Brian Shul oral history interview
Vietnam War veteran Brian Shul is interviewed about his 20-year career with the United States Air Force. He discusses his training and experiences as a military pilot and shares details about his various aircraft assignments, including the North American T-28, the Vought A-7 Corsair II, the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, and the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird. He also discusses the extensive burn injuries he sustained during his service in Southeast Asia, his long recovery, and his drive to return to flight status. The interview concludes with a brief overview of Shul’s post-military career as a photographer and author.
Table Of Contents
Brian Shul is a Vietnam War veteran and career military pilot who served with the United States Air Force for twenty years. He was born in Quantico, Virginia on February 8, 1948 to Victor, a U.S. Marine Corps officer, and Blanche, a homemaker. Because of his father’s career as director of the Marine Corps band, Shul grew up attending various parades and events around the country. At nine years old, he attended the Andrews Air Show in Maryland, which inspired him to pursue a career as a jet pilot.
Shul graduated from East Carolina University (North Carolina) in 1970 with a degree in history. That same year, he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. After completing flight training at Reese Air Force Base (Texas), he selected an assignment at Keesler Air Force Base (Mississippi) as a pilot instructor in the North American T-28 Trojan. Shortly afterwards, he was deployed to Thailand as a Foreign Air Advisor, working in conjunction with Air America.
During his service in Southeast Asia, Shul flew over 200 combat missions in the T-28. On one such mission in 1973, he was shot down near the Cambodian border and, unable to eject, crash landed in the jungle. Despite suffering from severe burns, he managed to escape the wreckage and survive in hostile territory until his rescue by a Security Forces team. Shul spent two months in intensive care at a hospital in Okinawa, then was transferred the Institute of Surgical Research at Fort Sam Houston (Texas). Doctors told him that he would never be able to fly again, but after numerous operations and months of physical therapy, he was able to pass a flight physical and return to flight status.
After completing jet re-qualification training, Shul joined the 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base (California), where he flew the Vought A-7 Corsair II and the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II. His next assignments including serving as an A-10 instructor pilot at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (Arizona) and teaching at the Fighter Weapons School (Nevada). Shul’s final assignment was flying the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, in which he logged over 500 flight hours. He retired in 1990 as a major.
Shul’s civilian careers include photographer, author, and public speaker. He owns and operates a photography studio, Gallery One, and has written numerous books, including Sled Driver: Flying the World's Fastest Jet, Blue Angels: A Portrait of Gold, Summer Thunder, and The Untouchables (with Walter Watson).
Biographical information derived from interview, from additional information provided by interviewee, and from online sources.