Crusader VF-211 "Mig Master"

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The story of the first Mig Master, BuNo 150924 and its pilot, CDR Hal Marr...

On 12 June 1966 a strike was planned on Dai Tan barracks complex in North Vietnam. The strike included A-4s from VF-212 and Vf-216 along with CAP provided by F-8s from VF-24 and VF-211. Leading the strike TARCAP was CDR Hal Marr the CO of VF-211 in F-8E Crusader BuNo 150924 callsign Nickel 103. Flying Marr’s wing that day was Lt.j.g. Phil Vampatella. After the strike as the A-4s were egressing the target area the NVA controllers vectored in two sections of Mig-17 aircraft to intercept the strikers. Marr’s flight was orbiting behind the strike force when he received a warning of the Migs in the area from an EC-121 controller. Shortly after Vampatella called out Migs at Seven O’clock. Marr spotted the flight of four Mig-17s a mile and a half behind them at about 2,000’. The Migs were in afterburner so Hal was able to spot their smoking engines and directed a hard port turn into them descending down on them from 3,000’.

By the time the F-8s were pointed at the Migs they were pretty much head on with the F-8s at 450 kts, pulling around 8 g’s and the Migs at around 500 kts and probably close to 6 g’s. Marr’s flight reversed hard right in a scissors maneuver. The Migs and F-8s merged and the fight was on. Initially Vampatella had taken the lead since he had visual on the Migs, but as they merged coming out of the scissor, Marr had visual so he resumed lead position. The lead Migs wingman detached from his flight lead and was subsequently engaged by the other F-8 flight comprised of Richardson and Duffy. The second Mig section blew through the fracas and extended away from the fight initially.

Marr and Vampatella engaged the lead Mig in a classic scissor maneuver and on the second pass the Mig passed around 500 feet in front of Marr. He took the 90 degree deflection shot with his cannons, but missed. On the second pass in the scissor, Marr had gotten into a position of advantage at the Migs eight O’clock position and he fired another burst, but was out of cannon range. At this point the Mig was trapped below a low deck of clouds and between mountain ridges in a small valley and was running out of options to maneuver. Marr stayed in the saddle at the Migs 8 O’clock position and got off a sidewinder shot from about 1,ooo’ above the Mig. The missile missed and went into the ground. At this point the Mig must have been getting low on fuel from extended burner use so he rolled wings level and headed for his base. Marr plugged in the burner and closed rapidly in the F-8 until he was within a half mile. He fired his second sidewinder and it hit blowing off the Migs tail and starboard wing. The Mig pilot was unable to eject from the spinning plane and rode it down into a small village by a river where it crashed in a ball of flames.

As this engagement ended, Hal noted two Migs that had just been unsuccessfully engaged by Vampatella and decided to try for number two. Marr closed to within 600 feet in their six O’clock position and opened up with his Colt 20mm cannons. All he got was a short burst and the cannons ceased to fire. It was later determined to be an electrical failure that caused the stoppage. Marr saw lots of debris flying off of the Mig’s starboard wing from the cannon strikes, but figured the plane could make it back to base.

Returning to the ship Marr was exicted about the Mig kill and engagement and so treated his shipmates to a high speed flyby and victory roll. In all of his excitement Marr boltered on his first landing attempt as he had forgotten to lower his tail hook!

One month after the engagement when the Hancock was headed home, Marr was informed that his second kill had been confirmed. It was not officially credited to Marr due to security concerns as the source was classified, but the squadron received credit for the kill.











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