Ashau Valley, 10 March 1966
Me and 1/Lt P.J. Jones USMC (mustang and USNA GRAD) and Major Fisher, USAF (MOH Winner) that day.
I checked my old moldy log-book—now falling apart and held together with ‘Ordnance Tape’, now called Duct Tape-- and sure enough on March 10, 1966 I made a notation of the flight as "Major Fisher CMH". Don’t remember when I first heard of his CMH< but there it was. I was very proud of what we did that day. It was the first of not many missions that I heard the name of a location, rather than a radial and distance and "Check In with Birdog_____". Except for
Hill 881 and the Rock Pile, up in the North, near the DMZ. Very hot targets for several days and we got to know them by name since we hit them day after day after….
Note to file: I found the original of my story on February 24, 2013 while looking for something in my old (at least 50 years) USMC footlocker in my basement. It had not been moved in over 10 years. The original was so mild-dewed that I could only read about half of it. So I’ve tried to re-write it as best I can. What I have written here is what I remember and how I remember it.
1/Lt P.J. Jones (now Col. USMC Ret. Definitely shudda made General) and I had just launched on an early morning (as I recall—maybe we were on the Hot Pad) CAS strike down near Chu Lai. HILLSBORO told us to contact a BirdDog (can’t remember his call sign) which we did. He came back with something like this: "Hey Condole this is………..(BirdDog) and I’ve got so many holes in my aeroplane that I am seeing serious daylight thru the fuselage. There’s something going on at that little airpatch down in the Ashau Valley. When I left there was one Air Force AD on the ground, and it looked like another one was going to try and land. The Charlies are well dug in all around the place on level with the air patch and on the sides of some of the hills around it--with automatic weapons. I’ve got to go home. Can you help?"
I Rogered in the Affirmative and set up the TACAN for that little air patch that the BirdDog had described. We went immediately into the Klag…tops at around 10,000 feet and we started the let down…P.J. was hanging in there on my right wing, as he had done so many times before (and would in the future). I seem to remember that we were carrying 8- 5-inch Zuni Rockets and a load of 400 20mm rounds each—four guns in the nose in the F8E Crusaders that we were flying.
By sheer luck, when we broke out we were setup perfectly for a strafing run into what appeared to be the greatest number of gun emplacements with a ragged bottom of variable 600-800 feet with visibility less than 2 miles.
I made an immediate Tally Ho on the AD’s. I recognized them right away because I had flown the AD in my first fleet squadron about 9 years before. Then I picked up the "sparkles"=muzzle flashes from ground fire" from the VC. They were definitely pissed off at the AD’s. Fired my first two rockets and told P.J. to take just enough interval on me to keep me in sight and to hopefully not fly thru any ordnance blast debris. He would have done that anyway. He was that good.
P.J. had set up his interval as a perfect Lufberry Circle. We were circling with about 2-3 constant g’s just to keep each other in sight and out of the klag at 600-800 feet…each of us 180 degrees from the other.
We must have made 8-10 runs each with rockets and 20mm but we kept seeing their sparklers. When we ran out of ordnance… I still seem to remember seeing the AD’s out of my peripheral vision and I felt that they needed for us to keep the Charlie’s busy. So, intelligent leader that I was, told P.J.—let's keep on making runs (but change your run-in heading) and hit the burner just as you fly over Charlie’s position. Believe it or not, it worked. No more sparklers. We must have put a serious kinda scare on them. You won’t believe how loud an F8 afterburner is till you’ve stood near it just once. Lots of Charlies with busted ear drums. Trying to remember after all these years—I don’t recall if the AD’s were still on the deck or had taken off, when we had to Bingo.
We got back and debriefed with the Group S2 and I told them I’d like to find out how the AD Driver made out. Never heard another word while I was in-country.
There is a story on the internet which goes into detail, quoting a lot of radio chatter among a lot of different people, trying to help Major Fisher. I DO NOT recall ANY other people being on our frequency while we were on target—except for the initial contact with the Bird Dog—the guys with the biggest Cajones—next to Chopper Pilots. The title is "Bernie Fisher…A Combat Fighter You’d Want To Know."
Flight Commander/Ops Officer
Marine All Weather Fighter Squadron 235 DaNang AB RVN