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62-1787/spare 617


SamMcGowan
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C-130E 62-1787 was recently identified as the airplane flown by Captain William R. Caldwell's crew as SPARE 617 over An Loc in April 1972. They were hit by heavy ground fire as they approached the drop zone. Jon Sanders, the engineer, was killed and most of the other crew members were wounded. Captain Caldwell and SSgt. Charles L. Shaub were awarded the Air Force Cross for their actions.

787 is current with the Arkansas Air Guard and is slated to go to the Air Force Museum upon retirement. It'll be on public display at the Yankee Air Museum in Yipsilanti, Michigan July 18-19.

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This is going to be the most famous Herk of all, once the word gets out about it. I'm glad it was finally located at Little Rock. Nearly all of the historic Herks disappeared before they were identified for the AFM. Some were scrapped, the As and Bs went overseas and a couple of E's were lost in accidents. If I remember correctly, The Lucky Duc was lost with a reserve or guard crew somewhere.

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This aircraft was brought out of the Philippines at the end of the VN war and was assigned the the West Virginia AG in Charleston. It remained there until about 1985, then was shipped to Little Rock for training air crews... If you look on the out side on the co pilots side you can see a round patch where the the bullet entered the ac.. and on the inside you can see the patch on the circuit panel door where it came thru and hit the engineer.. Other tail # that came the WV was 62s 1788 over 80 hits, shoved off the run way with a dozer.. I think the c/c was killed on this one.. 1804, 1824, 1790, 1795,1798, 1787, 1784 .... 1784 was the first C 130 built with out the large cargo door on the left front..

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This aircraft was brought out of the Philippines at the end of the VN war and was assigned the the West Virginia AG in Charleston. It remained there until about 1985, then was shipped to Little Rock for training air crews... If you look on the out side on the co pilots side you can see a round patch where the the bullet entered the ac.. and on the inside you can see the patch on the circuit panel door where it came thru and hit the engineer.. Other tail # that came the WV was 62s 1788 over 80 hits, shoved off the run way with a dozer.. I think the c/c was killed on this one.. 1804, 1824, 1790, 1795,1798, 1787, 1784 .... 1784 was the first C 130 built with out the large cargo door on the left front..

To the best of my knowledge, no crew chiefs were KIA in Vietnam. Two maintenance men from the 463rd were killed in a rocket attack at a forward field where they were working on an airplane but I think they were FMS types. Crew chiefs rarely, if ever, flew on combat missions in Southeast Asia. They were on the airplane going in and out of country but did not fly on missions. Once in awhile a crew chief might be sent to take care of an airplane that had been left somewhere but this was very rare as the crews brought them back to home base as long as they could get off the ground. There was a brief period at Naha when a few 431X1s were put on temporary flying status to fly as flare kickers on the flare mission during a loadmaster shortage. Sometimes an AC might let one of the ground crew go along on a night cargo mission between Cam Ranh and Qui Nhon or some other routine mission but they were not scheduled to fly with their airplanes. There are a few discrepancies because Air Force records show some cross-trainee loadmasters with their previous AFSCs on their death records.

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Spare 617 was the third airplane in a formation of three that were sent to drop supplies to the besieged South Vietnamese garrison at An Loc on April 15, 1972. The town had been surrounded a few weeks before and after helicopter resupply became impossible and the VNAF lost several C-123s, MACV directed the 374th TAW to begin resupplying the defenders. This was two years after the Cambodian Incursion, which led to a general downturn in the intensity of the war in Vietnam and all but a few US ground troops had been withdrawn. In fact, troop levels were down to only about 25,000 men and they were nearly all air units. The USAF C-123s and Caribous had gone home and the C-130 force was down to the 374th wing at CCK and the 774th TAS at Clark, which was getting ready to deactivate. Few of the C-130 crews had combat experience and some were not even tactically qualified as airdrop missions had become a thing of the past. But that all changed when NVA troops came out of Laos in force (all of those AC-130 truck kills had done little to prevent a massive buildup across the border) and the war suddenly flared back up to a conflagaration.

As they approached the drop zone, the airplane was hit by a hail of ground fire, first in the cargo compartment then in the cockpit. The copilot was wounded, along with one of the loadmasters, and the flight engineer was killed instantly. One round ruptured a bleed air line and hot air poured into the cargo compartment and caused the cargo bundles to start to smoulder. The pilots tried to jettison the load but the ADS button was shot out and eventually the loadmasters dropped it using the manual release. (They were evidently using the parachute CDS method due to a lack of rigging materials at Tan Son Nhut and were using materials supplied to the Vietnamese.) Two bundles exploded right after they rolled off the ramp. Some of the insulation in the cargo compartment had caught fire due to the extreme heat and loadmaster Charlie Shaub used a fire extinguisher to put it out. The hot metal burned his hands severely.

With wounded crew members on board, Captain Caldwell realized it was better to try to reach a friendly field then put the airplane down in a field and even though he had no engineer and his copilot was wounded, he managed to close the bleeds on the side that had been hit and shut down #1 and # 2 engines but the airplane was still flying and he decided they could make it to Tan Son Nhut, where the best medical facilities would be. They had lost their utility hydraulics so the gear had to be cranked down. Shaub's hands were too badly burned to turn the crank, but the other loadmaster, Dave McAleece, was able to crank them down in spite of his wounds. As they were on final, a third engine quit and Caldwell landed the airplane on one engine.

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Other tail # that came the WV was 62s 1788 over 80 hits, shoved off the run way with a dozer..

As of November 2008 1788 was still hacking it at Little Rock. The crew had a four engine roll-back but due to their skill and experiance were able to recover and land safely.

Another dtory about that great plane was it getting mortored at Dalat the last day of the VN war...suffering more that 400 shrapnel wounds....Our crew fixed a blown tire and flew it back to NKP on three engines. (see below)

That airplane {s.n. 62-1788} has some great history. It is the plane that helped the crew I was on to be awarded the Silver Star. On the last day of the Vietnam War we went to Dalat - Cam Lai to pick up the VN cadets to take them around country to explain to the locals that the war was over. During engine-running loading of the cadets the base came under heavy mortar fire. This plane was hit on the trailing edge of the left flap and shrapnel was sprayed all over the left side and up on the vertical stab. Left rear main tire blown. After a couple hours in the bunker and a call on the emergency radio another C-130 brought us a new tire and a jack. We had to jump start the GTC {Gas Turbine Compressor} with a FAC {O-1A} birddog battery and we took off, and just after take off had to shut down #2 for a big fuel leak from flap well, lost hyd fluid, cranked gear down and made an emergency landing at NKP {Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand} .......airplane had over 400 holes from the shrapnel ..was a very memberable day .....Glad to see that the old girl is still flying. And a big congrats' to this crew for recovering from the 4 engine rollback.

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Thanks Mr. McGowan for posting the story of 87. You have been such a big help to us on the info on the aircraft and helped my assistant historian Brain put the story together and get the nose art done. We are so glad to get the nose art done and honor this great plane and tell its story and honor it and the crew. My name is MSgt Bobby Dugger. Brain Swanson and I work together in the loadmaster office. I am the Operations Historian and Brian is as well. Brian has done a great job on working on this project with lots of folks help including Mr. McGowan. If all goes as planned Brian and I will get to be on the crew bringing 1787 up to the air show in Michigan in a couple of weeks. So anyone coming to the show please stop by and say hi. Also the tail numbers Mr. Wilson talked about his posting are all assigned to us now and flying very well. (except for 90 and 95) Both have been retired and I believe they are still at Sheppard as ground trainers. And thanks for the story of 88 .We do have it. In fact I flew on it the other day. Air conditioner does not work well in the Arkansas heat. Maybe we can do something for nose art on it as well. Thanks again for the story on it have never heard that before. Thanks Bobby Dugger

Edited by arkherkyload
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Don't forget 7865, which was awarded a Purple Heart for all the hits it took while sitting on the ramp at Kontum. Then making a three engine departure during a rather nasty motar and rocket attack. I believe this bird was sent to the boneyard for demolition.

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Whatever happened to Bill Caldwell? (I last ran into him around '82 or so and he was a O-5 at the time.)

Kurt

I know he retired as a colonel. He was a squadron commander at Little Rock in the mid-80s. He responded to a letter I put in AIR FORCE magazine when I was working on my book about the C-130 mission and I wrote him back but didn't hear back from him again.

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Thanks Mr. McGowan for posting the story of 87. You have been such a big help to us on the info on the aircraft and helped my assistant historian Brain put the story together and get the nose art done. We are so glad to get the nose art done and honor this great plane and tell its story and honor it and the crew. My name is MSgt Bobby Dugger. Brain Swanson and I work together in the loadmaster office. I am the Operations Historian and Brian is as well. Brian has done a great job on working on this project with lots of folks help including Mr. McGowan. If all goes as planned Brian and I will get to be on the crew bringing 1787 up to the air show in Michigan in a couple of weeks. So anyone coming to the show please stop by and say hi. Also the tail numbers Mr. Wilson talked about his posting are all assigned to us now and flying very well. (except for 90 and 95) Both have been retired and I believe they are still at Sheppard as ground trainers. And thanks for the story of 88 .We do have it. In fact I flew on it the other day. Air conditioner does not work well in the Arkansas heat. Maybe we can do something for nose art on it as well. Thanks again for the story on it have never heard that before. Thanks Bobby Dugger

Bobby, I'm just glad that this airplane is going to the museum. I really appreciate what you and Brian have done and are doing. I hope the Air Force will come up with a definite date as to when it will go to USAFM so we can get a bunch of C-130 vets there to welcome it if at all possible. If it could have been worked out, I'd like to have a Troop Carrier/Tactical Airlift Convention there at the time but we'd have to have several months advance notice in order to work that all out.

FYI, I lived in Little Rock for several months in the mid-70s after I got out of the Air Force and worked at Adams Field as a flight instructor/charter pilot.

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My definition, at least, of a heroic Herk is an airplane in which THE CREW did something that rose above the call of duty. The most heroic off all of the Herks are the ones that flew in and out of Kham Duc on May 12, 1968. The one I'd like to have seen go to the museum is the one flown by Lt. Colonel Willam H. Boyd's crew that was named "The Lucky Duc." Col. Boyd took that airplane in while looking at the fires from Major Bucher's B-model that had just got show down while they were watching. Heroism is doing something that you aren't sure you're going to be able to survive. Unfortunately, that particular airplane was lost in an accident in Idaho.

Caldwell's crew were number three in a three-shipper, which meant they were going into a stirred-up hornet's nest. The odds of them getting and getting out were pretty low. The same thing happened with John Butterfield's crew on the COMMANDO LAVA mission in 1966, but they were lucky in that no one on the airplane got hurt.

Another one that got shot up pretty bad and survived was the one Ross Kramer was flying at A Loi. I don't know the tail number on that one. I guess I'll have to ask Ross. Right now he's down in Mexico relaxing on the beach.

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Muff, did they ever get the death" smell out of the E models we sent from Charie West? We replaced all of the insulation in the cargo compartments but from July - Sept you could still smell the bodies they hauled out of the field. I was a part timer crew chief from '75-'80 on the E's we had. I cross trained to FE in '81.

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Interesting question Dave, I don't know if that aroma ever leaves the planes, but I do know

that it is etched in my nose senses and do not believe that it will ever leave. God bless all those that we had to bring back to TSN for their final flights home.

Been about 40 years now and the memories are still there, never forget them all.

Muff

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Hello Dave and RZ.... I'm sure we have alot of hours on 1787.. I knew about the FE getting killed on 87 when we had it... I looked at the patch many times.. All of the planes we had had patches... I remember 62-1804 had two bullet holes patches in the crew door.. Dicky the sheet metal guy still has a peice of shrapnel out of 62-1824 he dug out while in ISO... He still has it... I think we lost 5 C-130s while I was at Pope... Not sure.

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By 87 we had passed 1787 on to Little rock, I remember getting a check ride from some weinie from 22nd and he raised heck about the decal piece missing on the c/b panel. If memory serves me right the shell came through the panel at the right Aux breaker. 1787 always flew well once you got it out of the pattern, have many an hour on this plane.

Hate this danged retirement

RZ HIll

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