time and massive firepower offered pilots the ability to protect downed Airmen for extended periods. Whereas jet aircraft often had to leave the battle area for refueling, the A-1s provided nearly continuous suppressing fire until helicopters extracted downed Airmen.
The aircraft on display, which originally took part in Operation Farm Gate and was flown by the South Vietnamese Air Force from 1965 to 1975, was modified and painted by the museum’s Restoration Division to represent A-1H pilot Capt. Ron Smith’s aircraft, “The Proud American,” as it appeared during the “Oyster 01B” rescue mission of a downed F-4 Phantom crewman near a North Vietnamese airfield in June 1972. Smith was later awarded the Air Force Cross for his efforts during the rescue.
In addition to the “Oyster 01B” rescue mission, “The Proud American,” was also renowned for Lt. Col. William Jones’ Medal of Honor mission in 1968 and for being the last U.S. Air Force A-1 lost in combat in Southeast Asia in September 1972.
The restoration of the A-1H, which took about 18 months to complete, was funded through a partnership between the Air Force Museum Foundation and the A-1 Skyraider Association.
According to National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Curator Bryan Carnes, the A-1H is a significant addition for the museum and will help tell an important chapter of the Air Force story.
“The A-1H played a crucial role in protecting downed aircrew in Southeast Asia and escorting rescue helicopters to and from the recovery site,” Carnes said. “This aircraft will continue to inspire generations of museum visitors as a symbol of the Air Force’s promise that no airmen will be left behind.”
The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is the world’s largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 350 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 19 acres of indoor exhibit space. For more information, visit www.nationalmuseum.af.mil.