What legends are made of

  • Published
  • By 1st Lieutenant Brittany Martin
  • 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
Legends sometimes wear capes and fly around the skyscrapers of downtown. They sometimes pull a sword from a stone and command a table of knights. And sometimes legends sit quietly on a tour bus and share stories of fighting for your freedom before you were even born.

That is how I met retired Col. Roy Dickey. Colonel Dickey was one of the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron's three pilots to shoot down an enemy MiG aircraft over Vietnam. He and his wife, Billy, visited Sheppard for the 469th Tactical Fighter Wing Reunion, April 9.

The couple said Colonel Dickey was arguably the best fighter pilot, but smilingly warned me that several of the pilots at the reunion might make the same claim.

Colonel Dickey flew 274 combat missions during the Vietnam War in the F-105D Thunderchief and the F-4 Phantom II without ever being hit. How did he do it? He said speed and maneuverability kept him alive.

When asked, he told the story of his MiG kill willingly, his wife filling in details that he forgot. He pointed out two of the pilots who were part of his formation the day he got his MiG kill; three of the four pilots from his formation came for the reunion.

On Dec. 4, 1966, Colonel (then Major) Dickey held the number four position in a four-ship formation of F-105D Thunderchiefs, call sign Elgin, during a mission to bomb a railroad yard a few miles outside of Hanoi in North Vietnam. The flak from the ground was solid on the flight to the target; he said he couldn't even see the number three aircraft, which was flying 2,000 feet away.

"At that point, I figured I'd made the wrong career choice," Colonel Dickey said.

After dropping his bombs on the target, he started to climb and saw a Vietnamese MiG firing on the number three aircraft in his formation. He radioed, "Elgin 4, on a MiG," and went after the enemy plane.

Colonel Dickey said the MiG made the mistake of turning away from him instead of cutting into him. Colonel Dickey took advantage of the mistake and put 37 high-explosive-incendiary rounds right through the aircraft, cutting it from wing root to wing root.

"Elgin 4, got that MiG," he radioed.

He then discovered that a MiG was on his tail. He pointed his aircraft toward the ground, getting up to a speed of Mach 1.1 before leveling out. He said he was flying so close to the ground that he could see the individual rice shoots growing in the fields.

Colonel Dickey said he saw an enemy fighter base and decided he was in the wrong spot. Looking up, he sighted his flight, which he rejoined and returned to base.

I walked away from that chance meeting grateful to the heroes that have defended our country, who are so excited to see what the next generation of Airmen will accomplish and thought, "That is the stuff legends are made of."