vietnam1.jpg (4535 bytes)

The F-4 Phantom's sofisicated electronics suite practically dictated the use of a second crew member, the "Wizzo" or Weapons System Officer, who was not a pilot. During Vietnam, this created a problem in tallying dogfight victories. In WWI, the pilot and the gunner were given credit for kills scored by two-seat aircraft. After the war, this policy was changed and both the pilot and gunner were credited with only a portion of the kill.. During Vietnam, the policy was changed yet again. Air Force Chief of Staff General John J. Ryan declared that both the GIB (Guy In the Back) and the pilot would recieve full credit for each kill. When the F-4 entered combat duty in Vietnam the possibility that the "Wizzo" (Weapons System Officer), not a pilot, might become the leading ace became a reality when Capt. Charles de Bellevue, who was particularly talented as a Weapons System Officer, scored six kills. At the same time, Capt. Steve Ritchie was the leading Air Force ace pilot with 5 kills. De Bellevue was in the back on four of Ritchie's kills.

The result of this controversy was an adamant request by pilots that future fighters be single-seaters. In the F-15 and F-16 the work of the WSO is done by computers but, the F-14 is still a two-seat fighter.


Although the following men are not recognized as 'aces' in the true definition of the term they are honored here in that they were recipients of our nations highest award, the Medal of Honor.

Lt. Col. Leo K. Thorsness  USAF

army_mohsm.jpg (3098 bytes)

Maj. Merlyn H. Dethlefsen  USAF

U. S. Vietnam War Aces

R. Cunningham 5
S. Ritchie 5
R. Olds 16 (12 WWII)
C. de Bellevue 6*
W. Driscoll 5*
J. Feinstein 6*
* Weapons Systems Officer.
    Not rated pilot.


North Vietnam Aces

Nguyen Dinh Ton 14
Nguyen Van Coc 9

 Return to 'Aces'

A complete listing of aces is available at the Fighter Pilot 'ace' list

'Aces' | U.S. Fighter | Feedback