November 18, 2015
November 18th marks the 5Oth Anniversary of a day forever etched in the memory of this month’s guest speaker, Willie Sharp. He was serving with Fighter Squadron One Nine One (VF-191) and flying an F-8 Crusader off the carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31).
On November 18, 1965, he was assigned to a flak suppression mission accompanying six A-4 Skyhawks. They were attacking a group of boxcars in North Vietnam suspected of carrying war supplies headed to the Ho Chi Min Trail and ultimately South Vietnam. As flak suppressors, his F-8 and others preceded the main strike group, attacking anti-aircraft gun sites immediately prior to the bombers rolling in on the primary targets.
During his attack, Willie’s F-8 (call sign Feedbag 108) was struck twice by ground fire, igniting a blaze in his Crusader. Attempting to reach the relative safety of the Gulf of Tonkin, Willie stayed with his burning aircraft until calling Mayday and ejecting over water. This day would go on to include his capture, escape and rescue. Willie describes what he calls his pure good fortune in surviving this mission and today having audio and film of the entire episode.
About Willie Sharp
William D. Sharp was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma in October, 1940. His family moved to Dinuba, CA where he grew up. He graduated from Fresno State Collage and married Nina Bishop on March 3rd, 1963 before reporting to Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School in Pensacola Florida on March 10th that same year. He received his Navy wings in September 1964. After learning to fly the Crusader in San Diego, Willie joined his squadron in Subic Bay, Philippines, in April, 1965. He flew his first combat mission on April 15th. His cruise aboard the “Bonnie Dick” ended in February 1966. He and his squadron deployed again on USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) from August, 1966 through May, 1967. Willie completed his active duty assigned to Training Squadron Twenty-one (VT-21) in Kingsville TX as a Landing Signals Officer (LSO), mentoring advanced student pilots in carrier qualifications (CQ), the final step to earning their Navy Wings of Gold. Willie went on to fly for United Airlines for over 32 years, retiring as a Captain in October 2000 and having been recognized as United’s “Captain of the Year” in 1999. Willie and his wife make their home in Pleasanton, CA.
Location:Mesa Beverage Company, Inc.
3200 N. Laughlin Road. Santa Rosa, CA
Directions: From Santa Rosa, take Highway 101 North and exit at Airport Blvd. Turn left on Laughlin Road toward the museum. The Mesa building is located on the left side of the street a couple hundred yards past the museum.