390th TACTICAL FIGHTER SQUADRON
DA NANG, VIETNAM
Paul David Lambrides was born in 1933 in Maryland. He was the son of John Lambrides from Asia Minor and Elizabeth Lambrides. He was Commissioned as a "Distinguished Graduate" from ROTC (University of Maryland) on June 9, 1956, and called to active duty on September 8, 1956. During 1958-59 he served with the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing, based in Toul-Rosieres, France as an F-100 pilot. From 1659 to 61 the Wing moved to Hahn AB, Germany and Lambrides became an Instrument school instructor. During his stay in Germany, he flew the F-100 in (statistically), the worst flying weather in the world. His next assignment was in 401st Tactical Fighter Wing in England AFB, LA for the next 4 years between 1961-65. The role of the wing was primary CASAF Alert and Nuclear Alert Rotational Squadrons. The Greek American pilot was alerted to the Berlin crisis in 1961, the Cuban crisis in 1962, and Vietnam in 1963. The 401st TFW was the first USAF unit to employ jet fighters in the Vietnam War in June of 1964. According to his words, it was a great place to get a “fighter pilot” education. In fact, he was on a TDY in Vietnam for two months in 1965. Paul D. Lambrides won his first award, an Air Medal during peacetime as a testament to his piloting skills. Lt. Paul D. Lambrides of the 615th Tactical Fighter Squadron, England Air Force Base, Louisiana, has been selected as the Tactical Air Command “Pilot of Distinction” for the quarter ending 31 January 1962. Lt. Lambrides was participating in a night refueling mission in an F-100D aircraft. He had just departed the tanker after taking on a full load of fuel and was flying at 22,500 feet. Suddenly, and without warning, the aircraft pitched up violently, stalled, rolled inverted, and entered a spin. Lt. Lambrides jettisoned the external stores, followed correct spin recovery procedures, and regained control of his aircraft at 16,000 feet. After checking slow flight characteristics, he made an uneventful landing at England Air Force Base. A bearing damaged during installation by the depot, caused the control torque tube to bind and allowed full nose-up trim to be stored in the artificial feel bungee. A sudden release of the nose-up trim caused the pitch up and subsequent spin. Because Lt. Lambrides had the skill and presence of mind to take proper corrective action and regain control of his aircraft during this nighttime emergency, investigators were able to inspect his aircraft and determine the exact cause of the incident. When other fighters in the unit were checked, four were found to have a similar condition existing. According to the Air Medal citation:
“First Lieutenant Paul D. Lambrides distinguished himself by meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight on 31 October 1961 near England Air Force Base, Louisiana. On that date, Lieutenant Lambrides was piloting an F-100D aircraft on an air-to-air refueling mission which suddenly made a violent pitch-up maneuver, stalled, yawed, rolled into an inverted position, and entered a spin in spite of his recovery efforts. Lieutenant Lambrides regained control of his aircraft, immediately declared an emergency, and was vectored to Claiborne Gunnery Range where he checked the landing characteristics of his aircraft. The distinctive pilot ability, courage, and devotion to duty of Lieutenant Lambrides reflect credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."
In 1968 he would return to southeast Asia (SEA) flying the venerable F-4C Phantom II with the 390th TFS, 366th TFW from Da Nang. He soon left his mark on the Wing by his performance during the war, flying a total of 167 missions, 100 of which were flown over North Vietnam. Soon he was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) for his performance in SEA.
"Major Paul D. Lambrides distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an F-4C Aircraft Commander in Southeast Asia on 17 January 1968. On that date, Major Lambrides was assigned to deliver ordnance from a low-level delivery that precluded evasive maneuvering in a heavily defended area in North Vietnam. In spite of adverse weather and intense anti-aircraft fire directed at his aircraft, Major Lambrides with unwavering calmness delivered his ordnance which closed a vital resupply route. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Major Lambrides reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."
No more than 5 days after his successful mission and the DFC he flew a mission that earned him the Silver Star!
"Major Paul D. Lambrides distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an F-4C Aircraft Commander near Quang Khe, Republic of Vietnam on 23 January 1968. On that date, Major Lambrides faced almost impossible odds for survival in the withering antiaircraft fire around the heavily defended Ly Hoa Ferry complex. In spite of an overcast below one thousand feet, he led his flight to successful delivery on the target and safe recovery. With complete disregard for his own safety, he used his own aircraft to decoy the heavy defensive gunfire away from his wingmen during their delivery run. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Major Lambrides has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."
The successful missions kept going however on March 17, 1968, while flying the F-4D 66-8780 from Da Nang in an armed recce mission, during an attack on boats just off the North Vietnamese coast a few miles of the DMZ, he was hit in the wing by automatic weapons fire. He immediately headed out to sea before he and his WSO First Lieutenant J.L.Tavenner ejected safely. No wonder why he joined the club of the Purple Heart owners. Paul was unstoppable! The next day, on March 18 took off for North Vietnam and directed a successful search and rescue effort for a downed pilot near Mu Gia Pass. For his actions, he was awarded his second Air Medal, the first in combat. His combat flying skills and professionalism were once more evident to the USAF and his squadronmates. On June 15, 1968, Major Paul Lambrides and his WSO, First Lieutenant William T. Gilliam along with his No.2, Major Norman M.Turner and his WSO, First Lieutenant Castle C. Cohron, callsigns Gunfighter 1 and Gunfighter 2 respectively, delivered ordnance accurately against the enemy on a heavily camouflaged target in a well-defended area, in support of a Marine unit. On station directing the USAF F-4Cs was USMC Aerial Observer, First Lieutenant Robert E.Happy who afterward wrote the following report:
Paul D. Lambrides is not only a Vietnam combat veteran with 167 missions to his credit but also a very proficient pilot. His Air Medals, the two Distinguished Flying Crosses, and the Silver Star certify the above sentence. Before the Greek American pilot excelled himself in the skies of North Vietnam with the mighty F-4 Phantom II, he flew for 9 years another famous fighter, the F-100 Super Sabre, gaining valuable experience at her controls. He flew the 'Hun' while serving with the 50th and 401st Tactical Fighter Wings, from 1956 to 1965. The North American F-100 Super Sabre replaced the hero of the Korean War, the F-86 Sabre, and although the F-100 had been designed as a higher-performing air superiority fighter, it was soon adapted as a fighter-bomber. In this latter role, the F-100 held the line over Vietnam until the appearance of the Mach-2 F-105 Thunderchief. The diving F-100s armed with BLU-1 Napalms and the four 20mm guns blazing was a welcome sight for the US Troops on the ground and the last thing many NVA soldiers saw in their lives. (Lambrides Family Archive)
The F-4D Phantom II, 66-8780 was the fighter from which Paul D. Lambrides ejected, after being hit by automatic fire during an armed recce mission on March 17, 1968. In this profile, the fighter carries Mk.36 bombs in the centreline pylon, a usual bomb load for the 390th TFS Phantoms. General-purpose bombs are by far the most common ordnance category. The Mark 82 and Mark 36 Destructor general-purpose bombs typically weighed between 500 to 750 pounds. Bombing intensity was high, with an average of 32.3 bombs, missiles, and rockets per km2 nationwide through the war, and there is extensive variation across districts for all ordnance categories. The distribution of bombing was skewed, with 10% of districts receiving nearly 70% of 13 2 all bombs, missiles and rockets, and some districts receiving over 500 bombs per km, while many districts were not bombed at all. The most intense attacks took place near the 17th parallel that formed the border between North and South Vietnam during the war. Note that the poor northwestern region was hardly bombed at all, in part because of the Johnson administration’s reluctance to antagonize China by bombing near its borders. (Artwork by Tom Cooper, further info by Edward Miguel & Gerald Ronald)
"While on a routine Visual Recon mission on 15 June 1968, 1st Bn, 3rd Marines, reported receiving heavy incoming rocket fir· from a position twelve miles NW of Dong Ha. I observed the NVA fire two volleys and immediately request fixed-wing, two flights were running on this target with no result, this target was very difficult to identify, well camouflaged, and situated in a difficult position for accurate bombing. At 1130 Gunfighter 01 and 02 reported on the station with an ordnance load of CBUs, 750-pound bombs, and 20mm. This flight totally omitted itself in destroying the target. Corrections were so minute that old bomb craters were used for reference points. Time after time corrections as small as ten meters were given, and these corrections were adhered to with uncanny accuracy. In the target briefing, I informed the flight that a heavy .30 caliber fire was being received from the North and West, however, the flight made numerous passes. Both aircraft circled low over the target for positive identification of an extremely small target. Heavy .50 caliber fire did not interfere with their accuracy. After controlling fixed-wing in northern I corps for eleven months, I feel Gunfighter 01 and 02 was the most devoted and professional flight I've had the pleasure of controlling. After completion of their bombing runs, no additional rocket incoming was received. Gunfighter bombing effect, surely kept 1st Bn., 3rd Marines from receiving additional casualties. I hope these gentlemen are duly recognized."
Indeed for his actions, the Greek American pilot awarded an Oak Leaf Cluster to his DFC. According to its citation:
"Major Paul D. Lambrides distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight on 15 June 1968. On that date, Major Lambrides led a flight against several hostile rocket positions which were firing across the Demilitarized Zone and inflicting heavy casualties on friendly forces. In spite of heavy antiaircraft response from the hostile forces, he made ten minimum altitude passes with devastating accuracy and silenced the hostile positions, thus saving many friendly lives."
Regarding his missions over the North, he wrote to the GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS team.
"The Mark 36 missions that we flew in 1968 were the most dangerous missions that I can imagine. The published minimum altitude for flying in North Vietnam was 4500 feet. The weather was solid from about 1000 ft to over 10,000. The North Vietnamese radar was extremely capable of tracking the few airplanes that were in the air. In this picture, we are going to bring four to eight F-4s flying the 20-minute flight from Danang AB, Vietnam. They let down through the weather to get below 1000 feet, rapidly approaching their river-bed target. The horizon appears solid with supersaturation of munitions from large cannons and every small arm available. The only hope for the F-4s is to fly one pass: very, very, very fast, and very, very low."
He also commented on the fighters he flew.
"Flew the F-100 for nine years and the F-4 for nine years. Both were great airplanes, with similar characteristics, including adverse yaw. Naturally, the F-4 had significantly more power, not to mention two-engine reliability."
After Vietnam, he served in Eglin AFB from 1968 - 1971 as a Chief of Safety for the 33rd TFW for two years and one year as Chief of Test Control Division in USAF Tactical Air Warfare Center (TAWC). For his service in Eglin AFB he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and according to the citation:
"During this period LTC Lambrides' outstanding professional skill, knowledge, and leadership greatly enhanced the combat capability of both the brigade tactical air control party and the 82d Airborne Division. His active and aggressive participation in numerous field training exercises, REDCOM, CINCIANT, and locally directed, aided immensely in the conduct of effective close air support during air/ground operations. During Brass Key, I, a joint Army and Air Force Firepower demonstration, the expertise displayed by LTC Lambrides during the planning and execution resulted in an outstanding performance and vividly displayed the joint capabilities of the United States Army and Air Force. His many lectures and demonstrations to units of the Division have been highly informative. Due to his ability to anticipate problem areas and take action to prevent their occurrence, he has been invaluable to this unit. His professional skill and knowledge along with an unselfish willingness to work long hours have been an excellent example and inspiration to all personnel associated with him. LTC Lambrides* exemplary performance and selfless devotion to duty reflect great credit upon him, the United States Army, and the United States Air Force."
Later he was posted to Ft Bragg, NC. for two years, 1971-73. He was a jump qualified "Fighter Air Liaison Officer" for 82nd Airborne Div and jumped with the Army in many exercises. He returned back to Eglin AFB as the 33rd TFW Chief of Ops & Training, Commander of 58th TFS (Air superiority). According to Paul:
"We were touted in General officer correspondence as being the finest air superiority squadron in TAC."
Paul D. Lambrides ended his career as Special Assistant to Wing VC, Col George “Bud” Day. He retired as a Lt. Colonel on January 1, 1977. Replying to our questions about his life and Greek heritage Paul D. Lambrides wrote to us.
"I am very proud of my Greek heritage. My father’s family came in through Ellis Island in 1908. They were so concerned with the welfare of the Greeks that my uncle, Nickolas G. Lambrides, and a church friend, George Georgakis, started the corporation, American Missions to the Greeks (AMG), during World War II. After the war, they brought a young Greek man, Spiros Zodhiates, from Cyprus, to manage the operation. Spiros became a Greek-American Bible scholar and author. The corporation has expanded into AMG International, has raised a lot of money for the Greeks, and built St Luke’s hospital in Thessaloniki. I have never associated nationality with Fighter Pilot issues. I believe that hard work is the essence of fighter pilot success. I loved living in the military. I started traveling as a military dependent in 1940, and have moved 69 times since. I was gone a lot of times, and my kids were in a lot of schools; but I have a strong wife of 63 years, who is beautiful, smart, and very active. A great combination for a military wife."
in our effort to make known him and the rest of Greek parentage pilots and crews to Greeks worldwide he wrote :
"I think that it is a good idea. We might meet some relatives that we did not know."
Various photos from Paul D. Lambrides service in Vietnam during 1968 with the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron. With the conflict in Southeast Asia escalating, the 390th TFS deployed to Asia on 29 October 1965. While officially assigned to Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, the unit actually operated from Clark Air Base, the Philippines until 17 November 1965 when it made the move to Da Nang. From 29 October 1965 through 7 April 1966 the squadron served as a component of the 6252d Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang, joining the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing on 8 April 1966. Six months later the 366 TFW replaced the 35 TFW at Da Nang, with the 390 TFS joining its previous parent organization on 10 October 1966. The squadron served with the 366th wing in Vietnam until 1972, flying combat missions in the F-4. During the stay at Da Nang, squadron aircraft changed twice, first from the original F-4C to the newer D model Phantom and then from the F-4D to the F-4E. In addition, its six and a half years in Vietnam brought the squadron five Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards and a Presidential Unit Citation. In the early days at Da Nang, pilots were frustrated that they were missing opportunities to shoot down enemy MiGs because the F-4C lacked a cannon and its missiles were ineffective at short ranges. So wing maintainers and aircrews modified the mounting of an external 20-millimeter Gatling gun pod on the F-4Cs used for ground attack for use in air-to-air combat, and in less than a month, starting on May 14, 1967, the wing’s pilots had scored four MiG kills. A few weeks later the kills raised to 11. The gun pod innovation and the MiG kills that followed earned the wing the nickname it carries today, the “Gunfighters". (Lambrides Family Archive, https://www.globalsecurity.org)
Paul Lambrides is also connected to US NAVY Officer Demetries Grimes (https://www.greeks-in-foreign-cockpits.com/pilots-crews/nfos-wsos-mission-co/demetries-grimes/). Demetries sister is married to Paul's son, John Lambrides, who was responsible for gathering all the material for this tribute as well as interviewing his father for us. One more interesting note is that during his tour of duty with the GUNFIGHTERS in Vietnam he served with the other Greek American pilot of the 366th TFW, George Jatras (https://www.greeks-in-foreign-cockpits.com/pilots-crews/fighter-pilots/george-jatras/), who flew with the 389th TFS. It is not known so far if both Greek parentage pilots flew together in missions but given the high number of combat sorties both had and the fact that they both flew for 366th TFW from Da Nang, it is highly probable.
More images from Paul Lambrides military service. In the first photo, he and fellow 390th TFS pilots pose in front of a damaged F-4 Phantom II wing, after being hit by anti-aircraft fire. The hole which opened is enormous. USAF lost 445 F-4 Phantoms II to all causes during the Vietnam War, 370 of them in combat (33 to MiGs, 30 to SAMs, and 307 to AAA). Approximately one out of every eight F-4s ever built by McDonnell Douglas—for all services—was destroyed in Vietnam. The second shows Paul inside HH-3E "Jolly Green Giant" on March 17, 1968, after being shot down by enemy fire during an armed recce mission. The HH-3E was specifically designed for Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) which required long operational ranges, loitering times, and hovering qualities, and appeared during the American involvement in the Vietnam War (1955-1975). Due to its "combat" SAR classification, the HH-3E was purposely developed with extra protection for the crew and systems when operating in a theater of war. The Vietnam War certainly illustrated the bravery and sacrifice of Jolly Green Giant crews for they were awarded over 190 Silver Stars, 24 Air Force Crosses, and even one Medal of Honor. The next photo shows Paul posing in Vietnam while the following is while he was serving in Ft Bragg, NC. 1971-73 as a "Fighter Air Liaison Officer" for 82nd Airborne Div. He frequently jumped with the Army in many exercises. Lastly a photo along with his sweetheart and wife Adele Lambrides. (Lambrides Archive)
John Lambrides and Elizabeth Lambrides were Paul's parents. John G. Lambrides immigrated to the United States of America from Greek Ionia, known worldwide as Asia Minor, like thousands of Greeks who fled to Greece and all over the world in order to be saved by the Turkish advance. Paul and his sweetheart Adele created a big happy family of four children. During March or April 1962 Paul visited Athens along with his friends Billy Gilbert and John Purvis. Paul D. Lambrides celebrated his 75th birthday playing golf in Landsbrook Palm Harbor (Lambrides Family Archive)
Paul D. Lambrides Awards Section
Special Thanks to John Lambrides, Paul son.
1. Dimitris Vassilopoulos correspondence with Col. Paul D. Lambrides, USAF ret. via his son John Lambrides.
2. Combat Aircraft 45, USAF F-4 Phantom II MiG Killers 1965-68, Peter E. Davies, Osprey Publishing, ISBN: 978 178 2006 961
3. The Long Run Impact of Bombing Vietnam, Edward Miguel & Gerard Roland, Berkeley University.