Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv

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Dedication

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pp. v-vi

Men go to war assuring themselves and their families that they will return home safely and that everything will be all right. They know very well that there are inevitable casualties, but they reassure themselves that these realities of war will befall someone else. They suppress the fears of coming back home in a casket or a rubber body bag. Those who have any misgivings about their possible fate visualize themselves as coming home with proper military honors and being buried among their family...

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

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Introduction

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pp. 1-3

This book tells the story of the first Combat Talon C-130 aircraft and the airmen who flew them in Vietnam. Their hazardous missions flown over North Vietnam were so highly classified that only the highest echelons of service commands knew of their existence. Airmen who flew them and their supporting ground crews were sworn to secrecy. They could not talk about their work with other soldiers and could not keep their families informed about their flights. Consequently, their contributions to the war did not become known until many years later when...

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1. Attraction to Special Operations

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pp. 4-13

Unconventional warfare has been with us ever since men began fighting with sticks and stones. They always tried ingenious ways to outwit each other, often resorting to stealth and deception. Then, when men learned how to fly airplanes, the art of war entered into a dimension that existed only in the dreams of those who had wished they could fly. Today we have not yet explored everything we can do with the improving airborne capabilities and the rapidly expanding technological discoveries that allow us to fly remotely from anywhere and to everywhere...

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2. Stray Goose Training

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pp. 14-38

Tom Hines and I were somewhat surprised when our tour of duty at Texas A&M was curtailed before the end of the academic year. Our reassignment orders were not very clear. The eventual unit of assignment was Detachment 1 of the 314th Troop Carrier Wing, PACAF at APO San Francisco. (APO San Francisco, 96205, was the US Post Office address for Nha Trang Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam.) With my orders, I would start transitional training into C-130s at Pope Air Force Base (AFB) in North Carolina after the Easter holidays. This would be done in...

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3. Vietnam

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pp. 39-59

My arrival in Vietnam was full of surprises. After I claimed my overstuffed-with-clothing B-4 bag, I followed a line of new arrivals to find out where to go next. My flight to Nha Trang would be on a military aircraft that I needed to pick up about two hours later at Base Operations. So, I wandered around a bit. I soon ended up in what was definitely a Vietnamese section of the airport. I began attracting some attention because I was in civilian clothes among small-statured Vietnamese in uniforms. They all looked very young and everyone seemed to smoke. Soon I came...

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4. Nha Trang Facilities

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pp. 60-84

The Stray Goose detachment experienced many problems in moving from CCK in Taiwan to Nha Trang in Vietnam. Even though frequent wartime name changes and moves of units from one location to another are nothing unusual, they all present various challenges to the people involved. This relocation was complicated by its urgency and the lack of adequate facilities for a unit of our size. The secret nature of its mission, questions about who owned its assets, and who had the ultimate responsibility for directing its operations complicated matters...

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5. Realities of War

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pp. 85-124

By November 1967, my S-05 fellow crew members and I became accustomed to what promised to be a pretty comfortable setting for our one-year tour in Vietnam. But that was not to be. We were awakened to the reality of war on 25 November when the Vietcong mortar attack destroyed one of our precious aircraft. We heard several distant explosions and concluded that it was another hit-and-run mortar attack on the air base or at Camp McDermott. During the night we learned something...

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6. Daddy Is Coming Home!

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pp. 125-141

Because this book’s story does not end until 2015, it is necessary to fill in the time span with major Combat Talon events that took place after the end of the Vietnam War. More than three full decades went by before the families of the S-01 crew members received the remains of their loved ones. In the meantime, the Combat Talons received timely modifications that kept them up to date with advances in technology. Special operations experienced ups and downs during this time until the air force established the Special Operations Command as a separate major air command...

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7. Crash Site Recovery

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pp. 142-168

No other country in the world devotes as many resources to the recovery of its fallen soldiers as does the United States. We have about 83,000 American soldiers from past conflicts whose bodies have not yet been recovered.1 Dedicated men and women, in and out of uniform, are determined to bring them home one day. It is a formidable task that may never be accomplished, but we can be assured that the search for those still missing will continue and that the missing will not be forgotten. We can be proud that we care so much for those who made the ultimate sacrifice...

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8. Official Information Sources

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pp. 169-185

The omission of Vietnam Service Medals from some of the shadow boxes given to the families by the Mortuary Services staff caused me to think about some other things that might have been overlooked by other agencies dealing with the aircraft loss. Why wasn’t the special operations chain of command involved in the notification process when the aircraft crash site was discovered? Why was the crew’s missing in action status changed to killed in action on different dates? Were the families properly notified and kept informed about the recovery and identification of crew...

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Epilogue

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pp. 186-198

Hurlburt Field is part of the vast Eglin Air Force Base complex located in the Florida Panhandle. It is the home of the AFSOC. In many neighboring towns hundreds of retired special operations veterans and their families have made their homes. Several prominent retirees who flew in a variety of special operations aircraft got together with the 16th SOW’s active duty officials to secure a piece of land at the entrance to Hurlburt Field where they could display decommissioned aircraft and erect memorials to those who died in various special operations. This well-conceived idea received...

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Appendix A: The Last Mission of Combat Talon’s S-01 Crew

Colonel John Gargus, USAF (Ret.)

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pp. 199-216

This is the story of one Combat Talon MC-130E that was lost with its eleven crew members on December 29, 1967, while conducting a TOP SECRET mission over North Vietnam. After many years of silence, Maj. John Plaster authored a book, SOG: The Secret Wars of America’s Commandos in Vietnam, in which he described the exploits of commandos who lost their lives on missions that had not been brought to public attention for numerous security reasons. The loss of this aircraft fits into that mold. It was, according to Major Plaster, our largest single aircraft loss over North Vietnam. I hope this story honors the eleven...

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Appendix B: Transcribed Teletype Messages

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pp. 217-248

Teletype messages used by the US military services in the 1990s had a specific format. They were typed in uppercase letters with text printed in two columns. Each page began with identical date, time, sender, and addressee information before the dual column text continued from one page to the next. This was done to ensure that the incoming pages, which rolled off the printer and got separated when the perforated sheets were torn from the accumulated stacks, could be properly collated in appropriate...

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Appendix C: Combat Talon Aircraft Losses

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pp. 249-252

Stray Goose and Combat Talon C-130s proved to be appropriate aircraft for conducting special air operations in all the nation’s conflicts since the Vietnam War. It is very likely that they will continue in this vital role as long as Lockheed keeps producing C-130s. They have managed to remain on the cutting edge of evolving technology by taking advantage of innovations that made them formidable assets to the country’s military capability.

There were eight losses of Combat Talon aircraft from their first deployment to Vietnam in 1966 through 2013. Six of these resulted in air crew losses. There...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. 253-256

Notes

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pp. 257-260

Bibliography

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pp. 261-264

Index

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pp. 265-272

Back Cover

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