Excerpt from "When Thunder Rolled" Chap. 15, "Hits and Misses".I was spare for a strike on yet another POL storage area. This one was just over Thud Ridge, half-way between the ridge and the steel plant at Thai Nguyen. Preflight was normal until the point after engine start where I checked the gun sight. I have nothing. None of the modes work. Nothing functions in air-to-air mode. Nothing responds in air-to-ground. Circuit breakers checked, but still no sight. It may be burned out bulbs, but there is no time to check or replace them. Could both filaments burn out simultaneously or is it a problem somewhere else in the electrical circuitry? “
, check.” It’s taxi time. Laredo
We taxi. In the arming area we’ve got guests today. The wing chaplain stands just beyond the maintenance and munitions crews with Arthur Godfrey. The red-headed, freckle-faced radio personality is decked out in his familiar Hawaiian shirt. It’s all there but the ukulele. Well known as a pilot himself, Godfrey is fascinated by the activity, the noise, the turmoil and sheer menace of the huge airplanes. He watches intently as, one-by-one the aircraft are inspected for loose panels, fuel or oil leaks, cut tires or evidence of malfunction. He stares as the armorers pull safety pins from the bombs and fuel tanks, then open the gun bay doors to connect the electrical leads and arm the Vulcan cannon. He watches, without understanding what it means, as I observe the maintenance crew leader walk to the nose of the number two aircraft and display a prominent thumbs-down indicating that the aircraft will be turned back with a malfunction. Godfrey waves goodbye with a stupid grin as though we are simply leaving on a pleasure cruise. The chaplain blesses the airplanes with a theatrical sign of the cross as we turn to take the active runway. I’m now Laredo Two.
I’ve got an airplane that is technically not mission capable with no gunsight, but it never occurs to me not to go. Four airplanes are the standard package. Four airplanes have mutual support and good lookout. Four airplanes bring more bombs to the target and improve the odds of not having to go again tomorrow.
Laredoneeds four airplanes and I’m , even with no gun sight. Laredo
The weather is good for a change, but the defenses are enjoying the sunshine at least as much as we are. There is already one airplane down in the target area as we cross the Red. The Weasels have fired all of their Shrikes and are now trying to keep the SAMs away by faking attacks on emitting radars. Disco is garbaging up the radio as usual with long, drawn out warning calls that mean nothing to anybody, but they raise the tension level. We crest the ridge just ten miles north of the target, echelon the formation to the left and fan up for a roll in to the right.
With no sight, I simply estimate a point on the combining glass about two inches above where the end of the pitot tube is visible. I pull down a bit steeper than normal, let the airspeed build with the throttle parked firmly forward and press the target until I’ve got an entire face full of pavement, pipes and, hopefully, POL. I pickle and pull, depending upon six G’s to make the recovery without adding my own airplane to the load of delivered iron. I come off to the south, then rake back hard right to watch the blast and the rising fireball of a huge secondary explosion. Above the target, Laredo Four is still on the bomb run. Hopefully he’s got gun camera film to catch the hits and insure we don’t have to come back tomorrow. I’ve gotten the target. Even without a sight, I’m glad I came today.
I’ve got Laredo Lead ahead and I get back into formation just as we cross the Red west of Phuc Yen. Three and Four can be seen back at coming fast into position. It takes only seconds and we’re back across the river aimed for
and then home. The cost today has been two airplanes down in the target area, but Laos has gotten in and out, and I’ve applied the magic theory of dive bombing with great effect. Two days later I get a note from intel indicating they’ve got some good film of an F-105 at remarkably low altitude delivering some bombs, it could only be Laredo Two. Laredo
Friday, November 11, 2011
What did you do in the war, Eddie?