Quite often, when we talk to F-105 pilots, they dig into their log books and discover they flew the FHC’s Thunderchief, number 336, in combat. I recently asked Dewey Vandevender if he ever thought “his” Thud would be in a museum. He responded, “There was one time I didn’t think either me or the plane were going to make it through the day.” Vandevender was hit over North Vietnam in 1968 while dive-bombing ammunition-filled caves. When his wingman pulled alongside, he saw that the whole aft end of Dewey’s fuselage was burned and blasted. After he landed safely, it took 532 man-hours to fix the aircraft.
Dewey Vandevender and his son are making the trek from Mississippi to reunite with 336, the tough F-105 that brought him home. He will be joined by at least a half-dozen other former Thud drivers, many who have aircraft number 336 in their logs. You can meet them and ask them some questions about the mighty Thud on Vietnam Day, September 10, at the Flying Heritage Collection.
Cory Graff is the military aviation curator at the Flying Heritage Collection.