5 November 1966, “Opal 1” / F-4C (63-7541) / MiG-21 / AIM-7.

Four F-4C’s of the 366th TFW were providing escort for an EB-66 on 5 November when they were attacked by two or more MIG-21’s in the northeastern section of North Vietnam, near Hanoi and Haiphong. The EB-66 was making its final orbit of the area and all of the escorting Phantoms were near the minimum fuel level for a safe return to their home station.

The MIG’s were first detected on radar at a range of 18 miles. Shortly after the EB-66 executed a left turn, Maj. James E. Tuck, flying the lead F-4, saw the MIG’s visually and called them out to his flight.

The first MIG launched a missile at the EB-66 just as that aircraft broke into a diving spiral. The missile missed. The F-4s and MiGs also spiraled down, and Tuck and his pilot, 1st Lt. John J. Rabeni, Jr., launched three Sparrow missiles. The explosion from the third Sparrow caused the MiG to flame out, and the pilot ejected.

Meanwhile, a second MiG got on the tail of Major Tuck’s Phantom, and his wingman, 1st Lts. Wilbur J. Latham, Jr., and Klaus J. Klause, maneuvered to fire on it. During the execution of this maneuver, Latham saw a MiG (possibly a third one not previously observed) pull up in front of him, and he launched a Sidewinder. The missile exploded near the MiG’s tailpipe, and the pilot ejected. The entire air battle lasted less than 3 minutes.

That night there was a celebration in the “Doom Club” at Da Nang’s officers’ open mess. These MiG kills gave the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron its fifth aerial victory.