The Last Gunfighter; the F-8 Crusader
I grew up in St Louis, just down the road from McDonnell Douglass where F-4 Phantom II fighters were built. My parents would take me to the airport observation lot, and we’d watch the smoky Phantoms rip up the sky. I grew up wanting to fly it; finally achieving my dream in a test squadron on my last tour. While attached to VX-30 I flew the F-4B/N/ and S variants. It was and still remains a “manly” aircraft; the quintessential fighter of the 60s, 70s and 80s. I loved flying and fighting in it.
But I have to admit; the last of the Gun Fighters was the F-8 Crusader!
The Crusader was a pure fighter; a tail aspect only fighter. Which means an F-8 had to get behind you to shoot you with guns or a heat seeking missile. In short you had to dog fight. The F-4 had a BVR (beyond visual range) system that could reach out a long way with radar guided AIM-7 Sparrow missiles. this capability changed dog fights forever; more on that in a future post.
Step one in my quest to earn gold wings was the University of Missouri’s NROTC unit. My commander was Captain Dick Schaffert; a famous naval aviator. He had nerves of steel. CAPT Schaffert would pull out his 35MM camera while jousting with Migs or SAMs and take pictures.
Check out the below video; at time 25 CAPT Schaffert details his 4 V 1 dogfight. That means four against one; he was the one. These are the kind of men that fought in the skies over Viet Nam.