Scrapbook One Hundred Thirty Eight…

scrapbook

MAY 2015

A few years ago the Super Sabre Society asked each member who had ejected from an F-100 to write a short description of what happened. My story took place during the war in Vietnam and is published on their web site. It was written for fighter pilots and is full of jargon. Sorry about that. f

Forrest flying an F-100 Super Sabre.

Forrest flying an F-100 Super Sabre.

Unassing a C model near the DMZ

It was 1755 on December 20, 1968, when I floated down into the beautiful Laotian jungle near the DMZ. What a paradise! I had been leading a flight of four C models out of Tuy Hoa on what was to be my last mission (number 327). Both my wingman and I had four CBU-34s and the other two had four M117s with instant fuses. Our mission was to mine the main trail at Tchepone, and we planned it for a late TOT to take advantage of the low sun.

My first pass was up the canyon, along the road and into the sun, 200′ and 500 knots, hoping to surprise the guns we knew were there. It took about ten seconds for the cluster bomblets to roll out of the canisters, so I was straight and level for a long time. I probably took hits on that pass. At the end of the run, I pulled up and came back out of the sun for the second pass expending both inboard CBU-34s.

Toward the end of the run, I saw multiple muzzle blasts at 11 o’clock and level with me. I think they were holding a couple of ZPUs steady so I could fly through the bullets. My first indication of trouble was when the canopy shattered and thick pieces of plastic hit my body and scarred my visor. Both drop tanks had ugly 50 caliber holes, fuel was pouring out (we had just exited a tanker), and the engine started going through withdrawal. It was compressor stalling but it kept trying, so I felt it didn’t really want to quit. When it did, I knew my life was about to get exciting.

DAYTON, Ohio - North American F-100F Super Sabre cockpit at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

So I made a tight 270 to the right, heated the guns, and gave the NVA guys about 200 rounds of HEI. When I pulled up and looked back, they were still shooting.

Nail 74, (the FAC, Lt James Swisher), who was four miles away, called me trailing smoke, so I turned 030 degrees and instructed my wingmen to hit my mark with all they had. Later intelligence reports said they got secondary explosions.

I left the target without a lot of things working for me except the red and yellow lights on the instrument panel. I pulled the Rat on and noted the airspeed – 385 knots.

Jagged pieces of the canopy were still hanging to the front frame, and that got my attention pretty good because I figured the ejection system might have been hit also, so I would have to crawl over the side. Although I wasn’t ready to eject, I raised both armrests and the canopy frame blew off as advertised. I felt a little better.

The jungle was dense, but I still didn’t want to go out until the last minute for fear of being shot on the way down, or at least to lessen the chances of someone seeing my chute. A 1000′ high karst appeared under my left nose so, I decided to punch out over it in hopes of landing on top, thinking the enemy wouldn’t be up there, and besides it would be a good place for a chopper to pick me up.

I was still ready to go over the side as I ran through the checklist: gun film in my G suit, visor down, chin strap fastened, head back, boots in the stirrups, pull both triggers. So at about twenty miles from the target, at 240K and 1500′, I had a great rocket ride that took me up 150′ or whatever. The butt kicker worked, and I was in one of the greatest experiences of my life. All pilots should get to do that once a year instead of taking a stan check.

The next thing was to pull the lanyard and drop the survival kit and dingy, so of course the lanyard wouldn’t pull. I jerked it hard a couple of times and the handle came off in my hand.

And worse, I missed the karst by a little because I couldn’t remember which risers to pull that would fly me to a landing on top (I never was very good with math). As it happened, the wind blew me over, and while I don’t remember my body hitting the bluff, the chute did, so it dragged for a while and then streamed. Now I was falling face down with mean looking rocks and trees approaching at flank speed.

With a big limb, dead in my trajectory, I closed my eyes and wished I’d gone to church more, as my body bounced off of hard things for what seemed like an unfair length of time. Finally, all was quiet as I gently bounced up and down. My chute had caught on a low limb and when I opened my eyes I was hanging about 18″ off the ground. I couldn’t believe it.

Everything had happened so fast that I wanted to just sit there for a minute and soak it in. None of my body parts were giving me major pain (they would later that night), but I was bleeding from my nose and head. (That’s the best way to get a Purple Heart.)

After a few minutes I felt myself going into shock. Hot, clammy, apprehensive, shortness of breath, symptoms that I had learned at snake school in the Philippines. So I climbed out of the harness, elevated my feet, closed my eyes and thought about sitting on the bank of the Lampasas River in Texas with a bobber in the water, catching 5″ blue gills. It worked, and after maybe 30 minutes I was back again.

By this time it was getting seriously dark, so I pulled the dingy about 50′ into some dense undergrowth, leaned it over a log and climbed under. I could hear dogs barking, and that wasn’t a good sign since the Pathet Lao didn’t take prisoners.

It was just cool and damp enough to keep me awake most of the night, and when I did doze off the flights of three hero B-52’s from Guam woke me up by spacing out 315 five hundred pounders all around me. I told them on guard channel to go play somewhere else, but they didn’t respond. I think they were listening to Bing Crosby sing Silent Night on AFN radio.

At 0800 the next morning, here came Lt. Swisher again. He had to give up the night before because of darkness, but was up at 0200 and out again at first light. Don’t you love a guy like that? Although I couldn’t see him, I could hear his putt-putt. He responded to my call and asked me to pop smoke, which I was reluctant to do, so I moved over to the bottom of the karst where there were large rocks.

When I spotted his plane, I told him to start a left turn and stay in it until I said stop. “Now look down your wing at a large pile of rocks. That’s me waving like a windmill.”

That was fun until he told me to hang tight, that he’d be back later. Well, I remember thinking I’d just as soon he’d hang around for a while, but before I could tell him, he was gone.

So after about thirty-minutes there were so many aircraft in the sky it made me feel important. A Crown C-130 flying high and directing traffic, four Sandy prop jobs (one was Capt James Jamerson, later four stars) flying low to keep the enemy heads down, a flight of huns making tight circles at high speed, and two determined looking Jolly Green Giants coming in fast. It was just like in the movies.

The low chopper (the Candy Ann), flown by Lt Cmdr. Lance Eagan (US Coast Guard), asked me to move away from the karst so he would have more rotor clearance, so I went into the trees again.

After confirming that I was alright a heavy jungle penetrator came crashing down bringing a lot of limbs and foliage with it. It took 240′ of cable, and I quickly unfolded two legs and strapped on. The ride up was slow enough for me to maneuver around some of the larger limbs, but I just crashed through the others because the cable was twisting and the chopper was moving.

It didn’t help my morale any when I looked up and saw the hoist operator (M/Sgt. Maples) with his hand on the emergency cable cutter; the “Guillotine.” But when I cleared the trees, he signaled the pilot, and we were up and away at max speed.

When I got up to the door, the PJ, A1C Sully, jerked me in and yelled, “Quick, jump across the flak vests and get in the back.” On the way to Nakhon Phnom and after high-fives all around, I took inventory. I had lost my pistol and gun camera film in the trees, but I had my head, my arms, my legs, and memories of a bunch of great guys who knew how to make things work. It beat the hell out of walking home.

Crew of the Candy Ann and Forrest after snatching him from the  jungle in Laos.

Crew of the Candy Ann and Forrest after snatching him from the jungle in Laos.

And would you believe it? The co-pilot of the high Jolly was taking color pictures while they were pulling me up through the trees. As it turned out, I was the 1500th air crew to be rescued by the ARS in SEA and the 331st by that unit. (See Daedalus flyer, Vol. IX, No. 3, September, 1969, for the chopper pilot’s description and pictures of the rescue).

Because that mission was supposed to be my last, they had closed me out, so it took a call to Saigon to get one more. Who wants to be shot down on their last mission? The general said “OK, but keep him in-country.” Two days later I walked through my front door in Lubbock, Texas. My lovely wife and two daughters were grinning. It was Christmas Eve.

Addendum

I had been shot up a few months earlier, flamed out, and dead-sticked a D model into the short runway at Bien Thuey in the Delta. After touching down at 205 knots, my hook grabbed the approach end anchor chain so I pulled that thing the wrong way. They said I stopped in 250′. The leg straps on my chute were pulled so tight I thought for a while I had been placed into a different social stratum. I’d always rather be lucky than good. -Forrest Fenn

 

 

79 thoughts on “Scrapbook One Hundred Thirty Eight…

  1. Forrest great story I felt like I was there. 🙂
    Thank u for your service and for all the other men and women that have put their life on the line. What a splendid job our soldiers do. I can’t even imagine
    You are a brave man 🙂

  2. Thank you for your service Forrest. I started to get choked up as I read about the crew that came out to drag you out of the jungle.

  3. I had almost given up hope on there being another scrapbook. Thanks for writing up one, it was worth the wait.

  4. It’s stories like this that make me wonder what a 79 or 80 year old man is capable of doing…. Awesome story Mr. Fenn.

  5. Forrest, You are both… Lucky and Good… At whatever you do.
    And we are also lucky to have you here today. We appreciate all that you are able to share with us about your exciting life experiences and memories. Thank you again for your service and giving us TTOTC and so much more. 🙂

  6. I wondered if you were going to share that version. So glad you survived that situation. Thank you Forrest for all you are and have done.

  7. Awesome. Look at all of the buttons and dials in that cockpit. Learning that seems like learning another language 😯

    • Great observation, Jenny. I would imagine that was one of the most joyous moments of Forrest’s life. Very few things could ever top that…if any.

  8. I stopped at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Angel Fire yesterday. As I wandered around I had to wonder at what it was like for FF, my uncle Doug Gilchrist, and some friends. Honestly, I don’t get it. There has been some violence in my life. People have shot at me or tried to kill me by other means. But that’s just life in Albuquerque. I just can’t imagin the systematic, industrialisation of war. I really don’t get it. I am glad that most people I have known that were in war are very very reluctant to explain it to me. Peace.

    • Hello from Santa Fe, Michael! I’ve never been shot at, and I did live in Abq for a while, hope it wasn’t a wife trying to kill you. A few months ago, a link to this amazing story was posted on here, and it ended just a bit differently. Forrest said something like I’m not a numbers guy… after giving tons of numbers- anyone?

      Do stay safe Homie,

      Lowi

      • Forrest may say he is not a numbers guy, but think of the numbers involved in flying. Altitudes, fuel weight, payload, navigation etc. Even in the foundry I am sure there are numbers, for instance, I don’t think you would want to melt too much more than you needed. I think Forrest is modest.

        • Am I wrong tho, is there another version where Forrest does indeed write “I’m not a numbers guy”. This would be really funny after listing so many numbers. I do think that all his hints are funny, still stuck on 200 doves and 8 Saint Bernards…..

          I prefer vodka in my purse, it’s stonger so really does save space.

  9. Thank you, Forrest! That version has more details than in TTOTC. I have a whole new appreciation for those FACs and Jolly Greens. And a whole new appreciation for fighter pilots, too. 🙂

    Especially daring ones who volunteer to fly low.

    Did you take any enemy fire going up the hoist? Or were you lucky in that respect too?

    I am fascinated and in complete awe of the heroism displayed in Vietnam every day.

    The PJ’s motto: “That others may live,” may be the most selfless motto I’ve ever heard.

    Forrest, I think you were both lucky AND good.

    • I was going to say the exact same thing, Mindy. Forrest said, “I’d always rather be lucky than good” …but to those of us who have actually read his books he’s obviously BOTH.

  10. I am glad you lived to tell that tale, Forrest. I bet your wife and family were very happy to have you home safe and sound. It sounds like many things could have gone wrong but your training and skill kicked in and luck was on your side that day.

  11. I think that story gets juicier every time I read it. Is it me? or is this one modified for the blog. Great story !

    • Wabi, I don’t think it’s a celebration of war; it is recognition of service, there is a big difference between the two.

      As far as permanent war economy get use to it. It’s not a matter of if, it is when we decide to fight because there is always someone looking for a fight. Appeasement will lead to nothing but destruction or servitude.

      Peace is only achieved through overwhelming force and superior fire power. The only thing to be determined is who is the super power on the block; China, Russia, United States, Islamic Caliphate, or ??.

      Like it or not that is the way it is; always has been and always will be.

      Thank you for your service Fenn.

  12. This great story sounds like a great tribute to those who chose to stand tall in the face of adversity…celebration? NO. A story that tells how one soul managed to beat the odds and cheat the reaper one more time. OOH RAH !!!

  13. Thank you Forrest and all of the great ones that are reading this blog for your service to this great country of ours! Happy Mother’s Day Peggy and all the other mothers on reading this blog! Have a great day everyone!

  14. Great to hear another version of what should have been a horrific event. I am always amazed at how you put a bright light on it still; ” I floated down into the beautiful Laotian jungle”. You make it sound so wonderful. Anyway, thank you for your service to our country, and wishing Peggy and the other mothers from the blog a wonderful Mother’s Day.

    Fred Y.

  15. Call me slllllllow…….took me a minute to know what “unassing” a C meant….then I read “the butt kicker worked.” Light bulb moment! 🙂

  16. Thanks for your service Forrest and thanks to all who have put their lives on the line in service to our country.

  17. “Fighter pilot is an attitude. It is cockiness. It is aggressiveness. It is self-confidence. It is a streak of rebelliousness, and it is competitiveness. But there’s something else – there’s a spark. There’s a desire to be good. To do well; in the eyes of your peers, and in your own mind.” – Robin Olds, Fighter Pilot “Triple Ace”

    Thank you for sharing your story, Forrest. You epitomize what a combat fighter pilot is made of during wartime.

  18. Thank You Forrest for all you have done,

    Your story showed me that you had the training, the awareness, the toughness, and good decision making skills to have a good outcome – Luck sometimes helps as well.
    I am sure many of us lost friends (as I did), familly, or know of those who did lose a loved one. “The Wall” is not a celebration of War but a reminder to all of the dedication, spirit, and sacrifice that others made for the United States of America and life as we now know it.
    I for one want my children and grandchildren to not lose sight of what it means to live here or for what we stand for – even with all the changes that seem to be occuring.
    Giving direction to the treasure we have here in our country will keep all on the right tract!
    Happy Mothers day to everyone and especially Peggy.

  19. Sorry – this is a repost with my correct handle on it : )

    Thank You Forrest for all you have done,

    Your story showed me that you had the training, the awareness, the toughness, and good decision making skills to have a good outcome – Luck sometimes helps as well.
    I am sure many of us lost friends (as I did), familly, or know of those who did lose a loved one. “The Wall” is not a celebration of War but a reminder to all of the dedication, spirit, and sacrifice that others made for the United States of America and life as we now know it.
    I for one want my children and grandchildren to not lose sight of what it means to live here or for what we stand for – even with all the changes that seem to be occuring.
    Giving direction to the treasure we have here in our country will keep all on the right tract!
    Happy Mothers day to everyone and especially Peggy

  20. Forrest,
    I always loved that story and appreciate you sharing the full details. You have been fortunate enough to have done what so few have been able to live to talk about.

    I remember when I was going through flight training and my roommate was on a low level Nav route and sucked a bird into the single engine Tutor Jet (same jet as the Snowbirds fly) and compressor stalled. They couldn’t get a relight and instead of punching out, they elected to land on a narrow gravel road at 130 mph, getting light in their sholder straps, struggling all the way to keep it on the road because two 6′ ditches laid ready to snuff out their lives should they venture in their territory.

    When they came to a stop and got out they notice each main wheel had only 3′ of clearance. They had to stand up in front of us all and said they should have ejected. Unfortunately the next guy who tried to eject didn’t survive. That was always a big dilemma if you ever had the option.

    • Hello, Wolf. Pilots in war are great examples of courage under fire. I was privileged a few months ago to work on a home remodel project for a WWII Veteran who flew P-38 Lightnings over Italy. He told a similar story about returning to base to land, but…small problem…his landing gear was stuck. His commander gave him the option of jumping/parachuting from the plane over the ocean…where the plane would be completely lost…but he stood a greater chance of surviving…OR the commander explained that they were in dire need of parts for that particular model of plane…so he could slide the plane in without landing gear…and possibly get himself killed in the process. The commander left it up to him to choose.

      He chose to try to save the plane as best as he could…knowing that many more lives would likely be saved by his actions. THAT’S the HEART and MIND of a True Fighter Pilot.

      It was not an easy landing…but he lived to tell the tale.

      Thank You, Forrest Fenn…and all those past, present and future who fight in defense of Liberty and Justice for All.

  21. …anybody ever consider BenchMark airstrip in Montana as part of their solve? It’s a fly in/ fly out campsite. Tailor made for fisherman & small plane enthusiasts, I guess a road in might be open briefly in the summer, I considered it for a while. I can’t ever imagine going there myself/ just too far.

    Maybe Fenn has been talking about flying & fishing this whole time but all we heard was flyfishing.

  22. from the past,present and future,i thank everyone of you military personel , who were drafted, joined the service.you never know what you were going to go through ,until you are right in the middle of it.then theres the scars,pain memory,ptsd.loss of limb or life..can’t figure how to fit into society again.as peoples lives go on, yours stopped and changed into a whole different life.there will never be peace around the world,it will always be a war going on.you did what you had to do to survive or not.for the fallen,families,those who came home ,and are still fighting,wounds heal,but leaves scars.you don’t know me,or other people,but do know you are not forgotten.if I could make your life better,i would,but I can’t. only god can make it easier to live,he has scars too.those who have fallen have seen jesus scars.so hold on,look around at the beauty of each day,as we only have one day at a time,yesterday is gone, there might not be a tomorrow,we have only today. May god bless each and everyone of you.thank you all so very much.

  23. Maybe it is because its mothers day but while reading this story my mind wandered to thoughts of Forrests mom and his wife Peggy and what they must have experienced when they heard that Fenn had been shot down. Heart break! It makes my heart ache to think of all of the parents, wife’s, and children who waited and worried and who gave so much. Your tale is rarely repeated and oft forgotten or overlooked even though your sacrifices were many. A toast to you all of the moms for today you are honored.

  24. Thank you Forrest for such wonderful service to this great country. I think your life demonstrates the self sacrifice this generation needs so badly.

  25. DEAR MR. FINN; YOU DEALT WITH ALOT, DURING YOUR TOUR IN VIETNAM. GOD WAS WITH YOU, THROUGH IT, AS THE BOMBS HIT ALL AROUND. HE MADE SURE, YOU WOULD BE ALRIGHT. SO HAPPY, YOU MADE IT OUT OK. I COULD ONLY IMAGINE WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH. WONDERING WHEN YOU WOULD BE FOUND, AND HOPING IT WAS US, WHO FOUND YOU. SO HAPPY THEY DID. MY BROTHER SERVED TWO TERMS IN VIETNAM HIS FIRST TOUR STARTED ABOUT JUNE 1968 WHEN HE LEFT TEXAS FOR VIETNAM. HE SAID THE HEAT THERE IS UNBELIEVABLESOMETIME’S 120 OR SO. I KNOW YOU WERE AS HAPPY TO SEE YOUR FAMILY AS THEY WERE TO SEE YOU. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOU DID FOR OUR COUNTRY. I NOTICED IN THE PHOTO, THE MAN STANDING TO YOUR RIGHT AND THE ONE CLOSE TO THE CAMERA, LOOK LIKE TWIN’S. I WONDER IF THEIR RELATED. WE LOVE YOU FOREST. PLEASE TELL YOUR FAMILY AND DALE HI.

    • What is up with the Finn misspellings? I am not aiming this at you specifically Virginia. I see many notes that call Forrest Fenn, Mr. Finn or Finn or Forrest Finn…Is that just something autocorrect does…or am I the last person to get the joke??

      • IT’S ME, I MADE A MISTAKE, I REALIZED LATER, I DO THAT ALOT. HOPE YOUR DOING ALRIGHT, ENJOY READING ALL THAT YOU WRITE. YOU WOULD THINK, AFTER WORKING AT THE NEWSPAPER, WHEN THEY STRESS PROOF READING, I WOULD HAVE LEARNED BY NOW. PLEASE TELL FENN I’M SORRY. WRITE ANY TIME ENJOY HEARING FROM YOU GUY’S.

      • Does anyone know if any of Forrest’s friends growing up called him “Huckleberry”? As in Huckleberry Finn…or Huckleberry Fenn? Does he seem more like a Huckleberry Finn or a Tom Sawyer? 🙂 I know some of my friends called me Dingleberry.

          • Hello, Wolf. I can see Kate Upton in my mind saying that. It’s difficult. My mind doesn’t naturally go there. 🙂

            She asks, “Will YOU be my huckleberry?”

            My response: “Uhhh…maybe…wait right here. Let me go ask my wife.” :/

  26. WOW, CAN YOU BELIEVE, HOW SMALL THIS WORLD CAN BE? LIKE FOREST I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN TEMPLE TEXAS. WE NOW LIVE ABOUT 15 MILES FROM THERE. YOU ALSO MENTIONED THE TELEGRAM, IN THE 1990’S I WORKED IN THE MAILROOM OF THE TELEGRAM. YOU ALSO MENTIONED GONE WITH THE WIND AND THE ARCADIA THEATRE. WISH YOU COULD HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE THERE. IT WAS FABULOUS. A FRIEND’S MOM TOOK HER DAUGHTER AND MYSELF TO SEE IT. SOMETIME BEFORE 1971. IT WAS MY FIRST MOVIE AT A THEATRE, FIRST COLOR PICTURE SEEN EVER, WE HAD A BLACK AND WHITE, WHICH WAS AMAZING. ALSO! OUR FIRST BAD WORD HEARD ON THE SCREEN. AS HE SAID, FRANKLY MY DEAR I DON’T GIVE A ___________, MY FRIEND AND I STARED QUICKLY AT EACH OTHER, EYES OPENED WIDE AND MOUTH TOO. THEN WE FOUND OURSELVES GIGGLING UNCONTROLABLE, AS HER MOTHER SAID, GIRLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!! WE SAW IT AT THE ARCADIA. IT IS A SMALL WORLD. I ENJOY SEARCHING YOUR SITE’S AND THRILL OF THE CHASE STORIES. AFTER I READ YOUR STORY TODAY SCRAPBOOK 138 I LOOKED AT OTHER ITEMS AND SAW YOUR STORY ABOUT THE ARCADIA.

    • The first color movie was in 1918 ,the first color tv in 1965. I do remember the later but not the former.lol

      Small towns were fun back then when life was simpler. Life sure has changed alot since I got older than dirt. ( laughing)

  27. Great story! Mr. Fenn what a life you’ve lived. The whole chase idea was a brilliant one. My two teenagers would benefit from getting off there game machines. Thanks for giving this generation an opportunity at million bucks. As you bring things to a close you can be proud of your achievements.

  28. Can’t imagine what that must have been like.The moment the wings get shot shot away and the burst of air as you eject over the plane.You are one tough guy, Forrest Fenn.Legen…DARY!!!

    • @ Fins up – hey there, on my last search I found this really cool black ‘fin’ shaped rock which had been worked on the base by man to make it sit flat on top of a cairn to look just like a black fin. forgot to tell you how cool it was.

  29. These measurements (in my opinion) are definitely hard for me to understand where he’s trying to lead us once at clou #9. He keeps hinting at 200, 500… Searchers have been within 500 feet, within 200 feet… Hard to determine.

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