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Heavy Chain and Eagle Flight.......


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I am interested in the history of these two operational organizations that operated during thye Vietnam era. Maybe in our current era of the 21st. cent. will shed some light; in 1979 I made several inquries and was counseled as to \"keep your mouth and curiosity shut, and get back to work\".

What were the qualifications for the flight crew\'s?

What locations did the \"flight\'s\" train in, or at?

What happened to the crew\'s and maint. personnel when the unit\'s were disbanded?

Any info. would be appreciated. Thanks!

Kurt

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If you are looking for a reference, Col Jerry Thigpen mentions it in the The \"Praetorian STARShip\" book he wrote. He mentions initial tail numbers (62-1843, 63-7785, 64-0564, and 64-0565), Thin Slice and Heavy Chain.

Not being a Special Ops guy, I have no idea if it is a valid book on the Talon community and missions. The folks I know who are still there are tight lipped and right fully so. I wonder if Thigpen got into trouble for writing it?

Herkeng (Retired)

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Thigpen sent his draft to Maxwell, the Pentagon, and the Agency for review and clearance before the book was published. There was some editing, and as I understand, there is a classified supplement (LIMDIS) buried deep within the vaults of the \"need to know\" areas.

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The term HEAVY CHAIN has been come to be used for a lot of things, but the actual operation was a special mission in the mid-1960s that involved two C-130Es that were taken out of the Air Force inventory and given to a special unit that was based at Norton AFB, CA. They were an outgrowth of the old CARPETBAGGER mission from World War II that used B-24s to drop agents behind German lines in Occupied Europe. They replaced the B-24s with A-26s which were also part of the HEAVY CHAIN project. There are still some elements of the mission that are classified, primarily because of where they operated. As I understand it, they had one airplane in SEA. I don\'t beleive their airplanes were equipped with the Fulton system, although the two airplanes were later equipped with it after they were spirited back into the Air Force when the project concluded. Jerry Baird was the Ops Officer for the mission and he has told me quite a bit about it, except for the classifed part. They have had some reunions.

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Heavy Chain\'s C-130s were all 1964 E models. The first two had standard noses, but the second two came from the factory with the Fulton nose configuration.

They had the Fulton equipment removed from those two airplanes in the 68-69 timeframe during a depot maintenance interval. The Heavy Chain C-130 operations ended in the early 1970s.

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If you are looking for a reference, Col Jerry Thigpen mentions it in the The \"Praetorian STARShip\" book he wrote. He mentions initial tail numbers (62-1843, 63-7785, 64-0564, and 64-0565), Thin Slice and Heavy Chain.

Not being a Special Ops guy, I have no idea if it is a valid book on the Talon community and missions. The folks I know who are still there are tight lipped and right fully so. I wonder if Thigpen got into trouble for writing it?

Herkeng (Retired)

No, Thigpen's book was sanctioned and published as an official history by the Air University at Maxwell. And yes, there are still some classified files about Straygoose in the Archives at Maxwell. The book is well worth the purchase; I believe it is also available on-line.

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Skip,

Can you give me the coordinates to the download site ?

189.00 is a bit out of my grasp as well !

THANKS as always

Frank

I'm checking with someone that downloaded -- will get back with you when I know. You might want to try an email to AFSOC historian at Hurbie -- they might still have some copies.

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I am interested in the history of these two operational organizations that operated during thye Vietnam era. Maybe in our current era of the 21st. cent. will shed some light; in 1979 I made several inquries and was counseled as to \"keep your mouth and curiosity shut, and get back to work\".

What were the qualifications for the flight crew\'s?

What locations did the \"flight\'s\" train in, or at?

What happened to the crew\'s and maint. personnel when the unit\'s were disbanded?

Any info. would be appreciated. Thanks!

Kurt

Kurt,

The mission of E flight varied over the years. It was different in the 21st TCS era and in the Vietnam era than when I was in it from 1984-1987. It certainly would have been different again if flying out of Rhein Mein as someone indicated at a later date. My recollection was that you needed to be instructor qualified, but I don't recall any other special quals other than being able to get a TS-SCI clearance. I can personally dispell the rumor that you were shot once you left the unit. The crews and maintenance were actually not a separate unit, but were members of other units who flew or supported particular missions (at least when I was a member).

If anyone knows where to send a FOIA request concerning current classification status, please let me know at [email protected]. I have made several attempts to see if any aspect of this program has been declassified, and I cannot find a unit (e.g., 345th at Yokota or PACAF at Hickam) that even recognizes the program existed.

I don't know about E flight but for Heavy Chain you could check with the Big Safari program office at Wright Patt. They were responsible for developing Heavy Chain.

Bob

Edited by bobdaley
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Look guys, E Flight and Heavy Chain were two entirely different and unrelated projects. E Flight was set up at Naha in 1961 because JFK wanted to maintain a covert presence in Laos. There was already a similar role at Naha for support of operations in Tibet, but it wasn't named. Heavy Chain was a project at Norton that was set up in 1965 with two airplanes right off of the assembly line and personnel from Sewart. Its role was to test new equipment installed at Ontario. E Flight was actually an extra flight within the 21st TCS that was responsible for maintaining four airplanes that were designated for CIA activities. Heavy Chain was broken up sometime in the seventies and the airplanes went to Hurlburt. There was another mission performed by the same unit that involved transporting classified documents and CIA personnel that is related to Heavy Chain. The term "E Flight" goes back to the 1950s according to 315th Air Division veterans, and was used as a code for CIA missions. Kennedy made it official.

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If you are looking for a reference, Col Jerry Thigpen mentions it in the The \"Praetorian STARShip\" book he wrote. He mentions initial tail numbers (62-1843, 63-7785, 64-0564, and 64-0565), Thin Slice and Heavy Chain.

Not being a Special Ops guy, I have no idea if it is a valid book on the Talon community and missions. The folks I know who are still there are tight lipped and right fully so. I wonder if Thigpen got into trouble for writing it?

Herkeng (Retired)

I've got a lot of problems with this book. For one thing, he claims the C-130E-Is were "taken off of TAC flight lines." No, they weren't; they were brand new airplanes, all 64 serials. I was in the 779th at Pope when we got them and saw the first one up close after attending a classified briefing on the mission and what we would be doing. He also claims they were moved to Sewart due to a "lack of room" at Pope. Heck, we had two squadrons TDY at that time! One squadron was at Kadena - which never did go back to Pope but went PCS to 315th Air Division as the 776th TCS. If I remember correctly, he really doesn't say much about Heavy Chain at all and nothing about E Flight, which was a troop carrier mission and never was special operations.

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The 1980s mission and the original E Flight mission were not the same. E Flight was a specific mission that was set up to support CIA operations using C-130As from Naha, particularly in Laos. Heavy Chain was set up in 1965 to support test missions in California. That's the problem with military projects- they're set up for one thing and people twenty years later claim to have been part of them when it was an entirely different mission altogether.

Sam, the E Flight mission changed over the years. I would not characterize E flight in the 80s as a "troop carrier mission." We were not simply ferrying planes to the point where some other agency got in and took over the mission.
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