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Phil Handley - FU Hero

Posted by admin on September 6, 2008

Phil Handley was the first fighter pilot to get a supersonic air-to-air gun kill. It happened on 2 June 1972. Major Handley was flying with the 308th TFS out of Udorn Air Base, Thailand. That day his four-ship of F-4 Phantoms were flying CAP in support of a search and rescue mission for a fighter pilot who had been shot down twenty-three days earlier near Hanoi, North Vietnam.
During the execution of the SAR mission, and after his second element had departed for the tanker, Handley and his wingman were jumped by two North Rhino Charge by Rick ThistleVietnamese MiG 19’s; twin-engine, supersonic Russian-built fighters. Handley’s wingman, low on fuel, zoomed high to save gas and stay in the area for support, while Handley lit his burners and turned hard, down and into the pursuing MiGs. Since the North Vietnamese fighters chose to follow his wingman, Handley was able to roll out behind the enemy jets. Almost five miles behind his adversary, Handley quickly fired both his AIM-7 Sparrow radar missiles. One simply dropped away from his jet, the other went stupid and climbed harmlessly into the sky. Now, going supersonic, over 900 miles per hour, he flew a large barrel roll to stay behind the MiGs and try for a heat seeking missile, AIM-4 Falcon, shot. Once more both missiles failed. One not even firing off the rail and the other, once again, climbing sharply above, completely unguided. Traveling at Mach 1.2, Handley’s last chance was his 20mm cannon. With tremendous overtake he was quickly able to pull lead on the lead MiG. Defensively the MiG was pulling very hard. Handley was going to get one, high deflection shot. Closing rapidly on the MiG, a three second burst from the Phantom’s 20mm cannon hurled over 300 rounds in front of the MiG’s flight path. Flying into the stream of bullets the MiG was hit multiple times and exploded into a fireball.
Handley’s speed allowed him to quickly extend away from the second MiG and climb for a rejoin with his wingman enroute to the tanker. Upon returning to base, Handley learned that the SAR had rescued the downed American, resulting in a successful mission all around.

After four bad missiles and a high angle strafing shot, Phil Handley became the first and only fighter pilot to ever record a supersonic gun kill. That kind of tenaciousness and unique accomplishment make him a true FU hero and we say, kickass!


Posted by dougeden on
I am Doug Eden, wingman Brenda 2 on that flight in North Vietnam all of those years ago. Phil's back seater, Jack Smallwood, was unfortunately killed later in the war. I flew with Buddy Green in Brenda 2 and witnessed Phil's shootdown. I still have those memories etched forever. Way to go Phil.
Posted by Milobrownsdaughter on
Doug Eden you said you served with Capt Smallwood and Phil Handley were you in the 58th TFS? My father was (he passed away in December 2011) Sgt. Harvey "Milo" Brown. My dad use to talk about Capt. Smallwood, and others he served with. He use to always say that he wished he could get in touch with some of the men he served with. he always wondered if (I maybe wrong) "Animal", and "Pigpen" made it back. By the time I got old enough and he was willing to talk he could not remember their real names just their nicknames. Anyways if you knew my dad or maybe know someone that knew him i would love to hear anything you would like to share. I'm glad you made it back and God bless! Callie House
Posted by CRSpeh on
I had the privilege of re-fueling "Hands" Handley, and his "backseater" 1st Lt. Jack Smallwood, who was a class mate of mine in Undergraduate Navigator training (and one life's true Southern Gentlemen).We re-fueled Handfley and Smallwood very soon after their historic encounter with the Mig @ mach 1.2.

I also recall re-fueling one of Handley's wingmen earlier that day, when was, shall we say, running on fumes. It was a "SAVE" which could never be recorded because we were doing our duty, and ventured way too far north, and where we were not supposed to be.

A truly memorable day, and made me very proud to be a KC-135 Navigator, and play even such a small part in that day's drama.

We shall never forget our fallen colleagues.........
Posted by CRSpeh on
I would like very much to get in touch with Doug Eden and Buddy Green to see if in fact the "SAVE" made by our crew was their aircraft.
Posted by farmerg00 on
It sure was,I can't remember your call sign, but when Brenda 1 and Brenda 2 (me and Doug) went feet wet north of Hanoi, after the shootdown, We had about 1500 # of fuel, and we were fairly low altitude . Phil called RedCrown and asked for a tanker. They gave us your frequency , he let you know we were about to run out of fuel, you said you could only come that far north if we had an emergency fuel condition.I said I was about to run out , you said I'm headed your way partner. You ran the rendezvous, and turned in front of us , I was lower in gas than Phil , so I got on first with about 400# just about that time 4 fully armed F-4s joined up to give us all protection.You guys were great , I talked by phone with your at Udorn later that night. great day great Save Thanks Bud aka Buddy Green
Posted by Kwilson303 on
I hope you all were eventually able to connect with the fellow brothers you were looking for. I feel as if I am amongst royalty here. Thank you all for your incredible sacrifices and service. It will never be forgotten.
Posted by Doudeden on
Phil, Buddy and all.

I would very much like to get in touch with you all and to anyone else involved with Brenda flight that day. My email is I look forward to talking to each of you

Doug Eden
Posted by lcantrell on
Just read Col. Handley's book. Sorry he's gone. I think I remember him from Udorn in '72 but not sure. But it's a small world. Russ Everts and John Madden were IPs at George when I was upgrading. Moose Healey was one of my IPs, one of the original "Barstoolers," a guy who never wore a G suit while I was at George. Buddy Green, if you're still out there, us pitters in the 560th at Homestead always loved your Dry Tortugas flyover. I remember meeting you again at Ubon ('71) when I was at NKP in OV-10s and talking about the loss of Hoskins. Then yrs later bumping into you at the Pentagon. You told me you had a farm. Col. Handley is right about the frontseaters in the war. At Udorn, most of our frontseaters and all of our WSOs in the 13th TFS were on their first tour. Few frontseaters were fighter pilots but from MAC, SAC, ATC, or right out of UPT. Even a helicopter pilot. There I was with a little over 100 hrs of frontseat time ('72). At least I had a previous tour. I was a Nail FAC when Col. Handley's CO, Bigot 02, got shot down in Ban Karai trying to seed Harley's Valley. What a mess. We would never work an airstrike where you couldn't work a SAR. But the Nail FAC didn't put the Bigot flight in; they were on their own hook. Here I am years later learning that the Pathet Lao were under me at Ban Karai. We always assumed they stayed over in Cricket West or up in the Barrel.
Posted by lcantrell on
Whoops. Lee Cantrell at
Posted by jpwhite6 on
I can't believe no one has mentioned that "Hands" was a flight commander in the 58TFS at the time. I'm not sure the 308TFS was there at the time. I don't remember when they came and went at Udorn.

I flew in his 4 ships a bunch of times and he always breifed how he would pull lead, get in the bogey's plane, reduce G's and let him fly through his bullets. And he did it just that way. I don't think airspeed entered into the discussion.

I was also at 12th AF when he was ADO and retired from there.
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