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Project CHECO Southeast Asia Report. Rescue at Ban Phanop, 5-7 December 1969

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The largest search and rescue SAR operation of the Vietnam conflict to date began at 0900 hours on the morning of 5 December 1969 when two Phantom jets Boxer 2122 took off from Cam Ranh Bay Air Base and headed north to refuel at the yellow anchor south of Da Nang. Their mission was to emplace MK-36 antipersonnel mines along a section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos which, since the advent of the dry season a month earlier, had come alive with southbound traffic. The F-4Cs refueled and headed west toward their preplanned target in central Laos. When they were unable to contact a Forward Air Controller, they were diverted northward to a target near Ban Phanop, 10 miles below Mu Gia Pass, a major entry to the trail from North Vietnam. After a briefing by the Nail FAC, the Phantoms began their runs. Boxer 21 made the first run successfully. Boxer 22 followed, but at the bottom of the dive, after releasing ordnance, the aircraft was hit by ground fire and the pilot and the navigator ejected. The Mayday and chute beepers were picked up by the King HC-130 rescue aircraft which was flying its normal orbit north of Nakhon Phanom NKP, approximately 60 miles to the west of the bailout area. During a SAR operation, the King was to orbit high over the rescue area and act as strategic overseer of the effort by providing a communications platform, controlling incomingoutgoing aircraft, and coordinating refueling operations. Radio contact with the Nail FAC confirmed that two good chutes had been seen and that a bona fide SAR operation existed. Nail told King the survivors were on relatively flat ground at an altitude of 600 feet, they were in good condition, and the weather over the area was clear. Based on this information, King contacted NKP and Udorn Royal Thai AFB to scramble two Sandy A-1s, two Jolly Green rescue helicopters, and a second King aircraft for refueling. King then headed for the SAR area for what appeared at the time to be a normal rescue operation.

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  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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