Share This Article

I was 7 years old when the Vietnam War ended. I know about the war, as most my age do, from movies and documentaries. And most of what I encountered was about the ground troops, rarely about the pilots. So I jumped at the chance to attend a reunion in San Antonio for pilots who flew F-105 Thunderchief fighter-bombers on missions over North Vietnam during Operation Rolling Thunder, 1965-1968.

These reunions are where the Thunderchief pilots have maintained their shared past and let each other into the lives they’ve lived in the years since. I set up my camera in a hotel room. As the veterans talked to each other and later told their stories in our interviews, the things they said were echoed in what I saw through
my lens.

Once jet-powered cowboys, they are still walking with a swagger born of knowing themselves. While there are not many Thunderchief pilots left to give us a window through which to view and learn from their experiences, it is important that we do whatever we can to help future generations accurately see the war.

This project, “Over War,” evolved from what I had envisioned as a series of Air Force pilot portraits—50 in all—into a web collection ( that will be an enduring voice for these men whose experiences gave them a unique vantage point for observations on the Vietnam War. —Cade Martin is an award-winning photographer specializing in people and location photography. He has traveled around the globe on assignments for a variety of brands, including Starbucks, Target, the Food and Drug Administration and NPR.

This feature originally appeared in the February 2020 issue of Vietnam magazineTo subscribe, click here.