Combat aircraft do tell tales too. Part one.

3년 전

Official U.S. Marine Corps photograph A150966 in U.S. Marines in Vietnam. The War that Would not End 1973-1975.JPG

Tan Son Nhut Air Base, South Vietnam, april 29, 1975. Source

Combat aircraft do tell tales too. And this is one of the many stories, heroic stories, about the fierce defense of the last stronghold, the last escape route of a South Vietnam already sentenced to disappear as a nation, told from a different and never before imagined point of view. The one of the plane.

Inspired on real events…

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The Last Plane Standing

The sun rises over the horizon of a besieged Saigon, on the day that will be remembered as the most fateful in the history of the Republic of Vietnam. With the break of dawn, the first lights of the day somehow managed to shine through the morning mist, only to be blocked by multiple smoke columns, created by the lingering fires, consequence of the NVA troop’s attacks already inside the city.

At Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the Commander of the 518th Fighter Squadron, a Skyrider A-1H call sign “Dragon One”, watches the take-off procedure of an AC-119K “Stinger” from the 821th Attack Squadron, whom minutes before was being refueled and re-armed for the third time since the last night, all while trying to keep the base from shutting down for as long as possible, in order to complete the evacuation of every plane that could still fly.

A-1H Skyrider. Pham Quang Kheim Collection. Vía Source

Being old friends as they were since their time under USAF service, they managed to never lose contact after getting transferred to VNAF. Both planes fought together during the defense of Ban Me Thout and the Central Highlands; they tried their best, in an attempt to stop the advance of the NVA´s troops against the cities of Da Nang, Phu Cat and Phan Rang; they also performed Close Air Support missions during the bloody battle of Xuan Loc, a key position in the defense perimeter of Saigon, and lastly, over Bien Hoa Air Base, where the Skyrider suffered multiple wounds from 37mm anti-aircraft rounds fired at him, before having to do an emergency retreat from the fight so he could get repairs at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. This last incident was more than enough reason for the A-1H to crave being up there, helping his friend.


AC-119K "Stinger". Source

Yet, they both agreed that he, “Dragon One”, would be in charge of organizing the exodus of the few planes and helicopters in flying conditions that were in the apron, while “Tinh Long” Zero Seven, such was the call sign of the AC-119K, would be tasked with delaying the enemy advance as long as he could, protecting the base perimeter.

However, our friend in the sky was not alone… A pair of Skyriders had joined him, on the command of “Dragon One”… One of them was named Spad.

Knowing how dire their situation was, “Dragon One” took a decision.

OK GUYS!... EVERYBODY ON ME! ─he commanded.

The few planes still inside the hangar were joined by two pairs of C-7s, three C-123 and a C-47, from the old USAF ramp, whose commanders were either already gone or destroyed in the initial attacks.

The Skyrider continued:

Well… this is the end ─he said while staring everyone around him ─. There is nothing more to do… we are all armed and ready for combat ─he said while referring to the A-1, A-37 and F-5 who were present.

The combat planes nodded; adrenaline levels were on the rise.

So, we’ll go to Thailand now!...

In that very moment, out of the corner of his eye, the A-1 saw the missile trail left behind by a SAM SA-7 “Strella” just at the moment the missile scored a direct impact on the AC-119 Gunship aircraft, right between the engine No.1 and its internal joint with the left wing. The engine exploded, causing the wing to snap and the tail boom to fell off. The plane went down very quickly surrounded by flames.

Tinh Long 07 Painting2.jpg

"The Warrior´s death". GUCCI'S paintings collection. Vía Source

Everyone in the air base watched, paralyzed, as this horrible situation unraveled in front of their eyes. Only one out of three parachutes managed to land.

What nobody had noticed so far was that up there, in the vertical of the coastline, a pair of exceptional witnesses, two of the new F-14 Tomcat from Fighting Squadron Two, watched the whole thing, unable to engage, no matter how hellish was the situation down there.

At a sign from “Dragon One”, a UH-1 helicopter started a Search and Rescue mission looking for the missing aircrew from the downed plane, just as one of the Skyriders flew across the sky over the ramp when he finished a defensive turn around, snapping our friends out of the haze they were in, and back to the reality of the moment at hand.

We take-off, drops our bombs over the enemy lines and set course for U-tapao ─informed “Dragon One”, pointing at the exact spot where they were going to do the dropping─. Understand?

Sir, yes Sir!!! ─responded everyone in one voice.

Suddenly, the blast from a huge explosion drew the attention of those still at the base. Everyone looked up in horror, when a fireball engulfed from the spot where a few seconds earlier, one of the remaining Skyriders was about to begin his strafing run.

Ok. Let’s go!! ─cried out “Dragon One”. Watching his friend go down made an expression of anger appear across his face.

The helicopters sounds roared across the whole ramp, fading away the voice of the Skyrider. H-34, UH-1 and CH-47 were ready to depart to the freedom of an uncertain destiny.

After shaking off the impression left by the images of the downed aircraft, everyone headed for the runway as fast as they could. The taxiway was full of bomb craters and non-detonated mortar rounds; on the other hand, the control tower personnel was trying to board any aircraft in flying condition that could get them out of the hell that the Tan Son Nhut Air Base had become. Chaos was running amok.

To be continue...

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Thank you very much for reading my post!

The separator that symbolizes the flag of the Republic of Vietnam is from my own design. I used: Photoshop CS5 Portable.

The text is from my own creation and inspiration and is protected by copyright . ©All rights reserved.
The photos are merely referential.

Note on the photos: Permission from Mr. Timothy Pham, WEB master of was obtained for the publication of any photo from the archives of his WEB site, according to the email received on February 02, 2019, which, is available to anyone who requests it.

The photo of the Tan Son Nhut Air Base belongs to the archives of the U.S. Marine Corps and is in the public domain.

The Photo of the AC-119K "Stinger" belongs to Wikipedia under a Creative Commons license as stated in the link attached.

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