As a Weapon Systems Officer in the F-4D, Roger Locher shot down three MiG-21s in Vietnam and went on to become involved in one of the greatest evasion epics of the war. He entered the Air Force in 1969 through ROTC and completed navigator training. Assigned to the F-4 Phantom II, he attended transition training at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, before being sent to the famed 555th "Triple Nickel" Fighter Squadron, 432d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Udorn Thailand. The mission of the 432d was to "Protect the Force, Get the Pictures, and Kill MiGs," and over the next 20 months Locher would fly 411 combat missions in its support.
His first MiG victory occurred on 21 February 1972 with his pilot, Major Bob Lodge, using a radar-guided AIM-7 Sparrow missile. Less than 3 months later the pair scored their second victory in a dogfight east of the Red River in North Vietnam. Trailing a formation of MiG-21s, they closed to less than a mile before firing two Sparrows at the second aircraft. The first missile hit the right wing of the MiG and the second hit the center of the fuselage. The other enemy jet got away, but Lodge and Locher returned to Udorn to have a second red star painted on the side of their Phantom. Two days later the crew found themselves leading a fighter cover mission for a 32-plane strike force against the Paul Doumer Bridge.
Engaging 11 MiGs, their flight destroyed three of them, with Lodge and Locher getting their third victory. The fight proved costly, however, as their aircraft was hit by enemy cannon fire, throwing it out of control. Although Lodge was killed in the crash, Roger Locher managed to safely eject from the flaming aircraft and spent over 3 weeks on the ground before being rescued. After his return to the States, he attended pilot training and was assigned to the Phantom--this time in the front seat. Roger flew the F-4 in New Mexico, Alaska, and Florida before transitioning to the F-16 and serving in instructor and flight commander positions.
On 10 May 1972, Locher's parachute deposited him in the jungle 40 miles northwest of Hanoi. He knew he would be quickly captured if he failed to get away from his landing site. The MiG would certainly have radioed his position, and his chute, which hung in the trees, stood out like a beacon. Fighting shock and exhaustion, he moved to some dense vegetation and took stock of his situation. Deep in enemy territory and without food, he thought, "If they're going to capture me, they'll have to step on me." Thus, he began a 23-day evasion and survival effort that has become a textbook example for other fliers. Searchers passed within yards of his hiding places in the jungle but were unable to flush him out. Existing on a sparse diet of unripe fruit and berries, he lost 30 pounds and grew very weak. Finally, he established radio contact with US planes on the 22nd day after his ejection. The next day a coordinated rescue effort involving 38 aircraft hoisted him out of the jungle and back to friendly lines.