USAF Major Albro L. Lundy Jr., Skyraider pilot
Memorial Day Tribute to Major Albro Lynn Lundy Jr.
This Memorial Day we are featuring a tribute that was written by a fellow pilot about the father of one of our partners, Albro Lundy. His father is one of the thousands of heroes who gave their lives for our country and we honor them all today by remembering their sacrifice.
Memorial Day Tribute
By John R. Bucher, St. John Fisher and UCLA classmate of Albro Lundy III
It is late afternoon on December 24th, 1970. You are a forward-deployed squadron pilot, a US Air Force (USAF) Major, and one of America’s top F-4 Phantom fighter pilots. You are nine months into an overseas combat tour, but not in the F-4 Phantom this time, rather as a pilot in one of the most vaunted, highly respected A-1E Skyraider squadrons providing armed Search and Rescue (SAR) and Close Air Support (CAS) for downed pilots in enemy territory, one of the most formidable and noble tactical aircraft missions ever conceived.
You are 37 years of age and you have a wife and six children who live in Southern California. In addition to being an Air Force fighter pilot and Skyraider rescue SAR pilot, you are a UCLA Bruin alum who previously played college basketball for Coach John Wooden, so you know a thing or two about teamwork. At this point, you have already been awarded the Silver Star for Valor, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Air Force Medal, and six Air Force Commendation Medals.
It is Christmas Eve and there is no place you would rather be than at home with your family in California; however, your country has deployed you to Southeast Asia to fight and fly some of the most dangerous missions over North Central Laos and other hostile grounds. On this Christmas Eve, the flight leader of the evening’s SAR mission has unexpectedly taken himself off the flight schedule. Other qualified flight leads are slow to step up, so you agree to be assigned this mission to provide armed cover for a SAR sortie to rescue an American pilot shot down on December 23rd over hostile territory. In addition to the extraction rescue helicopters, you will be providing armed cover for one of the most respected, yet invisible, group of Forward Air Controllers (FACs), the world-famous Ravens.
Late Christmas Eve, as you strap into the massive Douglas Skyraider powered by the Wright 3,350 cubic inch, dual-row, 18-cylinder, supercharged radial engine, you say a prayer for your six children, wife and family back home in Southern California, and get on with the mission that has fallen into your hands because others were unable or unwilling to spend this day on what is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous categories of tactical air combat missions in existence: low-altitude, armed SAR support. You are mindful that the Ban Ban Valley is notorious for the intensity of its enemy air defense weapons.
While the Wright R-3350 engine is the most sophisticated piston powerplant ever installed on a warbird, the engine’s complex plumbing renders it vulnerable to the intense type of anti-aircraft ground fire often encountered over Laos and other hostile territories. Enroute to the rescue sight, after encountering heavy ground fire, there are indications of trouble as engine boost pressure tapers off, oil pressure drops and cylinder head temperatures skyrocket. Shortly thereafter, the engine begins to cough and seize, and you realize that there is only one remaining move to play, as dreadful as it may be.
You make a brief radio call to let your Sandy wingman, the Ravens and other elements of this critical rescue mission know that Sandy 03 must eject from the stricken aircraft. You are not afraid. Your training and fighter pilot instincts take over. You initiate ejection from the Stanley Yankee ejection seat and are literally fired by two rockets with ballistics that launch you dozens of feet out of the cockpit and above the doomed Skyraider. What happens next is the material from which movie scripts are written (and should be in this case).
Between Christmas Eve of 1970 and April 7, 2004, your family would undergo one of the most remarkable, courageous and tortuous journeys to discover what actually happened after you ejected from your Skyraider. Over the years, your wife, Johanna would be told conflicting and incongruous information about your aftermath. Your brave sons would travel multiple times to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in search of signs of your life’s trail. Ultimately, after a Newsweek magazine cover story that only partially revealed the subsequent scope of the quest for the truth, your remains would be returned by the government of Vietnam to the United States of America.
And, on April 7th of 2004, a division of F-16 fighting Falcons would perform a missing man formation flyover that drained every remaining tear from the solemn gathering of family and friends at Arlington National Cemetery that sunny afternoon upon your internment at this sacred site.
Your name is Major Albro Lynn Lundy, Jr. You and your family are the shining example of why our country established Memorial Day as a national holiday. Your sacrifice and that of the Lundy family and all other American families who suffered such losses will never be forgotten. May God bless all Americans who gave their lives in defense of the freedom we now enjoy, and may we never take it for granted.
Albro L. Lundy III, son of Major Albro L. Lundy Jr.