“The Douglas AD Skyraider was to become the last heavy piston-engine combat and bomber aircraft.”
From 1945 to 1957 Douglas Aircraft built approximately 3,180 aircraft in seven basic versions. The Skyraider was built to be an extremely versatile aircraft designed for five main uses: day assault, all weather assault, radar surveillance, electronic counter-measures and anti-submarine warfare.
Initially used by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, the AD-5 version of the Skyraider was eventually used by the USAF and the Vietnamese Air Force under the A-1E designation. Over the course of the Skyraider’s development there were more than 38 model variants designed to perform specific tasks.
The Spad proved to be extremely useful for close air support and helicopter escort missions (“Sandy” missions) over North Vietnam to rescue downded airmen. The versatility and 10+ hour flight time of the Skyraider far surpassed that of the jets that were available at the time. There were many notable missions performed by the Skyraider and its pilots. In 1965, to highlight the Skyraider’s six millionth pound of ordnance, and abiltiy to carry anything, Commander Clarence Stoddard dropped a one-mission only special ordinance: a bright white porcelain toilet.
USAF Major Bernard Fisher flew one of the most famous missions. In 1968 he was awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing Major “Jump” Myers. His fellow pilot crashed in the A Shau Valley on March 10, 1966. Major Bernard Fisher knew that a rescue chopper wouldn’t reach him in time, so Fisher called off the rescue and landed on the debris-littered runway himself. Miraculously, he made it back with the other pilot under heavy fire. On January 19, 1967, he became the first airman in Vietnam to receive the Medal of Honor.
Assigned Navy Bureau Number 135188, this Skyraider was originally accepted by the USN from Douglas at El Segundo, California on June 23, 1955 and assigned to VC-11 NAS North Island, California. During the next four years, the Skyraider served aboard the U.S.S. Wasp (CV-18), the U.S.S. Hornet (CV-12) and the U.S.S. Shangri La (CV-38) before being placed in storage at Litchfield Park, Arizona on December 29, 1959.
On November 30, 1962, the Skyraider was redesignated EA-1E while still in storage. It was stricken from the books in March 1963. However, with the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, it was reinstated into service and assigned to VAW-33 serving aboard the U.S.S. Intrepid and U.S.S. Wasp. While on the Wasp the aircraft was overhauled again. Its radome was removed and the airframe modified and redesignated A-1E.
Initially assigned to VA-122 at NAS Lemoore, California, it later served aboard the U.S.S. Kittyhawk and then went to the Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron VAQ-33 at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Here it was a utility and training aircraft. Finally, the Skyraider was sent to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center in February 1970. There it remained until Roy Stafford acquired the aircraft in 1989.
At that point, Steve Hinton with Fighter Rebuilders restored the aircraft to pristine condition. Since then, the Skyraider has passed through several hands to the last owner, Brent Hisey, in Oklahoma. Now, over thirty years later, The A-1E Skyraider is flying at various Collings Foundation locations throughout the United States in honor of our Veterans.