Tuesday, May 23, 1972

Fliers Keep On Trucking

OVER HIGHWAY 14, Vietnam (UPI) --Highway 14 north of Kontum at night looks like the embers of a dying campfire as giant C130 gunships smoke out enemy trucks and tanks.

Monitoring the radio chatter in a U.S Army signal relay plane while watching the gunship lightshow turns the night into a symphony of sights and sounds.

Capt. Harvey "J.J." Johnson, 28, Birdwood, Alaska, said "Some nights we're real busy. Other nights we just fly holes in the sky."

"Listen on uniform (UHF)," said WO Mel Hughes, 21, Decatur, Ala., the co-pilot. "I think Spectre has some trucks.

"This is Spectre 14, I've got a dozen trucks 15 miles north of Kontum and three or four of them are still hot. Am I clear to fire?"

"Okay, they're all bad guys," said the fire control officer in Pleiku. Explosions punctuated the jungle darkness as the gunship's 40mm cannons fired on the enemy trucks picked up by the plane's sensors.

Next a FAC (forward air controller) asked fire control "Got any targets?"

"We have one but it's not cleared yet," said the control officer.

"Well, get something," said the FAC, "I've got three sets of Fox-Fours (F4 Phantoms) overhead screaming at me."

The Phantom jets cut in. "This is Mission 236. Do you have any playmates for us?"

"I'm sorry, we don't have any targets now."

A slight ground fog began creeping in and the radios became silent while all aircraft scanned the ground looking for targets.

The drone of the signal plane's engines started the crew yawning when a FAC cut the silence, saying he had some troops near the bend of the river.

The FAC fired a smoke rocket at the target, but the fighters couldn't see it. The FAC lamented he didn't have any flares.

Spectre chimed in "We can give you a hand. We have many."

Spectre 17 came on station to relieve Spectre 14, and Spectre 14 reported its bomb damage to fire control: "We got five trucks destroyed, nine damaged, three small fires and three large fires."

The four-hour mission almost over, Johnson put his plan into a turn and headed home to Pleiku, another night's work done.

"Fliers Keep On Trucking", by Vietnam, (UPI) published in the Pacific Stars and Stripes on Tuesday, May 23, 1972 and reprinted from European and Pacific Stars and Stripes, a Department of Defense publication copyright, 2002 European and Pacific Stars and Stripes.
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