F-105F WILD WEASEL
ELECTRONIC WARFARE OFFICER (EWO)
388th TACTICAL FIGHTER WING, KORAT, ROYAL THAI AFB, THAILAND
Above: Peter Tsouprake in a typical USAF crew photo, while entering the cockpit of his aircraft. The two-seat Wild Weasel III F-105F Thunderchief or "Thud" formed the backbone of USAF SAM suppression during Operation Rolling Thunder. The F-105 Wild Weasels continued to develop tactics, flying two types of missions -- strike support, by far the more common of the two, and "hunter-killer" search and destroy attacks. The first Wild Weasel F-105Fs carried the same basic electronic equipment as F-100Fs, but additional sensors were added over time. The F-105F Wild Weasel typically carried two Shrike anti-radar missiles, along with a heavy load of bombs or rockets. Although the Shrike missile was not ideal (the range of the Shrike was well within the lethal range of the SA-2), it finally gave the Wild Weasels the capacity to mark and damage a site from afar. Like their predecessors, the F-105F Wild Weasels often led conventional F-105s that helped finish off SAM sites. (Tsouprake Family Archive, further info by https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/)
Middle: Maj. William Robinson, pilot (l), and Maj. Peter Tsouprake, EWO (r), celebrate their 100th mission. Earlier, on July 5, 1966, they flew lead on a large strike mission north of Hanoi. Disregarding their own safety, they braved intense ground fire and several SAMs to attack four SA-2 sites. Three were knocked out and the fourth was heavily damaged. For their valor, they were both awarded the Air Force Cross. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Below: USAF commissioned the notable aviation artist Keith Ferris to immortalize the action on July 5, 1966. The artist chooses to illustrate the daring strafing attack of Bill and Peter on the last SAM site when their Shrikes and rockets expended on the previous three sites. The artist was kind enough to give us permission to use a low res copy of his painting for which THE GREEKS IN FOREIGN COCKPITS team is deeply grateful. (Keith Ferris)
Peter Tsouprake was born on February 4, 1928, in New Bedford, Massachusetts. He was the son of a Greek parentage couple, Charles and Irene Leoutsakos-Tsouprake. Charles (Kyriakos) and Irene (Eirene) were both from Mani Peloponnese and most probably the family name was actually Tsuprakos. The couple emigrated from Greece separately at the turn of the century and married in New Bedford, MA where they had 7 children, two daughters, and five sons. Peter was the last born and the youngest child. Peter was active in the ROTC at New Bedford High School and was voted Most Military in his high school class. Eager to join all six of his elder brothers and sisters in serving his nation, at age 17 he forged his father’s signature on his U.S. Army enlistment form, and joined the U.S. Army in December 27, 1945. He traveled to North Dakota, where he served as a Weather Forecaster before leaving active duty on November 15, 1948. Peter then attended Brown University, and upon graduating, was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force through the school's Air Force ROTC program on August 25, 1952, beginning active duty September 16, 1952. After attending Electronic Countermeasures (ECM) training and B-36 Peacemaker Combat Crew Training, Lt Tsouprake served as a B-36 ECM officer at Spokane AFB, Washington, from May 1954 until attending B-52 Stratofortress transition training from January to March 1956. His next assignment was as a B-52 ECM officer with the 330th Bomb Squadron of the 93rd Bomb Wing at Castle AFB, California, from June 1956 to January 1957, followed by service as a B-52 ECM officer with the 326th Bomb Squadron of the 92nd Bomb Wing at Fairchild AFB, Washington, and then at Glasgow AFB, Montana, from February 1957 to August 1962. Capt Tsouprake served as an ECM instructor with the 3537th Electronic Warfare Training Squadron at Mather AFB, California, from August 1962 to March 1966, and then attended F-105 Thunderchief Wild Weasel training from March to May 1966. His next assignment was as an F-105 Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) with Detachment 1 of the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing at Korat Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from May 1966 to January 1967. He participated in many engagements protecting strike packages from SAM threat. The most intense Battles he fought took place between June and August 1966 and during those engagements he received. Οn June 29, 1966, he was awarded Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat "V" for a mission near Hanoi, North Vietnam. Major Tsouprake performed duties in the lead aircraft of a flight which successfully protected a large strike force from the dreaded SA-2 surface-to-air missile threat. In so doing, Major Tsouprake willfully and with complete disregard for his own safety, directed his pilot, Major Robinson in attacks against hostile SA-2 installations.
A few days later, on 5 July, the Weasels had their biggest day yet. Eagle Flight, led by Major Bill Robinson and Major Peter Tsouprake (EWO), was sent to RP6A. As they approached the target Tsouprake picked up five Fan Songs. Selecting the strongest one, he locked onto it with the APR-25 and began homing. When the strobe hit 2 1/2 rings, Robinson brought the nose around to bear on the threat and squirted off a Shrike. The missile began homing but disappeared into some clouds. The Fan Song remained on the air. As Robinson broke through the clouds, he acquired the site visually and realized that he had been out of range. Simultaneous with this realization, the APR-26 lit up a very bright LAUNCH light and Eagle Flight saw two SAMs headed their war. Eagle Flight broke down and into the missiles* paths, forcing them out of their cone of direction and both missiles passed under the flight. Robinson immediately scanned the area for the telltale dust clouds from the launches. But Eagle 3 had already spotted it, rolled in. and salvoed both canisters of rockets, neatly bracketing the radar van. Scratch One! Robinson returned to the original target area. Tsouprake picking up several more Fan Songs. He worked the APR-25 and began homing on the strongest one. At three rings, Robinson fired his remaining Shrike. With the Shrike homing, the LAUNCH light suddenly came on very bright. Robinson broke right and Eagle 2 watched a SA-2 fiercely trying to match Robinson's turn, and failing to do so, fly into the ground. Twenty seconds later a Shrike slammed into the site. Scratch Two! With the SAM chasing him all over the sky. Eagle 2 had become separated from the rest of the flight. Resuming his original heading, he spotted an AAA battery firing at the other members of Eagle Flight. Rolling in for a rocket attack, he spotted a well-camouflaged SAM site right next to the AAA battery'. Eagle 2 emptied both his rocket pods into the site, noting a large secondary explosion. Scratch Three! The strike flight was now beginning its egress from the target area and Eagle Flight would be the last flight out (First In, Last Out!). As Robinson was about to exit the area, Tsouprake's threat board again resembles the proverbial Christmas tree. The IR-133 was showing several strong Fan Songs, one of them going straight to three rings. Again, both missile ACTIVITY and LAUNCH lights come on simultaneously. Breaking hard right, they saw a SA-2 homing on them. Reversing directions, the flight turned right at the oncoming missile. The missile passed so close that Robinson had to yank the stick sharply to avoid a head-on collision. The SA-2 passed under all four aircraft and exploded immediately to their rear, shaking all four aircraft violently. Robinson brought the flight around on a bearing towards the dust cloud. Approaching the site they see a second missile drop into a rice paddy. With the site in plain view, Robinson orders Eagle Flight to each makes a gun pass on the site, and work it over with the 20MM cannon. Eagle 4 fired his remaining rockets and Robinson saw the radar van explode. Eagle Right then strafed the entire area, each aircraft coming in from a different direction until the site was a mass of smoke and flame. Alter three hour and fifteen-minute flight. Eagle flight touched down at Korat. They had ducked five SAMs and destroyed four sites ...and with all that action, Tsouprake still had time to note that the SEE-SAMS had operated more or less as it should have! Both Robinson and Tsouprake awarded the Air Force Cross, the highest award in the USAF and second only to the Medal of Honor. According to the citation regarding the Greek American EWO award:
"The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pleasure in presenting the Air Force Cross to Major Peter Tsouprake (AFSN: 45448A), United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force while serving as Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Thunderchief of the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron, Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, in action near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 5 July 1966. On that date, Major Tsouprake, an F-105F Electronics Warfare Officer in the lead aircraft of a flight tasked to support a large strike force, detected hostile surface-to-air missile sites which threatened the other strike force. With complete disregard for his personal safety, Major Tsouprake responded professionally in the face of the continuous heavy and intense ground fire of all types and directed his pilot in attacks against four separate missile complexes. Three of the four sites were completely destroyed, and the remaining site sustained extensive damage. This courageous and aggressive action considerably reduced the missile threat against the other strike force. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Tsouprake reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."
During the famous July 5, 1966 mission, Major B. Robinson and Major P. Tsouprake flew, according to the Republic, the F-105F 63-8273. The fighter was lost on November 4, 1966. According to the exceptional book regarding Vietnam losses written by Christopher Hobson:
"The Wild Weasels were busy hunting their prey on the 4th during a strike near Kep and came across a SAM site three miles northwest of Kep airfield. During the attack, the F- 105F leading the flight was shot down and crashed near the target. A SA-2 hit the aircraft head-on and neither of the crew were seen to escape and so became the fifth Wild Weasel crew to be lost since July. Considering the number of trained crews available this was a very high proportion. Fortunately, die introduction of the QRC-160 jamming pod towards the end of 1966 and revised tactics and formations assisted the F -105 force to reduce the SAM threat in the New Year. On 31 July 1989, the Vietnamese returned a set of remains to the USA that was later identified as those of Maj Brinckmann. Capt Scungio’s body has not yet been found."
As North Vietnamese defenses strengthened, the "Thud" Wild Weasels became essential for high-threat strikes "up North." In May and June 1966, 11 F-105F Wild Weasel aircraft arrived in Thailand. More arrived, flying with the 335th TFW at Takhli and the 388th TFW at Korat, Thailand. Even so, the number of Wild Weasel aircraft and aircrews remained small -- and in high demand -- throughout the Southeast Asia War. Despite the periodic bombing halts, the Rolling Thunder campaign intensified through 1966 and 1967. Meanwhile, enemy SAM and AAA defenses strengthened, making the Wild Weasels crucial to the success of strikes deep into North Vietnam. In October 1965, U.S. intelligence estimated North Vietnam had about six SA-2 batteries. By the end of Rolling Thunder in November 1968, there were about 30 SA-2 batteries. Though they remained a threat, North Vietnamese SA-2s became less effective due to the Wild Weasels and other anti-SAM measures. In 1965 the North Vietnamese fired about 15 SA-2s for every aircraft shot down. By the end of Rolling Thunder, they had to fire an average of 48 missiles to down one aircraft. Success, however, came at a high price for the Wild Weasels. Of the eight crews (16 airmen) who initially flew out of Takhli, four had been killed, two were POWs and two had been wounded in action. Only four of these airmen finished their 100 mission tours. (Artwork by Tom Cooper, further info by https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mi)
Robinson later commented:
"In escorting the strike flights on the 5th of July, two SAM sites came up (activated their radar tracking sensors) on our way in. We had to attack these boys and turn them off the air to get into the target area, which was about 1 5 or 20 miles north of Hanoi. While in the target area, another SAM site came up threatening the strike force, and, of course, we attacked and got him. And on the way back out another SAM site came up to block our exit out of the target area. At that point, we had only one pod of rockets and 20mm cannon ammunition remaining. He fired two SAMs at us. We managed to acquire (the site) visually, but the rockets on him, and machine-gunned him out of commission."
The flights over North Vietnam were nonstop and three days after their most successful mission, both he and Robinson find themselves in action near Phu Tho, North Vietnam. On 8 July 1966 both were in the lead aircraft of a flight that successfully protected a large strike force from the dreaded SA-2 surface-to-air missile threat. With complete disregard for his own safety, and in the face of continuous heavy and intense ground fire of all types, Major Tsouprake directed his pilot in attacks which resulted in the destruction of two missile installations. This courageous and aggressive action removed the threat of missile attack against the strike force earned him and Robinson a Silver Star. However, the most decorated Greek American USAF officer (at least from what is known so far) kept flying and put himself in danger while protecting his brothers in arms who flew raids against targets in the North. On 14 August 1966, Major Tsouprake directed his pilot in an attack which resulted in the destruction of a hostile surface-to-air missile site. For his outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Major Tsouprake he was awarded a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat "V"
Four days later the Greek American Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) managed to survive a dreadful mission when he and Major Robinson riding their F-105F were able to avoid not only SAM’s fired against them but also to escape a Mig-17 who damaged their Thud. For the second day in a row, the 388 TFW sent three F-105 strike flights, "Schlitz", "Outlaw", and "Manila", to again attack JCS target 51, the Nguyen Khe Petroleum Product Storage area at location 21-10-11N and 105-51-34E, just south of Phuc Yen Airfield and 8 nautical miles north of Hanoi. A fourth flight, "Honda", an Iron Hand flight consisting of one Wild Weasel F-105F from the 13 TFS and three F-105Ds from the 34 TFS, led the three strike flights to the target. "Honda" flight was to protect the strike force from SAMs. Its flight line up was: "Honda 01" – Maj. William Perry "Robbie" Robinson (WW #73) and EWO Maj. Peter Tsouprake "Honda 02" – Maj. Kenneth T. Blank (WW #75) on his 51st combat mission over North Vietnam flying F105D 62-4395, "Honda 03" - Lt. Col Howard ‘Red Dog’ Hendricks, the commander of the 34th TFS. "Honda 04" - Capt David M. Groark. Honda 01 was armed with two radar-seeking Shrike missiles, two 2.75" rocket pods, and the 20- mm Vulcan gun. Honda 02 was carrying two 450-gallon external fuel tanks, two rocket pods, and also had the 20-mm gun. The Wild Weasel crew, Majors Robinson and Tsouprake, evaded three SAMs fired at their flight and were nearly shot down by one of two MiG-17s that attacked the flight immediately after the SAM threat. Their wingman, Maj. Kenneth T. Blank shot down one of the MiG-17s during its attack on the Wild Weasel flight lead. Maj. Robinson described his attack on a SAM site and his encounter with the MiGs:
"The weather was about 7000-foot overcast ... so we couldn't get up very high. But we wanted to so that we could shoot a couple of AGM-45s into the site. As I pressed up to the fire button and I fired 2 AGM-45s and told No. 2 to get ready to shoot his [rockets] -- ... this guy fired his missiles [SAMs]. The first missile was guided right toward my flight so we dodged it by diving down and pulling back up and letting him go under us. Then the other two missiles came off about 6 or 7 seconds after the first one, and they went up into the overcast. When I'd gotten rid of the first missile, I started back down. The second missile came over and went behind us. Then the flight off to my right ... called there were MiGs on my tail. I wondered what a MiG was doing in this SAM environment. We just dodged 2 missiles and why that MiG was closing in on me while I was dodging missiles, I never could figure out."
The Red Baron report described what happened next.
"The second missile "... detonated between Honda 1 and Honda 2. At this time Honda 2 was out in front of Honda 1 and a little to the right. The concussion from the blast blew out the afterburner in Honda 2. Another SAM passed over the flight and detonated. Two other SAMs were sighted but were no threat and disappeared in small clouds." The lead in the following flight, Schlitz", called, "... 'Honda 2 you have a MiG on your tail.' Honda 2 turned hard left and saw the MiG was on Honda 1. Honda 1 was told to break left and did so as he jettisoned all remaining external ordnance and his center-line fuel tank. Honda 2 jettisoned his external fuel tanks and attempted to change his armament switches from air-to-ground mode to air-to-air mode. He did not obtain the use of his gun sight."
Korean Veteran Maj. Blank described the encounter with the MiG-17:
"When I was still turning, he [Maj. Robinson] started his turn, and he started yelling 'Get him off my ass'. ... I said, 'Break left'. He broke left and, as a result, he went underneath me ... and the MiG firing at him was so intense on shooting at him that he didn't see me." "... Honda 2 broke hard left and maneuvered to a position behind the MiG at a range of 400 to 600 feet and fired his 20-mm gun. The MiG burst into flame and was observed to enter an inverted dive and impact with the ground. A second MiG passed through the flight in the opposite heading without engaging and departed the area.”
Majors Robinson and Tsouprake (Honda 1) and Honda 2 departed the area and returned to Korat. Honda 1 had received light damage from a burst of the MiGs 23mm cannon. The damage consisted of one hit in the vertical stabilizer and a glancing hit in the left-wing. Honda 2 had fired 216 rounds of 20-mm ammunition. Due to the F-105's complex switchology, Maj. Blank did not have a gun sight when he shot the MiG. The pilot experience was a predominant factor in the successful destruction of the MiG.
Robinson and Tsouprake became involved in another scrap with MiGs on September 20 when their Iron Hand flight was attacked but no hits were scored by either side, due in part to an inoperative gun sight in one F 105 and incorrect armament switch selection in Robinson’s cockpit After his service in Vietnam Peter was posted as a Wild Weasel Electronic Warfare Instructor with the 4537th Fighter Weapons Squadron at Nellis AFB, Nevada, from January to July 1967. His combat experience was invaluable and he was able to teach well the new EWOs who will soon man both F-10Fs and F-4Gs Wild Weasels. He served as the Electronic Warfare Test Manager with the U.S. Air Force Tactical Fighter Weapons Center at Nellis from July 1967 to April 1970, and then as a staff officer with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from April 1970 to January 1973. His next assignment was as the Senior Electronic Warfare Officer, Communications and Electronics Division with NATO at Brussels, Belgium, from January 1973 to August 1975. His final assignment was with Research and Development at Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts, where he retired from the Air Force on July 1, 1978. Peter spent his retirement years on Cape Cod, Massachusetts golfing, reading, playing piano and visiting with his 7 children, and 16 grandchildren. He spent his last 10 years in sunny Santa Cruz, California, often called the Mediterranean of the West Coast. He died peacefully on November 24, 2015, surrounded by his children. He is survived by all seven of his children, 16 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.
Peter Tsouprake memorabilia including his Flight Suit, Dog Tag, patches and military awards. Worthy of notice the 100 mission patch over the North and the Air Force Cross in the awards. Peter Tsouprake is most probably the highest honored Greek American USAF officer, at least for the time and our research. The Air Force Cross is the second-highest military award that can be given to a member of the United States Air Force (the first is the Medal of Honor). The Air Force Cross is the Air Force decoration equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross (Army), the Navy Cross (Navy and Marine Corps), and the Coast Guard Cross (Coast Guard). The Air Force Cross is awarded for extraordinary heroism not justifying the award of the Medal of Honor. It may be awarded to any individual who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Air Force, distinguishes him or herself by extraordinary heroism in combat. (Tsouprake Family Archive further info by https://en.wikipedia.org/)
Top Row: Major Robinson and Tsouprake and their fellow Wild Weasel pilots and EWOs in a happy mood after a successful sortie. The photo might be taken after the July 5, 1966 mission when Bill and Peter destroyed 4 SAM Sites and both awarded the Air Force Cross. The EF-105 (as unofficially called the Wild Weasel F-105s in the photo belongs to the G version and not the F, judging from the embedded ECM pod in the Thud fuselage. AGM-45 Shrikes are hanging under the wing pylons, a weapon of choice for the WW crews. (Tsouprake Family Archive & USAF)
Middle Row: Pham Thanh Chung was an experienced VNAF Mig-17 pilot who had two unconfirmed (from the US point of view) kills, specifically a USN F-8 Crusader (June 21, 1966) and a USN A-4 Skyhawk (July 14, 1966). A fearless Aviator who flew into the flak and SAM kill zone in order to shot down, Tsouprake's F-105F, during a mission on August 18, 1966. In the group photo of MiG-17 pilots of the 923 Sqn (left to right - Le Hai, Tran Van Triem, Luu Huy Chao, Ngo Duc Mai, Nguyen Van Bien, Le Quang Trung, and Pham Thanh Chung) pose at Kep airbase, after July 1966 dogfights. However, Kenneth T. Blank, Bill and Peters wingman came to their aid and shot down the NVAF Mig-17. Unfortunately, Pham Thanh Chung didn't survive the encounter. (Istvan Toperczer, VPAF Museum, Tan Son Nhut via Istvan Toperczer & USAF)
Bottom Row: Tsouprake photos during the awards ceremony. The left and right photos are from his Air Medal award ceremony. (Tsouprake Family Archive & USAF)
Special Thanks to Peter Tsouprake sisters, Debra, Irene and Kathleen as well to his nephew Ned Tsouprake for sharing heritage info regarding their father and uncle as well as photos from their family archive. Also, we would like to thank István Toperczer for his contribution to this tribute regarding Pham Thanh Chung's information and Keith Ferris for giving us permission to use his incredible painting. We could not be more grateful to them.
1. WSEG Report Air-to-Air Encounters in Southeast Asia – Volume 2 F-105 Events Prior to 1 March 1967" - A September 1968, a 372-page compilation of available data on F-105, RF-4C, RF-8, RF-101, A-1, and A-4 encounters between January 1965 and 1 March 1967. (Red Baron Report Vol.2)
2. Combat Aircraft 25, Mig-17 and Mig-19 Units of the Vietnam War, István Toperczer, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84176 162 6
3. Combat Aircraft 84, F-105 Thunderchief Units of the Vietnam War, Peter E. Davies, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 978 1 84603 492 3
4. Combat Aircraft 107, F-105 Thunderchief MiG Killers of the Vietnam War, Peter E. Davies, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 978 1 78200 805 7
5. Duel 95, USAF F-105 Thunderchief vs. VPAF MiG-17: Vietnam 1965–68, Peter E. Davies, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 978 1 47283 090 6
6. Aircraft of the Aces 130, Mig-17/19 Aces of the Vietnam War, István Toperczer, Osprey Publishing, ISBN 978 1 47281 255 1
7. Vietnam Air Losses: United States Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps Fixed-wing Aircraft Losses in Southeast Asia 1961-1973, Chris Hobson, Midland Publishing, ISBN 978 1 85780 115 6
8. Mig Aces of the Vietnam War, István Toperczer, Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 978 0 76434 895 2
9. Wild Weasel, The SAM Suppression Story, Larry Davis, Squadron Signal Publication, ISBN 0 89747 304 3