Sidebar 7 – Operation Junction City, Jr.

Knife 61 and Knife 62 were shot down during Operation Junction City, Junior. (Don’t confuse this with the US Army 1967 “Operation Junction City.” The ’67 operation was named after the Kansas town, “Junction City.” Google it, and you’ll find lots of info.)

Perhaps the name for this operation (Junction City, Jr.) was well chosen because the goal was capturing the city at the junction of Ho Chi Minh Trail (HCMT) Routes 9 & 23. Route 9 came into Xepon from the east, and Route 23 was a main artery to the southern portion of the HCMT. The town was Muang Phin (also spelled Phine amongst others.)

Road Watch Teams (Operation Shining Brass/Prairie Fire) had unconfirmed reports of American prisoners Continue reading

Sidebar 6 – FACs, FACTS & Butterflies

As I contemplated writing this sidebar, I debated (to myself) if I even wanted to post it. The problem was how to write it without maybe offending some folks. In the end, it was simple… just present the FACTs.

On 18 May 66, an O-1 Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft piloted by Capt. Lee D. Harley took off from NKP. A2C Andre Guillet was in the back seat performing duties as a Butterfly FAC. Their job was to work the HCMT in the Ban Karai pass area. They were shot down and went MIA in a meadow near the pass. Neither Harley nor Guillet have ever been found. The meadow where they went down became known as, “Harley’s Valley.”

When I wrote “More Memories of Naked Fanny,” I investigated and found out the facts about the shoot-down… at least as well as the facts are known. Since that time I’ve been trying to get people to change the name of Harley’s Valley, to “Guillet-Harley Valley.” I probably won’t ever succeed but, that won’t stop me from continuing the quest.

The Amphitheatre at NKP as it should have been.

OK, I can’t rewrite history… but I can set the record straight. A2C Guillet (Promoted to SMSgt while MIA) deserves as much recognition and memory as does Lee Harley.

One time I when posted that thought on social media, I received a semi-indignant reply from former FAC pilot. It went something to the effect, “If Guillet flew 25 missions a month like the FAC pilots, then maybe he would have received the recognition and memory.” It was as if… since he was not a pilot, he was therefore not a “real” FAC. It was intimated that A2C Guillet was just along for a joy ride and only fighter pilots could be real FACs.

Well… here are the FACTs. 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

Sidebar 4 – A Bad Day at Mu Gia

On 6 Feb 67, another O-1F was shot down over the Mu Gia Pass. The low and slow O-1F Forward Air Controller (FAC) aircraft had been restricted from flying in the area for almost 10 months. With all the Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) massed there, the little O-1s didn’t stand a chance of surviving the NVA gunners.

I don’t know why Capt. Lucius L. Heiskell and another O-1 as his wingman (both from the 23rd TASS at NKP) flew into the area that day. I suspect they saw targets and were trying their best to do the job of interdicting the traffic on the HCMT. They likely saw targets and were determined to “take them out.” Whatever the case, Capt Haskell was shot down and managed to bail out. His wingman saw a good ‘chute, and he reached the ground safely.

But they were in bad guy country. Continue reading

Sidebar 3: Heroes of the Alamo

I normally don’t cite sources since I don’t claim my stuff to be “scholarly work” with footnotes and all that crapola. After all… this is just us guys talkin’ while sippin’ on a Singha or shot of Mekong. (OK… these days my shots are tequila.) That said… I’m making an exception here because the sources don’t all agree on the facts. Most of the primary sources are listed at the end if you want to check it for yourself.

Cover of the CHECO report, “Second Defense of Lima Site 36.” Originally classified “Secret”

The NVA and Pathet Lao began serious attacks on LS-36 in Feb ’66. A few days before, they over-ran LS-27 about 10 miles north. A full-scale assault on LS-36 began overnight on 16/17 Feb. First the NVA overran an outpost about a mile to the south just before midnight on the 16th. Between 600 and 1,000 NVA/Pathet Lao moved quickly from there and began attacking the airstrip with mortars.

The next two days saw the kinds of events movies are made from. In the wee hours… still O’Dark-Thirty, Continue reading