Episode 139 — Flying and Fighting Against the Odds: A Cold War Perspective

In Episode 139 of the Aerospace Advantage, Flying and Fighting Against the Odds: A Cold War Perspective, John “Slick” Baum chats with Col Robert Graham, USAF (Ret.) about the 500+ combat sorties he flew across four combat tours during the Vietnam War.

Surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), anti-aircraft artillery (AAA), air bases under attack, high pilot attrition, tremendous tactical and technical innovation, training shortfalls, and unwavering dedication to duty were all hallmarks of the air war over Vietnam. As the Air Force reorients itself to confront a national security environment defined by peer competition, it is critical we look back in time and learn from the experiences of airmen who confronted and overcame similar threats.

Col Graham’s experiences are harrowing, captivating, and incredibly instructive. Having flown the O-1 Bird Dog, F-100 Super Sabre, and F-4 Phantom in combat, he provided close air support in danger-close proximity to friendly units; operated amidst robust enemy air defenses; and got shot down off the end of his own runway by guerilla forces—yet he continued to fly sorties day-after-day as pilot attrition exceeded 20 percent. All the while, Col Graham seasoned a new generation of airmen entering the fight. These are all challenges tomorrow’s airmen will experience. Join us for this incredible conversation.


Host: John “Slick” Baum, Senior Fellow, The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies

Producer: Shane Thin

Executive Producer: Douglas Birkey

Guest: Doug Birkey, Executive Director, The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies

Guest: Col Bob Graham, USAF (Ret.)

Image: Smithsonian Air & Space Museum

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