US Navy F-4 Phantom II Units of the Vietnam War 1969-73

Published on
April 26, 2018
Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Author: Peter E. Davies, Illustrator: Jim Laurier
Other Publication Information
Soft Square Bound ; 7.2” x 9.8”, 96 pages
Product / Stock #
COM 125
Company: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Osprey Publishing - Website: Visit Site

Peter E. Davies lives in Bristol, U.K. and as authored or co-authored at least twenty-seven books on modern American combat aircraft, many with Osprey Publishing. He was published by the Naval Institute Press in 1997 with his hardcover book, The Harrier Story, co-authored with Anthony M. Thornborough. His Schiffer Military History hard cover on the Gray Ghosts, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps F-4 Phantoms published in 2000 is considered a must have. Peter published a hardcover book with Crowood Press, North American F-100 Suber Sabre, in 2003. He has also covered many aircraft in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft series, Osprey’s Air Vanguard series, and Osprey’s Duel series. Four of these have concentrated on the U.S. Navy's use of the F-4 Phantom II. All of Peter's books on this topic have contained extensive input from interviews with more than 100 former US Navy Phantom II aircrew, maintainers and mission planners

Illustrator Jim Laurier, a native of New England, provides the color profiles. Jim has been drawing since he could hold a pencil and throughout his life he has worked in many mediums creating artwork on a variety of subjects. He has worked on the Osprey Aviation list since 2000, and has been featured in hundreds of aviation books. Jim prefers working in oils on canvas and has specialized in Vietnam War era aircraft. He currently lives in New Hampshire. You can find his art work at . Check him out!

This follows up Peter E. Davies’ 2016 US Navy F-4 Phantom II Units of the Vietnam War 1964 - 68 (Combat Aircraft 116). This 96 page book’s front cover features a color painting by Gareth Hector of the last MiG kill of the Vietnam War on January 12, 1973. Flying a BARCAP mission from the USS Midway in an F-4B (BuNo 153045) was Lt. Victor Kowalski and Lt(g) Jim Wise. The MiG-17 pilot, Luu Kim Ngo ejected, but his parachute failed to open. I counted 39 black and white pictures and 32 color photographs. Jim Laurier contributes thirty color profiles.

Peter E. Davies picks up where he left off covering the 17 US Navy F-4 Units that operated from 1969 to 1973. Flying off of eight aircraft carriers over this time frame were F-4B and F-4J Phantom IIs. Although the Phantom II crews thought of themselves as primarily air-to-air fighters, they did put time in supporting the ground attack role. The first chapter covers the introduction of the improved F-4J into USN units as well as a general discussion on air-to-air missiles. Contrary to manufacturer claims of a 90% success rate, the actual combat success rate for the AIM-7 was 8% and the AIM-9 logged in at 15%. Let that sink in. Another effort to improve the F-4 performance was to train crews on tactics against the actual enemy combatants that Phantom II pilots would be seeing. Formulating tactics that would work against the MiG-17 and MiG-21 became the basis for performance improvement in the 1972 Linebacker operations thanks to the US Navy’s Top Gun program.

Peter E. Davies utilizes letters to home and other first person accounts to give a detailed analysis of the operational use of the Phantom II in the later stage of the Vietnam War. The sections include:

  • Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1 – The Time In Between
    • Finer Phantom IIs
    • Air-To-Air
    • Missiles And ‘Hit-Iles’ [Page 13]
    • Have Knowledge
    • Top Missile
  • Chapter 2 – Blue Trees, Bandits, and Bombs
    • Following The Trails [Page 28]
    • Colour Plates [Page 42]
    • The Cycle
    • Testing the Foe
    • Invasion Looms
  • Chapter 3 – The Fight To Leave
    • Mayhem In May [Page 60]
  • Chapter 4 – Phantom II As A Fighter
    • Battle Commences
    • Five Down
    • Midway’s MiGs [Page 76]
  • Chapter 5 – Fighting To The End
    • Endgame
  • Appendices:
    • A) US Navy Phantom II Unit Deployments to TF 77 1969-73
    • B) Colour Plates Commentary
  • Index

One of the sections I found fascinating was about a strike on January 18, 1972, that saw the first MiG kill from a Phantom since March 1970. Lt Randall Cunningham and his RIO Lt(g) William ‘Irish’ Driscoll in their F-4J were busy avoiding some 18 SAMs fired at them when he spotted two MiG-21MFs exiting the target at high speed at about 200’. Cunningham had a lock with his AIM-7 but didn’t trust it and fired his AIM-9. The MiG-21MF pulled a max-g-turn and managed to evade the missile, but Cunningham followed him into the turn. Flying inverted at 200’ and at 500 knots, Cunningham rolled to a firing position and loosed his second AIM-9 that turned the Fishbed into a fireball. His AIM-7 shot on the second MiG-21 failed to leave the aircraft.

Peter E. Davies US Navy F-4 Phantom II Units of the Vietnam War 1964 - 68. If you are into Phantom II aircraft or the Vietnam War this is a good reference book that is also a great read, especially with the first-person commentary. If you own one the previous releases in the Combat Aircraft series, you know what you are getting. If this is your initial entry into this series, you will be quite pleased.

My thanks to Osprey Publishing and IPMS/USA for the chance to review this great book.

Highly recommended!


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