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A depiction of "Pardo's Push" during the Vietnam War

Legendary Air Force Pilot Bob Pardo Pushed His Buddy’s Jet to Safety in Wartime – While in Flight

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The story is legend among fighter pilots. During the Vietnam War, Major John “Bob” Pardo was flying lead on the way back from a 1,000 mile mission over enemy territory, when they ran into serious trouble. The two F-4C Phantom jets took heavy flak, and considerable damage. Pardo saw that his wingman’s aircraft was heavily damaged while extremely low on fuel. But even though his own aircraft was leaking fuel, Pardo wasn’t low on ideas. These involved piggyback-style efforts to carry the crippled Phantom – and they didn’t work. But the ideas kept coming.

In a spectacular maneuver known as “Pardo’s Push,” the skilled aviator asked the endangered pilot, Capt. Earl Aman, to lower his tail hook. Pardo then maneuvered his own aircraft to connect with the hook. With his own Phantom trying to buck and jerk, Pardo kept a firm hand on the controls, and held steady. He literally pushed his wingman across the border toward Laos.

Pardo and his three fellow aviators – two pilots and two backseaters – ejected from their aircraft, and floated into the jungle. They were injured during the process, but still evaded capture by communist guerrillas. They were picked up by “friendlies,” and whisked home to safety. The following day, Pardo and his backseater, Steve Wayne, were back in the air.

READ MORE about the air war during Vietnam

Pardo died earlier this month in College Station, Texas. He was 89.

See him tell his story, and read from his Silver Star citation, below.

Pardo at first took additional flak, from a commander who did not approve of the daring maneuver. Another legendary Air Force pilot, Squadron Commander Robin Olds, intervened on his behalf.

Pardo was awarded the Silver Star. Read from his citation, below.

Major John R. Pardo distinguished himself by gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force over North Vietnam on 10 March 1967. On that date, Major Pardo was flying as the pilot of the lead element on the return from a 1,000 mile flight in which heavy flak damage was encountered. He noticed that his wingman’s aircraft was in trouble and was advised that the aircraft was extremely low on fuel.

Realizing that the wingman’s aircraft would not make it out of North Vietnam, Major Pardo implemented maneuvers to literally push the aircraft across the border. The attempt was successful and consequently allowed the crew to avoid becoming prisoners of war. By his gallantry and devotion to duty, Major Pardo has reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

About Susan Katz Keating

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