It had stood for almost ten years against every conceivable ordnance that the Americans could muster via air power, surviving wave after wave of determined American airmen. For the North Vietnamese, it assumed a prominence that approached mythical status and became a symbol for the North of their determination, fortitude and cause.
Begun in 1957 and completed in 1964, it spanned the Ma River in the Annam province in North Vietnam. It did not die easily. Surrounded by what can only be described as the most hostile air space known to man, it was defended by every known defensive anti-aircraft weapon known, including surface to air missiles (SA-2's), AAA (up to 100mm) small arms fire and Migs at nearby airfields. The missions to Thanh Hoa bridge via Route Pack 4, became a veritable gauntlet that few combat pilots would relish. But these were not just ordinary men. They were determined men who supported each other and believed in a cause to defend the liberty and freedom of all people, including all of Vietnam and South East Asia. 104 American pilots were shot down within a 75 square mile vicinity of the target! The communists used the bridge to push Russian and Chinese supplies southward to the ground front by rail, truck and foot. Many airmen who survived being shot down would endure years of torture, mistreatment and malnourishment at the hands of their tormentors. They were housed in such infamous prisons as the 'Hanoi Hilton' while the biased world media believed that the POW's were being treated humanely.
Few people today ponder the hot action that occurred over the Thanh Hoa bridge. Fewer still know anything about it. But to the men and their families who endured, the memories of these valiant warriors stand as a testament to the noble and deeply rooted concepts of duty, honor and country.
Robert Bailey's painting depicts an attack scenario that was repeated many times. F-4 Phantoms fly flak suppression, targeting any and all who contest their arrival. Meanwhile, the A-4 Skyhawks deliver their carefully armed ordnance. Entering the target area at high speed, the pilots and their planes leave the bridge surrounded by an ever-expanding flak maelstrom in the hope that this will be the mission that will break the Dragon's Jaw and remove it from the dreaded target list.
Signing these prints are aircrew who attacked the bridge some time during their tours of Vietnam. Two of the signees were shot down over the bridge, and survived almost six years of torture and imprisonment at the hands of the communists. Depicted is Phantom #201 flown by Fred Ferrazzano and later on the ill-fated flight by Ev Southwick and Jack Rollins.
Commander Fred J. Ferrazzano was born in Paterson, New Jersey. H e became a naval aviator in 1954. With the VF-111 Sundowners, he was deployed to the far east aboard U.S.S. Lexington (CVA 16). His first Mig engagement was off Hainan. During 1964-65 he had two Vietnam combat deployments as Operations Officer of VF-142 aboard the carriers Constellation & Ranger, plus two aboard the U.S.S. Hancock. He sustained damage to six Phantoms during his combat experience off Vietnam, in addition to a near miss from a nervous wingman's sidewinder! During on emission, he was recovered aboard the carrier minus his Phantom's nose. During 1973 he ordered and implemented the mining of Haiphong Harbor, much to the surprise of President Nixon! Personal decorations include: Conspicuous Service Cross (8), Conspicuous Service Star (2), Bronze Star, Air Medals (9), Navy Commendation Medals (7) with Combat V (6), and Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Fred flew more than 350 combat missions and retired as a Commander.
Captain Charles Everett (Ev) Southwick was born in Fairbanks, Alaska. On April 24, 1967, he had a confirmed kill of a Mig-17 during a raid on a Kep airfield. On May 14 he was shot down over the Thanh Hoa Bridge, North Vietnam, and captured. His mission was flak suppression, firing Zuni rockets. He was flying VF-714 #201 (the aircraft depicted in Dragon Slayers). Jack Rollins was his back-seater. The aircraft crash landed on a sand bar in the river and was recovered by the NVA. He and Jack Rollins were repatriated on March 4, 1973. On the 37th anniversary of their shoot-down, they re-visited the site and saw their aircraft on display in a museum near the Thanh Hoa bridge. Decorations include Silver Star, Legion of Merit, D.F.C., Air Medals, Bronze Star, Purple Hearts (2). He retired as a Captain, U.S.N.
Commander David John (Jack) Rollins was born in Oakland, California. His tours of Vietnam were 1965, 1966 and 1967 with VF-114. On May 14, 1967, he was shot down over the Thanh Hoa bridge with his pilot Charles Everett Southwick and was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. He remained a POW until March, 1973. Decorations include Purple Heart (2), Navy Commendation Medals (3), Silver Stars (2), Legion of Merit, D.F.C. (3), Bronze Star (3). He retired as a Commander. Total missions: 270.
Commander Ron Stoddart was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho. In 1966 he embarked in the U.S.S. Constellation, Airwing 15, VF-161. flying F-4 Phantoms. He flew day and night combat missions over Vietnam, including strikes on the Thanh Hoa bridge. Missions were Alpha strikes involving flak suppression, dive bombing and target combat air patrol. He also flew close air support missions, delivering bombs, napalm and firing rockets, photo escort, maritime interdiction and coastal reconnaissance. He has 98 combat missions to his credit to his credit. Decorations include: 9 Air Medals, 3 Navy Commendation Medals with Combat 'V' and Meritorious Service Medal. He retired as a Commander.
Captain Dan Arthur Pedersen entered the USN in 1953. He became a rated engine mechanic before going on to Navy flight training in 1955. Lt. Commander Pedersen commanded the following units: VF-143; Air Wing 15, U.S.S. Wichita (AOR-1); U.S.S. Ranger (CVA-61); and was the Senior officer in the group of nine men who formed the now famous Navy Fighter Weapons School (Top Gun) at NAS Miramar. Pedersen accumulated 6100 flight hours and 1005 carrier landings, flying 39 various types of aircraft. He served in combat during the Vietnam war, with a single flying cruise on U.S.S. Hancock (CVA-19) and three on U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65). He retired as a Captain, U.S.N.
Commander John Tibbs was born in Chelsea, Oklahoma. He flew with VF-142 for two full deployments in twenty one months of combat, with about 50% being air to ground support and attack. He shot down a Yak. Like many aircrew members, he also attacked the Thanh Hoa bridge. Decorations include: D.F.C. and several Air Medals. He retired as a Commander.
Sheet size: 31" wide x 20" high.
Image size: 25" wide x 14" high.