Flight of the Intruder
Their assignment, 45 years ago: Drop mines over Vietnam, something no jet had ever done.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, February 24, 2012
Courtesy Dave Cable and Stuart Johnson
What Dave Cable remembers most about that night was the torrential rain. On February 26, 1967, a flight of seven Grumman A-6A Intruders, led by Commander A.H. Barie of squadron VA-35, took off from the USS Enterprise. The A-6s were loaded with Mk 50 and Mk 52 mines, which would be dropped into the Song Ca and Son Giang rivers in North Vietnam in an attempt to stop the flow of supplies and men into South Vietnam.
According to U.S. military officials, as quoted by the Los Angeles Times on February 27, the non-floating mines were meant for sampans and junks, and posed “no danger to deep water maritime traffic.” Hanoi radio, on the other hand, called the mining of rivers “a new escalation of the war by U.S. imperialists.” Either way, it was the first time mines had been dropped from the air since World War II, and the first time mines were dropped from jet aircraft.
Eight A-6s had been scheduled to depart from the carrier, but one aborted on the flight deck; its replacement aborted in flight, and returned to the Marine Air Station at Da Nang, South Vietnam.
“I remember so distinctly our pre-flight," says Cable (above, right, with navigator/bombardier Stuart Johnson), who was a pilot with VA-35 that night. "The worst part of the flight from my standpoint was sitting on the flight deck, canopy open, in a downpour, soaking wet and cold. And we had to wait an extra amount of time because we had to get the system up and running, and get our inertial platform [navigation equipment] aligned.”
See the gallery above to learn more about this historic mission.