Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series.
Col. Victor Simpson, who retired to Punta Gorda Isles subdivision, was a Marine Corps aviator who took part in the Iran Hostage Crisis in 1979.
“We were out there to fly cover for the helicopters that were going to rescue our hostages,” he said. “I was No. 1 on the flight deck ready to take off when our mission was called off.”
The rescue mission suffered engine trouble with their helicopters in the desert which resulted in several of the rescue planes colliding before they reached the 60 American hostages and the whole mission was scrapped.
A decade later, Simpson took part in Operation Desert Storm.
“I was on the first mission of the Gulf War. On this initial flight we were going after their air defense,” he explained. “We started off bombing Kuwait at night with lots of airplanes. We took out their missiles and radar. They fired tons of missiles at us.”
Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq, invaded Kuwait in August 1990. The United Nations Security Council became involved and ordered Hussein to withdraw his forces from his tiny neighbor. When he refused to leave the country with his troops, the U.S. and a number of other countries in the UN went to war with Hussein.
By then, Simpson was flying an F-18 Hornet. He’d previously flown during the closing days of Vietnam.
The bombing restrictions were much different then when he flew bombing missions in Vietnam.
“In Operation Desert Storm they told us to go fight the war. ...We had improved bomb sites that allowed us to drop bombs right on target at 10,000 to 12,000 feet.
“I flew 40 or 50 combat missions during the Gulf War. We flew two or there times a day.”
Simpson’s squadron bombed enemy targets before they began providing air support for ground troops.
“Once the ground war started, our job with the Marines was close air support. We flew down low to support our troops and took out enemy artillery and tanks. We had a lot of triple-A coming our way. We were lucky because our group never lost an airplane. Two of our planes were hit by enemy fire.”
Late in his career, Simpson was commander of an air group based in Willow Grove, Pa. He had five squadrons in the group.
He ended his military career in the Pentagon as director of Space Systems.
As a civilian, he spent the next 18 years in Colorado working for civilian space contractors until he and his wife, Susan, moved to Punta Gorda recently. The Simpsons have two children: Craig and Brooke.