Aquilla Friend Britt

United States Air Force
07 November 1934 - 25 October 1967
El Cajon, California
Panel 28E Line 064

7TH AF F105D 469TH TFS
Air Force Cross

USAF Pilot

SS (2), DFC (6), Purple Heart,  Air Medal (20), National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Aquilla Friend Britt

28 Jul 2008

Son of Henry and Gracie Britt, Major Aquilla Friend Britt graduated from Grossmont High School in El Cajon, California in 1954 and received his USAF commission in 1956 through the aviation cadet program. Ironically, his name translates to "Eagle Friend". Prior to Vietnam, he was stationed at Mountain Home Air Force Base in Mountain Home, ID. During Vietnam, he flew the F-105 Thunderchief (aka the "Thud") on many missions against the North Vietnamese including being part of Ryan's Raiders, being one of the first to fly instrument-only night missions against hostile forces, and serving as USAF mission commander, leading strikes against important North Vietnam targets such as railroad yards, storage sites, missile complexes, fuel dumps, and key bridges.

While still in the air returning from his 100th mission that counted towards going home, a radio transmission was received ordering him to Tan Son Nhut Air Base. After instructing his wingman to lead the others from the mission home to Korat Air Base, he headed for Tan Son Nhut as directed. Despite a fierce tropical storm covering Tan Son Nhut Air Base, he was able to land safely; however, within seconds collided with another plane which was inadvertently directed to use the same runway. He and both planes were lost in the accident. The extremely low visibility, stormy conditions, and radar and radio issues were blamed for the tragedy. The letter received by the family stated that Major Britt was diverted to Tan Son Nhut in order to brief staff of the 7th Air Force in Saigon. He only had 5 days left of his tour before he was to have returned home. He now rests on Valor Ridge in El Camino Memorial Park, San Diego, California.

In addition to medals received while he was alive, he was awarded 27 medals posthumously including the Air Force Cross, a second Silver Star, the 2nd through 6th Distinguished Flying Crosses, 2nd through 20th Air Medals, and the Purple Heart. Furthermore, one of the planes which he flew had been on display at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado. The Citation for his Air Force Cross reads as follows:

"The Air Force Cross is presented to Aquilla Friend Britt, Major, U.S. Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as commander of a strike force of twenty F-105 Thunderchiefs against a heavily defended target in North Vietnam on 25 October 1967. Through extremely heavy barrages of surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft fire, Major Britt, with undaunted determination and indomitable courage, safely guided the strike force on a devastating attack against the primary target. His superb planning, leadership, and gallantry, displayed under intense conditions, were the key factors that led to the destruction of this highly significant military target. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Britt reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force."

From his niece,
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A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 25 October a C-123K (tail number 54-0667) from the 310th Air Commando Sqdn, Phan Rang Air Base, was conducting a routine "round-robin" administrative flight, with Tan Son Nhut Air Base as its last stop before the return leg to Phan Rang. As the aircraft taxied out for take-off, the pilot noted massive thunderstorms in the area, decided to abort the flight, and was cleared to back-taxi down the active runway in order to return to parking ramp. At the same time, Major Britt in F-105D tail number 59-1737 was cleared to land. The tower personnel realized their error and directed the C-123K to clear the active runway immediately, but before the C-123 pilot could do so Major Britt landed - and struck the C-123's left wing and fuselage. The C-123 promptly burst into flames, while the burning F-105 tumbled down the runway. Major Britt did not eject from his aircraft and died in the crash.

Although all four crewmen on the C-123 suffered burns they escaped the aircraft alive. At least one, SSgt Curtis E. Stieferman, was evacuated to Brooke Army Hospital in San Antonio, where he died on 04 Nov 1967. He is buried in Rosswood Cemetery, Cotuit, Massachusetts.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
his niece,
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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 28 Jul 2008
Last updated 08/09/2008