Excerpts from the April 24, 1969
issue of Phan Fare,
The Happy Valley Weekly
Shadow Aids Ground
An AC-119 gunship of the "B"
Flight, 71st SOS, went to the aid of allied troops in contact
with soldiers near Phan Thiet recently. "We responded to
a request for support of some army troops near Phan Thiet,"
commented Aircraft Commander Capt. William R. Casey, "on
the edge of Ap Tan Hung hamlet. they were receiving 40mm rockets
when we arrived, but once we started firing, "Charlie"
broke contact and part of the group fled across an open field
and hid in a tree-line along a small stream."
Shadow pursued them with her
deadly 7.62mm mini-gun fire and continued to rake the area until
the forward air controller flew low over the area and reported
there was no more enemy movement or ground fire. Captain Casey
then returned his gunship to the original target and continued
to pour fire in until he had expended nearly 30,000 rounds, after
which the gunship stayed in the area to illuminate the area with
her white light and flares.
Other crew members included:
Major Richard E. Morgan (pilot), Captains Paul T. Cherenzia and
Leo M. Basten Jr., Navigators; SSgt Squire Riley, Flight Engineer;
Sergeants Donald E. Brogan Illuminator Operator, and Gregory
L. Terral, gunner; and A1C James E. Mattison, gunner.
Versatile, Turns Night into Daytime
"And he said, 'Let there
be light!'" And Shadow flipped the switch on his giant illuminator
and there was light. Maybe it doesn't quite compare with that
other great light in the sky, but the illuminator carried by
the AC-119s of the 71st Special Operations Squadron's "B"
Flight at Phan Rang Air Base has been as welcome as the sun to
a lot of ground forces in Vietnam. B Flight and the 71st SOS
are both part of the 14th Special Operations Wing at Nha Trang
The illuminator system is a
precision device that produces high-intensity illumination in
either the visual or infrared spectrum. This system was developed
as a night observation device for illuminating objects on the
ground from a standard operational aircraft. When operating at
full power (20kw), the system's light beam with rhodium collector
is rated at 425,000 lumens and has a beam spread that adjusts
from 20 to 40 degrees.
For a better example of what
that means, were the light overhead and a mile high, you would
have no problem reading the "Stars and Stripes" on
an otherwise dark night. With the beam spread, your buddy a half
mile away, could read his copy at the same time.
The lamphouse assembly allows
movement fore and aft as well as up and down. This permits any
one of three crew members at three different positions to direct
the light through a +10 to a -60 degree roll angle or through
a yaw motion of +150 degrees. Having this capability allows the
light to be kept on target, or on a specific ground area, during
varying degrees of bank or aircraft attitude. It also permits
a better "search" capability by moving the light around.
The advantage of continuous white light over the flickering,
relatively short illumination period offered by flares is obvious.
The light has proved its worth many times with troops in contact
or in instances where dropping flares might have been hazardous
to ground personnel.
Besides troops in contact,
Shadow has provided white light for night sweep operations, perimeter
security, rescue operations and, in one instance, for a different
kind of operation. An AC-119 recently provided the light during
a battle near Tay Ninh City, then continued to shine his light
for a doctor during surgery on a wounded comrade.
So, the versatility is enormous
and the light's uses many. And if some night you see that great
light in the sky, don't worry about the Lord looking for you
with a flashlight that's Shadow!
Last Night 'Covered'
Are you a "short
timer"? Even if you are not due to return to the U.S. anytime
soon, you can surely appreciate the consternation of those soon
to depart the combat zone. As the days decrease in number, caution
becomes the watchword and everyone is especially careful to ensure
he is aboard that last flight with the pretty stewardesses.
Such was the plight of
the 120 TFS recently just before they returned home to Colorado
and return to Air National Guard status. The night prior to their
departure was believed to be prime for a Viet Cong attack against
Phan Rang Air Base. So, a request was forwarded and approved
to have an AC-119
Shadow gunship fly
cover over the base all night to provide illumination and fire
cover to suppress any eager "Charlies" who might want
to disturb the 120th's last night in country.
Sure enough, Charlie came
calling that Saturday night, but didn't stay long. From inside
their bunkers, 120th troops could hear the harsh "Burrrrrrrrrtt"
of the Shadow's miniguns as they poured a defoliating stream
of fire into the VC positions. One intrepid viewer was overheard
to remark, " that flood of tracers sure is impressive from
this distance but its got to look like the fires of hell
from Charley's viewpoint."
With Shadow up above and
artillery pounding him from ground positions, the Phan Rang visitors
only stayed long enough to get off about a dozen rounds of mortar
from which no damage was reported. From the veranda of the Officer's
Open Mess, I watched as the F-100s of the 120th blast off into
the predawn darkness, headed for Buckley Air National Guard Base,
Denver, and home with one more war story from their last night