Inside photo-recce Phantom missions over Vietnam

Bill Cahill profiles the vital work of photo-recce Phantoms in the high-threat skies of Vietnam

As he stepped out of the air-conditioned airliner, the all-encompassing heat hit him, quickly followed by an impression that everything was dirty. Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base in northern Thailand in mid-July 1972 was about as far away from civilisation as the USAF fighter community got. 

Lt Richard ‘Dick’ Hammaker was met by his 14th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (TRS) sponsor and quickly shuttled off base to Udon Thani, the local town. His head still dizzy from the sights and sounds, he was soon being measured for a maroon party suit by a local Indian tailor, Mr Armajeet, known to the squadron as ‘The Thief’. Included in his list of ‘essential’ gear were several green jumpsuits, squadron caps and other assorted ‘non-official’ uniforms, all with embroidered rank, name, patches and wings. 

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