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When a general complains of the morale of his troops, the time has come to look at his own.

-- George C. Marshall

Vietnam I was a 1stLt. copilot in HMH463, and had only been in-country for a month at the time. I was assigned to the flight schedule for the nape drop, and was very excited to be going on one. I had heard about them, but this was going to be the biggest. Charlie Ridge was our target. The NVA there were in tight, and didn't want to move. Attempts to clear the area with fixed wing bombs had failed. Marines were taking heavy casualties.

Fixed wing aircraft and artillery also participated in the effort. At 0300 in the morning, artillery from all of the fire support bases within range (Danang, Ross, Ryder, An Hoa, Baldy, etc.) started firing into the area with 105 mm, 155 mm, and 175 mm. The goal here was to keep the enemy pinned down. At daylight the fixed wing bombing started, with 500 and 1000 lb. bombs. When the first flight of three CH53s hit the initial and started inbound, the fixed wing attack lifted. Then OV-10s would mark the target with Willie Pete for each of the four flights of three CH53s. Each of the wingmen would pickle their load when the lead dropped, bringing sixty 55-gal drums of napalm raining down (3300 gallons). When the last flight of CH53s returned to reload, the fixed wing started again. That day HMH 463 dropped 2000 barrels (110,000 gallons) of napalm.

We were dropping at 1500' AGL, and an airspeed of 135 knots. At that altitude we were just a bit concerned about the possibility of radar 37s being in the area. That turned out to not be a problem.

After the first run, the rest of the day just seemed to be same old, same old. We dropped, returned to refuel, reloaded, dropped, etc. It was really awesome to watch the aircraft ahead dropping, and the resultant flames and explosions.

I went down to join 2/7 as FAC for several months (thanks, Skipper). We were going after MajGen Binh, CG of the NVA Front Four, and intel had placed him in a mountainous area of the Que Son mountains. An area that was perfect for a major ThrashLight. I recommended to the Battalion Commander that we use a ThrashLight combined with the arty and air. After the ThrashLight, we would insert troops into strategic areas. The CO was all for it, but the Regimental Air Officer, who was a fixed wing major recommended against the ThrashLight, so the Regimental Commander said no. That operation resulted in seven Marine casualties, and Maj Gen Binh managed to slip away. We later learned that he had been in the exact location that we had planned the nape drop.

Barrel Bombers, Forever! Semper Fi!

Note: by Skip Burns


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This Day in History
1835: Inspired by the spirited leadership of Benjamin Rush Milam, the newly created Texan Army takes possession of the city of San Antonio, an important victory for the Republic of Texas in its war for independence from Mexico.

1861: To monitor both military progress and the Lincoln administration, Congress creates the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.

1863: Major General John G. Foster replaces Maj. Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside as Commander of the Department of Ohio.

1916: Bulgarian troops cross the Danube near Silistria and Tutrakan, capturing towns on the left bank.

1938: Prototype shipboard radar is installed on the USS New York.

1940: Two British divisions, half of them composed of Indian troops, attack seven Italian divisions in Egypt. Overwhelmed, the Italian position in Egypt collapsed.

1941: The USS Swordfish (SS-193) makes the first U.S. submarine attack on a Japanese ship.

1950: X Corps was forced to withdraw from Hungnam by sea. A curtain of intense naval gunfire greatly aided the successful evacuation of 3,834 U.N. military personnel, 1,146 vehicles, 10,013 tons of bulk cargo and 7,000 Korean civilian refugees by elements of the U.S. Navy's Task Force 90.

1952: Three carriers of Task Force 77 launched aircraft to strike military targets at Munsan, Hyesanjin, Rashin and Hunyun, the latter being the northernmost air raid on the Korean War.

1992: U.S. Marines land in Somalia to ensure food and medicine reaches the deprived areas of that country.