Saturday, May 27, 1972
Lt. Bags MIG19 On 1st Mission, Cures Nervousness
by Donald Bremner
"I have no qualms about going back now," Arwood said. "I've seen that you don't instantly die when somebody starts shooting at you. You just use your training."
A few seconds after his Sidewinder heat-seeking missile exploded in the tailpipe of the North Vietnamese MIG, another MIG19 was downed by his wingman, Lt. Bart Bartholomay, 27, of Winnetka, Ill.
The two pilots described the "classic two-on-two dogfight" near Haiphong in an interview aboard the Midway, one of the American carriers on the line launching air strikes against North Vietnam from the Gulf of Tonkin.
"I'm on my first cruise, and it was my first time across the beach (into North Vietnam)," said Arwood, 26 of Lynchburg, VA. "It was in support of a pretty big operation. I was nervous before I took off."
In their F4 Phantoms Arwood and Bartholomay were flying cover against enemy MIGs for a large attack by planes from the Midway on strikes in the Haiphong area.
-->They spotted two MIG19s northwest of Haiphong and engaged them in a five-minute dogfight ...countered, and everything they did, we countered," Bartholomay said. "It was a question of who would make the first mistake.
"We turned behind them, and finally Pat got a pretty good shot at one, but his missile missed. For the next few minutes, we were in the 6 o"clock position (straight behind the MIGs)."
Bartholomay was chasing one MIG, while Arwood, above and behind his wingman, was chasing the other.
In a sort of one-fish-about-to-swallow-the-other sequence, the rearmost MIG was drawing within range of Bartholomay's Phantom getting ready to launch a heat-seeking missile. But when he leveled out to fire, he was a good target for Arwood's Sidewinder.
The tail of the MIG exploded, and the pilot bailed out.
"I thought, "that's really neat,"" Arwood said. "It was more a matter-of-fact thing, because that's the way you expect it to turn out. I had a sense of relief when my missile hit because he was after Bart."
A few seconds later, Bartholomay got a good shot, fired a Sidewinder, and saw it blow up the tail of the second MIG.
"I broke off to rejoin Pat and I didn't see any chute," Bartholomay said.
The two pilots refused to discuss aerial tactics in detail. They said the MIG pilots were good.
"We happened to come up against two good pilots who knew their planes fairly well," Bartholomay said. "They were afraid of us, but they fought well. I respect them highly.
"They made some mistakes, some pretty gross ones, but recovered from those in time. But then they both made mistakes at the same time.
"Once we got engaged, our training paid off. We knew just what to do and how to do it. It was a classic two-on-two dogfight, and it turned out just as advertised.""
-->With him in the two-seat ... Oran Brown 29, of Flagstaff, Ariz. Arwood"s radarman was Lt. Michael Bell, 25 of Sacramento, Calif.
The two MIGs were the first shop down by Midway planes during the current stepped-up air attacks. But the score is not one-sided. One of the Midway's A7 bombers was shot down the next day over North Vietnam. A parachute was seen, but the pilot was out of range of would-be rescuers. Other planes on the hangar deck showed damage from antiaircraft fire.
"Lt. Bags MIG19 On 1st Mission, Cures Nervousness", by Donald Bremner, published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes Saturday, May 27, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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