“Cleared In Hot On My Heading; Hit My Smoke”: From A Bird Dog To A Misty FAC To The Hanoi Hilton

Guy Gruters


Guy Gruters was born in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, one of six children in the Gruters family. His father had served in WWII, and his mother was a homemaker and paper editor. His younger brother, Terry, later graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1968. Guy chose to attend the Air Force Academy on the recommendation of his mother. He remembers the upper class swarming the new Plebes on their first day at the Academy. While attending the Air Force Academy, he also seized the opportunity to complete Airborne School, which later earned him an assignment supporting the 173rd Airborne Brigade. He did well in engineering, graduating summa cum laude and receiving the opportunity to immediately earn a master’s degree at Perdue University, after which he began pilot training. He qualified on the F-100 and the O-1 Bird Dog (at Air Commando School). He deployed to Vietnam in March 1967, and was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade as a Bird Dog pilot, coordinating artillery and close air support for the infantry on the ground. In October 1967, he transitioned to the F-100 Super Saber as a Misty FAC (Forward Air Controller), flying low-altitude missions to identify and mark targets in North Vietnam. He was shot down during a mission on November 8, 1967, after identifying a big ammo dump, but he was recovered by helicopter after landing in the Gulf of Tonkin off Đồng Hới. After more than a month of not flying due to a broken wrist suffered when he was shot down, he took to the skies once more on December 20, 1967, and was shot down again, hit by a 57mm shell while marking anti-aircraft batteries. He was able to evade his pursuers for a time, but was eventually captured, as was pilot Bob Craner. He states, “Things really change fast when you’re captured,” and he was worried that local villagers were going to beat him to death. Eventually, he and Craner were locked in holding cages near Vinh, North Vietnam, where they made contact with legendary Air Force pilot Lance Sijan (USAFA 65), who had suffered multiple injuries while ejecting from his aircraft, including a fractured skull and compound fracture of the left leg, and yet still managed to evade the enemy for 46 days (including escaping after incapacitating a guard). Gruters and Craner tried to care for him, but by this time Sijan’s health and strength were deteriorating rapidly. Sijan later died in Hỏa Lò Prison (the Hanoi Hilton) after a torturous journey to Hanoi from Vinh – he was posthumously promoted and awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions. After spending five years and three months in captivity, Gruters was released on March 14, 1973.


conflicts Vietnam War
topics Leadership Teamwork Camaraderie War in the Air Returning from War Military Techniques Life After Military Air Force USAFA
interviewer David Siry
date 03 June 2022


name Guy Gruters
institution USAFA
graduation year 1964
service Air Force
unit 173rd Airborne Brigade; Tonto FACs; Misty FACs
specialty F-100 Super Sabre, O-1 Bird Dog
service dates 1964 1973