Friday, March 25, 2016

Jarhead Adventures at Chu Lai

By Robert Clark

R,L Clark
1966: At the time, there was only the expeditionary field of 4,000 feet of shifting metal. All takeoffs were with JATO bottles ( Jet Asssted Take Off....lots of things went wrong with these - especially at night) and all  landings were arrested.  (Think, landing on an aircraft carrier)

One day we taxied in to VMA-223 from a mission and noticed an Air Force C-123 parked at the main ramp. It had made an emergency landing at Chu Lai. That night at the club, the only passenger from the C-123 was there. He was an F-100 pilot in his flight suit on crutches and with two broken legs.

Of course, we wanted to know how he broke his legs. He told us that he was an F-100F (two-seater) Misty Fast FAC. They took turns flying front and back seat. He said that it was his day to go up North in the back seat.
They found the target for the F-105s and marked it with 5" WP rockets.

 Then, after the 105s were done, they were supposed to fly low and fast and take an after-action picture of the target. He was the guy with the hand-held camera. Of course, the NVA (North Vietnam Artllery) knew the routine and began shooting the heck out of them. The front seat guy did a lot of jinking and somehow, the lens came off the camera and disappeared.

They safely got "feet wet" and in-flight refueled for their return trip home down south to Tui Hoa. Our guy said that he kept looking for the lens but the front seater said to forget it. They would find it after landing. Upon landing and taxi back, the front seater called "Canopy Clear" and raised the canopy.

The lens had landed near one of the actuators for the ejection seat. He said that he heard this tremendous explosion and realized what had happened when he got seat separation about 250 feet up at the top of the arc and saw a miniature F-100 below him missing a canopy. He said that it was like a "Wily Coyote" cartoon. There was a point where you stop going up, a pause, and then a rapid going down thing. The F-100 didn't have a zero/zero seat either (needed 100 kts and 100 feet). So, he said that he had always heard that in a long fall, one dies of a heart attack before one hits the ground. So he said he kept shouting: "Come on heart attack." The drogue chute had deployed and that kept his feet straight down. It was real steep near the taxiway, they had been doing a lot of excavating and it had rained. He hit feet first. The undeployed chute saved his back and kept it straight. He skidded down the embankment into a large pool of water. He had two simple fractures. Needless to say, he couldn't buy another drink that night.