|23d Flying Training Squadron|
Emblem of the 23d Flying Training Squadron
|Branch||United States Air Force|
RVGC w/ Palm
The 23rd’s lineage goes back to the 76th Bombardment Squadron (Medium) which was designated on 20 Nov 1940 and activated on 15 Jan 1941. It was re-designated as the 23d Antisubmarine Squadron (Heavy) on 3 Mar 1943 and disbanded on 6 Feb 1944; reconstituted as the 23d Troop Carrier Squadron on 11 Nov 1944 and inactivated on 7 Sep 1946; revived on 9 Jul 1956 as the 23d Helicopter Squadron at Stewart AFB, Tennessee where it served at Phalsbourg France, RAF Wethersfield UK, and Wheelus AB Libya until its inactivation on 8 Jan 1958.
It was reconstituted and reactivated 8 April 1966 at Udon RTAFB, Thailand, and operated from Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, from 15 April 1966 - 22 September 1975.
The 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron was created out of Det 3 of the 505th Tactical Control Group on 15 April 1966 by Lt. Col. (selectee) Robert L. Johnston. Lt. Col Johnston selected Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base (NKP) for operations in the Steel Tiger portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail between Nape Pass and Tchepone area in the Lao Panhandle. (Officially, the squadron was headquartered at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, but only personnel and pay records were handled there.) It was the first USAF combat squadron to be stationed at NKP to operate across the Mekong over Laos.
Five FAC's went to NKP in January to test the idea of working the Steel Tiger portion of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and many more came there TDY during the following months. Losses of 23rd TASS pilots started in March with Capt. Karl Edward Worst, whose plane disappeared 2 March 1966 in an apparent mid-air collision with an F-105 during an air strike.
The unit was initially called Operation Cricket, which name the area airborne control ship took for a call sign, and the original pilot call sign was "Gombey". This was changed to "Nail" in mid-1966, and Nail remained a call sign until the end of the war. The 23rd also used the call sign "Rustic". The 23rd's well-known unit patch, Jiminy Cricket with a walkie-talkie and an umbrella, was sold to the squadron by Walt Disney for $1 in response to a request from Nail pilot John Taylor.
The 23rd TASS, like its sister FAC squadrons based in Vietnam, initially flew Cessna O-1 Bird Dogs in 1966 and into 1968, when the last one was retired. All of its O-1's were the F variant, which featured a variable-pitch propeller. In 1967, the unit began receiving O-2 Skymasters to replace the O-1s. In 1969, the squadron began to receive OV-10 Broncos, and flew that aircraft until the end of the war.
The 23rd TASS lost at least 27 pilots during the war, and it's pilots received many Air Force combat decorations. Among those decorations is the Air Force Cross awarded to Capt. Philip V. Maywald for extraordinary heroism during a rescue mission over Laos on 21 May 1968. The text of his citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Captain Philip V. Maywald (AFSN: 0-70153), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as an O-2A Pilot with the 23d Tactical Air Support Squadron, 56th Air Commando Wing, in action in Southeast Asia on 21 May 1968. On that date, Captain Maywald braved an intense and deadly barrage of hostile gunfire for over two hours while he controlled the successful rescue of a fellow pilot who had been downed by anti-aircraft fire deep within hostile territory. Despite the great personal risk involved to his own life, Captain Maywald, with undaunted determination, indomitable courage, and professional skill, repeatedly made low passes over the rescue scene in his light unarmored observation aircraft. At times, he flew within fifty feet of the hostile forces to determine their positions and to deliberately draw their fire on his aircraft. Due to his courage, persistence, and professional skill the downed pilot was safely recovered. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness, Captain Maywald reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
The 23 TASS was inactivated on 22 September 1975, but reactivated on 30 November 1975 at Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas, where it trained forward air controllers before moving to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona on 1 July 1980. It was again deactivated on 1 November 1991. On 15 January 1994, the 23d Flying Training Squadron was reconstituted and reactivated at Fort Rucker AIN, Alabama, where it trains future USAF helicopter pilots in the UH-1H "Huey" helicopter.
Campaign Streamers Vietnam: Vietnam Air; Vietnam Air Offensive; Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase II; Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase III; Vietnam Air Offensive, Phase IV; Tet 1969 Counteroffensive; Southwest Monsoon; Commando Hunt V; Command Hunt VI; Commando Hunt VII; Vietnam Ceasefire
15 to 30 Apr 1966; 1 Aug 1968 to 31 Aug 1969; 1 Nov 1968 to 1 May 1969; 1 Jan to 31 Dec 1970; 30 Jan to 31 Dec 1971; 1 Apr 1972 to 22 Feb 1973.
15 Apr 1966 to 28 Jan 1973; 8 Feb to 31 Mar 1971; 1 Apr 1971 to 9 Mar 1972.
Those interested in further reading on the 23rd TASS should see Jimmie Butler's book, "A Certain Brotherhood", a novel about the unit. Another book authored by a former 23rd TASS FAC pilot is 'The Rescue of Bat 21,' by Darrel Whitcomb, a factual account of that famous and very costly rescue of an A-6 Intruder flight officer in Vietnam.