Down the Rabbit Hole V2.0

It happened again. I went down the internet rabbit hole. Well… not just again… it happens all the time. But usually, I can focus and bring myself back to doing what I started to do in the first place. But not today… this time I spent hours down there.

I was searching to verify a couple of my facts about the Ban Karai Pass. I always try to get at least two sources… preferably three… before I pass on something as fact. So this morning I was just warming up. I put in the search words, “Ban Karai Pass.”

Up popped a pic of a B-52. Sometimes I’ll click on a pic to get to the story that goes with it. This time the pic was just the entrance to the Rabbit Hole.

I discovered the “pic” was really digital artwork by a man named, Peter Chilelli. And when I clicked into it, the link took me to Continue reading

Places to go – Mu Gia Pass Part 3

There is lots to see and do around the Mu Gia Pass. If you’ve been following along in parts 1 & 2, you know just how much effort the US put into trying to interdict this area. Part 3 is the final installment for the Mu Gia Pass. I hope this has given you a glimpse of what went on. I’ll finish talking about those efforts, and then I (and Don Duvall) will go over the places to go and things to do.

In the sixteen months from Nov 68 through Mar 70, there were 30 more aircraft shot downs near Mu Gia; 22 KIA and 2 POW. There were also Continue reading

Sidebar 5 – Boxer 22

I became intimately familiar with SARs only ten days after I arrived at NKP. Although I didn’t directly work this SAR, it affected everyone at NKP. On Christmas Day, 1968, PJ A1C Charles King volunteered for the SAR mission to rescue a downed F-105 pilot. King was lowered to the ground to rescue the pilot, Major Charles Brownlee. It all went wrong. A1C King and Maj. Brownlee were ever seen again.

Over the next year, the SAR forces at NKP made many rescues. By rough count, there were over 100 SARs during my year… a little over half of them were successful. Unfortunately, during SARs we also lost four Sandy A-1s (602nd SOS), an HH-53 Jolly Green Giant (40th ARRS), an O-2 (23rd TASS) and an OV-10 (23rd TASS.) Of those SAR aircraft losses, there were three KIA.

My last SAR started on 5 Dec 68… just days before I got on the “Freedom Bird.” An F-4C out of Cam Ranh Bay, call sign Boxer-22*, was shot down in the Phanop Valley. Both the pilot, Capt. Ben Danielson (Boxer-22A) and the GIB**, 1Lt. Woody Bergeron (Boxer-22B), successfully ejected. Radio contact was made with both crew members. They were separated by the 50 foot wide Nam Ngo river, and both were in “good condition.”

This photo shows the area of the Boxer 22 SAR looking south. (Photo courtesy of former PJ participating in the rescue, Doug Horka.

Continue reading

Hunkering Down in NOLA

If you are following along and waiting for Places To Go – Mu Gia Pass Part 3… not to worry; it will be coming soon. But for now I’ve been run out of Florida by the hurricane. I’m hunkering in my favorite place to hunker… New Orleans. Places to go and things to see by day… and “Spirits on Bourbon” at night.

I can hear all of you snickering right about now… “Yeah, right… he’s just off to NOLA to have fun.” Ok… ya got me. But can you think of a better excuse to go to NOLA than the threat of a hurricane. And can you think of a better place to hunker. So here I am waiting till Dorian is well clear of Florida… like up into Nova Scotia some time next week.

Places to go – Mu Gia Pass Part 2

The more I learn about the Mu Gia Pass… and the more I look at images of the area, I can’t figure out why the US couldn’t shut it down. I guess that’s part of why I want to go there… to see for myself.

Before Nov 68, the Laotian side of the Mu Gia pass, indeed all the Ho Chi Minh Trail through Laos, was secondary to the US bombing in North Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh trail in general and Mu Gia Pass area in Laos received comparatively few dedicated missions. Many attacks in Laos were made on return trips with munitions not used up in North Vietnam.

This makes sense. It was far easier to hit targets in the relatively flat areas in North Vietnam before getting to the pass than it was to hit them after they entered Laos. It would have been even easier to hit the truck depots in the Haiphong harbor and other mass staging areas, but that’s a story for another discussion.

This recon photo and “intel” analysis (above) shows the amount of truck traffic to the Mu Gia pass typical during the dry season in 1967. In the pic there are seven trucks going through a bombed out area. This is likely a section of “The Trail” inside North Vietnam. The “intel” analysis also suggests Continue reading