Veterans Day 2023: Veteran F-100 crew chief resides on his Iowa farm after Vietnam
In tribute to this Veterans Day, DVIDS’s Vince De Groot shares a story of a long-time Iowa farmer and Veteran U.S. Air Force F-100 crew chief who recalls his service and has not forgotten the aircraft he maintained in Vietnam over fifty years ago:
Air Force Veteran John De Groot has been content to stay on his farm near Sioux Center, Iowa since leaving the military over 50 years ago.
The situation was quite different for De Groot in early 1960s, when leaving home for military service was not optional.
The United States was at war and after talking to some friends, De Groot decided to join the Air National Guard in Sioux City in 1964.
“We thought that sounded better than getting drafted.”
De Groot was assigned as a F-100 Fighter Jet crew chief where he says he has still not forgotten his assigned tail number “9-8-6” even after 50 years.
“That and your service number, you will never forget that,”
When North Korea seized a U.S. Navy intelligence ship, the USS Pueblo On January 23, 1968 De Groot’s Air Guard unit was activated within days. The 185th Tactical Fighter Group was in formation in Sioux City listening to the activation order before the end of the month.
By May of 1968 About 350 Airmen from the unit’s 174th Fighter Squadron arrived in Vietnam where they immediately began flying combat sorites. Slow days saw only a couple of sorties, most days however saw a third or fourth launch.
“The regular Air Force had F-100s too, but they had a lot more problems than we did because ours were in pretty good shape,” “Theirs had a lot of wear and tear already”.
After the year-long deployment De Groot decided not to reenlist, instead choosing a much quitter life at his home on the farm.
It turns out that De Groot’s old aircraft, tail 54-1986 has also been living a quiet life after it was transferred to the Air Force Armament Museum outside Eglin EGG-land AFB in Florida where it is still on display.
The plaque by the display explains that the aircraft was painted with a different tail number in honor of the historic F-100 Misty Squadron. The aircraft’s original tail number can still be seen below the horizontal stabilizer confirming that is indeed De Groot’s old tail number.
The plaque also explains the pilot’s name on the side of aircraft of a fellow Northwest Iowa Native, and Medal of Honor recipient written simply as “Major Bud Day- Misty 1”.
This Veteran’s Day as De Groot finishes another harvest, he is looking forward to another peaceful winter on the Farm. Fifty years after his service he can also find some solace in that a piece of his military history is being well preserved honoring a significant figure in Air Force history.
In Sioux Center, Iowa I’m Vince De Groot
Story credit: DVIDS