Earnest Lynn Farnsworth


Preferred Name: Lynn

Nickname/Call Sign: Misty 146

Date Of Birth: January 18, 1942

Highest Military Grade Held: Lieutenant  Colonel (O5)

Hometown: Douglas, AZ

Biography

Lynn Farnsworth is a retired Air Force Fighter/Airline Pilot with over 13,000 hours of flying time in 20 different types aircraft. He is a Vietnam era fighter pilot who flew F-100s and F-4s in Vietnam and Thailand. As Misty #146 he was shot down twice (the 1st time on his birthday and the 2nd time exactly two months later) while performing as a Forward Air Controller.  After exiting from active duty he joined the Air National Guard and flew F-105s and F-4s. His money making job was Airline Pilot, but his fun job was Fighter Pilot.

After retiring from airline flying he started looking for some way to get back to the fun flying. He found just what he was looking for when he discovered the Lancair Legacy. It took twenty months to build the aircraft. Lynn named the Super Legacy, Miss Karen II, (Miss Karen was an F-100 Lynn flew at Phan Rang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam) after Lynn’s wife Karen, who has tolerated his Fighter Pilot act all these years. Miss Karen II’s race number, 44, is in honor of his youngest son Kyle, who wore that uniform number for six years pitching for the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers baseball teams.  Kyle is still wearing #44, now playing for the New York Mets.  Lynn’s first race was in 2005 and last was in 2013, only missing 2011.

(source: http://www.sportclass.com/pilots/lynn-farnsworth/)

My First Misty Shootdown –  19 JAN 1970
(Back in the United States this date was  18 JAN 1970. 18 JAN is my birthday!)

Lynn FarnsworthOn 19 January 1970 Captain Dan Brown and I were fragged for a Misty mission along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The mission was briefed by Dan with the standard items covered and with one item of special interest. 7th Air Force had requested that Misty aircrews check out a suspected North Vietnamese Army headquarters located in the vicinity of Delta 43. Delta 43 was a river crossing where two branches of the Ho Chi Minh trail converged. Just north of Delta 43 was a wide, long valley. It was in this valley that 7th Air Force suspected the NVA headquarters was located. This would be the primary focus of today’s mission.

Dan was in the front seat and I was in the back seat acting as the observer.  Start, taxi and takeoff were standard. The weather was VFR with scattered clouds. Climbing out, Dan checked in with Peacock, the radar control agency in this part of Vietnam.  About 10 minutes after takeoff we heard a Mayday call on the radio. From the call sign we could tell the aircraft that was having problems was a F-4 out of Phu Cat Air Base. They had been hit by AAA in Laos. The emergency aircraft was the lead airplane in a flight of 2 F-4s. The damaged aircraft had been hit in the front cockpit and the front seater was wounded. The number 2 aircraft was about 4 miles in trail trying to catch his leader, so as to be of as much assistance as possible.

The lead aircraft, now being flown by the rear seat crew member, was headed east, toward the South China Sea. They wanted to be over the water in the event they had to eject. Most aircrews preferred an over water ejection vs to ejecting over unfriendly territory.

We called the controlling agency and offered our assistance; however, we weren’t needed and continued toward our working area in Laos. We called Peacock for the current information for our tanker aircraft that we would be using to refuel later. They told us Panama, another radar agency, was controlling the tanker on Yellow track. Peacock told us the radio frequency Panama was using for the Yellow refueling track.

As soon as we entered Laos we contacted Hillsboro, an ABCCC C-130 aircraft that controlled air activity in this part of the war zone. We told Hillsboro we were starting visual reconnaissance on Route 110 east.

As we flew along the road system, we saw nothing of significance. Approaching the Delta 87 area we checked in with a Covey FAC who was working this section of the road system. He was the FAC who had been working with the F-4 that had been hit earlier. Covey requested we check out a possible gun site for him. He thought this might be the location of the gun that had hit the F-4. It was about 2 kilometers north of Delta 87, on top of a knoll east of the road. We made several low, high speed passes over the suspected gun site without being able to positively confirm it being the gun. The Covey FAC got a little worried and asked us to not “hang it out” too much because the gun had hit an F-4 a little earlier. We were well aware of this and so were varying our run in heading and using the afterburner to keep the airspeed around 500 knots. Even using these techniques, it doesn’t take someone long to figure out that we were passing over one central point on each pass. So, even though we couldn’t confirm the location of the suspected gun site, we felt that in the interest of our longevity, we would press on and come back later.

We told Covey of our intentions and continued north to Delta 96, just north of the Golf Course. At this point we had reached Bingo Fuel for our tanker. We called Hillsboro and informed them we were outbound for the tanker and turned east to intercept the Yellow refueling track. The tanker rendezvous was made under radar control by a Panama controller. Dan completed the refueling and we depart the tanker.

With the tanks again full, we planned to VR the Delta 43 area in compliance with the request from 7th  Air Force. In order to be as productive as possible, we pick up Route 922 where it enters South Vietnam from Laos, a few mile southwest of the Kam Duc Special Forces camp that had been overrun by NVA troops  in 1968.

The road was showing increased use, but the quick over flight produced no truck or supply targets. The Gomers had at least 1 bulldozer working on Route 922 and we saw evidence of its work as we did our visual reconnaissance of the road.

Turning north at Delta 41 we again covered route between there and Delta 43. Arriving at the suspected NVA Headquarters area we made 3 passes over the area. We noted several roads leading off from the main road. These in turn had other roads branching off into the thick jungle. After the 3rd pass we decided in view of the heavy concentration of enemy guns and personnel in the vicinity, we had been in the area long enough. The final pass had us going in a westerly direction, taking us away from the main LOCs so Dan turned right to fly over the White Cliffs with the intent to continue a visual reconnaissance of the roads north to Delta 45.

Crossing the White Cliffs we both heard and felt a soft thunk. Dan asked me, “What was that”? My reply was, “I don’t know, I was just wondering that myself”! We both started checking the engine instruments and Dan turned the airplane right to a northeast heading, while initiating a climb. The turn to the northeast was to get away from the road in case something was, indeed wrong. This heading took us away from the road and toward some small hills. One of the first rules if your are hit, is to get as far away from any LOCS as you can get before ejecting. To do so greatly increases your chances for a successful recovery. Of course the best place to eject is over the ocean.

After monitoring the instruments for about a minute, noting nothing abnormal, I had about decided everything was alright and told Dan, “everything looks OK back here”. Just as I finished saying that, I heard Dan say, with considerable concern in his voice, “Oh Oh”! “What is the matter” I asked? “We have a fire light”, he answered! “That’s nice”, I thought to myself, as I looked up to have the bright red fire warning light staring me in the face! The fire warning light coming on meant we had a fire in the forward section of the engine compartment. If the fire was in the aft portion of the engine compartment the overheat light would have been illuminated.

Dan kept the plane headed in the same direction saying, “We need to get over those hills in case we have to jump out”! He then asked me for a heading to Danang, meanwhile climbing and heading away from the suspected NVA Headquarters area.

The emergency procedure for an engine fire in the F-100 is to maintain minimum practical power. In this case we both felt that minimum practical power was full military power. By this time we where over the hills and engine was still running so I told Dan to take up a heading of 090 degrees for Danang. We were climbing through 6,000’ by this time. I felt we had better tell someone about our problem so they could alert the Search and Rescue Forces (SAR).

We were on Hillsboro’s frequency so I decided they were as good as anyone. I pressed the mic button and called, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! Misty 40, Delta 43. We have a fire and are climbing through 8,000’ heading for Danang”! It was a few seconds before I got a response. A Hillsboro controller came up on the radio and asked what our intentions were. I told him we were going to try to make it to Danang. “Roger, I understand you are going to try to make it to  Danang”, he responded. “Afirmative”, I answered.

About this time the compass system went ape and started rotating uselessly. We still had the magnetic compass as a backup though. While talking to Hillsboro I saw the utility hydraulic system pressure drop to zero. I told Dan and he acknowledged. If there were any lingering doubts as to the validity of the fire warning light, they were, now, completely gone.

Hillsboro called with a request for our heading and altitude. I told him we were climbing through 10,000’ and heading 090 degrees on the magnetic compass. A Stormy Fast FAC (F-4 out of Danang) had checked in with Hillsboro a short time before. Hillsboro gave him a call, “ Stormy…, Hillsboro”. “Hillsboro….. Stormy.. go ahead”. “OK Stormy, we have a misty 40 that has just been hit at Delta 43. He has apparently lost his compass system. He last reported climbing through 10,000’ heading 090 degrees on his magnetic compass. He said he is going to try and land at Danang if he can make it that far. We would like for you to try and join up on him and render what assistance you can.” “We are on our way”, came the reply from Stormy.

Meanwhile, in the cockpit, things weren’t getting any better. I had gotten the map out and verified the 090 degree heading would take us to Danang. Since we had lost the utility hydraulic system, this meant we had lost several things; normal landing gear extension, wheel brakes, speed brakes, nose gear steering , flap extension plus a couple of other items. But, if we got to the point where we needed to lower the landing gear we had the emergency gear lowering system. Danang had barriers at the approach end, mid field and departure end; so, with emergency brakes and the use of one of the barriers, we should be able to get the airplane stopped on the runway. That is, if we can get the airplane on the ground. But, that is a big if. We have already lost one hydraulic system and with a fire burning somewhere back there, there is no telling when or what we might lose next. If we lose the two hydraulic flight control systems we will have to eject. There is only one pressure gage for the two flight control systems. To check the pressure of each system you have to manually switch a selector between system 1 and system 2. So, to keep from switching back and forth between the two systems, I monitor the number 2 system on the gage in the back and Dan monitors the number 1 system on his gage up front. We could wait for the word caution panel to announce the loss of hydraulic pressure but that wouldn’t tell us if it was just one or both systems failing. Also the warning light doesn’t come on until the pressure has dropped below 650 PSI. By monitoring the pressure gages we will know immediately if the hydraulic pressure starts to fluctuate.  Our adrenalin level is already high and if the gages show the impending failure of one or both flight hydraulic systems the adrenalin level will certainly increase.

Almost as if to justify our concern for its health, the number 1 flight control hydraulic pressure went through three or four convulsive cycles and died. Well, we still have the number 2 system left?

The A/C generator joined the crowd of the non-working aircraft systems. Normally, this in and of itself, is a major emergency requiring an immediate landing. The reason being, the constant speed drive (CSD) for the A/C generator is on the front of the engine and if the CSD over speeds and sheds parts, they will be injested by the engine and probably quit.

In 1968 an F-100 from Tuy Hoa had an A/C generator while on a combat mission in southern Laos. The closest air base was at Pleiku. The single runway (09/27) was 6,000’ long; marginal for an F-100. Because of the danger of catastrophic engine failure the pilot kept additional airspeed and altitude as he approached the air base. He landed on runway 09; touching down about 1/3 the way down. The end of this runway ended with a steep drop off. Even with the drag chute and heavy breaking there was not enough runway left to stop before plunging down the steep drop off. The pilot survived but the plane was heavily damaged.

King, the C-130 SAR command and control aircraft, had gotten into the drama. After a bit of conversation between Hillsboro, Stormy, King and us, King took command of the emergency and told everyone to change the radio frequency to SAR primary frequency of 364.2. I wasn’t too sure that was a good  idea, because we were starting to have electrical problems and I wasn’t sure that if we changed frequencies the radio would channelize to the new frequency. Then we would be in worse trouble. But, no one else seemed to share my concern and the switch was made. I waited while the radio went through the channelization, accompanied by the high pitch whine that channelization always produces. The check in, initiated by King, proved, much to my relief, my fears to be unfounded.

The HSI continued its useless rotation. The Tacan was on the blink.

We level at 20,000’and Dan pulls the throttle back to maintain about 300 knots.

Stormy reports he has a radar contact he thinks might be us and asks for our position off of channel 77 (Danang Tacan). Dan tells Stormy our Tacan is inop.

As we cross the Laotian Vietnamese border the cloud coverage changes from scattered in Laos to solid under cast in Vietnam. This will complicate things quite a bit if we make it to Danang without the number 2 hydraulic flight control failing.

It would be difficult enough in good weather to make a successful landing with the battle damage we have incurred. With the low ceiling at Danang there are two approaches we can make; fly a Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) which would have to be a no gyro approach since our heading system in inop, or fly a formation approach on the wing of the Stormy F-4. Formation flying on the wing of a dissimilar aircraft with only one flight control system, emergency gear extension and no flaps is maybe a so, so idea.

Stormy calls a Tally Ho and slides into an extended route formation off the left wing. If things will just hold together a little while longer we just might get to Danang; or feet wet for an ejection.

We still don’t know how much external damage we have suffered so Dan asked for a visual check by our newly found friend, adding a caution for him to not get too close because we only had one hydraulic system left and if it quit there is no telling what our aircraft might do. Most Fast FACs aren’t noted for their timidity and though Stormy acknowledged the warning, he closed in to get a good look. Looking back to the left, I watched him slowly disappear under our airplane. After a short delay, Stormy reappears on the right side. He reports there is a hole about the size of a fist, located about 2/3 the way back on the bottom of the fuselage plus fluid steaming back along the bottom of the plane.

Stormy requests our intentions. When told we wanted to land at Danang, he said the weather wasn’t too pure when he had departed about thirty minutes earlier and it would require an instrument approach. Dan asked if Stormy if he would be willing to allow us to fly on his wing for the approach. He was agreeable with this suggestion. We were about 40 miles from Danang by this time.

I was hoping everything would maintain the status quo, but it was not to be, as the overheat warning light suddenly illuminated. It looked like it really wasn’t going to be our day.

A glance at the warning/caution panel helped me review the systems that had already been knocked out or were in trouble. First, of course, an engine fire light, and now followed by the engine overheat light. Two of the three hydraulic systems were inoperative, the A/C  generator was off line and won’t reset and our navigation instruments were useless. All things considered, things weren’t looking too good for a successful landing.

With the loss of the number one hydraulic flight control system our instrument monitoring was simplified because we could both select the number two flight control position on the hydraulic gage.

Panama, the radar station at Danang, had established radar contact with us and was providing flight following. So, between Stormy and Panama, we had ample navigational resources available, as long as our radio didn’t quit. If the radio should quit, we could still communicate with Stormy, using hand and other visual signals.

The engine was still running well and we had more than enough fuel to get to Danang. Everything depended on the sole remain hydraulic flight control system. If it did fail we, at least, wanted to get feet wet before ejecting. We were over South Vietnam, but there were still plenty of places into which an arrival by parachute would not be well received. The villages and rice paddys around Danang were infested with more than their fair share of VC/NVA. I, for one, wouldn’t want to go down there. Also, the low clouds would make any rescue attempt on land more difficult than one at sea.

To give us every chance possible, Dan trimmed the flight controls neutral, while we still had hydraulic pressure. The F-100 has a “trim for takeoff” button, that when pushed, trimmed the airplane for about 300 knots. With that accomplished we felt we had done about all we could do to insure a safe landing at Danang; or failing that, at least get feet wet before having to eject.

King called us and asked how we were doing? To which Dan replies, “We have a lot of lights on”, referring to the numerous lights that were illuminated on the Master Caution/Warning Panel.

We learned the SAR forces, at Danang, had been alerted but hadn’t yet been directed by King to launch. I wasn’t too happy about that, but then, I wasn’t running the show; there must be something about the operation that I didn’t understand?

Well, if it required us to eject before King would launch his SAR force, the hydraulic gage I had been staring at for the past couple of minutes had just given me the first indication that they would, shortly, be earning their money. I had just seen a momentary 200 PSI fluctuation on the gage. When I saw that fluctuation, my heart must have increased my blood pressure by at least that much. It started pounding and I could feel a surge of new energy as increased amounts of adrenalin were pumped into my blood stream! My “calm” voice, as I relayed the new information to Dan, belied how my stomach felt. Shortly thereafter the hydraulic began an increasingly larger fluctuation, spaced by about 15 second intervals. Then with one last gasp, the needle on the hydraulic gage slowly, but steadily, settled, with finality, on the zero PSI index at the bottom of the gage. “Well, I guess you could try the Ran Air Turbine (RAT) and see if it will do any good”, I said to Dan. He did, and it didn’t. It was not surprising but it was the last thing to try. Our only choice, now, would be an ejection. The airplane was trimmed, and Dan, with manual rudder, should be able to keep the wings level.

Because of the under cast there was no ground to see, so we would have to rely on others to tell us when we passed the coast. No big deal, as long as the radio keeps working. Finally, several of the folks involved (Stormy, Crown and the radar facility at Danang) inform us we’ve passed the coast, outbound. Dan and I say to each other, “sure, but let’s keep going for a little longer”. Our helpers started getting a little impatient, wanting us to eject; telling us we were almost 20 miles past the coast.

Dan and I agreed that 20 miles was enough cushion so the canopy blows off and the seats fire in sequence; me first and Dan ½ second later. Since we ejected at 20,000’ feet I knew I didn’t want to open the parachute right away. The man seat separator worked (however, I later discovered that I had collided with the seat. My helmet had a 3” crack in the top). The freefall would take a while so I curled up in a ball to wait for the automatic stuff to open the chute at the preset altitude (14,000’ or so).

Suddenly I felt the deceleration caused by the opening parachute; the automatic stuff works, good deal! But when I open my eyes to look around, I can’t see anything. Am I blind? I don’t hurt, what is going on?

Much to my relief I discover the blindness is being caused by the oxygen mask. The ejection forces had tried to remove my helmet, but was only partially successful. The helmet had been displaced just enough that the oxygen mask was no longer covering my chin, mouth and nose but my nose and eyes. With that problem solved I decided to deploy my life raft to get ready for landing in the South China Sea. As the raft falls it is attached to me by a lanyard about 10” long. When the raft reaches the end of the lanyard a CO2 bottle inflates the raft.

At some point during the freefall I had entered the clouds, but they were’nt dense. I look around and finally see Dan in his parachute. He is higher and displaced horizontally from me.

Now, back to the upcoming water entry; what do I still need to do? I still need to inflate the personal flotation devices; there are two. A left side and a right side. At that moment I had a great brainstorm. At water survival school, with both water wings inflated I found it difficult to board the raft from the water. This is because water wings caught on the side of the raft. The big brainstorm I just had, concluded that if I only inflated on side of the water wings it would be easier to enter the raft. So, one side it is; now I’m all ready. No, just a minute! I remembered it is important to not get tangled up in the parachute after water entry. The best way to preclude that is to cut free from the parachute at, or just prior to (maybe 5”) water entry.

Cut free, is not really what you do. The parachute risers have a guarded release that when pulled will free the parachute from the parachute harness. To set up for this you have to pull off the release guard cover. This exposes a cable ring that when pulled releases the riser on that side. Ok, all set; just waiting to see the water. The clouds are thickening the lower I descend. Finally, I break out of the clouds and see an angry sea. Big waves and white caps; the wind is not calm. If I release the parachute at the right time the wind should carry it away from me thus precluding any entanglement.

My plan it to pull the riser releases right after I see the raft hit the water. I put a thumb through each cable ring and wait. The raft hits the water, I pull both releases and splash; water entry. It is at this moment that I discover my big brainstorm really wasn’t such a good idea after all. With only one side of the water wings inflated I am just barely able to keep my head above water. Especially with the rough sea I really need both sides inflated. I pull the tab and inflate the other water wing; much better!

The parachute is close by so I need to get into the raft as soon as possible. I find the lanyard and pull the raft over to me and encounter the same problems of raft enter that I had experienced at water survival school. But in a few minutes I was laying on my back in the raft.

Just laying there I could hear the sound of jet engines overhead. I got out my survival radio, made contact on guard (243.0 frequency) with King and told them I was down and in the raft. They said the helicopters were enroute to our location. As it turned out the helicopters involved was a Danang based Jolly Green and, for some reason, the Danang Pedro (H-43).

I heard Dan talking to Crown too so I knew he was OK.

Suddenly through the murk I see a C-130 roaring toward me. The Crown guys had found the bottom of the clouds and were looking for us. Yea for them. Company is nice to have in a situation like this. Things are looking better. Even though King had flown directly over me, visual contact was not made.

Then I see an F-4 pass by a short distance away. Stormy is searching too.

I make voice contact with Dan. We are just kind of making small talk. I guess we pissed off the King guys because we got a radio transmission that said, “If you guys want to get picked up, stay off the radio unless we call you”! Whoa! What did we do? So we stopped talking to each other to keep them happy.

At some point, visually contact was made with both of us. We were told the helicopters were enroute to us. Nothing to do but wait and enjoy the raft ride. While doing that, I happened to look down over the side of my raft. I see my parachute had decided to keep me company and is floating under the raft. I hope it keeps drifting. I don’t want it anywhere near the raft when it comes time for the pick up by the Jolly Green. Getting entangled with the parachute has caused more than one pilot to drown. After a while it drifts away.

We had been in the water 25 or 30 minutes when I hear the distinctive sound of helicopter blades wop wopping the air as the helicopters arrive. They fly a short search pattern looking for us. I watch the search, then a big Jolly Green turns directly toward me. He isn’t far away and in seconds is in a hover about 10’ to 15’ above and slightly to the side of my raft. I can see the Parachute Jumper (PJ) in the right side door looking down at me. The down draft from the rotors blades to very powerful. The PJ and I look at each other for a while. I stay in my raft and the jungle penetrator isn’t being lowered. I guess I’m doing something wrong? Finally with hand signals from the PJ I understand he wants me to get out of the raft into the water. I police up the equipment I had out and roll off the raft into the water; I’m glad the parachute has continued to drift away. The PJ lowers the penetrator; it dips into the ocean to discharge any static electricity that might have built up. At this point I discover I’m still attached to the raft via the lanyard that attaches the raft to the survival kit. I can’t find the quick disconnect to release it. I don’t think the Jolly crew wants me to be hoisted up with a lift raft in tow. The PJ is motioning for me to go get on the penetrator. To show the PJ my just discovered problem, I grab the lanyard and raise it up to show him I’m still attached. I see him say something on the intercom, he takes off his helmet and jumps from the helicopter landing in the water a few feet away. He swam over to me, pulled out a big knife and cut me free from the raft. After that he helps me get on the penetrator. Once I’m on the penetrator the Flight Mechanic hoists me aboard. Inside the helicopter I’m freed from the penetrator and moved to a seat.

That done, the PJ gets hoisted out of the ocean. With him back inside the Flight Mechanic put several bursts of machine gun fire into the raft so it would eventually sink.

The H-43 (call sign, Pedro) picked up Dan and the Jolly Green got me. As a result, Dan didn’t get any of memorabilia the Jolly Greens give out to those they rescue.

The helicopter ride back to Danang was not long, but by the time I was delivered to the Naval hospital I was freezing. Medical personnell were waiting at the helipad for our arrival. The initial medical examination was done in a fairly large room. Dan and I weren’t the only patients. There were two other people laid out on tables; both were unclothed and thus their wounds were visibly apparent. It was not a pretty sight! One was a U.S. soldier. He had several medical personnel working on him. He was laying on his back. He was covered from head to toe with many, many, many wounds. We were told, later, that the wounds were a result of “booby trap” that had explodes a short distance from him.

The other person, laid out on a table, was a Vietnamese girl; maybe 10 to 12 years old. She was just laying there, alone, unattended and unconscious. She uttered an occasional moan but didn’t move. Her wounds appeared to be limited to her head; it had been shaved. There were several wounds from which brain material was oozing.

She had arrived prior to the U.S. soldier, and had been receiving the attention of the Navy doctors and nurses. When the U.S. soldier was brought in, the medical triage principle came into play. He was badly wounded, but appeared very savable. The little Vietnamese girl, sadly, appeared terminal.

The little girl was from a Vietnamese orphanage in Danang. She was playing in an enclosed (walled) area. A Viet Cong terrorist, riding by on a motorcycle, had thrown a grenade over the wall and sped away. Why…………..?

Dan and I were quickly given physical exams; which included xrays. We were both still freezing but a hot shower followed by a complete set of new, dry marine utility uniforms fixed us up.

A message was passed to us that the King C-130 would land at Danang, after its mission for the day was complete, and take us back to Tuy Hoa.

Though the “powers that be” gave us the option to return to our permanent duty station (Dan and I were both TDY from Phan Rang), a week later both of us were back flying Misty missions.

Another day in the war.

Lynn Farnsworth - beforeI was shot down twice while a Misty.

This story is about the second shoot down. We had flown a mission in the morning and had run low on fuel while putting in an air strike. Because of this, we had diverted to Ubon for fuel. Operations told us to refuel and fly another mission on the way back in the afternoon. This is where the story begins.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself (author unknown).

The road the Gomers had built through the jungles of Laos were directly below us. This section was oriented basically north and south. It was the dry season and the road showed extensive activity. This was evident by the dust covered trees that lined this section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

We entered the area just below Delta 43 ( Delta points prominent geographic landmarks the aircrews used to reference themselves, when talking about different sections of the Ho Chi Manh Trail. That way they could have a clear voice radio transmissions with each other without compromising their position or plans to an enemy who might be listening in on their radio transmissions.). We were flying an F-100F, the two seat model on the North American Aviation Super Sabre. Our armament consisted of two pods of 2.75 inch rockets with white phosphorus warheads (commonly refereed to as “Willy Petes”) and four hundred rounds of 20 millimeter cannon shell for our two guns.

Captain Jim Daveys was in the back seat. This was just his 5th mission as a Misty FAC. I was checking him out on our area procedures and getting him familiar with the area. I entered the area at the river, heading north. As we did so I gave Hillsboro a quick call on the radio telling them we were back. Our radio had been scratchy all day long and sometimes it was difficult to understand what was being said. We’ll need to write it up in the discrepancy log when we get back to base. I armed the rockets and turned off the IFF.

Earlier that day, we had located a boat on the river and had directed 2 Navy A-7s against it. we had been low on fuel and hadn’t been able to check the results of their attack. I wanted to see if the boat was still there. As we passed over the spot, I rolled the aircraft on it’s right site and looking straight down I could see the submerged remains of the boat.

Next, we crossed directly over Delta 43, The road at this point split into what we referred to as the “east and west bypass.” I elected to go up the east bypass. Nothing special was noted (however this area housed an NVA headquarters) but it was evident that the road was seeing an increase in traffic. We got back on the main drag at the Golf Course. There were a couple of dead trucks but nothing else was visible. The road makes a ninety degree turn to the west at the north end of the Golf Course and in order to stay on the road I bank and pull hard on the stick. Another tight turn at the Boot and we continue looking for targets. This area has been target rich in vehicles and troops for the past week, but we see nothing there today.

About 10 miles up the road from the Boot I see a cloud of dust. This could mean only one thing, a vehicle of some kind was traveling on the road. I tell Jim we have a mover. I keep my eyes on the spot where I saw the dust and pull the aircraft up and to a steep climbing turn. I get the Super Sabre turned around and pointed at the right area. A couple of quick corrections, and then, I push the pickle button to fire a marking rocket. It hits very close to where I wanted it. I dive to within 200 feet of the trees but see nothing; off the trail and up and back around to have another look; still nothing. I know they are there, but they are good at camouflage and are well-hidden. We have time for one more pass, and since that particular spot doesn’t have any known gun sites a third at low altitude won’t be to risky. The visual results are still the same and, reversing our original direction of travel, we press on back down the trail. This will take us in the general direction of our base. We pass the Boot and the Golf Course. There is an Interdiction point (IDP) just south of the Golf Course that I want to look at. It is located on the west bypass of the road that comes out of Delta 43. Some F-4s had bombed the IDP that morning and I want to see if the road is still closed. There are many known active gun sites in the immediate area so with the throttle in full military power (all the way forward without afterburner selected) I dive the airplane to pick up as much speed as I can get. The airspeed isn’t as high as I would like but reads 410 knots and is acceptable. Approaching the IDP I unload the “G” force on the aircraft and roll into a 110 degree bank and get a good look at the bomb craters and dirt slides that still have the road blocked. Uncle Ho’s road repair crews will be busy tonight.

I roll back to the left and start a turn to the east. As I do so the aricraft is rocked by a huge explosion. From the back seat Jim asks, “What was that?” I plug in the afterburner and say, “I think we have been hit”, knowing full well that is exactly what has happened. I have also continued a hard tight climbing turn to the left to get away from the area of concentrated enemy activity. No more that 5 seconds have elapsed since the explosion when Jim says, “The fuel in the forward tank is dropping”. I look down at the gauge and see that there is only 1,500 pounds left. The hit must have been in the area of the tank and there has to be a massive leak to have lost 1,000 pounds in so short of time period. I pull the throttle inboard out of afterburner to save as much fuel as possible. The engine feeds from the forward fuel tank and if the flight controls will hold together we will need all the remaining fuel to get to an emergency base in Thailand of South Vietnam. Still climbing, I roll the wings level heading northeast in the general direction of Danang Air Base in South Vietnam.

We have turned into a big fireball arcing though the sky and our situation is rapidly deteriorating. I decide it is time to tell someone of our problems. With everything else falling apart, I hope our weak radio doesn’t pick this time to give up the ghost. I push the radio transmission button on the throttle and make a call on Hillsboro frequency, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Misty 50 at Delta 43! We were hit and may have to leave the aircraft!!!”

The stick starts jumping around in my hand and I know it won’t be long before I loose control of the aircraft. I say to Jim, “I’m loosing the flight controls and we are going to have to get out!” I hear no reply. The airspeed is still 350 knots. I pull back on the stick to slow down a little before we have to eject. It doesn’t do any good. There is no response. The hydraulic flight controls are already dead! A light on the caution panel is flickering. It is probably the hydraulic system. I start to tighten the seat belt and helmet strap but then give up on the idea. I already have my hands full. The dying Super Sabre’s nose is dropping below the horizon and the aircraft is rolling to the right. I push hard on the left rudder pedal hoping that application of manual rudder can stop the roll; I don’t want to eject inverted. The roll continues so I feel it is time to leave the aircraft. The only good thing so far is that all the fire is still behind the cockpit. I reach down to pull the ejection handles when I hear Hillsboro on the radio. “Misty 50, what are your intentions?” I pause long enough to reply, “We are leaving the aircraft”! Then, I start the ejection sequence. No more than 30 seconds have elapsed since we got hit.

The canopy blows off and the noise and wind are horrific. The seat hasn’t fired and I think it has failed (there is a half second delay between the rear seat firing and the front seat firing). Then, I’m fired out of the plane. I tumble backward and loose my helmet. I separate from the seat. The automatic system should have opened the chute by now but it hasn’t, so I pull the ripcord myself. I see the parachute streaming out, then I feel a very reassuring deceleration as the chute inflates. Looking up I examine the canopy for rips or malfunctions. Seeing none I release four risers at the back of the canopy to make it more steerable. Looking around I see several things floating in the air (probably maps and things from the cockpit). I can here a jet engine; it is probably  our stricken Sabre. I look but can’t see it, but I do see an OV-10 circling just to the north.

The pilot no doubt sees us and it is good to know that someone knows that we got out of the aircraft ok. I haven’t seen Jim yet, though I’ve been looking. Finally, I look down toward the ground and I see his parachute. Then I see something that fills me with dread, I can see some risers floatation out from the parachute and it makes me think Jim has fallen out of the parachute to the ground. Then I realize what it really is. It is just the risers from the four line cut. I look around to see where I am in relation to the ground and I am shocked to see that I am between 2 roads. If I am going to have any chance for survival I must fly the parachute east beyond the East Bypass. My attention is drawn to a huge fireball about 3 miles to the north. The Super Sabre will fly no more. Then, I hear the explosion!

I see no one on the ground but I know they are there. I see Jim hit in what appears to be thick undergrowth (because his parachute stays on top of the vegetation). He is too close to the road though. About 100 meters it looks like. That is bad. I now pass over the road and I’m happy about that. I’m fairly close to the ground and it appears the wind is blowing to the east. I turn the parachute into the wind to slow my landing speed. But, I’m moving back toward the road, so the wind must be calm. I see a small opening in the trees and steer the parachute toward it. I am committed to the spot, when I realize it isn’t a clearing, but a dead tree. I am going to hit one of the limbs. I kick away from it and continue down. Now, I’m certain either the chute will hang up and leave me dangling, or the chute will collapse and plunge me to the ground about 150 feet below. I can feel the limbs tugging at the parachute and I brace myself for the fall to the ground.

Finally I reach the ground and fall backward. I didn’t hit hard and nothing is broken. I get rid of the chute by pulling on the 2 quick releases. Next I push the 2 quick releases for the survival kit and pick it up. I must get away from the parachute and find a place to hide. I had landed in a small gully. I climb out of the gully and head north and down a hill a little way and stop to get my breath and turn off the chute beeper. It takes a few minutes to silence the beeper. It had to be turned off, or the emergency frequency would have been blocked by its continuous transmission. I now get out one of my 2 survival radios so I can make a voice contact with the OV-10 I had seen on the way down.

I turn the radio on, but there is a beeper going. It is making too much noise and so I turn the radio off. Jim hasn’t turned off his parachute beeper yet. As long as the beeper is transmitting I won’t be able to make voice contact.  I put my radio away and put the chute beeper in my pocket. I leave the parachute harness on the ground, pick up the survival kit and move north along the side of the hill. The trees are very large but the undergrowth on the ground isn’t very thick. It will make it hard to find a good place to hide. I move about 50 meters and find a tree that will shield me on 2 sides. I take out a water bottle and take a drink to help calm me down. Following that I try the radio again. This time I hear Jim talking to the OV-10 (Covey FAC).

 

Jim says his legs are broken, but other than that he is OK. I wait for their conversation to terminate before I try to make contact. “Hello Covey, Misty 50 Alpha, How do you read?” Covey says he hears me. I tell him I am OK and ask if he has seen any activity in the area yet.  He replies “Negative on the activity”. Then I ask if the Search and Rescue if the Search and Rescue (SAR) was underway yet? He said that the cavalry was on the way. I told him I was going to go down on the radio and be back later. He acknowledged and I turned the radio off. I can hear some explosions to the north and assume it is the 20mm cooking off in the wreckage. I stay-put trying to figure the best course of action. Suddenly I hear automatic weapon fire coming from the area where my parachute is. My position is too exposed and I need to find a place to hide. I feel the survival kit is too heavy and will slow me down too much, so I leave it by the tree and move north and up the hill. I try to be as quiet as I can. Standing up I can see about 20 meters through the trees. Finally I see something that looks promising, but when I get there it isn’t as good as it first appeared. There is a log that runs up and down the hill with some fern bushes overhanging that a top and side cover. It wasn’t too good, but was the best I had seen so far. It would have to do. I crawl in and lay down. I get one of the radios out and give Covey a call (only the single channel radio seems to work, though I tried the four channel radio several times). Covey answers and I tell him what is going on. He says he’ll take a look and see if he can see anything. I turn the radio off again. I try to make myself as comfortable as possible. If I stretch all the way out my feet stick out of the bushes so I have to lay on my side with my legs doubled up. It has been about 15 minutes since I heard gunfire.

Suddenly my heart pounds! Did I hear something? I listen! Yes! There it is again! People are whistling back and forth. That means they are coming closer and if they keep coming they will reach my position before long. I wonder if they are in the mood to take prisoners? I must decide soon whether to fight or let them take me prisoner if they should discover me. I lean toward fighting. I have read reports of how Laotians treat prisoners. I wonder what my wife an 2 children are doing now; probably sleeping. I wonder how they will get along without me? I know that once the fight starts I will have very little chance against automatic weapons. I wonder what it will feel like to get shot? Maybe Covey can help. I tell him I can hear people in the vicinity of my parachute. He makes some low passes but doesn’t see anything. My morale is very low. I have been flying over this area for about 3 months and am very aware that there are a lot of people and guns in the area. Exactly 2 months ago I was shot down by guns in the same area.

At this point I fully expect to either be killed or captured. It is getting late and the SAR forces better get here pretty soon if they are going to get us out before dark. I call Covey and query him about the progress of the SAR. He says they should be on scene in about 30 minutes. I can hear another turboprop aircraft (besides the OV-10) overhead. That, no doubt is the on scene commander in a C-130 (call sign, King). I haven’t heard any people for about 5 minutes. Maybe they have directed their search in another direction. I hope so because the Sandy’s should be here pretty soon and maybe things will change for the better. There is an ant crawling around in the log. He is a huge fellow. I watch him for a while. Little does he realize there is a war going on around him.

The situation is still critical. It was about 1620 when we got shot down. I lost my watch during the ejection so I can only guess what time it is. But, I do know that time will be an important factor in deciding if we get out or not. I decide that if we don’t get picked up before dark I’ll have to try and make it to the hills about a mile east of my present position. It is certain the Gomers will surround me and bring-in more guns during the night. If that happens there is a good chance someone else will get shot down trying to get me out tomorrow.

My spirits suddenly pick up. I hear the sounds of a radial piston engine. That can mean only one thing! The cavalry has arrived! For the first time since we were shot down I feel we might get out of here alive. I turn the radio on and hear a conversation between Covey and the lead rescue aircraft (A-1, call sign, Sandy). Covey is trying to direct Sandy 01 to Jim’s location. “Bravo is the easiest to locate because his parachute is on top of the underbrush. He is about 100 meters off the road. Sandy 01 finally gets a visual on the chute. He confirms Jim is right below the chute.

Covey next tries to describe my location to Sandy 01. “Alpha is almost due north of Bravo”. Covey tells him to look for a small hill. “On the hill is a small ravine on the southeast side of of the hill. Fly over the ravine and you will see a small hole in the trees. At the bottom of the hole you can see Alpha’s parachute”. It takes 3 passes before Sandy 01 sees the parachute. The radio is making so much noise I’m afraid the Gomers will hear it, so I tell Covey I’m going off the air for a while. He acknowledges. My ant friend is still on the log. There are several A-1s in the area now. I hope they are good gunners in case they have to strafe close to my position. The Sandy’s start delivering ordinance. I jump because I’m not prepared for it. They work the area over for quite a while; some of it hits fairly close! Through the trees I catch an occasional glimpse of an A-1 as they pass by my position during their ordinance runs. There is a lot of noise, caused by bombs, 20mm, A-1s etc.

The noise died down quite a bit so I decided to turn the radio back on. They are starting to get ready to pick Jim up. As the Jolly Green approaches Jim’s position he suddenly starts screaming over the radio that the Jolly Green is taking ground fire. That doesn’t sound very good, and I wonder if the Jolly Green will pull out. He doesn’t!!! There sure is a lot of shooting going on. it is a mixture of ground fire and suppressing fire from the A-1s. Finally the A-1s get the upper hand. The first Jolly Green sends a Para-rescue Jumper (PJ) down to the ground to help Jim, because Jim can’t move with his broken legs.

They decided to send-in the backup Jolly Green to try and get me out. Sandy 05 told me to start vectoring Jolly Green 27 toward my position as soon as I could hear the sound of the engines. I can hear the distinctive sound of a helicopter south of me. I aim my compass at the sound. Judging from the sound, he must come straight north to get to me. I start talking to the Jolly Green. “OK I can hear you 27. Head 360 degrees. 360 is the heading. I can hear you getting closer. Keep coming 360.” Then I get a glimpse of him through the trees. He will pass me to the east. “27 you are going past me to the east! Stop! You are about 100 meters to the east”! He stops and I get a sighting with my compass! It says he should head 260 degrees to get me. He has turned his machine around and is starting to move in my direction. “I can see you 27 come on a heading 260. Keep coming 27, I can see you through the trees. You are almost here keep coming. You are almost here. I can see your refueling probe. Another 20 meters”! When I tell him I can see his refueling probe he stops and starts unreeling his jungle penetrator. He isn’t quite over me, but is very close. The down-wash from the rotor blades is very strong. The trees are acting as if they were in a hurricane. The penetrator will touch down abou 15 meters downhill from me. I’ll have to leave my hiding place to reach it. If there are any Gomers hiding close by this, no doubt, is what they have been waiting for. A hovering helicopter is an easy and tempting target.

When the Jolly Green started to hover, I started trying to put my equipment back in the vest, but, decided it would take too long. So, I gathered it up in my hands. The penetrator is almost to the ground, so with one last look around, I took a deep breath and left my place of concealment. I ran down the hill to the life-line dangling from the helicopter. I steel myself for the feel of an enemy bullet, for I have revealed my exact location. I feel nothing, and I hear nothing but the Jolly Green. So far, so good, because I have reached the jungle penetrator alive! An hour or so ago I didn’t even expect to be alive. I must hurry though, because even if there are no bad guys hiding close, the hovering helicopter will bring them on the run. I undo the cover that encases the seats and straps. I get a strap out and put it around me. This will insure that I will go up with the helicopter in case he decides to pull out all of a sudden. Also, If I am hit on the way up I won’t fall off the jungle penetrator. I then pull one of the seats down and take a seat! Looking up I give the cable several strong jerks to let the Jolly Green crew know that I am ready. They get the message and start reeling me in. I hope I don’t crack my head on any of the limbs. One of my radios and compass dangle below me. I didn’t stow them and they hang from lanyards attached to my survival vest.

The down-wash from the rotors causes me to start spinning. As I clear the tree tops Jolly Green 27 starts moving away from the area. I am still spinning slowly and I’ll have to be careful not to crack my head on the side of the helicopter. I look up and see one of the crew trying to steady the cable and stop my spin. He is somewhat successful but I have to put a hand out to keep from hitting the bottom of the machine. The upward movement stops with a jerk and I know the cable has been completely reeled in. I don’t attempt to get in as I would only be a hindrance. I feel someone grab me. They unreel just enough cable to pull me inside the helicopter. I am pulled away from the door before the safety strap is released. Then I’m helped to a seat. They give me some water, ask if I’m alright and do I need a blanket? I inform them I’m OK, take the water and decline the blanket.

I’m exceedingly happy that I have escaped from what, just a short time before, looked like an impossible situation. Sgt. Wetzel (the PJ) shouts something in my ear about my buddy (meaning Jim). I don’t quite understand what he says, but it sounds like he says they can’t get Jim. Since I’m not sure what he said I ask him to please repeat. He does and I understand. He said that Jim isn’t up yet, but that there is a PJ on the ground with him.

I look out the window and see what looks like fog. For a moment I am confused, because I know when we went down there we no clouds anywhere in the area and it is too warm for fog. Then I realize that it must be a smoke screen put down by A-1s. The entire area is covered except for the top of the hill where I had been hiding. It no doubt kept a lot of the Gomers from seeing anything to shoot at.

I sit back and relax, grateful that I’ve been rescued but I worried about Jim. About five minute later Sgt. Wetzel gave me good news, the other Jolly Green had Jim on-board. what a relief. What had started out as a routine mission had turned out to be anything but routine.

~Lynn Farnsworth

Units Assigned

  • 1966-1967 Pilot Training, Vance AFB, OK
  • 1968 Pleiku, RVN EW
  • 1968-1969 F-100 Training, Luke AFB, AZ (F-100)
  • 1969-1970 Phan Rang AB/ Tuy Hoa AB, Vietnam (F-100)
  • 1970 F-4 Training; McCoy AFB, FL (F-4)
  • 1970-1972 Homestead AFB, FL (F-4)
  • Jul-Oct 1972 TDY 307th TFS, Udorn RTAB, Thailand (F-4)
  • 1972-1973 Homestead AFB, FL (F-4)
  • 1974 F-105 Training: McConnell AFB, KS (F-105)
  • 1974-1987 McConnell AFB, KS (F-105, F4)

Awards & Decorations

 Legion of Merit
 Distinguished Flying Cross (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Meritorious Service Medal
 Air Medal (with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters)
 Air Force Commendation Medal
 Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation
 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (with 3 Devices)
 Combat Readiness Medal
 National Defense Service Medal
 Vietnam Service Medal (with 7 Devices)
 Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon (with 5 Devices)
 Armed Forces Reserve Medal
 Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
 Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Flight Info

F-100
F-4
F-105

Military Education

  • Command and Staff
  • Air War College

Civilian Education

  • BA Major: Political Science, Minors: Air Science/French, Brigham Young University
Biography

Biography

Lynn Farnsworth is a retired Air Force Fighter/Airline Pilot with over 13,000 hours of flying time in 20 different types aircraft. He is a Vietnam era fighter pilot who flew F-100s and F-4s in Vietnam and Thailand. As Misty #146 he was shot down twice (the 1st time on his birthday and the 2nd time exactly two months later) while performing as a Forward Air Controller.  After exiting from active duty he joined the Air National Guard and flew F-105s and F-4s. His money making job was Airline Pilot, but his fun job was Fighter Pilot.

After retiring from airline flying he started looking for some way to get back to the fun flying. He found just what he was looking for when he discovered the Lancair Legacy. It took twenty months to build the aircraft. Lynn named the Super Legacy, Miss Karen II, (Miss Karen was an F-100 Lynn flew at Phan Rang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam) after Lynn’s wife Karen, who has tolerated his Fighter Pilot act all these years. Miss Karen II’s race number, 44, is in honor of his youngest son Kyle, who wore that uniform number for six years pitching for the Chicago Cubs and the Detroit Tigers baseball teams.  Kyle is still wearing #44, now playing for the New York Mets.  Lynn’s first race was in 2005 and last was in 2013, only missing 2011.

(source: http://www.sportclass.com/pilots/lynn-farnsworth/)

Caterpillar Club #1

My First Misty Shootdown –  19 JAN 1970
(Back in the United States this date was  18 JAN 1970. 18 JAN is my birthday!)

Lynn FarnsworthOn 19 January 1970 Captain Dan Brown and I were fragged for a Misty mission along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The mission was briefed by Dan with the standard items covered and with one item of special interest. 7th Air Force had requested that Misty aircrews check out a suspected North Vietnamese Army headquarters located in the vicinity of Delta 43. Delta 43 was a river crossing where two branches of the Ho Chi Minh trail converged. Just north of Delta 43 was a wide, long valley. It was in this valley that 7th Air Force suspected the NVA headquarters was located. This would be the primary focus of today’s mission.

Dan was in the front seat and I was in the back seat acting as the observer.  Start, taxi and takeoff were standard. The weather was VFR with scattered clouds. Climbing out, Dan checked in with Peacock, the radar control agency in this part of Vietnam.  About 10 minutes after takeoff we heard a Mayday call on the radio. From the call sign we could tell the aircraft that was having problems was a F-4 out of Phu Cat Air Base. They had been hit by AAA in Laos. The emergency aircraft was the lead airplane in a flight of 2 F-4s. The damaged aircraft had been hit in the front cockpit and the front seater was wounded. The number 2 aircraft was about 4 miles in trail trying to catch his leader, so as to be of as much assistance as possible.

The lead aircraft, now being flown by the rear seat crew member, was headed east, toward the South China Sea. They wanted to be over the water in the event they had to eject. Most aircrews preferred an over water ejection vs to ejecting over unfriendly territory.

We called the controlling agency and offered our assistance; however, we weren’t needed and continued toward our working area in Laos. We called Peacock for the current information for our tanker aircraft that we would be using to refuel later. They told us Panama, another radar agency, was controlling the tanker on Yellow track. Peacock told us the radio frequency Panama was using for the Yellow refueling track.

As soon as we entered Laos we contacted Hillsboro, an ABCCC C-130 aircraft that controlled air activity in this part of the war zone. We told Hillsboro we were starting visual reconnaissance on Route 110 east.

As we flew along the road system, we saw nothing of significance. Approaching the Delta 87 area we checked in with a Covey FAC who was working this section of the road system. He was the FAC who had been working with the F-4 that had been hit earlier. Covey requested we check out a possible gun site for him. He thought this might be the location of the gun that had hit the F-4. It was about 2 kilometers north of Delta 87, on top of a knoll east of the road. We made several low, high speed passes over the suspected gun site without being able to positively confirm it being the gun. The Covey FAC got a little worried and asked us to not “hang it out” too much because the gun had hit an F-4 a little earlier. We were well aware of this and so were varying our run in heading and using the afterburner to keep the airspeed around 500 knots. Even using these techniques, it doesn’t take someone long to figure out that we were passing over one central point on each pass. So, even though we couldn’t confirm the location of the suspected gun site, we felt that in the interest of our longevity, we would press on and come back later.

We told Covey of our intentions and continued north to Delta 96, just north of the Golf Course. At this point we had reached Bingo Fuel for our tanker. We called Hillsboro and informed them we were outbound for the tanker and turned east to intercept the Yellow refueling track. The tanker rendezvous was made under radar control by a Panama controller. Dan completed the refueling and we depart the tanker.

With the tanks again full, we planned to VR the Delta 43 area in compliance with the request from 7th  Air Force. In order to be as productive as possible, we pick up Route 922 where it enters South Vietnam from Laos, a few mile southwest of the Kam Duc Special Forces camp that had been overrun by NVA troops  in 1968.

The road was showing increased use, but the quick over flight produced no truck or supply targets. The Gomers had at least 1 bulldozer working on Route 922 and we saw evidence of its work as we did our visual reconnaissance of the road.

Turning north at Delta 41 we again covered route between there and Delta 43. Arriving at the suspected NVA Headquarters area we made 3 passes over the area. We noted several roads leading off from the main road. These in turn had other roads branching off into the thick jungle. After the 3rd pass we decided in view of the heavy concentration of enemy guns and personnel in the vicinity, we had been in the area long enough. The final pass had us going in a westerly direction, taking us away from the main LOCs so Dan turned right to fly over the White Cliffs with the intent to continue a visual reconnaissance of the roads north to Delta 45.

Crossing the White Cliffs we both heard and felt a soft thunk. Dan asked me, “What was that”? My reply was, “I don’t know, I was just wondering that myself”! We both started checking the engine instruments and Dan turned the airplane right to a northeast heading, while initiating a climb. The turn to the northeast was to get away from the road in case something was, indeed wrong. This heading took us away from the road and toward some small hills. One of the first rules if your are hit, is to get as far away from any LOCS as you can get before ejecting. To do so greatly increases your chances for a successful recovery. Of course the best place to eject is over the ocean.

After monitoring the instruments for about a minute, noting nothing abnormal, I had about decided everything was alright and told Dan, “everything looks OK back here”. Just as I finished saying that, I heard Dan say, with considerable concern in his voice, “Oh Oh”! “What is the matter” I asked? “We have a fire light”, he answered! “That’s nice”, I thought to myself, as I looked up to have the bright red fire warning light staring me in the face! The fire warning light coming on meant we had a fire in the forward section of the engine compartment. If the fire was in the aft portion of the engine compartment the overheat light would have been illuminated.

Dan kept the plane headed in the same direction saying, “We need to get over those hills in case we have to jump out”! He then asked me for a heading to Danang, meanwhile climbing and heading away from the suspected NVA Headquarters area.

The emergency procedure for an engine fire in the F-100 is to maintain minimum practical power. In this case we both felt that minimum practical power was full military power. By this time we where over the hills and engine was still running so I told Dan to take up a heading of 090 degrees for Danang. We were climbing through 6,000’ by this time. I felt we had better tell someone about our problem so they could alert the Search and Rescue Forces (SAR).

We were on Hillsboro’s frequency so I decided they were as good as anyone. I pressed the mic button and called, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday! Misty 40, Delta 43. We have a fire and are climbing through 8,000’ heading for Danang”! It was a few seconds before I got a response. A Hillsboro controller came up on the radio and asked what our intentions were. I told him we were going to try to make it to Danang. “Roger, I understand you are going to try to make it to  Danang”, he responded. “Afirmative”, I answered.

About this time the compass system went ape and started rotating uselessly. We still had the magnetic compass as a backup though. While talking to Hillsboro I saw the utility hydraulic system pressure drop to zero. I told Dan and he acknowledged. If there were any lingering doubts as to the validity of the fire warning light, they were, now, completely gone.

Hillsboro called with a request for our heading and altitude. I told him we were climbing through 10,000’ and heading 090 degrees on the magnetic compass. A Stormy Fast FAC (F-4 out of Danang) had checked in with Hillsboro a short time before. Hillsboro gave him a call, “ Stormy…, Hillsboro”. “Hillsboro….. Stormy.. go ahead”. “OK Stormy, we have a misty 40 that has just been hit at Delta 43. He has apparently lost his compass system. He last reported climbing through 10,000’ heading 090 degrees on his magnetic compass. He said he is going to try and land at Danang if he can make it that far. We would like for you to try and join up on him and render what assistance you can.” “We are on our way”, came the reply from Stormy.

Meanwhile, in the cockpit, things weren’t getting any better. I had gotten the map out and verified the 090 degree heading would take us to Danang. Since we had lost the utility hydraulic system, this meant we had lost several things; normal landing gear extension, wheel brakes, speed brakes, nose gear steering , flap extension plus a couple of other items. But, if we got to the point where we needed to lower the landing gear we had the emergency gear lowering system. Danang had barriers at the approach end, mid field and departure end; so, with emergency brakes and the use of one of the barriers, we should be able to get the airplane stopped on the runway. That is, if we can get the airplane on the ground. But, that is a big if. We have already lost one hydraulic system and with a fire burning somewhere back there, there is no telling when or what we might lose next. If we lose the two hydraulic flight control systems we will have to eject. There is only one pressure gage for the two flight control systems. To check the pressure of each system you have to manually switch a selector between system 1 and system 2. So, to keep from switching back and forth between the two systems, I monitor the number 2 system on the gage in the back and Dan monitors the number 1 system on his gage up front. We could wait for the word caution panel to announce the loss of hydraulic pressure but that wouldn’t tell us if it was just one or both systems failing. Also the warning light doesn’t come on until the pressure has dropped below 650 PSI. By monitoring the pressure gages we will know immediately if the hydraulic pressure starts to fluctuate.  Our adrenalin level is already high and if the gages show the impending failure of one or both flight hydraulic systems the adrenalin level will certainly increase.

Almost as if to justify our concern for its health, the number 1 flight control hydraulic pressure went through three or four convulsive cycles and died. Well, we still have the number 2 system left?

The A/C generator joined the crowd of the non-working aircraft systems. Normally, this in and of itself, is a major emergency requiring an immediate landing. The reason being, the constant speed drive (CSD) for the A/C generator is on the front of the engine and if the CSD over speeds and sheds parts, they will be injested by the engine and probably quit.

In 1968 an F-100 from Tuy Hoa had an A/C generator while on a combat mission in southern Laos. The closest air base was at Pleiku. The single runway (09/27) was 6,000’ long; marginal for an F-100. Because of the danger of catastrophic engine failure the pilot kept additional airspeed and altitude as he approached the air base. He landed on runway 09; touching down about 1/3 the way down. The end of this runway ended with a steep drop off. Even with the drag chute and heavy breaking there was not enough runway left to stop before plunging down the steep drop off. The pilot survived but the plane was heavily damaged.

King, the C-130 SAR command and control aircraft, had gotten into the drama. After a bit of conversation between Hillsboro, Stormy, King and us, King took command of the emergency and told everyone to change the radio frequency to SAR primary frequency of 364.2. I wasn’t too sure that was a good  idea, because we were starting to have electrical problems and I wasn’t sure that if we changed frequencies the radio would channelize to the new frequency. Then we would be in worse trouble. But, no one else seemed to share my concern and the switch was made. I waited while the radio went through the channelization, accompanied by the high pitch whine that channelization always produces. The check in, initiated by King, proved, much to my relief, my fears to be unfounded.

The HSI continued its useless rotation. The Tacan was on the blink.

We level at 20,000’and Dan pulls the throttle back to maintain about 300 knots.

Stormy reports he has a radar contact he thinks might be us and asks for our position off of channel 77 (Danang Tacan). Dan tells Stormy our Tacan is inop.

As we cross the Laotian Vietnamese border the cloud coverage changes from scattered in Laos to solid under cast in Vietnam. This will complicate things quite a bit if we make it to Danang without the number 2 hydraulic flight control failing.

It would be difficult enough in good weather to make a successful landing with the battle damage we have incurred. With the low ceiling at Danang there are two approaches we can make; fly a Ground Controlled Approach (GCA) which would have to be a no gyro approach since our heading system in inop, or fly a formation approach on the wing of the Stormy F-4. Formation flying on the wing of a dissimilar aircraft with only one flight control system, emergency gear extension and no flaps is maybe a so, so idea.

Stormy calls a Tally Ho and slides into an extended route formation off the left wing. If things will just hold together a little while longer we just might get to Danang; or feet wet for an ejection.

We still don’t know how much external damage we have suffered so Dan asked for a visual check by our newly found friend, adding a caution for him to not get too close because we only had one hydraulic system left and if it quit there is no telling what our aircraft might do. Most Fast FACs aren’t noted for their timidity and though Stormy acknowledged the warning, he closed in to get a good look. Looking back to the left, I watched him slowly disappear under our airplane. After a short delay, Stormy reappears on the right side. He reports there is a hole about the size of a fist, located about 2/3 the way back on the bottom of the fuselage plus fluid steaming back along the bottom of the plane.

Stormy requests our intentions. When told we wanted to land at Danang, he said the weather wasn’t too pure when he had departed about thirty minutes earlier and it would require an instrument approach. Dan asked if Stormy if he would be willing to allow us to fly on his wing for the approach. He was agreeable with this suggestion. We were about 40 miles from Danang by this time.

I was hoping everything would maintain the status quo, but it was not to be, as the overheat warning light suddenly illuminated. It looked like it really wasn’t going to be our day.

A glance at the warning/caution panel helped me review the systems that had already been knocked out or were in trouble. First, of course, an engine fire light, and now followed by the engine overheat light. Two of the three hydraulic systems were inoperative, the A/C  generator was off line and won’t reset and our navigation instruments were useless. All things considered, things weren’t looking too good for a successful landing.

With the loss of the number one hydraulic flight control system our instrument monitoring was simplified because we could both select the number two flight control position on the hydraulic gage.

Panama, the radar station at Danang, had established radar contact with us and was providing flight following. So, between Stormy and Panama, we had ample navigational resources available, as long as our radio didn’t quit. If the radio should quit, we could still communicate with Stormy, using hand and other visual signals.

The engine was still running well and we had more than enough fuel to get to Danang. Everything depended on the sole remain hydraulic flight control system. If it did fail we, at least, wanted to get feet wet before ejecting. We were over South Vietnam, but there were still plenty of places into which an arrival by parachute would not be well received. The villages and rice paddys around Danang were infested with more than their fair share of VC/NVA. I, for one, wouldn’t want to go down there. Also, the low clouds would make any rescue attempt on land more difficult than one at sea.

To give us every chance possible, Dan trimmed the flight controls neutral, while we still had hydraulic pressure. The F-100 has a “trim for takeoff” button, that when pushed, trimmed the airplane for about 300 knots. With that accomplished we felt we had done about all we could do to insure a safe landing at Danang; or failing that, at least get feet wet before having to eject.

King called us and asked how we were doing? To which Dan replies, “We have a lot of lights on”, referring to the numerous lights that were illuminated on the Master Caution/Warning Panel.

We learned the SAR forces, at Danang, had been alerted but hadn’t yet been directed by King to launch. I wasn’t too happy about that, but then, I wasn’t running the show; there must be something about the operation that I didn’t understand?

Well, if it required us to eject before King would launch his SAR force, the hydraulic gage I had been staring at for the past couple of minutes had just given me the first indication that they would, shortly, be earning their money. I had just seen a momentary 200 PSI fluctuation on the gage. When I saw that fluctuation, my heart must have increased my blood pressure by at least that much. It started pounding and I could feel a surge of new energy as increased amounts of adrenalin were pumped into my blood stream! My “calm” voice, as I relayed the new information to Dan, belied how my stomach felt. Shortly thereafter the hydraulic began an increasingly larger fluctuation, spaced by about 15 second intervals. Then with one last gasp, the needle on the hydraulic gage slowly, but steadily, settled, with finality, on the zero PSI index at the bottom of the gage. “Well, I guess you could try the Ran Air Turbine (RAT) and see if it will do any good”, I said to Dan. He did, and it didn’t. It was not surprising but it was the last thing to try. Our only choice, now, would be an ejection. The airplane was trimmed, and Dan, with manual rudder, should be able to keep the wings level.

Because of the under cast there was no ground to see, so we would have to rely on others to tell us when we passed the coast. No big deal, as long as the radio keeps working. Finally, several of the folks involved (Stormy, Crown and the radar facility at Danang) inform us we’ve passed the coast, outbound. Dan and I say to each other, “sure, but let’s keep going for a little longer”. Our helpers started getting a little impatient, wanting us to eject; telling us we were almost 20 miles past the coast.

Dan and I agreed that 20 miles was enough cushion so the canopy blows off and the seats fire in sequence; me first and Dan ½ second later. Since we ejected at 20,000’ feet I knew I didn’t want to open the parachute right away. The man seat separator worked (however, I later discovered that I had collided with the seat. My helmet had a 3” crack in the top). The freefall would take a while so I curled up in a ball to wait for the automatic stuff to open the chute at the preset altitude (14,000’ or so).

Suddenly I felt the deceleration caused by the opening parachute; the automatic stuff works, good deal! But when I open my eyes to look around, I can’t see anything. Am I blind? I don’t hurt, what is going on?

Much to my relief I discover the blindness is being caused by the oxygen mask. The ejection forces had tried to remove my helmet, but was only partially successful. The helmet had been displaced just enough that the oxygen mask was no longer covering my chin, mouth and nose but my nose and eyes. With that problem solved I decided to deploy my life raft to get ready for landing in the South China Sea. As the raft falls it is attached to me by a lanyard about 10” long. When the raft reaches the end of the lanyard a CO2 bottle inflates the raft.

At some point during the freefall I had entered the clouds, but they were’nt dense. I look around and finally see Dan in his parachute. He is higher and displaced horizontally from me.

Now, back to the upcoming water entry; what do I still need to do? I still need to inflate the personal flotation devices; there are two. A left side and a right side. At that moment I had a great brainstorm. At water survival school, with both water wings inflated I found it difficult to board the raft from the water. This is because water wings caught on the side of the raft. The big brainstorm I just had, concluded that if I only inflated on side of the water wings it would be easier to enter the raft. So, one side it is; now I’m all ready. No, just a minute! I remembered it is important to not get tangled up in the parachute after water entry. The best way to preclude that is to cut free from the parachute at, or just prior to (maybe 5”) water entry.

Cut free, is not really what you do. The parachute risers have a guarded release that when pulled will free the parachute from the parachute harness. To set up for this you have to pull off the release guard cover. This exposes a cable ring that when pulled releases the riser on that side. Ok, all set; just waiting to see the water. The clouds are thickening the lower I descend. Finally, I break out of the clouds and see an angry sea. Big waves and white caps; the wind is not calm. If I release the parachute at the right time the wind should carry it away from me thus precluding any entanglement.

My plan it to pull the riser releases right after I see the raft hit the water. I put a thumb through each cable ring and wait. The raft hits the water, I pull both releases and splash; water entry. It is at this moment that I discover my big brainstorm really wasn’t such a good idea after all. With only one side of the water wings inflated I am just barely able to keep my head above water. Especially with the rough sea I really need both sides inflated. I pull the tab and inflate the other water wing; much better!

The parachute is close by so I need to get into the raft as soon as possible. I find the lanyard and pull the raft over to me and encounter the same problems of raft enter that I had experienced at water survival school. But in a few minutes I was laying on my back in the raft.

Just laying there I could hear the sound of jet engines overhead. I got out my survival radio, made contact on guard (243.0 frequency) with King and told them I was down and in the raft. They said the helicopters were enroute to our location. As it turned out the helicopters involved was a Danang based Jolly Green and, for some reason, the Danang Pedro (H-43).

I heard Dan talking to Crown too so I knew he was OK.

Suddenly through the murk I see a C-130 roaring toward me. The Crown guys had found the bottom of the clouds and were looking for us. Yea for them. Company is nice to have in a situation like this. Things are looking better. Even though King had flown directly over me, visual contact was not made.

Then I see an F-4 pass by a short distance away. Stormy is searching too.

I make voice contact with Dan. We are just kind of making small talk. I guess we pissed off the King guys because we got a radio transmission that said, “If you guys want to get picked up, stay off the radio unless we call you”! Whoa! What did we do? So we stopped talking to each other to keep them happy.

At some point, visually contact was made with both of us. We were told the helicopters were enroute to us. Nothing to do but wait and enjoy the raft ride. While doing that, I happened to look down over the side of my raft. I see my parachute had decided to keep me company and is floating under the raft. I hope it keeps drifting. I don’t want it anywhere near the raft when it comes time for the pick up by the Jolly Green. Getting entangled with the parachute has caused more than one pilot to drown. After a while it drifts away.

We had been in the water 25 or 30 minutes when I hear the distinctive sound of helicopter blades wop wopping the air as the helicopters arrive. They fly a short search pattern looking for us. I watch the search, then a big Jolly Green turns directly toward me. He isn’t far away and in seconds is in a hover about 10’ to 15’ above and slightly to the side of my raft. I can see the Parachute Jumper (PJ) in the right side door looking down at me. The down draft from the rotors blades to very powerful. The PJ and I look at each other for a while. I stay in my raft and the jungle penetrator isn’t being lowered. I guess I’m doing something wrong? Finally with hand signals from the PJ I understand he wants me to get out of the raft into the water. I police up the equipment I had out and roll off the raft into the water; I’m glad the parachute has continued to drift away. The PJ lowers the penetrator; it dips into the ocean to discharge any static electricity that might have built up. At this point I discover I’m still attached to the raft via the lanyard that attaches the raft to the survival kit. I can’t find the quick disconnect to release it. I don’t think the Jolly crew wants me to be hoisted up with a lift raft in tow. The PJ is motioning for me to go get on the penetrator. To show the PJ my just discovered problem, I grab the lanyard and raise it up to show him I’m still attached. I see him say something on the intercom, he takes off his helmet and jumps from the helicopter landing in the water a few feet away. He swam over to me, pulled out a big knife and cut me free from the raft. After that he helps me get on the penetrator. Once I’m on the penetrator the Flight Mechanic hoists me aboard. Inside the helicopter I’m freed from the penetrator and moved to a seat.

That done, the PJ gets hoisted out of the ocean. With him back inside the Flight Mechanic put several bursts of machine gun fire into the raft so it would eventually sink.

The H-43 (call sign, Pedro) picked up Dan and the Jolly Green got me. As a result, Dan didn’t get any of memorabilia the Jolly Greens give out to those they rescue.

The helicopter ride back to Danang was not long, but by the time I was delivered to the Naval hospital I was freezing. Medical personnell were waiting at the helipad for our arrival. The initial medical examination was done in a fairly large room. Dan and I weren’t the only patients. There were two other people laid out on tables; both were unclothed and thus their wounds were visibly apparent. It was not a pretty sight! One was a U.S. soldier. He had several medical personnel working on him. He was laying on his back. He was covered from head to toe with many, many, many wounds. We were told, later, that the wounds were a result of “booby trap” that had explodes a short distance from him.

The other person, laid out on a table, was a Vietnamese girl; maybe 10 to 12 years old. She was just laying there, alone, unattended and unconscious. She uttered an occasional moan but didn’t move. Her wounds appeared to be limited to her head; it had been shaved. There were several wounds from which brain material was oozing.

She had arrived prior to the U.S. soldier, and had been receiving the attention of the Navy doctors and nurses. When the U.S. soldier was brought in, the medical triage principle came into play. He was badly wounded, but appeared very savable. The little Vietnamese girl, sadly, appeared terminal.

The little girl was from a Vietnamese orphanage in Danang. She was playing in an enclosed (walled) area. A Viet Cong terrorist, riding by on a motorcycle, had thrown a grenade over the wall and sped away. Why…………..?

Dan and I were quickly given physical exams; which included xrays. We were both still freezing but a hot shower followed by a complete set of new, dry marine utility uniforms fixed us up.

A message was passed to us that the King C-130 would land at Danang, after its mission for the day was complete, and take us back to Tuy Hoa.

Though the “powers that be” gave us the option to return to our permanent duty station (Dan and I were both TDY from Phan Rang), a week later both of us were back flying Misty missions.

Another day in the war.

Caterpillar Club #2

Lynn Farnsworth - beforeI was shot down twice while a Misty.

This story is about the second shoot down. We had flown a mission in the morning and had run low on fuel while putting in an air strike. Because of this, we had diverted to Ubon for fuel. Operations told us to refuel and fly another mission on the way back in the afternoon. This is where the story begins.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself (author unknown).

The road the Gomers had built through the jungles of Laos were directly below us. This section was oriented basically north and south. It was the dry season and the road showed extensive activity. This was evident by the dust covered trees that lined this section of the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

We entered the area just below Delta 43 ( Delta points prominent geographic landmarks the aircrews used to reference themselves, when talking about different sections of the Ho Chi Manh Trail. That way they could have a clear voice radio transmissions with each other without compromising their position or plans to an enemy who might be listening in on their radio transmissions.). We were flying an F-100F, the two seat model on the North American Aviation Super Sabre. Our armament consisted of two pods of 2.75 inch rockets with white phosphorus warheads (commonly refereed to as “Willy Petes”) and four hundred rounds of 20 millimeter cannon shell for our two guns.

Captain Jim Daveys was in the back seat. This was just his 5th mission as a Misty FAC. I was checking him out on our area procedures and getting him familiar with the area. I entered the area at the river, heading north. As we did so I gave Hillsboro a quick call on the radio telling them we were back. Our radio had been scratchy all day long and sometimes it was difficult to understand what was being said. We’ll need to write it up in the discrepancy log when we get back to base. I armed the rockets and turned off the IFF.

Earlier that day, we had located a boat on the river and had directed 2 Navy A-7s against it. we had been low on fuel and hadn’t been able to check the results of their attack. I wanted to see if the boat was still there. As we passed over the spot, I rolled the aircraft on it’s right site and looking straight down I could see the submerged remains of the boat.

Next, we crossed directly over Delta 43, The road at this point split into what we referred to as the “east and west bypass.” I elected to go up the east bypass. Nothing special was noted (however this area housed an NVA headquarters) but it was evident that the road was seeing an increase in traffic. We got back on the main drag at the Golf Course. There were a couple of dead trucks but nothing else was visible. The road makes a ninety degree turn to the west at the north end of the Golf Course and in order to stay on the road I bank and pull hard on the stick. Another tight turn at the Boot and we continue looking for targets. This area has been target rich in vehicles and troops for the past week, but we see nothing there today.

About 10 miles up the road from the Boot I see a cloud of dust. This could mean only one thing, a vehicle of some kind was traveling on the road. I tell Jim we have a mover. I keep my eyes on the spot where I saw the dust and pull the aircraft up and to a steep climbing turn. I get the Super Sabre turned around and pointed at the right area. A couple of quick corrections, and then, I push the pickle button to fire a marking rocket. It hits very close to where I wanted it. I dive to within 200 feet of the trees but see nothing; off the trail and up and back around to have another look; still nothing. I know they are there, but they are good at camouflage and are well-hidden. We have time for one more pass, and since that particular spot doesn’t have any known gun sites a third at low altitude won’t be to risky. The visual results are still the same and, reversing our original direction of travel, we press on back down the trail. This will take us in the general direction of our base. We pass the Boot and the Golf Course. There is an Interdiction point (IDP) just south of the Golf Course that I want to look at. It is located on the west bypass of the road that comes out of Delta 43. Some F-4s had bombed the IDP that morning and I want to see if the road is still closed. There are many known active gun sites in the immediate area so with the throttle in full military power (all the way forward without afterburner selected) I dive the airplane to pick up as much speed as I can get. The airspeed isn’t as high as I would like but reads 410 knots and is acceptable. Approaching the IDP I unload the “G” force on the aircraft and roll into a 110 degree bank and get a good look at the bomb craters and dirt slides that still have the road blocked. Uncle Ho’s road repair crews will be busy tonight.

I roll back to the left and start a turn to the east. As I do so the aricraft is rocked by a huge explosion. From the back seat Jim asks, “What was that?” I plug in the afterburner and say, “I think we have been hit”, knowing full well that is exactly what has happened. I have also continued a hard tight climbing turn to the left to get away from the area of concentrated enemy activity. No more that 5 seconds have elapsed since the explosion when Jim says, “The fuel in the forward tank is dropping”. I look down at the gauge and see that there is only 1,500 pounds left. The hit must have been in the area of the tank and there has to be a massive leak to have lost 1,000 pounds in so short of time period. I pull the throttle inboard out of afterburner to save as much fuel as possible. The engine feeds from the forward fuel tank and if the flight controls will hold together we will need all the remaining fuel to get to an emergency base in Thailand of South Vietnam. Still climbing, I roll the wings level heading northeast in the general direction of Danang Air Base in South Vietnam.

We have turned into a big fireball arcing though the sky and our situation is rapidly deteriorating. I decide it is time to tell someone of our problems. With everything else falling apart, I hope our weak radio doesn’t pick this time to give up the ghost. I push the radio transmission button on the throttle and make a call on Hillsboro frequency, “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday, Misty 50 at Delta 43! We were hit and may have to leave the aircraft!!!”

The stick starts jumping around in my hand and I know it won’t be long before I loose control of the aircraft. I say to Jim, “I’m loosing the flight controls and we are going to have to get out!” I hear no reply. The airspeed is still 350 knots. I pull back on the stick to slow down a little before we have to eject. It doesn’t do any good. There is no response. The hydraulic flight controls are already dead! A light on the caution panel is flickering. It is probably the hydraulic system. I start to tighten the seat belt and helmet strap but then give up on the idea. I already have my hands full. The dying Super Sabre’s nose is dropping below the horizon and the aircraft is rolling to the right. I push hard on the left rudder pedal hoping that application of manual rudder can stop the roll; I don’t want to eject inverted. The roll continues so I feel it is time to leave the aircraft. The only good thing so far is that all the fire is still behind the cockpit. I reach down to pull the ejection handles when I hear Hillsboro on the radio. “Misty 50, what are your intentions?” I pause long enough to reply, “We are leaving the aircraft”! Then, I start the ejection sequence. No more than 30 seconds have elapsed since we got hit.

The canopy blows off and the noise and wind are horrific. The seat hasn’t fired and I think it has failed (there is a half second delay between the rear seat firing and the front seat firing). Then, I’m fired out of the plane. I tumble backward and loose my helmet. I separate from the seat. The automatic system should have opened the chute by now but it hasn’t, so I pull the ripcord myself. I see the parachute streaming out, then I feel a very reassuring deceleration as the chute inflates. Looking up I examine the canopy for rips or malfunctions. Seeing none I release four risers at the back of the canopy to make it more steerable. Looking around I see several things floating in the air (probably maps and things from the cockpit). I can here a jet engine; it is probably  our stricken Sabre. I look but can’t see it, but I do see an OV-10 circling just to the north.

The pilot no doubt sees us and it is good to know that someone knows that we got out of the aircraft ok. I haven’t seen Jim yet, though I’ve been looking. Finally, I look down toward the ground and I see his parachute. Then I see something that fills me with dread, I can see some risers floatation out from the parachute and it makes me think Jim has fallen out of the parachute to the ground. Then I realize what it really is. It is just the risers from the four line cut. I look around to see where I am in relation to the ground and I am shocked to see that I am between 2 roads. If I am going to have any chance for survival I must fly the parachute east beyond the East Bypass. My attention is drawn to a huge fireball about 3 miles to the north. The Super Sabre will fly no more. Then, I hear the explosion!

I see no one on the ground but I know they are there. I see Jim hit in what appears to be thick undergrowth (because his parachute stays on top of the vegetation). He is too close to the road though. About 100 meters it looks like. That is bad. I now pass over the road and I’m happy about that. I’m fairly close to the ground and it appears the wind is blowing to the east. I turn the parachute into the wind to slow my landing speed. But, I’m moving back toward the road, so the wind must be calm. I see a small opening in the trees and steer the parachute toward it. I am committed to the spot, when I realize it isn’t a clearing, but a dead tree. I am going to hit one of the limbs. I kick away from it and continue down. Now, I’m certain either the chute will hang up and leave me dangling, or the chute will collapse and plunge me to the ground about 150 feet below. I can feel the limbs tugging at the parachute and I brace myself for the fall to the ground.

Finally I reach the ground and fall backward. I didn’t hit hard and nothing is broken. I get rid of the chute by pulling on the 2 quick releases. Next I push the 2 quick releases for the survival kit and pick it up. I must get away from the parachute and find a place to hide. I had landed in a small gully. I climb out of the gully and head north and down a hill a little way and stop to get my breath and turn off the chute beeper. It takes a few minutes to silence the beeper. It had to be turned off, or the emergency frequency would have been blocked by its continuous transmission. I now get out one of my 2 survival radios so I can make a voice contact with the OV-10 I had seen on the way down.

I turn the radio on, but there is a beeper going. It is making too much noise and so I turn the radio off. Jim hasn’t turned off his parachute beeper yet. As long as the beeper is transmitting I won’t be able to make voice contact.  I put my radio away and put the chute beeper in my pocket. I leave the parachute harness on the ground, pick up the survival kit and move north along the side of the hill. The trees are very large but the undergrowth on the ground isn’t very thick. It will make it hard to find a good place to hide. I move about 50 meters and find a tree that will shield me on 2 sides. I take out a water bottle and take a drink to help calm me down. Following that I try the radio again. This time I hear Jim talking to the OV-10 (Covey FAC).

 

Jim says his legs are broken, but other than that he is OK. I wait for their conversation to terminate before I try to make contact. “Hello Covey, Misty 50 Alpha, How do you read?” Covey says he hears me. I tell him I am OK and ask if he has seen any activity in the area yet.  He replies “Negative on the activity”. Then I ask if the Search and Rescue if the Search and Rescue (SAR) was underway yet? He said that the cavalry was on the way. I told him I was going to go down on the radio and be back later. He acknowledged and I turned the radio off. I can hear some explosions to the north and assume it is the 20mm cooking off in the wreckage. I stay-put trying to figure the best course of action. Suddenly I hear automatic weapon fire coming from the area where my parachute is. My position is too exposed and I need to find a place to hide. I feel the survival kit is too heavy and will slow me down too much, so I leave it by the tree and move north and up the hill. I try to be as quiet as I can. Standing up I can see about 20 meters through the trees. Finally I see something that looks promising, but when I get there it isn’t as good as it first appeared. There is a log that runs up and down the hill with some fern bushes overhanging that a top and side cover. It wasn’t too good, but was the best I had seen so far. It would have to do. I crawl in and lay down. I get one of the radios out and give Covey a call (only the single channel radio seems to work, though I tried the four channel radio several times). Covey answers and I tell him what is going on. He says he’ll take a look and see if he can see anything. I turn the radio off again. I try to make myself as comfortable as possible. If I stretch all the way out my feet stick out of the bushes so I have to lay on my side with my legs doubled up. It has been about 15 minutes since I heard gunfire.

Suddenly my heart pounds! Did I hear something? I listen! Yes! There it is again! People are whistling back and forth. That means they are coming closer and if they keep coming they will reach my position before long. I wonder if they are in the mood to take prisoners? I must decide soon whether to fight or let them take me prisoner if they should discover me. I lean toward fighting. I have read reports of how Laotians treat prisoners. I wonder what my wife an 2 children are doing now; probably sleeping. I wonder how they will get along without me? I know that once the fight starts I will have very little chance against automatic weapons. I wonder what it will feel like to get shot? Maybe Covey can help. I tell him I can hear people in the vicinity of my parachute. He makes some low passes but doesn’t see anything. My morale is very low. I have been flying over this area for about 3 months and am very aware that there are a lot of people and guns in the area. Exactly 2 months ago I was shot down by guns in the same area.

At this point I fully expect to either be killed or captured. It is getting late and the SAR forces better get here pretty soon if they are going to get us out before dark. I call Covey and query him about the progress of the SAR. He says they should be on scene in about 30 minutes. I can hear another turboprop aircraft (besides the OV-10) overhead. That, no doubt is the on scene commander in a C-130 (call sign, King). I haven’t heard any people for about 5 minutes. Maybe they have directed their search in another direction. I hope so because the Sandy’s should be here pretty soon and maybe things will change for the better. There is an ant crawling around in the log. He is a huge fellow. I watch him for a while. Little does he realize there is a war going on around him.

The situation is still critical. It was about 1620 when we got shot down. I lost my watch during the ejection so I can only guess what time it is. But, I do know that time will be an important factor in deciding if we get out or not. I decide that if we don’t get picked up before dark I’ll have to try and make it to the hills about a mile east of my present position. It is certain the Gomers will surround me and bring-in more guns during the night. If that happens there is a good chance someone else will get shot down trying to get me out tomorrow.

My spirits suddenly pick up. I hear the sounds of a radial piston engine. That can mean only one thing! The cavalry has arrived! For the first time since we were shot down I feel we might get out of here alive. I turn the radio on and hear a conversation between Covey and the lead rescue aircraft (A-1, call sign, Sandy). Covey is trying to direct Sandy 01 to Jim’s location. “Bravo is the easiest to locate because his parachute is on top of the underbrush. He is about 100 meters off the road. Sandy 01 finally gets a visual on the chute. He confirms Jim is right below the chute.

Covey next tries to describe my location to Sandy 01. “Alpha is almost due north of Bravo”. Covey tells him to look for a small hill. “On the hill is a small ravine on the southeast side of of the hill. Fly over the ravine and you will see a small hole in the trees. At the bottom of the hole you can see Alpha’s parachute”. It takes 3 passes before Sandy 01 sees the parachute. The radio is making so much noise I’m afraid the Gomers will hear it, so I tell Covey I’m going off the air for a while. He acknowledges. My ant friend is still on the log. There are several A-1s in the area now. I hope they are good gunners in case they have to strafe close to my position. The Sandy’s start delivering ordinance. I jump because I’m not prepared for it. They work the area over for quite a while; some of it hits fairly close! Through the trees I catch an occasional glimpse of an A-1 as they pass by my position during their ordinance runs. There is a lot of noise, caused by bombs, 20mm, A-1s etc.

The noise died down quite a bit so I decided to turn the radio back on. They are starting to get ready to pick Jim up. As the Jolly Green approaches Jim’s position he suddenly starts screaming over the radio that the Jolly Green is taking ground fire. That doesn’t sound very good, and I wonder if the Jolly Green will pull out. He doesn’t!!! There sure is a lot of shooting going on. it is a mixture of ground fire and suppressing fire from the A-1s. Finally the A-1s get the upper hand. The first Jolly Green sends a Para-rescue Jumper (PJ) down to the ground to help Jim, because Jim can’t move with his broken legs.

They decided to send-in the backup Jolly Green to try and get me out. Sandy 05 told me to start vectoring Jolly Green 27 toward my position as soon as I could hear the sound of the engines. I can hear the distinctive sound of a helicopter south of me. I aim my compass at the sound. Judging from the sound, he must come straight north to get to me. I start talking to the Jolly Green. “OK I can hear you 27. Head 360 degrees. 360 is the heading. I can hear you getting closer. Keep coming 360.” Then I get a glimpse of him through the trees. He will pass me to the east. “27 you are going past me to the east! Stop! You are about 100 meters to the east”! He stops and I get a sighting with my compass! It says he should head 260 degrees to get me. He has turned his machine around and is starting to move in my direction. “I can see you 27 come on a heading 260. Keep coming 27, I can see you through the trees. You are almost here keep coming. You are almost here. I can see your refueling probe. Another 20 meters”! When I tell him I can see his refueling probe he stops and starts unreeling his jungle penetrator. He isn’t quite over me, but is very close. The down-wash from the rotor blades is very strong. The trees are acting as if they were in a hurricane. The penetrator will touch down abou 15 meters downhill from me. I’ll have to leave my hiding place to reach it. If there are any Gomers hiding close by this, no doubt, is what they have been waiting for. A hovering helicopter is an easy and tempting target.

When the Jolly Green started to hover, I started trying to put my equipment back in the vest, but, decided it would take too long. So, I gathered it up in my hands. The penetrator is almost to the ground, so with one last look around, I took a deep breath and left my place of concealment. I ran down the hill to the life-line dangling from the helicopter. I steel myself for the feel of an enemy bullet, for I have revealed my exact location. I feel nothing, and I hear nothing but the Jolly Green. So far, so good, because I have reached the jungle penetrator alive! An hour or so ago I didn’t even expect to be alive. I must hurry though, because even if there are no bad guys hiding close, the hovering helicopter will bring them on the run. I undo the cover that encases the seats and straps. I get a strap out and put it around me. This will insure that I will go up with the helicopter in case he decides to pull out all of a sudden. Also, If I am hit on the way up I won’t fall off the jungle penetrator. I then pull one of the seats down and take a seat! Looking up I give the cable several strong jerks to let the Jolly Green crew know that I am ready. They get the message and start reeling me in. I hope I don’t crack my head on any of the limbs. One of my radios and compass dangle below me. I didn’t stow them and they hang from lanyards attached to my survival vest.

The down-wash from the rotors causes me to start spinning. As I clear the tree tops Jolly Green 27 starts moving away from the area. I am still spinning slowly and I’ll have to be careful not to crack my head on the side of the helicopter. I look up and see one of the crew trying to steady the cable and stop my spin. He is somewhat successful but I have to put a hand out to keep from hitting the bottom of the machine. The upward movement stops with a jerk and I know the cable has been completely reeled in. I don’t attempt to get in as I would only be a hindrance. I feel someone grab me. They unreel just enough cable to pull me inside the helicopter. I am pulled away from the door before the safety strap is released. Then I’m helped to a seat. They give me some water, ask if I’m alright and do I need a blanket? I inform them I’m OK, take the water and decline the blanket.

I’m exceedingly happy that I have escaped from what, just a short time before, looked like an impossible situation. Sgt. Wetzel (the PJ) shouts something in my ear about my buddy (meaning Jim). I don’t quite understand what he says, but it sounds like he says they can’t get Jim. Since I’m not sure what he said I ask him to please repeat. He does and I understand. He said that Jim isn’t up yet, but that there is a PJ on the ground with him.

I look out the window and see what looks like fog. For a moment I am confused, because I know when we went down there we no clouds anywhere in the area and it is too warm for fog. Then I realize that it must be a smoke screen put down by A-1s. The entire area is covered except for the top of the hill where I had been hiding. It no doubt kept a lot of the Gomers from seeing anything to shoot at.

I sit back and relax, grateful that I’ve been rescued but I worried about Jim. About five minute later Sgt. Wetzel gave me good news, the other Jolly Green had Jim on-board. what a relief. What had started out as a routine mission had turned out to be anything but routine.

~Lynn Farnsworth

Units - Education - Awards - Flight Info

Units Assigned

  • 1966-1967 Pilot Training, Vance AFB, OK
  • 1968 Pleiku, RVN EW
  • 1968-1969 F-100 Training, Luke AFB, AZ (F-100)
  • 1969-1970 Phan Rang AB/ Tuy Hoa AB, Vietnam (F-100)
  • 1970 F-4 Training; McCoy AFB, FL (F-4)
  • 1970-1972 Homestead AFB, FL (F-4)
  • Jul-Oct 1972 TDY 307th TFS, Udorn RTAB, Thailand (F-4)
  • 1972-1973 Homestead AFB, FL (F-4)
  • 1974 F-105 Training: McConnell AFB, KS (F-105)
  • 1974-1987 McConnell AFB, KS (F-105, F4)

Awards & Decorations

 Legion of Merit
 Distinguished Flying Cross (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Purple Heart (with Oak Leaf Cluster)
 Meritorious Service Medal
 Air Medal (with 18 Oak Leaf Clusters)
 Air Force Commendation Medal
 Distinguished Presidential Unit Citation
 Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (with 3 Devices)
 Combat Readiness Medal
 National Defense Service Medal
 Vietnam Service Medal (with 7 Devices)
 Air Force Longevity Service Award Ribbon (with 5 Devices)
 Armed Forces Reserve Medal
 Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
 Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal

Flight Info

F-100
F-4
F-105

Military Education

  • Command and Staff
  • Air War College

Civilian Education

  • BA Major: Political Science, Minors: Air Science/French, Brigham Young University
Photos