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Vietnam Veteran recounts 'MiG-bagging' experience

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Julius Delos Reyes
  • 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
"I was scared, nervous and excited," said one Vietnam War veteran whose time in Vietnam was a far cry from what's usually portrayed in Hollywood war films featuring dog-fighting. 

Bill Freckleton, a 412th Range Squadron range control officer assigned to the F-22 Raptor Combined Test Force, told the story of his "MiG-bagging" experience during an encounter with a North Vietnam MiG-17 fighter aircraft on March 6, 1972, near Quang Lang airfield in North Vietnam. 

"It is an honor and accomplishment to have done something like that and survived it," Mr. Freckleton said. "Of all the people who were flying over there, only a few got to see a MiG."

Mr. Freckleton was a Navy lieutenant junior grade working as a radar intercept officer with the Sundowners. As a range control officer, he was in charge of operating the radar; taking part in air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance weapons delivery; helping the pilot with different parameters for weapons firing; and communicating with controlling agencies. He was the co-pilot to Navy Lt. Gary Weigand. 

On that day, Lieutenant Junior Grade Freckleton and Lieutenant Wiegand were aboard an F-4 Phantom that was part of a force combat air patrol mission, 50 miles north of Quang Lang airfield, where a reconnaissance mission was taking place. They were flying wing to the lead aircraft flown by Navy Lt. Jim Stillinger and Lt. j.g. Rick Olin. 

They had just arrived on station when they were advised by a Red Crown controller that there were Red Bandits to the south of them. The controller kept them informed of the MiG's position. However, between the two F-4s, they were limited with a sidewinder and a search-only radar. 

The lead F-4 took the flight into a left turn and immediately saw they were being vectored on a single green MiG-17. Without radar, Lieutenant Junior Grade Freckleton loosened his straps and began twisting and turning in his cockpit, visually looking for the MiGs that had been called out near Quang Lang. Lieutenant Weigand and Lieutenant Junior Grade Freckleton then went to a high cover position. 

Lieutenant Stillinger executed a series of scissor maneuvers in an attempt to get to the MiG's six o'clock position. As the MiG driver was proving to be extremely aggressive and agile in handling the aircraft, Lieutenant Stillinger called for Lieutenant Weigand to cover him as he put his nose down and proceeded to extend away from the MiG. 

As the event was taking place, a sandwich situation soon developed. Lieutenant Weigand and Lieutenant Junior Grade Freckleton came back down from cover position and engaged from the rear quarter where they easily got into the six o'clock position of the enemy aircraft. 

"We got a good sidewinder tone," Mr. Freckleton said. "I yelled at Gary to shoot because the tone had a good lock for the heat source. He squeezed the trigger." 

And the rest was engraved in the annals of Vietnam War history. 

Mr. Freckleton said there is a distinction in bagging a MiG. It is unusual and not everyone can say they've bagged one.

"We just happened to be in the right place and the right time," he said.