51st anniversary of the first B52 aircraft bombing of Vietnam

Next month, June 18th to be exacted, is the 51st anniversary of the first B52 aircraft bombing of Vietnam. A Squadron of B52’s took off from Anderson Air Force base in Guam and headed for the Ben Cat District of South Vietnam not far from Saigon (now Ho Chi Mihn City).  Each of the 30 B52’s carried 24, 750 pound bombs.

I was a month or so into my second tour at Ton Son Knut Airbase in Saigon.  We pretty much worked everyday a minimum of 8 hours.  On my second tour I processed film and photos taken by Tactical Air Command planes, and there was a lot of it. I had to operate 8 film processors and there were two rooms the same as the one I manned. I calculated that during that second year I processed about 5 million feet of film and prints. That was just me on my one shift in one room. We ran 24 hours a day.

Anyway, on the morning of June 18 1965, while I was processing my film I heard a low rumble that quickly got louder and louder. I know almost immediately what was causing the rumble. Prior to going to Vietnam I had worked at a Strategic Air Command base (March Airbase, CA) for two years. I had heard that rumble many times before. It was the distinct sound of a squadron of B52s.

I ran over to my co-workers processing room and asked if he heard the noise. I told him what it was and he said, “Oh Crap (I am using a cleaner word here) The VC are in for it now.”  I agreed. I had seen photos of test bombings back in the states and it was devastating.

We had no Idea where they were going. We just knew wherever it was the landscape was about to change. A day or so later we saw the results. The jungle has trees that can grow as high as 150 feet and an average of 100 feet. When we saw the film our planes brought back we were even more surprised. The craters were enormous with trees collapsed all around on in them. The trees were only half the diameter of the craters. We guessed the craters then were at least 200 feet wide, and there were a lot of them

As I remember they flew in a wedge formation. So imagine being on the ground while each plane dropped there twenty-four 750 pound bombs.

As for the Vietnamese Communists they had left the area before the bombers got there. So the Tigers, Monkeys, Snakes and such were the ones that suffered.  Some people said they were warned by people in the South Vietnamese Army. I had heard that there was a Russian fishing boat stations off of Guam and whenever the B52 took off they radioed the Communists and they just hightailed it.

My first tour in Vietnam was with the Strategic Air Command. Our job was to process film from U@ Spy Planes that flew over North Vietnam and Sothern China. We also processed film from unmanned drones. I didn’t know it then, but the B52 was later modifies to carry two drones.

See the pictures.

Remember what George Santayana said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

This memorial day we please remember the two B52 crews who lost their lives that day when they collided.



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