[On 15 March 1966, near the infamous Tchepone, Laos]
"… Capt Larry Mason [of the 8th TBS] was on a strafing
run on enemy trucks when his Canberra was hit by anti-aircraft fire. The
damage was so severe that the aircraft rolled almost inverted but held
together. After regaining control of his aircraft, Larry's first thought
was that he and his navigator Capt Jere Joyner, would have to eject. His
cockpit indications showed loss of power on one engine and a fire
warning light on the other. Struggling as he reached forward, Jere
passed him a blood-stained message which read, 'Hit badly arm and
leg losing blood."'
Realizing that Jere possibly would not survive
bailing out, Larry passed him a tourniquet and gingerly headed his
crippled and radio-less B-57 to DaNang. He was successful in
reaching the base, but the landing gear indicators showed the left main
and nose gear in the intermediate position and the right main gear down.
Unknown to Larry was that one of the shell hits caused all three gear to
drop down and lock, while the cockpit indication was erroneous. Pressed
with getting his navigator to medical aid, yet unable to get a safe gear
down indication, Larry placed the gear handle in the up position on this
third pass at the field and made what he thought would be a gear-up
landing. To his amazement, the aircraft landed smoothly on the extended
gear and made a normal rollout. For this heroic outcome that saved the life of his navigator, Capt
Mason received the Thirteenth Air Force "Well Done" Award, the
USAF "Well Done" Award, the Koren Kolligian Jr. Trophy for
1966, the Order of the Able Aeronaut, and more important - the Air
Force Cross, the only AFC connected with B-57 operations.
A postscript to this harrowing story is that the
Canberra, tail number 906 also survived this encounter, thanks to the
crew, and the ground maintenance personnel that healed its wounds. After
nearly three more years of combat, it was modified as a B-7G and
was again returned to combat.
From Robert Mikesh’s description
in Martin B-57 Canberra, the Complete Record.
From Colonel Joe Rup, Jr.
"When Larry got back he was make the first and only (that I know
of) single-engine go-around since he had no wing to speak of on the good
engine side and a full wing but no power on the other. Quite a
Pilot Larry Mason adds this:
"From my letter to my wife, Nancy, dated 19 March
"'Target intelligence has confirmed that there were 16 mm, 37 mm and 57
mm anti-aircraft gun batteries and six 12.7 mm anti-aircraft gun
batteries in the flack trap that got us. The truck on the road was used
as bait to lure us into that trap. They had us point blank, but we got
away. That same day, after we got hit, there was an all-out effort to
knock out those guns. But, it cost. They shot down one Army Mohawk, one
A1E and damaged another, plus my FAC (and Art Kono's damage). It cost
four lives. But, with God's help, I'm still here . . . '"
And from Jere's letter, written 19 May 1966 to Larry
"Yes, I did see the ground fire. Just as we made
our turn I saw the target clearly and we had well over 300 KIAS (knots
indicated airspeed) and [were] 2000' AGL (above ground level).
Of course, that would have been a good time for about 600 knots. Well, I
was a little puzzled at seeing the target, but now I'm sure it was a
mobile radar van. I looked at the altimeter and saw a flash -- much like
a couple of 50 cal. make-- at times. I knew what it was and called to you.
When I looked back out I could see the tracers coming at us. I must have
seen 50 or more and each looked like it would be a direct hit. It's hard
to believe we were hit only three times. I could see them popping on the
right wing, then one came through the fuselage. Guess you know the
"The only things passed between Jere and I was the bloody note
written on the back of a target photo, 'Hit badly arm leg losing
blood,' and the tourniquet that I handed back. That, and his looks
of encouragement -- and the 'thumbs up.' Jere, a tall man, was in
very good shape -- lifted weights and worked out. That fact, helped him
survive that day."
"Fuel leaks caused the loss of Bud Chambers and
crew. Seems that with a fuel leak, the lowering of gear -- or flaps in
the case of Chambers -- caused streaming fuel to be sucked into the
engine. I had determined that, if I ever took battle damage, I would
activate MINIMUM systems to get the airplane on the ground. Our right
flap actuator was no longer connected. The left flap actuator was
connected. On the last final approach, I started to deploy the flaps --
but stopped. If I had done so, the left flap might have deployed -- the
right flap would not. It would not have been a good time for a
Right wing of B-57B 53-5906 from the cockpit.
Right side from rear of aircraft
From left rear of rear cockpit.
The navigator's instrument panel
is at left upper portion of the
photo. The reddish stain is blood.
Captain Art Kono
in Yellowbird 21 made a pass on the same area and seeing another
had been destroyed mistakenly reported on his return that Mason and
Joyner had been shot down. The photo shows his reward for the intrusion
against the guns
The Doom Pussy
(Danang Officer's Open Mess)
8th Tactical Bomb Squadron