Por: Manuel Carazo
I have always been enthusiastic about military aviation, and if there is one aircraft of which I can say that I am a fan, it is the F-4 Phantom. I have toured museums mostly in the United States and England where they have these aircraft on display and, I must admit, the one that has impacted me the most was the one at the U.S. Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
In March 2019 I published a book about the Torrejon air base and its involvement in the Cold War, («Torrejon during the Cold War») and, when I made the presentation of the book at the Gaudí bookstore, I was invited to visit the Infante de Orleans Foundation and the Spanish Air Force Museum.
When I arrived at the Air Museum, I rushed to see the F-4’s there, in this case an RF-4C and a 12th Wing F-4C, with a sign that said that this plane was flown by Lt. Col. Robert Titus in Vietnam and had shot down three MIG’s during the Vietnam War. I thought it was a shame it did not have the «three red stars» on it marking the shoot downs it had done.
Then I bought a book published by the Spanish Ministry of Defense (60 years of Torrejon Air Base history), and on page 183 appears the same aircraft, also saying that with this aircraft Lt. Col. Titus had shot down three MIG’s over Vietnam..
But it is important to know that the aircraft that is in the Spanish Air Force Museum is the USAF #64-0820 (MSN 1151) that arrived in Spain in July 1978 (Spanish Air Force C.12-37) and was assigned to the Air Force.
Clarifications about this aircraft
It is important to know the history of an aircraft when it arrives to an Air Force, and for that reason, from here we want to describe which aircraft and which shootdowns, with dates included, were performed by Lt. Col. Titus in Vietnam.
Following the documentation that we provide in the table above; we can see the aircraft that flew Lt. Col. Titus and when and with what weaponry it achieved the shootdowns.
Also, as told in a book about F-4s in Vietnam by Lt Col Titus and 1LT Zimmer (22 May 1967 with AIM-9 and SUU-16), USAF # 64-0776 was the only Phantom to shoot down a MiG with all three major weapons systems in the Vietnam War.
F-4C USAF # 64-0776 belongs to the U.S. Air Force Museum, and is currently on loan to the Seattle Museum, and F-4C USAF # 64-0777, which is at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, TX.
With all this data, we can conclude that Lt. Col. Titus and his WSO Lt. Zimmer shot down two MIG’s with F-4C #64-0776 (call sign Wander 01) on May 22, 1967, but two days earlier, on May 20, 1967, they shot down another MIG 21 with F-4C #64-0777 (call sign Elgin 03).
And likewise, we conclude that there is an error in the documentation referring to the F-4C of the Spanish Air Force Museum, and we think that it is in that when the F-4C arrived in Spain and was received by the Air Force, it was left with the idea that there was a mistake in the documentation, was left with the idea that it had shot down three MiG’s during the Vietnam conflict, but what they may not know is that it often happens that MiG shoot downs were «transferred» to the officially assigned aircraft, the #820 which was only his assigned aircraft, but he noted the shoot downs in the #776 and #777.
And not on the one in the Museum, which although Titus did fly it, he did not do any shoot downs with it.