[Editor's note: The following is a re-typed copy of documentation
in the U.S. Air Force Historical Agency archives. This mission
represents one of the truly remarkable feats of airmanship in the
SEA war. Clarification notes are enclosed in brackets. If anyone
knows the whereabouts of any of the crew, please leave a message
on the site bulletin board.]
The Crew of Brew 41
Aircraft Commander Dobyns, Robert E., Lt Col
Pilot Marks, Stanley R. II, 2Lt
Navigator Polites, John J., Maj
Flight Engineer Lott, David J., SSgt
Radio Operator Stennes, Louis R., SSgt
Radio Operator Corbin, Kenneth J., SSgt
Narrative At 0545 hours, 11 Mar 68, Brew 41 took off from an RVN base [Nha Trang] on a classified combat mission. The EC-47 reached the target area on time, flying at 9,500 MSL. Fifty minutes later the crew heard a loud metallic crack, the aircraft lurched and immediately filled with dense blue smoke. A quick damage assessment revealed shrapnel holes in the left engine nacelle and wing, loss of all hydraulic systems and a rough running right engine. The terrain was rough and mountainous, covered with forests, and no friendlies [were] in the area. Lt Col Dobyns immediately set course for Pleiku, approximately 100 miles away. The [landing] gear had fallen free and there was a loss of power on both engines. After a few minutes the number two prop began to overspeed and for awhile it was controlled by the feathering button. The feathering system soon failed and so the engine was shut down. The propeller windmilled to a stop and the engine froze. The aircraft began losing altitude, 200 to 500 feet per minute.
In the meantime rescue had been alerted and Crown [airborne command post] advised that two Jolly Greens and fighters were on the way and that four army choppers were already in the area. Mighty comfortable [comforting] words. About 15 minutes after the hit a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in an O-2 joined up to escort the crippled Gooney Bird to a safe area.
To lessen the load the crew began to jettison everything [that was] loose. The oil temperature on the left engine read zero and oil pressure was down to 30 psi. Twenty-three hundred was the maximum rpm obtainable. It was already apparent the aircraft could never make Pleiku. The FAC then advised that clearing one range of hills would put the crew in friendly territory. This range was cleared. The FAC then said there was an emergency strip eight miles ahead but he recommended bail-out because of two intervening ridges. After checking with his navigator who had been giving him fixes during the entire route, Lt Col Dobyns elected to circumnavigate the ridge crests. This was successful, leaving one last small hill about 500 feet high, two miles short of the intended landing point. This hill was circumnavigated about 200 feet below its crest and for the first time the strip came into sight. Fifteen hundred wonderful feet of aluminum planking [at the Ben Het Special Forces camp.]
The landing could best be described as an arrival. No flaps, no brakes, a left fire blown by shrapnel, and no differential power. It touched down 300 feet down the runway, veered to the left and left the runway and the 2/3 point, and veering further around to the 160 degree point it came to a stop even with the end of the runway. The flight engineer summed it up pretty well when he said, "That was the best landing I had ever seen in my life." Of note, the four Army choppers were sitting on the runway by the time the aircraft came to a halt.
This flight demonstrated superior airmanship by Lt Col Dobyns and his entire crew, superb crew discipline and performance by professionals who knew their job and weren't about to panic. It also points up the magnificent search and rescue effort in Vietnam. This was a case of a crippled aircraft being led, almost by the hand, across 60 miles of hostile territory to a safe haven, with Army helicopters in attendance to take care of any eventuality.
This crew is not only deserving of PACAF and 7th Air Force awards, but should be considered for additional USAF recognition.
[Ed. Useable items were salvaged and the hulk of EC-47P S/N 44-77016 was consigned to the scrap heap — a sad ending for the first "Electric Goon" assigned to the to 361st TEWS.]
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