Eyes of the Fleet Over Vietnam

RF-8 Crusader Combat Photo-Reconnaissance Missions

Kenneth V Jack

A comprehensive, illustrated history of photo recon launched by the U.S. Navy over Vietnam, 1964-72.
Date Published :
October 2021
Publisher :
Illustration :
180 color and b/w photographs
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781636240749
Pages : 272
Dimensions : 10 X 7 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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A comprehensive, illustrated history of photo recon launched by the U.S. Navy over Vietnam, 1964-72.

Photo reconnaissance played a significant role during the Cold War, however it remained unknown to the public for many years because its product and methods remained classified for security purposes. While the U-2 gets most of the credit, low-level photo reconnaissance played an equally important role and was essential to target selection and bomb damage assessment during the Vietnam War. Moreover the contribution of naval aviation photo reconnaissance to the bombing effort in Vietnam is largely an untold story. This book highlights the role of the unarmed supersonic RF-8A/G photo-Crusader throughout the war, and also the part played by its F-8 and F-4 escort fighters.

Veteran and historian Kenneth Jack pieces together the chronological history of photo recon in the Vietnam War between 1964 and 1972, describing all types of missions undertaken, including several Crusader vs. MiG dogfights and multiple RF-8 shootdowns with their associated, dramatic rescues. The narrative focuses on Navy Photo Squadron VFP-63, but also dedicates chapters to VFP-62 and Marine VMCJ-1. Clandestine missions conducted over Laos began 1964, becoming a congressionally authorized war after the Tonkin Gulf incident in August 1964. VFP-63 played a role in that incident and thereafter sent detachments to Navy carriers for the remainder of the war. By war's end, they had lost 30 aircraft with 10 pilots killed, six POWs, and 14 rescued. The historical narrative is brought to life through vivid first-hand details of missions over intensely defended targets in Laos and North Vietnam. While most books on the Vietnam air war focus on fighter and bombing action, this book provides fresh insight into the air war through its focus on photo reconnaissance and coverage of both versions of the Crusader.

About The Author

Kenneth V. Jack was a Navy photographer in photo squadron VFP-62 1959–63, he made two carrier detachments and carrier-tested the developmental camera that gave VFP-62 the lead role in the Cuban Missile Crisis missions. Upon discharge he obtained two college degrees, taught high school math for 13 years and worked at Westinghouse Electric company as a software engineer for 21 years. He taught mathematics at Penn State University New Kensington, PA. extension campus.
He is the co-author of Blue Moon Over Cuba: Aerial Reconnaissance During the Cuban Missile Crisis (2012). He has also authored and co-authored a number of articles about naval aviation.


Author's Notes
Chapter 1: 1964–66: VMCJ-1 Photo-Reconnaissance and Electronic Counter Measures
Chapter 2: 1964: VFP-63 Photo-Reconnaissance Over Laos and First Prisoner of War
Chapter 3: 1965: VFP-63 Support of Operation Rolling Thunder Begins
Chapter 4: 1966—Operation Rolling Thunder Intensifies
Chapter 5: 1966–67: VFP-62 Enters the War
Chapter 6: 1967–68: Dangerous Skies Over Hanoi and Haiphong
Chapter 7: 1969–72: The Final Years
Chapter 8: Other Navy and Marine Corps Photo Reconnaissance Aircraft
Chapter 9: Summary and Conclusions
Terms and Acronyms
Source Notes
Appendix "Bombing as a Policy Tool in Vietnam: Effectiveness" (Senate Foreign Relations Committee)


"Well documented with notes, Eyes of the Fleet provides not only a close-up look at the RF-8 over Southeast Asia but useful appendices covering the broader aspects of the Vietnam air campaign."

- Aviation History Magazine

"Jack has created a very detailed account that will be of interest to military and aviation historians. He has ensured that memories of the men lost in Vietnam will continue to be told. Eyes of the Fleet Over Vietnam is highly recommended and deserves to be on every 'brown shoes' bookshelf."

- Naval Historical Foundation

"The author, whose photo research was excellent, also covers the camera technology used by the Crusader and the three other Navy and Marine Corps photo-reconnaissance jets used in the war."

- Seapower

"The author combined imagery and words to give readers a sense of the realism of war. This book is for the patriot in each of us."

- The Zebra Press

"...uncovers a lesser-known area of operations that centers on heroic men with unarmed aircraft, going in harm’s way to enhance the safety and effectiveness of their fellow pilots."

- Air Power History

It’s unfortunate that photo-reconnaissance aircraft and pilots don’t get the same attention as their missile- and bomb-dispensing brothers. In his exciting and comprehensive new book Eyes of the Fleet Over Vietnam, author Kenneth Jack shows that photo pilots have every bit as much skill and commitment, and experience situations that are as exciting – maybe more, if you consider that they often fly over targets shortly after defenses were fully alerted by a recent attack....He deftly weaves declassified action reports and personal narratives into his account, explaining photo-reconnaissance cameras and processes, describing the harrowing missions flown daily by the pilots, and comparing the RF-8 to its contemporaries. He also includes touching tributes to the RF-8 pilots who were lost during the war, reason enough to buy this book. The selection of photographs does an excellent job of illustrating the story. If you enjoy military aviation and jet fighters, make room on your bookshelf for Eyes of the Fleet Over Vietnam.

- CDR David Baranek, USN (Ret.), former F-14 RIO and TOPGUN instructor, author of "Topgun Days"

"From the RA-5C Vigilante, including a sketch diagram, to the RA-3B Skywarrior, the author commemorates these Vietnam-era photo-reconnaissance platforms with equal parts technical description and personal recollection of their unique features, capabilities, and even scuttlebutt reputations for accidents."

- American Intelligence Journal

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