557th TACTICAL FIGHTER SQUADRON
CAM RANH BAY AB, VIETNAM
Αrthur George Christopoulos was born on October 7, 1930, to George Arthur Christopoulos (April 10, 1889) and Mildred Vincent Mason. George's heritage was from Spartias, near Agrinion, Greece and he had two brothers, Nikolaos and Vassilios and, a sister, Maria. Their father was Athanassios G. Christopoulos married to Helen Maria Raptis Christopoulos. George Arthur, emigrated from Patras, Greece on April 23, 1912, arriving through Ellis Island in New York on May 20, 1912, aboard the SS Martha Washington. Upon his arrival in New York, George was “picked up” and shuttled off to the Boston area and placed into what could be considered to be a slave labor situation. He worked 12-18 hours a day in the “deep sinks” for 50 cents a day, 7 days a week. He studied hard in his spare time to learn English and the naturalization requirements and to acclimate to the United States. He was drafted in WWI and was discharged in less than 60 days due to Tuberculosis. Thanks to an active exercise program under the direction of Jerry Longros, he survived and returned to good health. On January 21, 1921, he filed a petition for naturalization and became a naturalized citizen in the Superior Court of Massachusetts, in Brockton, Massachusetts on January 2, 1924, and was issued a Certificate of Naturalisation No. 1901756. He was extremely proud of his accomplishment and flew the US Flag on all holidays and special occasions. By 1926, George Christopoulos was had become a successful restaurateur in the city of Brockton, Massachusetts until the late 1920’s when he journeyed to Maine and settled in Augusta, Maine. There, he met Mildred Vincent Mason and married on May 2, 1929. Together they had 9 children, Arthur George being the oldest son. Unfortunately, Athanassios, his father, was killed by the Germans in WWII after being tortured by them in the war and they were never to meet again.
Upon graduation from Gardiner High School in 1948, Arthur served with the Maine National Guard while he was also working on his family business. He entered Officer Candidate School, USAF on March 21, 1955, and graduated on September 9, 1955. After his flying training and gaining his silver wings, he was posted to the 355th Tactical Fighter Squadron flying F-100 Super Sabres. He deployed numerous times in Europe, especially France and Italy. From 1963 to 1966 he served in the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, in RAF Bentwaters, England equipped with the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo. The Voodoos were to remain at Bentwaters for seven years, before the next change of aircraft type, conversion to the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the first example of which arrived for the 81st TFW on the 4th October 1965, and the wing’s full complement was reached by 26th April 1966, the 81st TFW’s last five Voodoos left Woodbridge on 3rd January 1966. Arthur played a significant role in the transition to the new fighter and he himself trained in a 12 weeks course in the F-4C during 1965. While serving in the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing the Greek American pilot was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal.
"Captain Arthur G. Christopoulos distinguished himself by meritorious service as Weapons Officer, Operational Training Division, 81st Tactical Fighter Wing, RAF Bentwaters, England, from 10 April 1963 through 31 July 1966. During this period, Captain Christopoulos's outstanding professional knowledge, skill, and leadership were instrumental in developing and main-training an extremely high level of tactical fighter weapons delivery proficiency of assigned aircrews, contributing immeasurably to the combat readiness posture of the unit. Through his exemplary efforts and devotion to duty during conversion to a new tactical fighter, outstanding weapons delivery results were achieved. The distinctive accomplishments of Captain Christopoulos reflect credit upon himself and the United States Air Force".
Left: Various photos during Arthur Christopoulos early service in USAF. In the lower photo, he is seen climbing on a 355th TFS F-100 Super Sabre. The F‑100 was designed by North American Aviation as a higher performance follow-on to the F-86 Sabre air superiority fighter. Adapted as a fighter-bomber, the F-100 was superseded by the high-speed F‑105 Thunderchief for strike missions over North Vietnam. The F‑100 flew extensively over South Vietnam as the air force's primary close air support jet until being replaced by the more efficient subsonic LTV A-7 Corsair II. The F‑100 also served in other NATO air forces and with other U.S. allies. In its later life, it was often referred to as the Hun, a shortened version of "one hundred. (Dana Christopoulos Crosson)
The 12th TFW received orders in November 1965 to relocate and conduct operations in Vietnam. On 19 November 1965, the wing began tactical operations from Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, South Vietnam. From that day until 21 October 1971, the wing engaged in aerial combat; provided close air support and interdiction; conducted rescue, combat air, and MiG patrols. The wing supported the U.S. Marine Corps base under siege at Khe Sanh from January to April 1968. An F-4 flown by Col Ralph Parr broke the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft blockade around Khe Sanh on 16 March 1968. In March 1970, flight operations at Cam Ranh Bay relocated to Phu Cat AB as part of the Vietnamization process. Over the course of the Vietnam War, the wing earned six Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards, garnered several Vietnam campaign streamers for its participation in numerous campaigns, and, on 15 June 1973, received the Presidential Unit Citation (Southeast Asia) for extraordinary heroism from 8 February 1971 to 8 April 1971. During this period, members of the wing flew 1,477 combat sorties providing close air support to the South Vietnamese Army during its thrust against hostile positions and resupply structures. Operating in poor weather and against intense antiaircraft fire, the aircrews saved the lives of many allied soldiers and inflicted considerable damage on hostile forces. The Air Force inactivated the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing on 17 November 1971, bringing to an end the wing’s combat campaign in Vietnam. The F-4C-23-MC Phantom II, 64-0769 was Arthurs personal fighter, as shown in the photograph in which he stands in front of it, with his name written on the lower fuselage. It was written off after an aborted take-off from Cam Ranh Bay AB, South Vietnam (Artwork by Tom Cooper, further info by 12th Flying Training Wing Official History)
In 1966 he transferred to the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing and joined the 557th Tactical Fighter Squadron for a combat tour in Vietnam. He flew 163 combat sorties in the F-4 Fighter jet and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for an extraordinarily accomplished mission on Nov. 11, 1966, along with 10 additional air medals. According to the DFC citation:
"Major Arthur G, Christopoulos distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-4C Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on 11 November 1966. On that date, Major Christopoulos was twice scrambled from the F-4C alert area in response to American forces in heavy contact with a determined hostile force. Each scramble required Major Christopoulos to expend his ordnance within fifty meters of friendly positions. Displaying outstanding pilot skill and disregarding personal safety, Major Christopoulos struck time after time with pinpoint accuracy to relieve the friendly force. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Christopoulos reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force".
After Vietnam, he was stationed in Tampa, Florida at MacDill AFB, flying F-4's and later he was stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base with the 336Th flying the F-4 Phantom II in Goldsboro, NC. From there her was stationed in Naples, Italy (1971-1975) working for NATO at Allied Headquarters. He commanded the 614th TFS flying F-4Ds, The Lucky Devils, from Torrejon Air Base, Spain, from 1975 to 1977 after which he was assigned to Osan, Korea where he served as the Chief of Current Operations; Director of Combat Operations; and Deputy Director of Operations, Directorate of Operations, 314th Air Division where he earned the Legion of Merit for his significant contributions to the effectiveness and success of the combat capability of the combined defense forces of the United States and the Republic of Korea. While serving in Torrejon he flew many deployments to South Mediterranean and for his exceptional duties, he was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal:
"For exceptionally meritorious service while serving as Operations Staff Officer, Tactical Operations Branch, Operations Division, Headquarters Allied Air Forces Southern Europe, during the period 11 October 1971 to 30 June 1975. As Chief of Strike/Targeting Section, Lieutenant Colonel Christopoulos distinctively superior technical knowledge and his mature and forceful leadership contributed immeasurably to the coordination necessary to maintain the various nuclear strike plans utilized within the southern region. During late 1974 and early 1975, he worked tirelessly preparing the required information to convent the Allied Command Europe Strike File from a manual to a computer operation. His unfailing tact and diplomacy while working in a multi-service, multi-national environment resulted in significant and consistent cooperation insensitive and vital areas of air operations. By his exemplary performance of duty, Lieutenant Colonel Christopoulos has reflected great credit upon himself, the United States Military Establishment, and Allied Command Europe".
His last assignment was to Eglin Air Force Base in Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., in the 4441 Fighter Training Wing. He retired in 1979 and began a new career as the chief operating officer for AIM Telephones Inc., an east coast interconnect company until his retirement in 1990. He died peacefully with his family by his side on March 16, 2011. He was married to Elizabeth Jacobs Christopoulos and blessed with three daughters, Leslie Ann Christopoulos, Lynn Christopoulos Milani, and Dana Christopoulos Crosson, eight grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Col. Arthur G. Christopoulos was extremely proud of his heritage, his immediate family and extended family, and all of their accomplishments. He was an incredible patriot who fought for his country and lived a life of love, strength, courage, passion, and truth.
Above: Two more photos during Artur's service with the 355th TFS F-100's. During Cold War, the squadron participated in exercises, operations, tests, and firepower demonstrations conducted by the Tactical Air Command within the US and abroad. The unit frequently deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Wheelus Air Base, Libya. Was deployed to Europe during the 1958 Lebanon crisis and was moved to McCoy Air Force Base, Florida in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis.. (Dana Christopoulos Crosson)
Below: Christopoulos poses in the center along with his colleagues of 81st TFW, in front of an F-101 Vodoo fighter-bomber in RAF Bentwaters. Operational F-101A/C were upgraded in service with Low Angle Drogued Delivery (LADD) and Low Altitude Bombing System (LABS) equipment for its primary mission of delivering nuclear weapons at extremely low altitudes. Pilots were trained for high-speed, low-level missions into Soviet or Eastern Bloc territory, with primary targets being airfields. These missions were expected to be one-way, with the pilots having to eject behind Soviet lines. The F-101C never saw combat and was replaced in 1966 with the F-4C Phantom II. The Greek American pilot played a pivotal role in the transition to the new fighter. (Dana Christopoulos Crosson, further info Wikipedia)
F-4E-33-MC Phantom II, 67-0217 used by Arthur after Vietnam, while serving in McDill AFB, training new crews for combat. Because of its length, his surname was split in both canopies as seen in the photo above, and the serial was also written there. F-4C-22-MC Phantom II, 64-0726 also flown by the Greek American pilot, a photo of whom inflight can be seen in the Vietnam section of his photos below. After surviving the war while serving with the 12th TFW the fighter also flew with the 35th TFW and Arkansas ANG 184th TFS, before goes to AMARC for storage. The fighter was salvaged in October 1996. The Phantom with the Arthurs surname on both canopies was the F-4E-33-MC Phantom II and was flown by him after Vietnam while stationed at McDill AFB. After its long service with the USAF, it was transferred to the Turkish Air Force (Türk Hava Kuvvetleri) in 1984 and recoded as 1 -217 in 1986 and served with 131 FILO. Unlike the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, which flew the Phantom with a Naval Aviator (pilot) in the front seat and a Naval Flight Officer as a radar intercept officer (RIO) in the back seat, the USAF initially flew its Phantoms with a rated Air Force Pilot in front and back seats. Pilots usually did not like flying in the back seat; while the GIB, or "guy in back", could fly and ostensibly land the aircraft, he had fewer flight instruments and a very restricted forward view. The Air Force later assigned a rated Air Force Navigator qualified as a weapon/targeting systems officer (later designated as weapon systems officer or WSO) in the rear seat instead of another pilot. (Artwork by Tom Cooper)
Arthur G. Christopoulos Service & Personal Photos
Special Thanks to Dana Christopoulos Crosson, Arthur Christopoulos daughter.
1. Dimitris Vassilopoulos correspondence with Dana Christopoulos Crosson
2. Office of History, HQ 12th Flying Training Wing Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, 14 August 2017