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'We would fly low and slow': Valley Air Force veteran shares high-flying adventures

Pratt Ashworth served 21 years in the Air Force flying missions to the North Pole and Alaska with nuclear weapons.

PHOENIX — Pratt Ashworth flew many types of planes during his 21-year Air Force career. Including the Air Force F-4 Phantom that could go twice the speed of sound as the Cessna O-1 Bird Dog.

“This is the slowest one I flew. The only plane I ever flew in high wind conditions, it would go backwards over the ground,” said Pratt Ashworth.

Ashworth enlisted in 1959 during the height of the Cold War. He was a navigator in the B-52 bomber, flying missions to the North Pole and Alaska with nuclear weapons.

“MIGS would launch out of Russia and come up when we started coming up to Point Barrow,” said Ashworth.

No shots were ever fired, and the 19-year-old was not intimidated.

“I always took the attitude that it was my job. Never got too concerned with crisis,” said Ashworth.

After the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962, Ashworth trained as a pilot and later served in Vietnam as a Forward Air Controller flying the O-2 Skymaster over enemy targets.

“We would fly low and slow,” said Ashworth.

Then he would mark the target with flares for the fighter jets to attack.

“I was most proud of my support for those individuals on the ground and to break the attacks they were getting from ground forces,” said Ashworth.

Ashworth would go on to save many U.S. lives during the Vietnam War – earning him the Silver Star and two distinguished Flying Crosses.

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