I’m forwarding this to you folks I have been in contact with for the past 2 1/2 years in my quest to “confirm” brother Don’s “probable” MiG kill on 4aug65. Last week, 11 MiG pilots from the war met with U.S. pilots in California to discuss their experiences in the air war. Keith Connolly attended and sent me the below information which he learned at the meeting. Keith was in a second flight of F-100’s with Don who encountered MiG-17’s that day. I had sent Keith some questions I would like him to address with the pilots and he got the answers we were never able to determine before. He has confidence that these are the true facts. My quest has ended, but at least we now know the facts and not propaganda and speculation.
My best regards, and thanks for your help,
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Jim Kilgus <email@example.com>
To: Keith Connolly <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2017 9:38 AM
Subject: Re: Fwd: Vietnam Aircrew Meeting
Wow… I’m so glad you were able to attend the meeting with the MiG pilots! Thanks for relaying what you learned from them, I really appreciate it! I don’t know that any Americans had heard the real fate of the lost MiG pilots before. If you are confident in what Col. Bay said about the way they were lost, that would certainly put an end to my quest to confirm Don’s kill. But at least we will know the actual outcome rather than speculating, that’s a relief! (On the other hand, maybe one of them did have battle damage from the encounter which caused him to crash. Guess we’ll never know that!).
Thanks for the pictures, Col. Bay does look like Ho Chi Minh, complete with beard. And thanks for going over my questions with him, did he have any comments about the info I was seeking on Don’s behalf? And now I know what you look like, too. We Americans are a lot bigger than the Vietnamese, aren’t we!
Thanks again, let’s keep in touch.
From: Keith Connolly <email@example.com>
Subject: Vietnam Aircrew Meeting
Date: September 25, 2017 at 4:37:28 PM MST
To: Jim Kilgus <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Well we had the meeting on the hangar deck of the USS Midway. There were other meetings held that I didn’t attend because of other engagements. The Vietnamese had a total of eleven pilots at the meeting. Lt/Gen Nguyen Duc Soat was the senior member and did the majority or talking through an interpreter (although they all understood english they wanted to be accurate). General Coat is a friend of Deputy Defense Minister Tran Hanh and knows him well. General Soat was aware of Don’s/my engagement that occurred on 4 April 1965. He suggested that I speak with Senior Colonel Nugen Van Bay who was a MIG-17 pilot and had seven kills. Col Bay is pictured below and YES he looks a lot like Ho Chi Minh, including the beard. I spoke to Col Bay for about 40 minutes through an interpreter (again he understood english). Col Bay was airborne at the time of Don’s/my engagement but WAS NOT IN THE FLIGHT. He confirmed that Tran Hahn was the flight lead and the only survivor out of the flight of four. Col Bay confirmed the following:
* He remembered the date and flight because they lost three aircraft. One aircraft crashed while preparing for landing. The other two crashed in some sort of a mid-air collision….Bay thinks, the collision was the result of a rejoin OR a “control hard over” resulting from battle damage. The problem is there were NO witnesses and only a garbled radio transmission monitored by the GCI site. He remembers this incident vividly since after the crash they had advisors retrain them in tactics. This loss was important since the Vietnamese only had forty pilots at the start of conflict.
* He confirmed the loss of the pilots since he knew the Father, Pham Minh Lan of one of the deceased pilots.
* He confirmed that officially no one would interview Deputy Defense Minister Tran Hahn (flight lead) since it was still a “loss of face issue).
* The question was asked of Lt/Gen Soat…”did Russian or Chinese pilots fly on any combat missions and he emphatically said NO.” He did admit that the Russians trained the aircrews and sent advisors to Vietnam to act as Instructor Pilots. Also he admitted that a Russian Advisor was killed during an ejection. (I think this issue is still VERY SENSITIVE and cannot be answered since they are still getting parts and aircraft from the Russians today).
SO WHAT DID I CONCLUSIVELY LEARN???
* Three MIG 17’s were lost along with pilots. They are not SURE if they were lost due to battle damage from our engagement. They reminded me that they were at war, flying daily missions, and didn’t have time to conduct a lengthy investigation and beside that….what difference would it make? They didn’t have time or the resources to contemplate what happened.
* The three pilots died and were buried with honors.
* I’m VERY confident that Col Nugen Van Bay was telling the truth as he recalled it. We also had a long talk about flying tactics and he is the “real thing.” He had some very exciting stories and he has total respect for American Pilots. Lesson learned….keep checking six and watch out for the “decoy.”
REGARDS…..KEITH B. CONNOLLY
COL NUGYEN VAN BAY (7 KILLS) AND INTERPRETER
LOOKING AT A MAP OF VIETNAM AND KEP AIRFIELD
JIM, DISCUSSING YOUR QUESTIONS WITH COL BAY