Optimism helped Vietnam vet survive as POW (Spike Nasmyth)

When 2nd Lt. John “Spike” Nasmyth climbed into his F-4 Phantom II on Sept. 4, 1966, to fly a combat mission over Vietnam, he never foresaw that he’d be blown out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile.

The last words he heard before his jet was transformed into a lump of crumpled, metal wreckage were from his “guy in back,” Ray Salzurulo, a pilot systems operator — “Hey, Spike — here comes another…”

Direct hit

As the missile struck, the first thing in Nasmyth’s mind was disbelief.

“As with all good fighter pilots, I thought I was invincible,” said the 74-year-old Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war during a visit to Royal Air Force Mildenhall July 8. “I couldn’t believe that they’d got me. But then, as I realized I was falling toward the ground at an appalling rate, I said to myself, ‘Eject or die, Spike!’ It looked like a movie — I was tumbling toward the ground and it just looked like it was spiraling toward me at a hell of a rate. That’s what made me eject.”

In 1966, Nasmyth was assigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron, 8th Tactical Fighter Wing, at Ubon Air Force Base, Thailand, where he flew combat missions in support of the Vietnam War.

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