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(Courtesy Dave Cable and Stuart Johnson)

Flight of the Intruder

Their assignment, 45 years ago: Drop mines over Vietnam, something no jet had ever done.

Success

None
(Courtesy Dave Cable and Stuart Johnson)

The entire mission took less than four hours in the air. Cable's logbook indicates that his total flight time was 1.4 hours, with perhaps five or six minutes over the target.

"Although we were at 300 knots and 300 feet," says Johnson, "it was not a harrowing mission. We were comfortable flying there; other people, I'm sure, would be terrified. We flew so much at those altitudes that it was not harrowing at all."

The mission was judged a success. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger would later tell journalist William Safire that if the U.S. had continued to mine rivers and started mining the harbors, the war would have been over in 1970.

In May 1972, President Richard Nixon ordered the aerial mining of Haiphong Harbor, an effort that planted more than 11,000 mines over an eight-month period. In cutting off the enemy's supply route, the mining helped bring about a peace agreement. "It took us eight years to get permission" to mine Haiphong harbor, said Admiral Moorer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Lewis Sorley's book A Better War. "Afterward not one ship entered or left the harbor until we took up the mines."

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