Throwback Thursday – Aviation Heritage Park’s first plane: Phantom II
Bowling Green’s Aviation Heritage Park tells many stories of local aviators with incredible histories. One of the aircraft stories Throwback Thursday hasn’t yet told is of the Phantom II, the camouflaged Vietnam War-era bomber flown by local native, Brigadier General Dan Cherry.
When Aviation Heritage Park officially opened 11 years ago, the story of Dan Cherry and the Phantom II provided the inspiration. In April 1972, General Cherry was flying a combat air patrol mission in a dogfight above North Vietnam. In this Phantom II plane, number 500, he shot down Vietnamese Lieutenant Hong My, who survived the crash, the war, and then reconnected with General Cherry years later.
General Cherry’s family history is deeply rooted in Bowling Green, as you may recognize the Cherry family name from Western Kentucky University and higher education history. General Cherry recounted the events in his book, My Enemy, My Friend, and Lieutenant Hong My even visited Bowling Green 37 years later for the park’s unveiling in April 2009. Visitors can purchase signed copies of the book online from the Aviation Heritage Park website.
The Phantom II on display was manufactured in 1967, logged more than six thousand flight hours, and retired in 1989. More than five thousand of these planes were built from the late 1960s thru 1979. With a capacity for two crew, the plane weighs more than 30 thousand pounds, can cruise at 585 miles per hour, and can fly over 1600 miles on fuel.
The Phantom II is on loan from the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.