Christmas, 40 years ago...

Discussion in 'The US Air Force Forum' started by RussP, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. RussP

    RussP Super Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Likes Received:
    Jan 23, 2003
    Central Virginia
    It was my first combat tour flying Forward Air Control (FAC) missions with the 23rd TASS in little 2-seat Cessnas out of a tiny base in NE Thailand, Nakhon Phanom, NKP, "Naked Fanny". We worked over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. It was called "The Secret War" because nobody talked about it officially.

    I started flying on 28 Sep. By today, a Saturday 40 years ago I'd already logged 43 combat missions, 166 hours. In three months I had flown more than many other Combat Doc Photogs did their whole tour. Oh, there were others like me who loved flying, who felt the need to take it to the enemy. Some flew much more.

    They designed my camera equipment with telephoto lenses to work from safe altitudes :upeyes:. Safe and effective were two different things. So I became known as the Photog who got the intel in spite of the rules. I kept getting requested by pilots when they had a photo mission.

    That's what happened to me. The invitations kept coming. The other factor involved? Trust. To get the job done we bent a few rules of engagement. ROEs are deadly. Follow them at the wrong time and you are dead. I only had to go to upper brass twice on pilots I flew with. Those two were a danger to themselves and anyone flying with them. Both were given desk jobs and rotated home early. The rest, we respected each other.

    Today, 40 years ago I was in an airplane somewhere over Laos looking for bad guys. I was on my 2nd mission with Major Wolf. He was real good. He had the uncanny ability of sensing that something wasn't right. I learned from him. Coming back from the mission I remember we talked about Bob Hope coming to our base in a few days. He asked me if I could get Hope's autograph for him. (Hey, the perks of being a photographer were good.) I told him I would.

    Bob Hope was Christmas for many of us stationed away from home. I grew up watching the TV Specials about him visiting troops in battle zones. It hit me hard when Wolf asked me to get Bob Hope's autograph. "WTF, I'm really fighting a war!" I thought to myself. It wasn't the anti-aircraft fire and AK-47 fire we'd just had thrown up at us, it was knowing I would see Bob Hope in a few days that shook me.

    So, yes, I did get to meet Bob Hope and get his autograph. And, yes, my hand shook as I handed him my pen and some paper. Hell, they didn't shake that much when we were trading fire with the NVA.

    Yep, the show was wonderful. Bob Hope's words of thanks to everyone there were very genuine, I can still hear them. And, yes, the tears still flow.

    Then, on Christmas Eve, 24 December 68, my phone rang. I was off duty for a few days. I picked it up and heard the voice of the Duty Officer for the 23rd. One of our pilots was down and the FAC pilot going out on the SAR, Capt Decker, wanted me to fly with him. 15 minutes later I was gearing up and heading for the flight line.

    Flying out I remember thinking, praying, "Not on Christmas Eve, Lord. We can't lose him on Christmas Eve." I also remember being mad, very angry, really pissed.

    The adrenalin started to pump when we were about 10-minutes from the area and assumed command of the rescue. The pilot was down in an unforgiving area. There were NVA near him and more advancing into the area.

    The A-1s were working from the pilot outward to keep the a-holes away from him. We started working fast movers (F4s) on the troops moving into the area. The tracer fire coming up from the ground was incredible. God is the only one who knows why we were not hit that day. We could smell the tracers as they went by, they were that close.

    A fresh flight of A-1s from our base reported in with napalm. Hot DAMN!! I called them over to our area and we called them in on the bad guys. The A-1s came back and put down cluster bombs, then cannon fire on their last pass. It got real quiet.

    Then the Jolly Greens came in. Lead went down and extracted the pilot and headed home. We stayed and called in one last flight of Navy jets to drop whatever they had left on and around the crash site. Kind of a last , "Take this MFers."

    Christmas Eve, 1968...We gave ourselves a great Christmas present...We brought one of our own home... and alive.

    May God bless all of y'all, like he did us, Christmas, 40 years ago.

    Merry Christmas!

  2. b52ace

    b52ace NRA Patron

    Likes Received:
    Mar 30, 2007

    Thanks for sharing that story. I'm happy you were able to get the pilot home safely and return yourself. My favorite aircraft commander flew Birddogs in VN. Hurt his back in a couple of crashes.

    My Dad was there in '66 as an AF medic w/ an F-100 outfit.

    Enjoy this Christmas as never before. I appreciate your service.


  3. Norman

    Norman CLM

    Likes Received:
    Oct 29, 2004
    That's a friggin OUTSTANDING story, Russ. Thank you so much, for everything.

  4. pt945

    pt945 GLOCK 17

    Likes Received:
    May 7, 2002

    thanks so much for everything that you did overseas. my dad was there 67-69 he started off air defense artillery and wound up in an infantry unit by his last tour there. I am very proud to be associated with a viet nam vet and am proud everything that you all did there. i also thank you tou have my utmost respect. i am pushing my 12 year mark myself and i feel that i can never measure up to you guys ya'll are my heros.

    thanks again
  5. Jeepnik


    Likes Received:
    Mar 5, 2008
    Russ, worked out of Huskies at NKP '71-'72.
  6. Caver 60

    Caver 60

    Likes Received:
    Jun 12, 2007
    Ever cross paths with an O-2 driver named Bayliss (sp?). He bought the farm over there sometime around then.

    He was an instructor who kept me from washing out of pilot training in class 66F at Laughlin AFB TX. I'll never forget him.

    I dropped bombs from a B-52 for some part of every year from 66 to 72 over there.

    ETA. Never mind. I just went to the Veterans Wall. First time I've ever did that. It was Paul M Bayliss. He crashed in Thailand on 7 November 1966. GREAT GUY. RIP
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2009
  7. JimBianchi

    JimBianchi Da Da CLM

    Likes Received:
    Feb 15, 2006
    Las Vegas
    Thank you Russ, very moving.
  8. 4TS&W


    Likes Received:
    Jul 20, 2002
    here and there...
    Thanks for your service! Cool story!
  9. deutscheglocker


    Likes Received:
    Jan 5, 2002
    Bridgeville, Pa.

    Great read.

    I passed through NKP on my way to Ubon airfield from DaNang.

    I calibrated test equipment and became the "expert" on the AWM13 which checked the weapons release system on F-4's at DaNang. Only reason I was picked, I had most time left in country.

    (Friend pulling me out of AWM-13)[​IMG]

    As the airfield was kind of busy, the checking of the F4 weapons release system was put on the back burner to the point that the 3 units we had were non functional.

    It was my understanding that an F4 had a problem releasing a bomb. It eventually was dropped.
    My job was to get these units up and running ASAP. I worked 27 hours straight through, swapping parts between the units to finally get one up and functional. I hit the sack but 6 hrs later, I was awakened by the CQ to the tune of. "Hey sarge, someone towed that piece of equipment through a ditch and F'd it up pretty good".

    I went back to the lab and after another 18 hours, reworked the unit with parts from all three and got it to work.

    For my effort,I got to go see the Bob Hope show the morning I got done. I went to the area where the stage was being set up and sat down on a bench in my poncho as it was raining.
    I fell asleep. When I woke up a few hours later, they had erected a scaffold platform to televise the show. They built it about 10 rows in front of me. I never heard a thing and couldn't really see much of the show.

    While I didn't get to see the show very well or shake Bob's hand :), I got this pic of his chopper.


    Had a B-52 land at DaNang. Guys said it had a SAM stuck in it. B-52 was gone in a day or two. I'll see if I have a pic somewhere. Caver60, wasn't your plane was it?

    Only a couple times I was in a plane while I was there. I was in a Navy AWACS ( I'm pretty sure this was the plane). It had a dome on top. We were not permitted to have any cameras. (They fitted me with a chute :)) Damn. We flew from DaNang to a base in Thailand (perhaps Korat) for a weekend illegal R&R for calibrating some of their test equipment.

    The only other times was in a C-130 to Saigon and a C-47 when I left for Thailand. We landed in NKP briefly.

    Deutscheglockers SEA story

    Last edited: May 7, 2009