Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

There I was...5

by Chuck Clifton

Over the years, my kids and grandkids have asked me why I haven't told them any "War Stories".

That gave me some pause, and started me thinking about my Dad who in WWII had been on the beaches of Normandy on DDay, had survived the Battle of The Bulge, and been a part of the occupying forces in Germany after VE Day.

Dad went to Europe as a private, he came back as a Staff Sergeant (equivalent to AF MSgt). They offered him a battlefield commission but he declined because he was deaf in one ear and was concerned he couldn't adequately take care of his men.

One of the few stories he told was about his Lt. describing how a stray German artillery shell had come really close to causing the Lt. and his immediate comrades serious bodily harm. In his excitement, the Lt lisped that it "wicocheted wight down the middwe of the woad". Dad was a forward artillery spotter at the time.

I am by no means ashamed of my endeavors in Viet Nam. I was awarded 3 DFC's, 15 Air Medals and a few other miscellaneous pieces of shiny stuff.

I turned down an offer of a Purple Heart (since we were stationed in Hostile Territory) for an unfortunate incident at a Squadron party in downtown Ubon one night when a couple of mates "accidentally" caused me to fall backwards on a broken glass. Our Squadron Flight Surgeon rode back to Base with me in the ambulance and kept me from bleeding to death from the slice in my ass. I still have the scar.

Early in my tour in (we weren't really there at the time) Thailand, I was in a two ship flight into RoutePack 3 as number two. Spike Nasmyth was flight lead. We found a munitions cache in a cave among the karst. There were a couple of gunners on the top of the ridge-line, but we started skip-bombing the opening of the cave. After our third pass, with the 37-57 gunners lighting up the sky, we both managed to bounce a couple of 750's into the opening. When we left there was smoke up to about 10K ft.

A few weeks later, we were on an armed recce mission around RoutePack 4. We and number three were carrying snake and nape, while two and four had rockets and 500 pounders. We found a convoy of about 15 or 20 trucks hiding in the shadows of a steep ravine. Two and four dropped their bombs at both ends of the ravine, sealing off their escape routes. We (lead and three) made a couple of passes with our clamshells. Two and four then had at them with their rockets. We called for additional strikes after we expended all our ordnance. There was smoke and fire and jello up to over 21,000 feet by the time we left.

Then there was the time we were running in along Thud Ridge toward downtown Hanoi. We were in the pop-up to drop on a (dirt river bridge, road intersection, suspected fly trap, whatever) when we took an 85 mm in the belly. We finished our run and egressed the target area. Shortly thereafter on the way to the post-strike tanker, we noticed the gauges on the number two engine were fluctuating wildly and assumed that was where we had been hit. We seriously considered shutting that engine down, but decided to just monitor it closely on the way home.

After landing we discovered that the damage was to the other engine. The entire afterburner section of number one was gone. We stood in the empty A/B section for pictures.

I never did find my "wiccoched down the middew of the woad" moment, but I'm still looking.

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