Early on the morning of Sunday, 11 June 1972, I was assigned to fly a MiG combat air patrol (CAP) mission from the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) as wingman for the commanding officer of Fighter Squadron (VF) 51. Not long before, I had been placed “in hack,” which resulted in temporary suspension of my flight leader qualifications. I was ordered to fly only as a wingman with the skipper, executive officer, maintenance officer, or operations officer, but, on a positive note, I got some great missions flying with the “heavies.” (I had flown a Phantom without a radar-intercept officer or wingman from NAS Cubi Point, Philippines, to the Coral Sea. As I was handing out mail in the squadron ready room, the ship’s captain asked my skipper why I had landed single-seat. Thus busted, I was sent to my room.)
Naval combat pilots had to think fast and fire faster during intense fire fights over Vietnam.
By Rear Admiral Winston W. “Mad Dog” Copeland, U.S. Navy (Retired)