The B-57 in Vietnam

B-57 Canberra Units in Vietnam (Amazon Link)


(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:

Back Row
"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".

I 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.

They flew bombers, sleek machines, bellies loaded with seven hundred and fifty pound messages of death for the enemy. Strainining wings, loaded with shining cylinders of napalm infernos. Twin jet engines B-57.

These Knights of the air satalmly 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.

How 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.

We 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 relief.

Touch down, taxi in, ground lights on. Frantic moments that must have seemed like years.

George " 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 fatigue.

What 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.

Those 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.

I know some of their names now. I've seen them, etched into a black granite wall.

Dedicated to: The Air Crews of the 8th and 13thTactical Bomb Squadrons / Vietnam 

By: John M. DeCillo - Air Weapons

Armament - a description and photos by Dan English

The Mission

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.    

Loading bombs.jpg (58983 bytes)
Loading fire bombs (napalm)

Maintenance2.jpg (59676 bytes)
Daily  maintenance
Bomb sight.jpg (39278 bytes)
Pilot's view through the bomb sight
UndersideFireNam.jpg (37227 bytes)
Four fire bombs under the wing
Underside-vietnam.jpg (23129 bytes)
Rotatable bomb bay with four 500 pounders

Rare day mission training new pilots in VN (1968). Note the 8TBS markings PQ.(The 13th had left VN by this date).

doompussy.GIF (14581 bytes)Aircrews who flew early missions into North Vietnam wore the DOOM PUSSY (Danang Officers' Open Mess) patch.  The DOOM PUSSY was turned to the wall each night until the crews returned. The words in Vietnamese mean, "I have flown into the jaws of the Cat of Death".  Later all crews who participated in the night missions wore the insignia. (photos by Mark Witt)


The Story of Blind Bat 01
Courtesy of Tom Brotherman

Blind Bat was the call sign of C-130 Forward Air Controllers (FAC). The linked story is  to show the importance of these crews who lay their lives on the line as well as the attack aircraft and were frequently lost.  They carried no defensive weapons. The bold print and emendations are mine.  (Mark Witt)

G model Photo Gallery (13TBS)

B-57 Recon in Vietnam (Pat Lynn)         Vietnam Map           The Cat's Tale     



Copyright Marquis G. Witt, 1998,1999, 2000, 2001,2002,2003,2004,2005,2006,2007,2008,21011
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