The F-105 Thunderchief Pilot Who Took Out An Entire Anti-Aircraft Complex
On March 10, 1967, Captain Dethlefsen and his wingmen were assigned to a mission to destroy Thai Nguyen Steel Works which was 50 miles north of Hanoi, North Vietnam. Captain Dethlefsen with three other F-105 pilots was set to fly ahead of a strike force of fighter-bombers and destroy the surface-to-air missile (SAM) complex, antiaircraft guns, and automatic weapons which were protecting the Thai Nguyen Steel Works.
It was a very strong surface-to-air defense system and on the very first pass F-105 Thunderchief flight leader was shot down and his wingman was forced to withdraw from the mission due to the severe damages. But Captain Dethlefsen decided to carry out the mission on his own. While evading an intercepting MiG-21 with his maneuvering skills he was forced to fly into heavy enemy anti-aircraft defenses and his F-105 aircraft was heavily damaged.
Regardless of the damages to Captain Dethlefsen’s F-105 and the unclear sky due to the smoke and dust, he made repeated strikes with his wingman against the enemy defenses. Even after the bombing was completed and the strike force withdrew, the two F-105’s remained flying above the target.
Evading a second MiG fighter, Captain Dethlefsen dived through the smoke to locate the missile complex and he was hit again by the anti-aircraft fire. Captain Dethlefsen made a final strafing run towards the missiles and using his 20mm cannon fire he could destroy 2 missile sites before returning to his home base in his heavily damaged F-105 Thunderchief fighter.
For his brave actions despite the odds and his eagerness to complete the mission, Captain Dethlefsen was awarded a Medal of Honor.