Reconnaissance in Vietnam
The Patricia Lynn Project
-A Crew View-
Recon in Vietnam: Eighty percent of the usable air intelligence in Vietnam came from the five Patricia Lynn aircraft assigned to Detachment 1 of the 460th Reconnaissance Wing at Tan Son Nhut - Photos and the mission. John Harris
I was commander of Detachment 1 of the 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Tan Son Nhut from December 1968 until November 1969. The most interesting part of the job was the specially equipped RB-57E's that we operated.
The camera load was a combination of some old style and some very new equipment. I can't remember the designations, but there was a thirty-six inch focal length camera in the nose, accounting for the aircraft's unique nose shape.
There was a short focal length (KA-2, maybe) camera in the belly that wasn't used much except to help orientation to the pictures taken with our real good stuff, the two high definition cameras carried on the bomb door. Also on the door was and IR (infra-red) system similar to the one carried by the RF-4C. Because of vibration problems in the RF-4 installation, the RF-4 IR photos were of poor quality and the results obtained by our set were far superior. We also had a "real time" IR viewer in the rear cockpit. The back-seater could see what was below on the TV-like viewer. Our 4 or 5 airplanes of Detachment 1 brought back about 80 % of the useful photography done in Vietnam.
The RF-4s could only photograph a few kilometers (they had to fly very low) per flight with their camera. We did the whole border with Cambodia in 2 flights at 16,000 to 17,000 feet with superior results.
I'm hesitant to define a typical mission. We did a lot of low level, single target runs. There might be as many as 4-6 targets on a flight. Sometime the target was a single point, and again there would be an area requiring many lines of photography.
Once I was tasked with an area around a tri-border (Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia) Special Forces camp that intelligence thought was about to be attacked. I was scheduled to cover the same area that was to be covered by an RF-4 and an RF-101. I had to orbit and wait until each had finished his runs. (They both reported small arms hits, and I saw no opposition at all!)
On one missionwe did recon on the border of Laos and Vietnam well north of Hanoi a "hush-hush" B-52 raid into the "parrots beak" was covered by another of our crews. (Map of the areas in SE Asia)
At night we flew the canals and rivers in the Delta and southern part of South Vietnam. The sampans were easy to spot with the "real time" IR if the crew could keep over the canal, quite a feat on a dark night. Some got quite good at it. The Army objected because that was their thing. They used OV-10s, but we could get detail that they couldn't. They had to bring back their film, develop it, and have it read by an interpreter, but we could see immediately what was going on.
460th Reconnaissance Wing, Detachment 1
Copyright Marquis G. Witt,
1998,1999, 2000, 2001,2002,2003,2004,2005,