AP News Release, 18 June 1965 (Tacoma News-Tribune 18 Jun 65)
This was a non-SKYSPOT mission; COMBAT SKYSPOT was not introduced until March of 1966.
B52s BOMB VIET CONG TROOP CONCENTRATION
27 Big Bombers Used in Attack on Red Jungle
Guam-Based Planes Enter Combat For First Time; 2 Lost on Flight
The United States used 27 B52 intercontinental bombers Thursday to rain high explosive bombs on a Communist concentration in South Viet Nam. It was the first time B52 has ever been used in combat.
The Defense Department said the strike took place in full daylight, Friday, Saigon time. A spokesman said 30 planes began the raid but two collided in flight before reaching the target.
Another had a malfunction which kept it from dropping its bombs.
It marked the first time the huge Strategic Air Command jets have been used in Viet Nam war, or anywhere in fighting.
The fleet pounded a Viet Cong concentration located north of Ben Cat In Binh Duong province to break up an impending attack, the Pentagon said.
The jets flew to South Viet Nam from Guam, where two squadrons have been based. There was no immediate word on whether the 27 string bombers returned safely.
2 Planes Collide
The Pentagon said a co-pilot of one of the tanker refueling planes reporting seeing the two B52's collide.
One crewman was known to have been picked up from waters off Luzon in the Philippines by an amphibious plane, a spokesman said, and other survivors were sighted in the water.
The spokesman said officials were not absolutely certain what happened to the second of the colliding B52s because the fleet was maintaining radio silence.
Apparently the first craft was tracked down by radar.
A B52 normally carries a crew of six.
The Pentagon said the planes dropped 1,000-pound and 750 pound bombs on Viet Cong forces in a heavily forested area 28 miles north of Saigon.
A U.S. spokesman in Saigon said the B52s, which bomb from a relatively high altitude and do not dive on their targets, were used because of their greater effectiveness rather than for lack of other planes.
The spokesman said an uninhabited area of jungle was involved. He said the attack was in full daylight and that sophisticated electronic systems had assured pinpoint accuracy.
First details of the B52 raid were announced in Washington. There was no immediate reaction from Peking or Hanoi, although Radio Peking called a decision to send 20,000 more U.S. troops to Viet Nam "a new step on the path of widening the war of aggression."
The B52 raid began about daybreak and the thunder of heavy bombs were audible in Saigon. There were big flare drops and barrages of artillery in the in the vicinity of Saigon during the early morning hours.
At Bien Hoa, the big air base 15 miles north of Saigon, intense activity also was going on apparently in connection with the B52 strike and with ground operations that were to follow.
A spokesman said Vietnamese ground forces would be moving into the forested area soon.
The aircraft went down about 250 miles offshore, abeam the DMZ.
Major James Gehrig, Capt Tyrrell Lowry, and TSgt William Neville were lost from one aircraft. Their fellow crewmembers Lt James Erbes, Capt Kenneth Harten, and Lt James Collier III were rescued.
In the other aircraft, Capt James Robertson, 1Lt James Marshall, Capt Robert Armond, Capt Frank Watson, and MSgt Harold Roberts, Jr died. LtCol James Anderman was rescued.
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