How I Dodged Six Missiles With An F-4 Phantom

YouTube / American Veterans Center

By early 1967, the war escalated in Vietnam in both the battlefield and the skies. The F4 Phantom provided close air support and engaged in air-to-air combat with the enemy. 

This is the story of how Lt. Charlie Plum, a seasoned Top Gun pilot, masterfully evaded surface-to-air missiles in his F-4, offering critical air assistance to ground forces, and flying 74 successful 74 successful missions. His 75th mission would be different, leading to six years in a North Vietnamese prison cell. 

Top Gun

Born in Indiana during WWII, Plum went to a flight school and would be assigned to Miramar and what would eventually be known as Top Gun. 

He flew the first adversarial flights for the Top Gun school. He was eventually deployed to Vietnam in November 1966. 

Fateful Day

On May 16, 1967, Plum and his squadron were to protect the attack fleet. However, the Vietnamese knew that there were coming, and were loaded. There were eight F4 Phantoms shot down that day, and he was one of them. 

Surreal Experience

Plum didn’t even know what hit him at that time, until later in the war. “All I knew was that my instrument panel lit up like a Christmas tree, I started losing everything- engines, hydraulic pressure failed. I couldn’t control the airplane anymore. I was upside down,” he recalled. 


Fortunately for Plum, he survived. Since he was the flight officer, he had all the schedules in a little book in his pocket. 

He ripped the pages of the names of the pilots and ate the pages of the book. He broke his two-way radio antenna off and surrendered. He was eventually taken in as a POW in a prison in Hanoi. 

Life on Prison

Plum was tortured for information for military information. Plum, not knowing key information such as he was just a junior officer, started lying to the enemy, and they would believe him. The torture lasted for two days. 

He was placed under solitary confinement. Fortunately, he started communicating via tap code with another American POW, which gave him hope and a sense of purpose to survive. He spent the next 2,103 days, nearly six years of captivity in a communist prison camp before finally walking as a free man and returning to the US.