In an attempt to meet the success of the Navy's A-6 aircraft with their superior radar, the Air Force developed a training program for twenty-five F-105 pilots, which would qualify them to fly all-weather combat missions in North Vietnam. The missions would be flown by the 388 TFW.
The program was originally called "Project Northscope", then "Operation Commando Probe" and finally "Commando Nail". Initial crews, however, referred to the program as "Ryan's Raiders". Under project "Northscope", technicians modified four F-105F aircraft. The first ten students were instructor pilots assigned who had previously volunteered for SEA duty. These pilots completed the training on March 17, 1967, in time to serve as the front seat pilots for eight F-105 replacement strike pilots that had been diverted from their assignments to Korat and Takhli in Thailand.
Don Heiliger and Ben Pollard both did oral histories that give more background information on how the Ryan's Raiders concept evolved.
Their interviews are available via the buttons below.
Captain Peter Potter Pitman was shot down on May 12, 1967, listed as missing, and later declared killed in action.
In November 2018 a Waynesville, North Carolina newspaper, The Mountaineer, interviewed Peter’s widow, Libby, and published a story about their years together: Life After Tragedy. If the newspaper link does not work a printable copy is available via the button below.
The 388 TFW history for the period October through December 1967 described the technical and operational problems encountered by the Raiders.