dinsdag 27 december 2016

Richard Tregaskis -- 28 december 1962

Richard Tregaskis (1916-1973) was een Amerikaanse oorlogscorrespondent die een aantal oorlogsdagboeken publiceerde, waaronder Vietnam Diary (1963), over de Vietnam-oorlog (1955-1975).

Friday, December 28
This morning, I arranged a flight with a T-28 mission to napalm, racket, and strafe some VC [Viet Cong] positions. While waiting for final word about this, I talked to Maj. Aldrich about his company's fund-raising efforts in behalf of WO [Warrant Officer] Holloway's wife, Grace, and family. The company had collected $385 for the family and Aldrich said the widow would have $10,000 in GI insurance, and just over $400 a month in widow's payment, including Social Security. He had carefully figured it out: $254.10 a month in social security, and $160 a month in service-connected death payments.

I rode with Lt. St. Col. King who was to have flown a third bird in our formation, but his T-28 washed out at the last minute with a mechanical malfunction. A jovial, blue-eyed tall son of the corn who was a B-17 and fighter pilot in World War II, King normally flies the T-28 missions "just about every other day." He told me that he makes the missions with his boys mainly for the sake of morale. "I want the pilots in this outfit to have a high morale, and everything that it takes to make a high morale. I want them to have uniform devices, like scarves and jungle hats, and star patches with tigers in them, everything they need to make them feel they mustn't let the outfit down. And it's the same with having American advisers around. They try harder if the American adviser is along."
When Lts. Si, Tham and I took off with our highly explosive loads, I was just as glad that Col. King didn't come along: His presence might have inspired the two Vietnamese hotshots to even more violent maneuvering in the course of dumping ordnance on the VC.

At any rate, we had a full load of rockets, .50-caliber machine gun ammo, and 500 pounds of napalm each.
We took off at 10:07, sizzling in the clear heat of the canopy while trapped by the usual mountain of gear, and headed north over what ap-peared to be scattered farms beyond Pleiku. Abruptly we climbed over a steep green ridge, more than 5,000 feet high. Then we were diving in a breathless pass toward high-ribbed mountains covered with almost solid jungle.
We made nine neck-snapping passes into two separate collections of huts designated as VC villages. It was, as Col. King had said, a solidly VC area: "An interdiction target: No friendlies."

We whirled at maximum speed around the green-ribbed mountains for a good 15 minutes, while the guns stuttered or the rockets arced — two passes during which there was no sound, only the sharp pull-up, and behind us, the boiling orange flames of napalm devouring the groups of houses. The steepest pass was a machine-gunning dive into a jungly mountainside marked as a VC strongpoint. Lt. Si seemed to have momentarily forgotten his wife and three children in Nhatrang: he held our nose down until far beyond what seemed the last moment. When he finally hauled back and skimmed us over the ridge top, there was a very unpleasant "graying-out" effect whereby our vision grew suddenly black, and our body parts seemed to be weighted with outriggers.

We saw no signs of anti aircraft on all these passes, and the raid was a success: Si and Tham filled out the report of 20 structures burned in enemy territory. After the aerial gymnastics — upside-down peel-offs, wing-overs, violent pull-ups — I was still teetering on the edge of nausea. Si, who seemed a mild man when not obliged to be a tiger at the controls of a T-28, asked me solicitously (with gestures) if I was sick. I was glad to be able to say no, even if it wasn't completely true.

I went to the local Air Force headquarters at the II Corps Citadel while the Vietnamese T-28 pilots filed their reports. Col. King, having effected a repair of his own T-28 so that it would be workable this afternoon, was saying to Capt. Glen Hellenga (of Alderwood Manor, Wash.), the reconnaissance duty officer, "Now we've got to get some more targets for this afternoon." He would be going this time. Later in the afternoon, I hitched a ride into Saigon with a Special Forces "Sneaky Pete" aircraft, a C-47 heading for The Ville just in time for the beginning of the New Year's Eve holiday.

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