Was going through some old slides my dad let me bring home from a visit a few weeks ago to mom and dad's place in NC. They included a bunch from the 60's, in particular the Old Man's Vietnam cruises in 65-67.
Came across the below image of of his A-4E and the bombing mission silhouettes he had on his *first* cruise (USS Ticonderoga, the CVA-14 version, Sept 65 - May 66) assigned to Attack Squadron 56 (VA-56). For every 10 combat missions you earned an air medal - there's 14 right there (he ended up with 25). Along with that went 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses. And the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross, awarded by the then Premier of South Vietnam at the time, Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, who flew out to the USS Enterprise (Dad's second combat cruise ship with a deployment date of Nov 1966 (6 freaking months after they returned home from the TICO cruise! A 6-month turnaround!) for the presentation (29 March, 1967).
It always amazed me (and still does) how these men, back then, could strap on these jets, go get shot at by SA-2 Guideline missiles, radar-guided anti-aircraft weapons, a thousand peasants with a rifle or whatever, drop for the most part iron bombs (and in the first part of the war oftentimes nothing more than a couple of 500-lb'ers on suspected "truck parks" beneath the triple-canopy, a target approved in DC, mind you -thanks, McNamara), come back to a carrier built in the last year of the second world war, and without all the electronic gizmos and landing-aids in today's aircraft and ships, slam that little A-4 back onto that deck.
As I mentioned above, his first cruise was on TICO, which was launched and commissioned in 1944 and underwent the 27-Charlie modification in the 50's, eventually getting the angled flight deck in the late 50's. His second cruise, less than a year after returning from his first combat deployment, was onboard USS Enterprise - talk about going from the dark ages to the space age (Dad said it took them a long time to get used to landing with aircraft parked on BOTH sides of the landing area). He had another 110 combat missions on that cruise. Funny (but logical) thing - more missions were flown off TICO than off Enterprise, but more ordnance was carried off Enterprise. Why? Primarily, bigger catapults.
Anyhow, these men should be heroes to each and every one of us - someone you should know and not forget. I wrote a bit about the Old Man over on the Instapinch here (his last mission) and here - go have a read, if you'd like.
Oh...and just as a reminder, the A-4 Skyhawk was the aircraft John McCain was flying when he was shot down. That right there shows more mettle in the man and steel in his backbone than Obama could ever conjure up - with or without Senator MBNA.
Thanks to Mark Evans at the Navy Historical Center, Naval Aviation History branch for his help and confirmation.