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It is with great honor I present Jack Drummond's biography. Wherever and whenever conversation turns to the T-28D, Jack's name comes up; his name is synonymous with the T-28D having flown with the Zorros, Ravens, RLAF, and the KAF. If ever there was a legend, Jack is it: handsome, dashing and usually smiling he lived the pilot's dream. I asked Jack to share his history shedding light on his elusive mystique. - Helen Murphy
Jack was born and reared on a dry land cotton farm northwest of Abilene, TX. As a young boy, he became fascinated with the exploits of flyers from WWII and vowed to become an Air Force pilot.
He graduated from Texas Tech University and the Air Force ROTC program and immediately entered pilot training. Unfortunately there were not any fighter slots available upon graduation but Jack vowed to get into fighters in the future. His participation in the activities in Southeast Asia began as a C-130 pilot. Volunteering for the Blind Bat program, he began flying from Danang over the southern part of North Vietnam, searching for trucks at night. After approximately 30 missions and with the advent of SAM installations in the Southern North Vietnam, the Blind Bat program was moved to Ubon and flying over Laos.
The Blind Bat area of ops ranged throughout Laos, from Ban Ban to Tchepone. Through flying these missions, Jack became very familiar with the road network and continually looked for ways to get into the position of dropping bombs on trucks instead of directing others to do so.
As luck would have it, Jack was tasked to help move a newly arrived unit from Bangkok to NKP. The unit was the Lucky Tiger AT-28 Squadron destined to hunt trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Encouraged by one of the 28 pilots, Jack applied for the AT-28 unit and was selected.
After a quick return to Hurlburt to check out in the 28, Jack was back at NKP to hunt trucks on the road network he was so familiar with from his Blind Bat experience. He quickly became renowned for his truck kills, at one point building a 47 mission streak with truck kills. All pilots have additional duties but Jack was lucky! His additional duty was working and flying with the Thai AF AT-28 squadron at NKP. When his night time schedule allowed, he flew and advised the Thai pilots on techniques, tactics, and procedures. Jack would later be able to take advantage of his Thai contacts from flying with the Thais.
The highlight of his time at NKP was getting to know the wing commander, Col. Heinie Aderholt. Heinie would become Jack’s mentor during the remainder of his Air Force career.
After flying about 170 night missions, the AT-28 mission at NKP began to change. The aircraft were experiencing engine problems and they were pulled from the night mission to daylight sorties well away from the AAA on the Trail. Quickly becoming bored, Jack volunteered to go to Laos and work with the RLAF AT-28 squadrons.
He was assigned to work with the RLAF Tangos at both Savannakhet and Pakse; with additional periodic duties of working with the mercenary Thai pilots flying in Laos. During the course of his duties, he was able to get all over Laos, from Hua Xai in the northeast to Bolaven Plateau on the southern border with Cambodia. In his spare time he also flew O-1 sorties with the Ravens.
Upon his return to the US from Laos, Jack was assigned to the Special Ops Headquarters at Eglin AFB. Fl, commanded by Heinie. As a check pilot, he flew AT-28s, A-1s, and A-37s. Occasionally he was tasked to conduct weapons and aircraft tests for Special Ops. One example was the stateside testing of the 2500 # Pave Pat propane bomb. Jack spent several weeks at Edwards AFB flying sorties designed to certify the Skyraider to carry and deploy the weapon.
Subsequent to the Eglin assignment, Jack was assigned to Hurlburt as an Ops Officer with a newly formed A-37 squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Dick Secord. Jack assisted the squadron in transitioning A-26 pilots into the A-37, as well as upgrading the squadron to combat ready status. One of the more interesting facets of the A-37 experience was getting the squadron pilots qualified in in-flight refueling. Later he participated in delivering A-37s to Panama via non-stop refueling over the Gulf of Mexico.
Afterwards, he was assigned to Florida State University to study for his MBA. Following graduation, he lucked out to get back into flying; serving as an Operations Officer for an A-37 Squadron at England AFB, LA. After about a year, he again hit the jackpot by checking out in the A-7.
Two years later, he was off to Armed Forces Staff College. The assignment was viewed with mixed emotions! Being selected usually meant that one could expect promotions to Lt. Col. soon, but being selected also meant that an assignment to the five-sided building was imminent! Late one evening near the end of course, Jack received a call from Maj. Gen. Dick Secord, asking what assignment he wanted after the Staff College. Jack told him that he thought it was mandatory to go to the Pentagon. Maj. Gen. Secord asked Jack if he wanted to volunteer for a classified tour in Southeast Asia. Jack asked if it included cranking 1820’s, the engine in the Tango. Secord said it did and Jack volunteered on the spot.
Shortly thereafter, Jack received his orders assigning him to the Waterpump AT-28 Training Detachment at Udorn RTAFB in Thailand. Thinking that a mistake had been made, Jack called Maj. Gen. Secord and asked for clarification. Secord told him not to report to Udorn. That he should report to Brig. Gen. Heinie Aderhold at MACTHAI in Bangkok; that all would be made clear there. Landing in Bangkok, Jack made his way to the Hdq of the US Air Force Advisory Group where he found that the Commander was Heinie Aderholt! Heinie welcomed Jack with a warm embrace and began to cover a new program called Project Flycatcher. The effort was designed to give the Cambodian Air Force capabilities similar to what had been provided to the Laotian Air Force – squadrons equipped with AT-28D’s, capable of providing support to the Cambodian Army.
Jack was assigned as the Ops Officer of a Detachment at Don Mueang Airport with the duties of providing operational and material support to the AT-28’s in the Cambodian (later renamed as Khmer) Air Force. This included overseeing the repair of Khmer Tangos at the ThaiAm facility at Don Mueang and the ferrying of aircraft between the KAF (Khmer Air Force) and repairs. The pace of work was never ending, from dusk to dawn.
In 1975, SEA was in a state of constant flux. In South Vietnam, the NVA invaded and slowly worked their conquest towards Saigon. In April, Saigon fell, and over 100 South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) aircraft flew to U-Tapao Air Base in Thailand. Just prior to this event, Heinie had asked Jack to establish an intermediate airfield in Thailand on Cambodia’s border for those VNAF aircraft that did not have the fuel to reach the primary recovery base. Within days, Jack and his crew had established a presence in Trat with a grass runway, radio beacon, and fuel. On the appointed day, Trat International (so named by the Air Commandos working onsite) hosted a steady procession of VNAF light fixed wing and Huey helicopters as they made their way out of Vietnam.
During the evacuation, Thailand experienced VNAF aircraft landing not only at U-Tapao but all over the country. Aircraft attempted landing on roads, airfields other than U-Tapao, villiages, etc. It was utter chaos and the Thai Government demanded that Gen. Aderholt get the mess cleaned up immediately. The Gen. asked Jack to oversee the cleanup process. Over the next two weeks, Jack and his band of Air Commandos flew aircraft out of villages, schoolyards, parking lots, rice field dikes, short airfields, and situations they had never dreamed of. But the Air Commandos did the job!
As the last part of this operation, the Gen. asked Jack to move 11 Skyraiders the VNAF had flown into U-Tapao to the Thai Air Force at Takhli AB. The A-1s had been out of the USAF inventory for over three years and there were no Air Commandos with current flight status in them. Jack relayed this info to the Gen. and Heinie left no doubt that Jack was to get off his ass and move the birds. So he and another ex-A-1 Air Commando jumped into two of the birds and off they went. It seemed as if it were only yesterday since he had been in the bird and the best Skyraider landing he had ever made ended the flight. The next day, two more were flown. Then the powers that be decided that no more of the transfers should be made so his Skyraider days were done!
In an interesting note, those 4 birds made their way into the US civilian market in the ‘90s and two of them are on the civilian Warbird airshow circuit now. Jack had the opportunity to talk to the current owner of one of the birds that he had flown to Takhli and was able to fill him in on part of the bird’s history.
After the conclusion of this exciting assignment, Jack finally got pegged for the long-dreaded Pentagon assignment. About a year later, as a project officer for SEA, he was assigned to write a response for the Secretary of State to an inquiry from the Prime Minister of Singapore. The inquiry asked if the US would assign USAF personnel to replace the RAF advisers to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). After initial discussions with several agencies, Jack went to Singapore to get a better feel for the situation on the ground in Singapore. Over the next six months, the two countries agreed that the USAF would send five officers to assist the RSAF in writing a strategic plan. During this time, Jack made three visits to Singapore to coordinate all of the aspects of the agreement. The last night of the last visit, several high-ranking Singaporean officials had a going away dinner for Jack to celebrate the successful conclusion of intense negotiations.
At the dinner, he was seated next to the Minister of Defense (equal to the US Secretary of Defense). During casual conversation, the Minister asked Jack if he would be part of the team. Jack told the Minister that he had only been in the Pentagon for two years and that the normal tour length there was four years. Nothing else was mentioned about it and Jack began the long trip home the next morning.
Imagine his surprise when he was accosted by his boss at his first day back to work! It seems that the Prime Minister of Singapore had made a by name request for Jack to head up the team and that he be allowed to hand pick the other four team members. You can be assured that the request stirred up a hornet’s nest! For one thing, every one believed that Jack had put the Singaporeans up to making the request! And few accepted Jack’s denial! The stir got all the way to the 4-star level in the Pentagon. The only way Jack got the accusations stopped was to call the Deputy to the Minister of Defense in Singapore and put him on the line with Jack’s 1-star boss. The situation was quickly solved and Jack was on the way to Singapore via an A-4 Skyhawk checkout with the USN. While in Singapore, Jack had the opportunity to fly both the Skyhawk and the Hawker Hunter. Needless to say, his time there was both fun and personally rewarding.
Jack retired from the Air Force and settled in Austin, TX. He started his own firm and has been self-employed since then.
Photographs and articles by Jack Drummond © all rights reserved no reproductions without permission
Smilin' Jack getting ready to fly the AT-28D-5
2009-2021 Helen Murphy © All Rights Reserved
Lt. Col. (Ret) Jack Drummond received the prestigious honor of being inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame in October 2017