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Combat air controller--not a civilian paper pusher 2

As the second installation of a promised series of articles on what veterans have endured I would like to introduce a multi-part article on life as a radar flight controller in Vietnam. Again I ask my readers to compare this one individual’s experience with those of bureaucrats who did not have their retirement benefits cut.
“All Will Suffer in This Life”
(Time in Combat Zone)
Part 2
The US was striking North Vietnam (Route Package VI) twice daily when I first arrived at Monkey Mountain. We were busier than any air traffic control radar sector within the United States. We only had a total of two crews to conduct and control all air operations. We would have to switch crews every Monday night at midnight to give our personnel a transition from the major daytime Rolling Thunder attacks against the North to the less busy night operations conducted “in-country”, over North Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. These missions were being conducted 24 hours a day, but for simplification sake I will mostly concentrate on the Frag Order 5110 air operations conducted in Route Package VI (Hanoi and Haiphong to the Chinese and Laotian border regions). Those poor bastards that flew their F-105 fighter planes against the most heavily defended airspace on the face of this planet. The F-105 was affectionately named the “Thud” and it was never designed to be a long distance interdiction fighter-bomber. Most Americans do not realize that the USAF did not select these targets; President Johnson and his Secretary of Defense personally selected them. The targeting was political and certainly not of military value designed to win this so-called conflict. At the very best the targets selected had some limited tactical value. They never selected targets with any strategic value. Basically, those valiant airmen flew once, or twice daily, to hit the same old railroad boxcars that they had struck the day before. They flew their missions at the same time every day. They flew at the same altitudes and approaches every day; even their call signs were the same. So the North Vietnamese could take a vacation until it was time to point their air defense weapons at this great air armada assigned to make LBJ’s political statement of lack of will to win. We lost from one to seven F-105’s every day over North Vietnam and Laos. What a great political statement that was! Before a Thud pilot could rotate back to the US, he had to fly 100 missions into Route Package VI. They averaged being shot down every fiftieth mission. So their odds of making it home were poor. These were real American heroes who were willing to fly into hell, to strike a useless political target, assigned to them by a Commander-in-Chief who held his military in complete contempt and would not seek their expertise and advice. The “Hawks” and the “Doves” were truly vultures; they were our elected leaders, the scavengers who played politics with the lives of fine young men for their own personal gain.

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