William P. Driscoll

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William Driscoll
Lts Cunningham and Driscoll.jpg
June 1972 - Lieutenant (JG) William P. Driscoll (right) and Lieutenant Randall H. Cunningham in a ceremony honoring them, the Navy's only Vietnam War air "Aces"
Nickname(s) "Willy Irish"
Born March 5, 1947
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Navy Seal.svg United States Navy
Rank Commander
Unit VF-96 "Fighting Falcons"
VF-124 "Gunfighters"
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Navy Cross
Silver Star (2)
Purple Heart
"Showtime 100", the F-4J flown for three "kills" by Cunningham and Driscoll.

William "Willy Irish" Driscoll (born March 5, 1947) is a retired Commander in the United States Navy and a Naval Flight Officer. Driscoll and Naval Aviator Randy "Duke" Cunningham, working as a flight crew, became the only navy flying aces from the Vietnam War, of the five U.S. aviators to become aces during that conflict. To date, Cunningham and Driscoll are the two last aircrew of the United States Navy to achieve "ace" status. Driscoll received the navy's second highest decoration, the Navy Cross, for his role in an aerial dogfight with North Vietnamese MiGs.

Early life[edit]

Driscoll was born in 1947 and received a BA in Economics from Stonehill College, North Easton, Massachusetts in 1968 and a MS in System Management from University of Southern California in 1978.

Military career[edit]

Driscoll joined the Naval Reserve in 1968, graduating from Aviation Officer Candidate School and receiving his commission as an Ensign (ENS). After initial flight training at NAS Pensacola, Florida, he completed advanced flight training at NAS Glynco, Georgia and received his Naval Flight Officer wings in 1970. Selected to fly the F-4 Phantom II as a Radar Intercept Officer (RIO), he reported to Fighter Squadron 121 (VF-121) at NAS Miramar, California for fleet replacement squadron training in the F-4J. Following completion of training at VF-121, he was assigned to Fighter Squadron 96 (VF-96) The Fighting Falcons, also home based at NAS Miramar. Promoted to Lieutenant, junior grade (LTJG), he served as a RIO with his primary pilot, Lieutenant "Duke" Cunningham. They became the Navy's only two flying aces during the Vietnam War while VF-96 was embarked on a Western Pacific deployment aboard the aircraft carrier USS Constellation

Having previously achieved two aerial kills on two separate missions, their third, fourth and fifth kills occurred during a single day, May 10, 1972. Having bombed their intended ground target, Cunningham and Driscoll engaged North Vietnamese MiGs. After shooting down two MiG-17s, they became separated from the other aircraft in their strike package. The pair headed for the coast where they spotted a lone North Vietnamese MiG-17. This final engagement was to become one of the most celebrated aerial dogfights in the war.

Driscoll was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on May 10, 1972 when he shot down three of the sixteen MiG interceptors that converged on a bomber convoy of USAF B-52 Stratofortresses attacking a railyard in Hai Duong – his fighter was then hit by a missile, and he managed to help the pilot bring their stricken aircraft to the Gulf of Tonkin. When their F-4 was no longer flayable, both ejected and awaited their rescue. During the course of the war Driscoll was promoted to Lieutenant (LT) and was awarded the Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Purple Heart, ten Air Medals, and was nominated for the Medal of Honor.

Later life[edit]

Driscoll later became an instructor at the U.S. Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) followed by his transition to the F-14 Tomcat and assignment as an instructor at Fighter Squadron 124 (VF-124), the F-14 Fleet Replacement Squadron for the Pacific Fleet at NAS Miramar (now MCAS Miramar), in San Diego, California. He separated from active duty in 1982, but remained in the U.S. Naval Reserve, flying the F-4 Phantom II and later the F-14 Tomcat in a Naval Air Reserve fighter squadron at NAS Miramar, eventually retiring with the rank of Commander (O-5). He currently works in real estate in San Diego County, though he continues to serve as a consultant on military aviation issues.

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