Fly By Knights

Air Force A/B/RB-26 Air Commando Missions in the Vietnam War


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About the Book

By the time of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military had transitioned to jet aircraft. Yet leaders soon learned prop-driven planes could still play a role in counterinsurgency warfare. World War II–era Douglas B-26 light bombers proved effective in close air support and interdiction, beginning with Operation Farm Gate in 1961. Forty B-26s were remanufactured as improved A-26 attack aircraft, which destroyed hundreds of North Vietnamese supply vehicles on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1966–1969. The personal recollections of 37 pilots, navigators, maintenance and armament personnel, and family members, tell the harrowing story of B-26 and A-26 Air Commando Wing combat operations in Vietnam and Laos.

About the Author(s)

Roger D. Graham is a 1963 graduate of the Air Force Academy, attorney, navigator-bombardier, retired Air Force colonel, retired Lockheed Martin attorney and author. He lives in Acworth, Georgia.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Roger D. Graham

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 290
Bibliographic Info: ca. 109 photos, appendix, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8680-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4683-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1

Chapter 1. Operation Farm Gate 5
Farm Gate
Maury Bourne 8
Vietnam Memories: The ­B-26 Invader
Bruce Kramer 16
1st Air Commando Group: Vietnam 1963
Jack Williams 26
Night Scramble Mission
Andrew “Andi” Biancur 31
Captain Miles T. Tanimoto: A Hawaiian Hero’s Tale
Kenneth J. Alnwick 33
Recollections of an Old Man: Photography from ­RB-26s and ­T-28s
Jimmy Phillis 37
Charley’s Foot: One .­30-Cal Bullet
Charles H. “Chuck” Holden 39
Mission with “Jumping Joe” Kittinger
George Rose 43
­B-26—Bien Hoa, South Vietnam—1963–64
Joe Kittinger 44
War Story
Andrew “Andi” Biancur 54
­A-26/­B-26 Historical Notes
Tom Smith 56
On Mark Engineering: History
Robert B. Denny 62
B-26 to ­A-26: How Could We Not Love It?
John Sodergren 70

Chapter 2. Big Eagle 73
On Mark ­A-26—Nakhon Phanom, Thailand—1966–67
Joe Kittinger 79
The Loss of Nimrod 32
Harlan “Gene” Albee 91
Three Stories: 1st Air Commando Wing, 603rd Maintenance Sq. England AFB, Louisiana, 1966–1967
Ed Parker 94
Project Big Eagle
Randy Ryman 96
Setting Up Shop at NKP
Randy Ryman 101
Back to Yesteryear
Lindsey Jackson 104

Chapter 3. Nimrod Combat Operations Out of NKP 109
NIMROD—King of the Trail
Capt. Michael J.C. Roth, USAF 121
Forward Air Controller Perspective: NKP Combat Operations
Jimmie Butler 126
Memorable Flight of Nimrod 31
Jimmie Butler 130
February 1967: A Sad Month for NKP
Jimmie Butler 131
Trouble Over the Trail
James “Lee” McCleskey 133
Every Pilot’s Nightmare
James “Lee” McCleskey 136
A Dangerous Hunt and a Close Call
James “Lee” McCleskey 137
­A-26s—How We Kept Them Flying
Jim Galluzzi 138
Just Another Day at NKP
Jim Galluzzi 140
“Maintenance Meanies”—12, “Flight Crews”—6
Mike Packard 142
A Night Flight with Saint Elmo
Jack Krause 146
Ferrying an ­A-26 to Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand
Bob “Pappy” Sears 148
Loss of Carlos, Bill, and Paul
Roger D. Graham 151
Loss of “Bo” Hertlein—Spirit of the Nimrods
Roger D. Graham 152
The Lima Site 85 Mission with Colonel Learmonth
Roger D. Graham 154
Friends for Life
Roger D. Graham 157
A-26 Flight Across the Pacific
Frank Nelson 164
Khe Sanh Day Mission
Frank Nelson 169
Joining the Air Commandos by Volunteering for Graduate School
William “Bill” Cohen 171
The Mysterious Silence of Zorro 23
William “Bill” Cohen 174
A Short Visit to an Enemy Gunnery School
William “Bill” Cohen 178
Batman and Robin Attack a Cave
Al “Batman” Shortt 182
Almost Toast—­B-52 Attack
Al “Batman” Shortt 183
My ­A-26 Time at NKP
Leon “Crazy” Poteet 184
Unforgettable Nimrod Missions
Tim Black and Bruce “Gus” Gustafson 186
Last ­A-26 Flight Out of NKP
Jim Blanchard 193
“Ode to a Nimrod”
Anonymous 198

Chapter 4. Rosters and Squadron History Documents 199

Chapter 5. A/­B-26 Memorial 234

Chapter 6. Lasting Impact and Legacy 239
Wife’s Story
Dianne Graham 241
The Air Force Academy Plaque Ceremony
Roger D. Graham 244
A Daughter’s Journey to Know Her Father
Carla Cruz-Curtis 246
Yes, Dear Lady, I Knew Your Son
Harry J. Bright 253
Letter to My Son
Major James Sizemore 254
“Operation Final Flight”—My Epiphany
Donald Vogler 256
A Special Day for “Special Kay”
Roger D. Graham 260
“From Liberty’s View”
Kristine “Kristi” Graham Visage 261
Restoration of the ­A-26A “Special Kay” AF 17679
Jim Reynolds 262

Epilogue 267
About the Contributors 271
Index 277

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Graham, with help from fellow Air Force flyers, has constructed a roller-coaster ride of stories about daring feats, successes and screw-ups, unimaginable events, close calls, and losses…well-written”—VVA Veteran

• “This is an accurate historical collection of remembrances by Nimrod combat crews, their training and combat missions, and their loved ones. It is a book worth reading.”—Journal of the Air Force Historical Foundation