Monday, August 13, 2018

Bridges



Keith Ferris has always been one of my favorite artists.  The fact that his subject is aviation certainly helps in that regard, but I think it's mostly because the painting are so realistic that one thinks they are actually photographs.  I came across one of my favorites Saturday over on "This day in Aviation", a frequent stop of mine on my internet meanderings.
Source
The painting depicts the egress of a flight of F-105s after they had dropped their bombs on the Paul Doumer Bridge in North Vietnam.  Just looking at that painting, it becomes very obvious what they are doing.

Getting out of Dodge!

But why was this painting on "This Day in Aviation"?  So, I read the article and realized that Saturday was the 51st anniversary of this attack.  Many years ago, I had read about this attack in Air Force Magazine  and wondered why it was such a big deal.  I mean, the Air Force is supposed to be able to knock down bridges.

The fact that they were successful and that was significant puzzled me.   (Naive I was at the time, because a significant number of my Dad's colleagues and students went over there for eternity.)

The Paul Doumer Bridge is, officially, the Long Biên Bridge.  It was named after the Frenchmen in charge of French Indochina when it was built.  It is the only bridge that connects Hanoi and Haiphong, meaning any supplies that arrive in the port of Haiphong such as SAMS, has to cross that bridge to resupply Hanoi.  Ergo, a very important target.  So the US expended a lot of effort to destroy it. 
Source

This attack managed to destroy one of the spans. (There are several spans, 1800 meters is 5905.5').  This took it out of commission for a while, but it was quickly fixed and would be reattacked many times for the rest of the war, finally being put out of commission in 1972 by Laser Guided Bombs for a year.

All of this I knew.  So once again, why did Mr Ferris paint a picture of this attack?

Well, I've discussed in posts as well as commentary my belief that the only difference between the Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross (or the Navy Cross and Distinguished Service Cross) is the writing skills of the person submitting the recommendation or the politics involved with the attack.

I've come to learn that this attack resulted in the Awarding of 5 Air Force Crosses.  You may recognize some of the names.

Colonel Robert White Deputy Commander for Operations of the 355TFW at Takhli AB

Colonel Robin Olds Commander of the 8th TFW at Ubon (future home of juvat and Sarge).

Colonel James McInerney, Commander of the 13TFS and the flight lead of the Wild Weasels.

Captain Fred Shannon, Colonel McInerney's EWO.

Lt. Colonel Harry Schurr, Commander of the 469th Tactical Fighter Squadron.

Lest anyone think they received the medals because they were in command of the units doing the fighting, that does not seem to be the case.  Col White had been a P-51 pilot in WWII, then flown the X-15, prior to becoming the Deputy Commander for Operations of the 355TFW at Takhli AB.  On completion of this mission he took a blown up copy of the picture below and walked it around the flight line showing it to all the personnel working there.  He wanted them to know and appreciate how important they were to the overall wing mission.

I believe that's called "Leadership".
Source
Col White retired as a Major General and was the Commander of Air Force ROTC while I was a cadet.

Col Olds requires no introduction to this crowd.  And, as can be seen below, he didn't have any problem commanding respect in his wing.  People were still talking about him as the Wing Commander in 1980 when I got to the Kun.
Source

 Col Olds retired as a Brigadier General.  He came to talk to a Dining in at Webb AFB while my Dad was an IP there.  He and Dad got into a friendly wrestling match and Dad ended up with a cracked rib.  Yes.....alcohol was involved.  He also spoke at a Dining in I attended.  Fascinating man.  No....I didn't wrestle him.

Col McInerney flew 101 missions as a Wild Weasel over North Vietnam.  "First in...Last out."  That's not a job for a shrinking violet.  During his tour, the squadron lost no pilots in combat. 

Capt Shannon was 5 feet behind him and, as a crew, they destroyed 17 SAM sites. Interestingly, he entered the Air Force as an Aircraft Electrical Systems Technician, served an assignment as such at Westover AFB MA, then went to OCS and was commissioned.  Now...Ain't that some coincidence right there!


Source
Col McInerney went on to retire with 2 stars.  He comes from a long family of folks who "Walk the Walk" and don't just "Talk the talk"
Plaque at the Thayer Hotel near West Point

Col Schurr would continue his career and eventually command the 3rd TFW and the 8TFW both at Kunsan.

As I was researching this post, I came across this post, that although technically about building a model airplane, contains some interesting data.

 
Source
 This gentleman was #4 in Col White's flight and is credited with one of the hits on the Doumer Bridge.  In the post, he talks about the attack from his point of view.  Yes....Some folks missed, the bridge, He didn't, and some of the folks shooting at him didn't either.  Fortunately the Thud is a tough bird.

He would later be an Ops Officer at Holloman where he uttered the immortal words to a young 2Lt fighter pilot to be, "Go Get Him, Tiger!"  The rest, as they say is history.

These were the kind of people that made me want to join the Air Force and emulate.  I hope  there are still some like them out there.  It's been quite a while since Leadership was a sought after trait in commanders.  (The small c denoting title, not ability.)

I couldn't work it into the post, but the first source below is a conversation with someone else I have a deep and abiding respect for,


Sources
https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/rec.aviation.military/YXryWgVwYTU
https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/11-august-1967/
http://peteralanlloyd.com/us-air-strikes-on-bridges-during-the-vietnam-war/
https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/vol13no4/html/v13i4a01p_0001.htm
https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/197485/strike-at-the-doumer-bridge-lt-col-james-mcinerney-and-capt-fred-shannon/
https://www.largescaleplanes.com/articles/article.php?aid=196
http://usafocsalumni.org/class-pages/63a-bios/piowaty
https://www.thethayerhotel.com/mcinerney.html

33 comments:

  1. Good posting Juvat. The largescaleplanes site has a very informative retelling of the bridge strike. Good timing with all the sources listed, high of 92 today with dewpoint high 60s also..... a oppressive forecast so not much work outside this day and surfing the InterNets is on!

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    1. Thanks,
      Surprisingly, the temperatures here in Texas have moderated over the last few days. High of 85 Sunday, with a couple of inches of rain spread out nicely. The pasture is a delightful shade of green again.

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  2. I was privileged to know a few of the guys who flew WW missions. When they walked down the hall those big brass ones would clang together and play Stormy Weather. That was a generation of men who were genuine heroes. It is too bad that history well record that they had to serve under truly chicken$hit leaders. It is still on my bucket list to piss on the graves of Lyndon and McNamara.In the future may God grant us such warriors, and the leaders they deserve.

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    1. Well, when you come to "do" LBJ, give me a call. I live about 20 miles west and I think a two ship flyover would be better.

      I regularly drive past, rendering a proper salute every time. Proper being a single finger extended rather than 5.

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    2. Likely you are aware of this. Am including a link for those who haven't and because it seems the website "B-26 Marauder Historical Society" has gone away.

      https://www.facebook.com/162710213755908/posts/in-the-skyhorse-edition-of/1984349868258591/

      As to the proposed flyover, it would be a shame if it were not properly fueled. Name the brew. I'll buy.

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    3. Yeesh. should read "...for those who haven't seen it..."

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    4. Website still exists - https://b-26mhs.org/

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    5. Interesting story. Hadn't heard that although it doesn't surprise me.

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    6. I'd even break my 'no alcohol' policy to join in the 21 Gun salute to LBJ, if you know what I mean.

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    7. Well, if we can get Sarge down here we could make it a proper 4 ship.

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    8. Okay, yes, now that I'm away from the work computer I can get to Facebook without setting off alarms at the effing HQ.

      Johnson's effing Silver Star, unearned and undeserved. Man was a giant asshole.

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  3. So much awesomeness in this post Juvat.

    I chased that first source, I liked the way Ras signed his reply.

    You grew up with the giants of our service. I don't know what's to become of our beloved service, there are some good people in the ranks (officer and enlisted, I know some of them), hopefully enough to survive the shoe clerks.

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    1. Thanks.
      That reminds me of a phenomenon I first noticed at Holloman as a student. Might be worth a post. Thanks.

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  4. My dad was '57 and probably knew 3 of them as young men. We had some really good people back then. It's nice to know there are still plenty of good ones left to carry on.

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    1. Yes, we did, and do. The problem seems to be that the, the "good ones", tend to be weeded out at the O-4/O-5 level and very few make it beyond. The majority of people who do make it beyond O-5 seem to be overwhelmingly focused on selling shoes rather than "warheads on foreheads".

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  5. Excellent post but I have trouble reading it, and others like it, without rage boiling thinking of the lives lost and blighted. The micromanagement of that war was an atrocity. We recently had the 42nd anniversary of the official end of that war. Didn't see any mention in the MSM.

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    1. Yeah, I wonder why? No....Not really. I think most people realize that we shouldn't have lost that war, and who was responsible for that occurring. And, as someone Insty quotes frequently says "Modern Journalism is all about deciding which facts the public shouldn't know because they might reflect badly on democrats."

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  6. The F-105 has always been one of my favorite planes. So beautifully deadly in it's looks. Reading "Thud Ridge" as a kid led to reading more about the war, and the mismanagement, and the stupidity, and the lies, damned lies and Cronkite (hwack-ptooie.)

    Too many planes, too many men, too many families destroyed by feckless stupidity.

    Good list of clickable stuff. Will have to spend time zooming the internet today.

    I am glad you were able to meet some of these men.

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    1. If you haven't read it already, you should check out When Thunder Rolled: An F-105 Pilot over North Vietnam". Ed was my IP when I went to Lead-In to become an IP. Great Guy and an outstanding Fighter Pilot.

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    2. Thanks, buddy, you just cost me another $6!

      Oh, and whilst I'm at it, please take a pint for me and deliver it in that special way over to LBJ's place. Send the bill to the usual address. Or maybe a forty ounzer to make it count. It seems like when I was in UPT, 40 was the size of a bottle and the kegs appeared as if by magic by the pool (how handy). There was no lack of celebratory events in UPT.

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    3. Dad was an IP there from 68 to 72? In the range?

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    4. Nope, I Was there in 61 (Class 62FZ). We were the first brown bars to go through there. There were still some Aviation Cadets there finishing up in T-Birds. We started in the Tweet, a first for USAF, and finished (some of us) in the Talon at Randolph. Our favorite place was the wagon wheel. Does that compute?

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    5. Yep, Friday Night was composed of Circling the Sonic to see who was there, drive down Gregg St to 4th and take a right, out to the Wagon wheel to see who was there, left on to 3rd St back to Gregg Left there, Circle the Sonic to see who was there now. Rinse, repeat until time to go home. Seems boring when I write that, but I have pleasant memories of that time.

      Google maps shows the Wagon Wheel to be basically torn down now. :-(

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    6. Thanks for the new book to read. When the author of a book you hold to a high place says another author's book is good, that is high praises.

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    7. Got the book and I find that I can only read a few chapters at a time. It gives me the creeps because it reminds me of way too much goings on.

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  7. Great post, juvat.

    One of the Mission Managers I worked with at Boeing knew Olds. Said everything you heard about, and then some, was true.

    I was fortunate to "meet" Ras electronically through his blog. Great guy, and I have all his books.

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    1. Thanks,
      Yeah the one time I met Gen Olds, he was very much larger than life. Fortunately, I also got to meet Ras in real life. Also very much larger than life. Saw him once again, towards the end. He was at a reunion with his Thud Squadron from the war. Except for the graying or lack thereof of hair, they looked and acted like Fighter Pilots. I asked the Bartender what he was drinking. Macallan 12 neat. I noticed a Bottle of Macallan 25 on the shelf. Had him pour two. Best $50 I ever spent. That was the last reunion he made it to.
      Miss him.

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  8. Talked to a few Navy/Marines that were in that mix. It wasn't 'fun' by any means. One of the hottest, if not THE hottest targets as far as opposition.

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    1. Yeah, when your beans and eggs and SAMS come one way, you should probably defend it. And if you're going to attack, keep attacking without letup until one of you quits. Don't send "Signals". Linebacker 2 in 1965 would have resulted in a lot fewer casualties overall. IMHO.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)