The website of the United States Air Force Air Combat Command has reported that the one-twelfth-scale F-105 “Thunderchief” replica, along with its memorial plaque, was officially dedicated Nov. 15 in its new location in front of the Thunderbirds hangar. Hundreds of active and former demonstration team members attended the ceremony, which honored one of their fallen comrades.
The display bears the name of Capt. Gene Devlin, a Thunderbirds pilot who lost his life in 1964, when his F-105 exploded in the skies over Hamilton AFB, Calif. About 10 years later, the red, white and blue Thunderchief model was placed on a matching, diagonal 17-foot post at Nellis’ front gate. In 1964, modified F-105Bs with ballast replacing the cannon, fuselage and wing reinforcement for aerobatics, and the addition of a smoke generator, briefly flew with the United States Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team. After only six shows, and the fatal accident from overstressing the airframe led to the reintroduction of the F-100 Super Sabre.
The 600-pound structure was removed in 1999 to accommodate the realigning of base access roads. It was later replaced by a four-jet F-16 formation display, which is still mounted near the base visitors’ center. Meanwhile, the F-105 replica was set aside near an old bunker, and with the frequent turnover of Thunderbirds personnel, it was forgotten.
Then, in the summer of 2012, a call came from the RED HORSE civil engineer squadron. They had found an old Thunderbirds-painted model, and they didn’t know what to do with it.
The Thunderbirds Alumni Association fronted the $10,000 cost of the restoration. The entire project was featured in an episode of the national television program in November 2012. The official dedication ceremony was put on hold for a year to accommodate the 2013 TBAA reunion, which celebrated the Thunderbirds 60th anniversary year.
Devlin’s widow, Shirley Buckley, and their three sons were the guests of honor at the ceremony. Mark Devlin, who was two years old in 1964, doesn’t remember his father at all. For him, the legacy of the F-105 model is an important aspect of his pieced-together image of his dad.
From the original article of by Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds Public Affairs