Aviation History

The Pardo’s Push: USAF F-4 Phantom II pilot Bob Pardo remembers the most exciting day of his life

‘The F-4 was an awesome aeroplane in combat. It could even push a 28,000-lb aeroplane on a piece of one-inch thick glass,’ Bob Pardo.


Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Robert Pardo is known for carrying out the unorthodox aviation maneuver, later coined as the Pardo’s Push, to save the lives of his wingmen during a bombing mission over Vietnam, Mar. 10, 1967, also earning the Silver Star.

Pardo was then assigned to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.

For Bob Pardo Mar. 10, 1967 was probably the most exciting day of his life;

‘The thing that surprised me most was the absence of fear. I was finally doing what I had wanted to do, and had trained to do, for so many years, and I was doing it with Robin Olds. What more could a young fighter pilot ask for? The F-4 was an awesome aeroplane in combat. If you knew how to fly it, and use energy manoeuvrability, it could do anything. It could even push a 28,000-lb aeroplane on a piece of one-inch thick glass.’

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. Col. Robin Olds’ F-4C Phantom II FP/63-7680, as it appeared during Operation Bolo, January 2, 1967 – note the missing chin pod, which was not yet retrofitted at the time of Operation Bolo.

As told by Peter E Davies in his book USAF F-4 Phantom II MiG Killers 1965-68, Bob discovered this facet of the Phantom ll’s capability on Mar. 10, 1967 when he and Steve Wayne were No 2 in a ‘tailend Charlie’ flight covering a strike on Thai Nguyen steel mill;

‘Over the target, the No 4 jet and I were both hit by AAA. No 4, flown by Capt Earl D Aman and 1Lt Robert W Houghton (in F-4C “Cheetah 04” 63-7653), was critically low on fuel coming off target, and it was obvious that the jet would not make it out of North Vietnam. After Aman had climbed to 30,000 ft, I had him lower his tailhook, which I put against my windscreen and I then pushed him for 88 miles (after Aman had shut down his engines), getting him over the jungles of Laos, where he and his back-seater ejected. Two minutes later we too ran out of gas and ejected (from ‘Cheetah 03’ 64-0839, which had been the F-4C used by Dick Pascoe and Norm Wells for their Jan. 6, 1967 MiG kill). We were all rescued, with two broken backs, a broken neck and cuts and bruises, but we each flew about a hundred additional missions.’

This model is available AirModels – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS.

‘Pardo’s Push’, as it was dubbed, was frowned upon by senior staff (although Col Olds was on leave at the time), who believed that Bob Pardo should have abandoned his stricken wingman and sought out a tanker for himself. A briefing team was duly sent round the F-4 bases to discourage similar attempts. Bob Pardo and Steve Wayne had to wait 22 years for the award of the Silver Star for their act of courage.

USAF F-4 Phantom II MiG Killers 1965-68 is published by Osprey Publishing and is available to order here.

Bob Pardo and Stephen A. Wayne, after Wayne’s 100th combat mission

Photo credit: Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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