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USAF Southeast Asia War Aces

Capts. Richard “Steve” Ritchie (left) and Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue after a mission. Ritchie and DeBellevue scored four of their MiG victories while flying together. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capts. Richard “Steve” Ritchie (left) and Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue after a mission. Ritchie and DeBellevue scored four of their MiG victories while flying together. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Richard “Steve” Ritchie, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, scored five MiG-21 victories between May and August 1972, including one double-victory mission. He was the USAF’s only pilot ace of the Southeast Asia War. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Richard “Steve” Ritchie, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, scored five MiG-21 victories between May and August 1972, including one double-victory mission. He was the USAF’s only pilot ace of the Southeast Asia War. (U.S. Air Force photo)

With six victories (four MiG-21s, two MiG-19s) weapon system officer Capt. Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was the highest-scoring USAF ace in Southeast Asia. He achieved his victories between May and September 1972, and had two double-victory missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

With six victories (four MiG-21s, two MiG-19s) weapon system officer Capt. Charles “Chuck” DeBellevue, 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, was the highest-scoring USAF ace in Southeast Asia. He achieved his victories between May and September 1972, and had two double-victory missions. (U.S. Air Force photo)

1970's -- UDORN AIR BASE, Thailand, September 1972 -- U.S. Air Force ace, Capt. Jeffrey Feinstein, 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron, poses beside his F-4 aircraft. (Photo by Ken Hackman)

Weapon system officer Capt. Jeffrey Feinstein, 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron, scored his five MiG-21 victories between April and October 1972. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Three USAF F-4 Airmen, Capts. Charles "Chuck" DeBellevue, Richard "Steve" Ritchie and Jeffrey Feinstein, became aces during the Southeast Asia War. Ritchie was the only USAF pilot ace (DeBellevue and Feinstein, backseat weapon system officers [WSO], received equal credit for victories as the pilot in front).

The nature of the air war in Southeast Asia is reflected in the many fewer aces as compared to previous conflicts. During OPERATION ROLLING THUNDER from 1965-1968, the small VPAF fighter force generally avoided air-to-air combat, and from the fall of 1968 to the spring of 1972, there was no large-scale air campaign against North Vietnam.

Not until OPERATION LINEBACKER started in May 1972 did North Vietnamese MiGs fully engage in air-to-air dogfights, and the three USAF Southeast Asia War aces scored all their victories between April and October 1972.

Click here to return to the Air-to-Air Combat Overview.

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