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MiG Killers: A Chronology of U.S. Air Victories

by Donald J. McCarthy Jr., Specialty Press, 2009

In a Vietnam War replete with vagaries and shades of gray, air-to-air combat over the North offered the participants—and any interested parties in the American public— something refreshingly clear-cut. When North Vietnamese fighters rose to intercept American bombers, the cut-and-dried rules of survival of the fittest became all that mattered. American aircrews claimed 202 Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17s, MiG-19s and MiG-21s between 1965 and 1973, the majority by McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs crewed by Air Force, Navy and in one case, Marine personnel. Among the many others sharing the honors were such unlikely claimants as the rear gunners on Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses (two), pilots of propeller-driven Douglas A-1H Sky – raiders (two) and a Douglas A-4C Skyhawk whose lucky pilot scored his victory with an unguided Zuni air-to-ground missile.

Although the air war has certainly been recounted often enough, Donald J. McCarthy Jr. offers a comprehensive listing, in chronological order, of all the victories and all of the aircraft that scored them in MiG Killers. All aircraft involved are illustrated, either in photographs from the time or in later livery. Among the new additions to our knowledge of the subject is the inclusion of a MiG-17 claim from April 4, 1965—five days before the first official American victory—by Captain Donald W. Kilgus. Recently corroborated by Vietnamese records and the testimony of the only North Vietnamese pilot to survive the encounter, Tran Hanh, that MiG could have the dubious distinction of being the actual first to fall victim to an American fighter and the only one downed by a North American F-100 Super Sabre.


Originally published in the December 2009 issue of Vietnam Magazine. To subscribe, click here