"A Memory of his First Mission"
Got your request for stories, etc. of events while flying on EC-47s in Southeast Asia. There were a lot of events that only those who witnessed them would make any decent inputs but there is one that others might find amusing too.
I was a recent arrival at Da Nang and had just completed my orientation and survival gear fit-up so was ready to "fly." I was on my "Cherry Flight" and our mission area was along the DMZ in support of some Marine base camps. I had been told that we would see "the flag" which was actually a momument left there many years ago by (I think) French forces and was actually visible from our altitude. Everyone else was very busy doing their "thing" but since it was my orientation flight, I didn't have a whole lot to do other than observe.
We had made a few orbits back and forth and the Navigator told me that we were in the area of "the flag" if I wanted to see it. I was sure we were heading East so was watching out the right side of the aircraft in hopes of seeing the target. For some reason (too long ago to remember just why), I happened to look out the left side window and did, for the first time, observe "the flag." However, something in my mind told me something might be a bit wrong with that, so during a brief lull in the mission conversation, on "private", I asked the nav exactly what direction we were flying. He confirmed we were indeed heading easterly. I then asked, "Why is the flag off our left side? Shouldn't it be off our right if we were heading east?"
There was a very blank look on the navs face, then he quickly looked in the "periscope" and grabbed his call button for emergency call override to the pilot. As I remember it, all he said was "Hard evasive left turn immediately!!" I didn't know a C-47 could do the maneuver we did and still keep its wings. Apparently, during the excitement of acquiring our targets and having such a successful mission, we had drifted north and were actually flying over North Vietnam. Luckily for us, it was "talk, not fight" time for Charlie and we were not fired upon (as far as we knew, anyway.) Guard did report Migs active but not in our area and none were vectored towards us.
I can't remember who the pilot or nav were that day but I guess they had some explaining to do when we got back to Da Nang. My instructor just shrugged his shoulders and said "We got away with that one - that time."
This all happened in March of 1972 and luckily, most of the Surface-to-Air batteries had been withdrawn to the Hanoi area for its defense. Had they not, my "Cherry Flight" might well have been my last.
JOE WESNER, CMSgt, (Ret)