Canberra Units in Vietnam
(photo courtesy of Ken Blackwell
These men were among the very first to
see action in Vietnam in the Doom Pussy Squadron.
They have been identified as:
"Smash" Chandler; (Bear?) "Nails" Nelson; Ed
Cook; Jerry Russell; Ken Blackwell; and Bill Breedlove.
The others are unidentified and believed to be photographers who wanted to
"go on a combat mission".
saw them every day and night. I see them now. They were inside those helmets,
behind those crash visors. They bore Grim Reaper and Soaring eagle patches on
their shoulders. I never knew their names.
flew bombers, sleek machines, bellies loaded with seven hundred and fifty
pound messages of death for the enemy. Straining wings, loaded with shining
cylinders of napalm infernos. Twin jet engines B-57./
Knights of the air sat calmly in the cockpits as we charged the cannons
and armed the bombs. We were the ones who shouldered the responsibility. Their
lives depended on our work. They counted on us. I never knew their names.
crushing were the fears that they faced on every mission? They were going out
to kill, or be killed. When the wheels went up, they knew this flight could
take them directly to God, or into the hands of the enemy. What did they think
of us? Did they take pride in our awe and respect of them? Did they draw
strength from our simple chalkboard messages? " God speed"--- "
Kill the Cong". A snappy salute, thumbs up, throttles wide open. Destiny
awaited them. We, were left standing on the ground. I never knew their names.
sit in the dark waiting their return ."Spooky is working over some poor
bastards in the nearby hills. We can see his flares and tracer streams. All
ears are stained. We listen for that telltale engine whine. Did they all make
it back? Are there any wounded? No crash trucks tonight. We breathe a sigh of
down, taxi in, ground lights on. Frantic moments that must have seemed like
" The Weed", Donnie, Kulpie, and the rest, we all took our turns.
Just us, and the light cart. Search lights that pointed out to the enemy
exactly where you stood, for miles around. All the pilots could do was sit
there helplessly and wait for us to do our jobs. They were home from the fight
and yet they were still potential targets. The speed with which we dispatched
the disarming kept us from seeing their faces or noticing their fear or
were they feeling? Were they grieving the loss of comrades? Were they sharing
the thrill of a victory? Were they elated at just making it back alive? I
never got to share those feelings. I never knew their names.
troubled times are long since passed, yet in my memory, they will always
remain. Those brave men who fought the fight will forever abide in my minds
own "Twilight Zone". Some lived, some died, some, may even yet be
prisoners. I felt ten feet tall when I helped send them on their way. I had no
thoughts that some of them might never return.
know some of their names now. I've seen them, etched into a black granite
to: The Air Crews of the 8th and 13thTactical Bomb Squadrons /
By: John M. DeCillo- Air Weapons
Armament - a description and photos by
During the Vietnam War, the B-57 was chosen as the first jet
aircraft to strike North Vietnam. Its long range and loiter capability with a large
payload made it the logical choice as the "Night Intruder" for interdiction on
the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The use of fire bombs, hard bombs up to 1000 pounds, 20
millimeter and 50 caliber guns made the B-57 a formidable weapons delivery system
against the transfer of supplies through Laos and Cambodia into South Vietnam. With
the aid of C-130's, OV-10's and Ov-2 aircraft as Forward Air Controllers
(FAC), the B-57 was the most effective
system used against transporting war goods into South Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia.
The Eighth and Thirteenth Tactical Bomb Squadrons (8TBS, 13TBS)
stationed at Clark Air Base, Philippines initially launched sorties from Bien Hoa.
Later, Danang Air Base near the DMZ became the base of operations. The final
station was Phan Rang (Happy Valley) where the 8TBS, as the oldest continuously
operating bomb squadron in the Air Force (World War I), continued the mission until 1969.
The pilot was responsible for the 250 knot dive run and bomb release, but
the back seat navigator was a second pair of eyes, spotter, observer, navigator and radio
operator. On the pullout, the aircraft and crew were under a four "g"
stress without the use of special equipment. Several crews were lost in midair
collisions, target fixation and ground fire during the night missions. The most
sophisticated piece of equipment in the aircraft was the rheostat which lighted the
manually operated bomb sight.
Phan Rang, Vietnam 1968
8 Tactical Bomb Squadron
The 8TBS was moved to Clark AB,
Philippines as the Third BW was deactivated. The Gulf of Tonkin
incident was the impetus to move the Canberras of the 8th and 13th
on a temporary duty status to Bien Hoa, and finally to Phan Rang
permanently as the B-57 took on the role of Night Intruder on the Ho
Chi Minh Trail.
The 8th Tactical Bomb Squadron was the oldest squadron in the Air
Force to serve continuously from its inception in WWI to its
deactivation as a bomb squadron in 1969. It was called the
"Liberty Squadon" in tribute to the famous Liberty
Engine which powered the DH4. The 13TBS was
deactivated only to be reactivated and returned to Southeast Asia
with new laser system using the B-57G.