John R. “Bob” Pardo, a “MiG-Killer” credited with one victory and three assists, performed one of the most spectacular feats of piloting during the war in Southeast Asia. Pardo grew up in Heame, Texas, and after a year of college, entered the Air Force Aviation Cadet Program, earning his wings and commission in May 1955 at Bryan AFB, Texas. He was one of eight second lieutenants who went directly from flight training to the swept-wing, state-of-the-art Republic F-84F Thunderstreak. In 1956, after three months at England AFB, Louisiana, Pardo reported to the 79th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at RAF Woodbridge, United Kingdom. After 18 months flying F-84Fs, the squadron converted to North American F-100 Super Sabres. In 1959, Pardo returned to the States for weapons controller training.
While a controller at MacDill AFB, Florida, Pardo also flew as instructor pilot for Colonel Paul Tibbets. He was next assigned to the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment facility at Gunter AFB, Alabama, and in 1962, returned to operational flying in Air Defense Command’s 326th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Richards-Gebaur AFB, Missouri. He checked out in the Convair F-102 Delta Dart. In 1964, he transitioned to the Convair F-106 Delta Dagger and reported to the 27th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Loring AFB, Maine. In 1966, he returned to MacDill AFB to upgrade to McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs and then reported to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in Thailand. As a member of the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing “Wolf Pack,” he flew 132 combat sorties including 100 over North Vietnam. On 20 May 1967, Pardo flew MiG CAP for Republic F-105 Thuds.
Inbound from the Gulf of Tonkin to strike the Bac Le railyard, the “Wolf Pack” ran into 12 to 14 MiG 17s. In a swirling dogfight, four MiGs were quickly destroyed. Pardo scored first. After his first missile failed to guide, he fired a Sidewinder, which downed the number-four MiG. Firing the rest of his missiles, he made mock attacks while the Thuds completed their strikes.
On 10 March 1967, while flying over North Vietnam, the F-4s of Pardo and his wingman were hit by enemy fire. Out of fuel, the wingman’s aircraft flamed out. With his badly damaged aircraft, Pardo decided to “push” the other plane to safety, wedging his wingman’s tailhook in front of his windscreen. When Pardo’s left engine caught fire, he shut it down and continued to “push” on one engine. Over Laos, all four crewmembers ejected and were safely recovered. More than twenty years later, Pardo finally received the Silver Star in a ceremony at Shaw AFB, South Carolina.
Following his combat tour, he flew the F-4 in the 91st Tactical Fighter Squadron, RAF Bentwaters, for three years.
He was posted to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, to instruct in the 310th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron, the central school for Phantom instructors. In 1973, Pardo completed his 20-year career in the USAF as wing Chief of Training Analysis and Development. In 1974, he retired from the Air Force with over 4,500 hours of fighter time and began a second career in corporate jet aviation. In 1980, he became chief pilot for the Adolph Coors Brewing Company.
We honor you, John R. Pardo.