Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Robert Pardo
is known for carrying out the unorthodox aviation maneuver, later coined as the Pardo Push, to save the lives of his wingmen during a bombing mission over Vietnam, March 10, 1967, also earning the Silver Star.
Pardo was then assigned to the 433rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, and his rear pilot, 1st Lt. Steve Wayne, were on a bombing run to destroy an enemy steel mill north of Hanoi. Flying alongside was Capt. Earl Aman with rear pilot, 1st Lt. Robert Houghton.
During the mission, Aman’s F-4 received damage to the fuel tank from ground fire, resulting in a significant loss of fuel. Without enough fuel to return to base, Pardo had to react quickly.
“I knew if I didn’t do anything, they would have to eject over North Vietnam into enemy territory, and that would have resulted in their capture for sure,” he said. “At that time, if you were captured by civilians, you were probably going to be murdered on the spot.”
Pardo decided to push Aman’s plane using the nose of his aircraft against Aman’s jet tailhook, a retractable hook on the underside of the plane used in assisting with landing.
He successfully decreased the rate of descent of Aman’s jet by 1,500 feet per minute, making it back over South Vietnam. Both aircrews safely ejected over the Laotian border and were rescued by friendly forces.
Pardo was born in 1934 in Herne, Texas, and began his career in the Air Force at the age of 19 to become a fighter pilot. After flight school he flew the F-4 Phantom during the Vietnam War, logging 132 flying missions.
“Being an Air Force veteran means a lot to me, especially having the honor of serving in combat,” he said. “It doesn’t give me any extra privileges, but I can guarantee you, it makes me feel better about who I am.”