LAON HISTORY           The RF101 VooDoo           This website 


City of Laon, as seen from (GRH), off base housing.


Prefecture of Department of the AISNE. 30 000 inhabitants. 100 miles far from PARIS, North-East, the chalky hillock of LAON, in the shape of a croissant, culminate at 240 feet and dominate the plain of Champagne that stretches itself out towards East. The "Saint Vincent Basin" was planted with vineyards up to the end of 19th century. The Laon area is a land of cultivation (wheat and sugar beet).


  • Laudanum in the gallo-roman age, LAON was an Episcopal see founded by Saint Rémi in the beginning of the 6th century and stayed for a long time the property of bishops and monks. A lot of vestiges show this, like the ones of the famous Saint Vincent Abbey.

  • LAON suffered from the conflicts between the suitors at the Charlemagne era. Betrayed by the bishop Adalbéron, the town was at last hold by Hugues Capet and lost its title of capital.

  • The 12th and 13th centuries were both an era of social and politic disorders and of development of the trade and agricultural activity of the area.

  • During the One Hundred Years War, LAON resisted to the Burgundians and to the English.

  • Having stood up for the Calvinists during the religious wars, the town was hold by Henri IV in 1594 after a three months siege.

  • During the French Révolution, LAON lost its see but became prefecture of Aisne.

  • In the 16th century, as a military fortified town, LAON was the seat of several battles and had to sustain several sieges.

  • LAON surrendered to Bülow in 1814 and was hold by Blücher in 1815 when Napoléon, defeated under its ramparts, tried unsuccessfully to hold it back.

  • In 1870, when surrendering to the Prussians and while they were entering the citadel, a guard blew up the powder magazine and the blast made 500 dead persons.

  • During World War I, hold in September 1914, LAON stayed in Germans' hands up to October 1918.

  • Again hold by the Germans during World War II, LAON was again the theatre of fights and a target for air raids before to be at last liberated by the Americans.

  • A whole district of the actual town, the "Cité Marquette", was built by the Americans who were based on the Air Force Base of NATO in COUVRON up to 1966.

donated by Suzanne Britt and Denise Perigo
(click to view photos)

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La porte d'Ardon

La Cathedrale Notre-Dame

La porte de Soissons

Le Chateau-

THE CATHEDRAL NOTRE-DAME : The erecting of the Cathedral, begun in 12th century, was achieved in 13th. This wonderful cathedral of the earliest gothic, crowned with two 180 feet high and two 156 feet high towers, is rich from many original works and shelters numerous artworks (paintings, furniture, tapestries, reliquaries…).

EPISCOPAL PALACE : Today the Law Courts, from the ancient Episcopal palace (13th - 18th centuries) one can still watch the main courtyard, the old guardroom and the bishop's main building, the eastern wing rebuilt in 18th century, the southern wing and the courtyard of the "Glacière".

SAINT MARTIN CHURCH : The old abbey was built in several steps, from the middle of the 12th century to the 14th century. Inside the surrounding walls of the Saint Martin Abbey (17th et 18th centuries), are now the Hospital and the municipal Library.

SAINT VINCENT ABBEY : Actually arsenal, there's still from the ancient Saint Vincent Abbey the abbot's building (18th century), the cellars and storerooms, the fortified surrounding walls and a terrace garden.

TEMPLIERS' CHAPEL : In the courtyard of the actual municipal museum, the old octogonal Templiers' Chapel (12th century), is one of the sites to visit in Laon.

RAMPARTS : The erecting of the ramparts of LAON, from roman era to the 18th century, gave the high town its present figure and its name of "Crowned Mountain".

Touring the ramparts, one can admire the "Gate of Soissons and the Inclined Tower", the "Chenizelles' Gate", the "Ardon"s Gate" (13th century), the citadel of Henri IV, and the ancient Episcopal palace.




City of Laon, hillside view, from a distance of about 3 miles
"Story and Photos supplied by Bernard Croza".

The RF101 VooDoo

Unarmed & Unafraid

The RF 101 first gained prominence during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, but it was in North Vietnam that it got its true baptism of fire. Voodoo pilots were routinely tasked to fly their aircraft into "Pack Six", the area surrounding Hanoi, to search out enemy activity and obtain post strike photography as needed. Pack Six has been described, as the most heavily defended area in the history of aerial warfare and to fly an unarmed aircraft into it required an extra measure of dedication.

The RF 101 proved to be a rugged bird, which could sustain extensive damage, nonetheless, it suffered a loss rate similar to that of the strike aircraft and despite their small numbers, 39 were shot down during the course of the war.

The Voodoo was retired from service in 1971, after a 14 year career, but her pilots fondly remember her as an honest, reliable aircraft which was a pleasure to fly.

McDonnell RF-101A and -C "Voodoo"

The F-101 lineage included several versions: low-altitude fighter-bomber, photo reconnaissance, two-seat interceptor and transition trainer. To accelerate production, no prototypes were built, the first Voodoo, an F-101A, made its initial flight on September 29, 1954. When production ended in March 1961, nearly 800 Voodoos had been built. Development of the unarmed RF-101, the world's first supersonic photo-recon aircraft, began in 1956 while 35 RF-101As and 166 RF-101Cs were produced, many earlier single-seat Voodoos were converted to the reconnaissance configuration.

The RF-101C on display participated in "Operation Sun Run," a high-speed transcontinental flight on November 26, 1957. Using air-to-air refueling, a team of Voodoos set nonstop speed records from Los Angeles to New York City and return. Capt Ray W. Schrecengost, flying the plane on display, broke three existing speed records. This Voodoo flew vital low-altitude reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis and helped confirm that offensive missile sites in Cuba were being dismantled.

It also served in Southeast Asia (SEA) with the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, one of the first aircraft in SEA to revert to camouflage markings for combat use. It was transferred from the 186th Tactical Reconnaissance Group, Mississippi Air National Guard, Key Field, Mississippi, to the USAF Museum on October 27, 1978.


Span: 39 ft. 8 in.
Length: 69 ft. 3 in.
Height: 18 ft. 0 in.
Weight: 51,000 lbs. max.
Armament: One MK-28 or MK-43 thermonuclear bomb
Engines: Two Pratt & Whitney J57s of 15,000 lbs. thrust each with afterburner
Cost: $1,276,245


Maximum speed: 1,000 mph.
Cruising Speed: 550 mph.
Range: 2,060 miles
Service Ceiling: 45,800 ft.

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On July 4th 2001, LAONAFB.COM  became a reality for the first time thanks to Tom LASETER.
After over two years in the works and several months in preparation, building and designing, this much needed Web Site kicked off its inaugural opening on that day. Many Survivor’s have made contributions to this web site in the way of pictures, stories and donations. As this Web Site depicts on the Home Page, it is dedicated to the many Laon students, teachers and military personnel, who passed through this Air Base and the City of Laon, France.
From its opening on July 4th 2001 to November 22nd 2005, the site received more than 40,000 visits.

November 24th 2005 : after Tom Laseter and I together had decided it, I became the new owner and webmaster of this site. Be sure that all my efforts will contribute in keeping and maintaining it with the same spirit that Tom put in it for more than 4 years. I consider this task as a true responsibility and I thank all those who are confident with me.

Bernard H. CROZA.




Many of the photos you can enjoy while visiting this website have been given us by several of you. Many thanks to all those who thus have helped us making this website attractive.

Among them, we want to say a special "Thank You" to Donald Summers who was one of the first visitors of the website and who sent us dozens of pictures that he had taken while serving in Laon from 1958 to 1961.
We understand what huge amount of work it was to sort all these photos, to scan them and to add captions.

Don is a "communicating man" as you will be able to see from his bio.
Visit www.qrz.com/db/w4don 


Again, MANY THANKS, Don !





Jerry McAuliffe published the book we were waiting for, all dedicated to the USAF bases in France 1950-1967.
Order it now by clicking on the picture !