Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

Phil Horton, Forward Air Controller

By Doug Jenkins, '64

Phil Horton was an Academy classmate with whom I had some classes and later became better acquainted when we were stationed at Dover AFB, DE, where he flew the C-124 and I flew the F-106. Phil’s wife Judy and my wife Lois met and became the best of friends. Our oldest kids, Heather and Doug III shared a playpen together.

Later, Phil was stationed at Qui Nhon, Vietnam at the same time I was stationed at nearby Phu Cat AB flying F-4s. He was flying the O-1E Cessna Bird Dog as a forward air controller. I learned firsthand just how good he was in July 1969. I was able to arrange for Phil to fly in my back seat on a combat mission; my 140th. It was 11 July 1969, and we were fragged for a day strike in II Corps, the region which contained both Qui Nhon and Phu Cat. Phil and I were the lead ship in a flight of two. Weather was marginal for takeoff out of Phu Cat, but conditions improved as we approached the target area west of Nha Trang. We were the third flight to work the target, an active enemy location. We watched a flight of F-100s, then we put in 4 cans of napalm and 6 Mk-82 slick 500 lb bombs. We took some small arms fire from a location on the crest of a hill near the target. Phil noticed it first, so he directed me to the location from his vantage point in the rear seat of my F-4. We were able to silence the gunfire due to his superb directions and positioning. On the way home, we checked out the coast between Tuy Hoa and Qui Nhon.

Following the recovery, landing and debrief, Phil and I drove to Qui Nhon, where we spent the night. We stopped at MACV29, saw a Buddha and a signal tower and an ARVN training camp. We enjoyed a delicious lobster dinner at the club. It was a very enjoyable evening.

The next day, Phil returned the favor by taking me up in his Bird Dog. We put in three flights of fighters on a suspected enemy location about 10 miles south of Phu Cat. We found and destroyed several enemy structures in the process. It was a very interesting ride, and I learned a lot about the Tactical Air Support System from Phil. Fortunately we both returned safely to the states, but took two very different career paths thereafter. We now (2011) live about 5 miles from each other here in Colorado Springs. Phil, Judy, Lois and I remain the best of friends.
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