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
On the night of the mining mission, “I remember we had a quarter moon,” recalls Eugene “Red” McDaniel (far right), who was a Lieutenant Commander at the time. “We got the briefing and prepared, and I know the aerodynamics of the mines were something we had not expected. They aren’t very sleek for jet aircraft.” (McDaniel would be shot down in May 1967, and would spend the next six years as a P.O.W. in North Vietnam's "Hanoi Hilton" and other prisons. He wrote about his experiences in Scars & Stripes.)
"We went 'feet dry' [over enemy territory] and were in there, doing what we had to do, maybe three or four minutes, not long," says Cable (second from right). "We released the mines—thump, thump, thump, thump—wrapped into a hard turn and got out of there, back to 'feet wet.'"
"The nerve-wracking part of it," says Leonard, "was that we would be going low into a heavily defended target. We're kind of set up to get shot at. The intelligence center showed lots of flak sites."
While Leonard doesn't remember much anti-aircraft fire, others have different memories: "It depends on where you were in the string of planes," says navigator Stuart Johnson (third from right). "My part of this action terminated when the first mine came off the airplane. We plotted a heading on which to approach, and then we plotted a release point, all done by the computer. Once I got the airplane to that release point and heard the first mine come off the airplane, I was essentially a passenger from there on in. So I took my head out of my radar scope and was looking around. The initial planes that made their runs attracted very little gunfire because it was a total surprise. But by the time the sixth or seventh plane started through, there was quite a bit of anti-aircraft fire, but it was all over our heads. They had no idea we were at 300 feet. They were shooting at 1,500, 2,000, 3,000 feet."