Article OP 'Carolina Moon' (USAF)

Matzos

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The time was September 1965. U.S. Air Force and Navy planes had been bombing selected targets in North Vietnam for almost six months. Most of the worthwhile targets had been destroyed - except for two bridges, one of which spanned the Song Ma River at a place known to the Vietnamese as "The Dragon's Jaw," a bridge the Americans knew as The Thanh Hoa Bridge.
In the USAF Weapons Laboratory at Eglin AFB, Florida a new concept to mass-focus the power of explosives had been developed. The new weapon was seen as ideal for attacks on targets such as the Thanh Hoa Bridge. But, there was a problem - the only airplanes in the Air Force inventory that could deliver the weapons were transports.

In early 1966 two C-130 crews from the Tactical Air Command Wing at Sewart AFB, Tennessee, newly desginated as the 64th Troop Carrier Wing, were picked to go to Eglin to train to deliver the new weapons.

Majors Richard Remers and Thomas Case led their crews through a training program to develop a delivery system for the 5,000 pound pancake-shaped weapons.

Since the Thanh Hoa Bridge was one of the most heavily defended targets in all of North Vietnam, an upstream delivery of the floating weapons into the river was considered to be the best option to allow the crews to survive.
On May 15, 1966 the two crews left the United States for Da Nang. Ten weapons were carried aboard the two C-130Es, along with the necessary maintenance and weapons specialists. The team arrived at Da Nang on May 22. After a week of preparation, the mission was set for the night of May 30.
Major Remers crew was chosen for the first mission, with Major Case to back them up in the event the bridge did not go down. Major Remers and his crew, including copilot Lt. Tom Turner, navigators Capt. Norman Clanton and Lt. Rocky Edmondson, FE MSgt John R. Shields and loadmasters SSgt Aubrey Turner and A3C Johnny Benoit, took off from Dan Nang shortly after midnight and headed up the coast of North Vietnam at 100 feet. At a specified point, Remers took up a course to cross the North Vietnamese coast and fly a 43-mile long course overland to the bridge. They would be over hostile territory for 17 minutes.

As they approached the bridge, the C-130 had attracted no enemy fire. Remers elected to pass over the first planned release point and press on for another that was closer to the bridge. They had climbed to 400 feet and slowed to 150 knots, with the rear cargo door and ramp in the aerial delivery position. After crossing the first point, the crew encountered the first ground fire of the evening, but it was fortunately inaccurate. The crew dropped the five weapons in the river, then Remers banked sharply to the right and dove back down to 100 feet as they egressed out of the target area and back to the safety of the South China Sea. They headed back to Da Nang and a cold beer and bottle of champagne.

The next morning photoreconaissance pictures showed that the bridge was still standing. Major Case and his crew still had five weapons, so another mission was scheduled for his crew that night. At the last minute before take-off, Case asked Lt. Edmondson to go along on the mission with his crew since he had been on the flight the night before.

Major Case and his crew took off at 0110, ten minutes late and almost an hour later than Major Remers had taken off the night before. After clearing the Da Nang airport area, the crew began radio silence and turned north. They were never heard from again.

A flight of two F-4s was scheduled to for a diversionary mission near the bridge. As it turned out, one of the F-4s was also lost, but the returning crew reported that at the designated time for the C-130 drop, they had seen antiaircraft fire and a large ground flash in the vicinity of the Thanh Hoa Bridge.

During the interrogation of a North Vietnamese PT boat crewmen sometime later, intelligence personnel learned that a large aircraft had dropped five mines in the river in May, 1966. Four of the five had exploded, but the bridge had not been damaged. Not long after he returned to Tennessee, Major Remers saw Japanese news film of North Vietnamese parading aircraft parts through a city, parts he recognized as having come from a C-130. The news account stated that none of the Americans on board the airplane had survived. The bridge itself remained standing for six years, until it was finally knocked from its supports by new generation guided-bombs in the spring of 1972.
 

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