The Patch and the Stream Where the American Fell
St. Patrick's Day
Excerpt from Chapter 11
Zorro could be seen rolling over the ridge and, shortly after
pointing his craft toward the northeast, shooting a rocket. In a few
seconds, a white puff of smoke emanated from the jungle canopy.
“Drop your bombs in that area 100 meters west of my smoke.”
By now, Jonesy was east of Zorro and had a clear view of the
Jonesy rolled in and aimed directly for the smoke and pickled
twice to release four bombs. Dave rolled in behind him and was
coming down the slide when he heard Zorro say, “Just a couple
hundred meters north of Lead’s bombs, 2.”
“Roger that,” replied Dave. However, in making the correction,
he only hit the pickle button once, releasing only two bombs.
This circling of the target continued for another pass with no sign
of secondary explosions. Dave again only released two bombs.
Thinking both aircraft were out of bombs, Jonesy called for a
rejoin intent on departing a rather boring operation. Zorro, too,
seemed bored and let Simmer know he could take credit for a road
cut in their intelligence debrief.
“Simmer 2 still has two bombs remaining,” came the call from
Jonesy initiated a call. “Zorro 32, we have two bombs left. Got a
“Roger that, Simmer, there is a ZPU site just north of your
previous target that has not been active all day, but I suspect he will
come up later today. Want me to mark him for you?”
ZPU anti-aircraft guns were small-caliber, rapid-fire weapons
that typically become ineffective above 4,500 feet. Jonesy asked
the FAC to mark the target, and Simmer 1 would high-angle strafe
the site while 2 delivered his last two bombs.
“I’ve got enough gas for one strafe pass,” Jonesy declared and
set up for a high-angle strafe pass. He rolled in on the marked ZPU
site and fired a long burst from a steep dive angle and pulled off
well above ZPU range. He saw no muzzle flashes and assumed the
site was inactive.
Dave called in behind Jonesy and had decided to press a little
closer. As he was rolling in, he saw something: continuous muzzle
flashes coming from a site on the side of a hill to the left of his target.
He continued his pass, dropping his bombs on the suspected ZPU
site, and as he pulled off, he looked to his left and clearly saw the
gun emplacement. It was in a grove of trees with a large camo
netting tent over the top to hide its presence.
“Simmer 1 is bingo, let’s join it up,” declared Jonesy with a clear
note of frustration in his voice.
“Got time for one more pass? I’ve got the target,” Simmer 2
“Roger that,” replied Jonesy as he prepared to roll in on the
same target, moving his aim point a little further toward the south.
Meanwhile, Dave was setting up for his pass from a lower altitude
and was trying to reacquire the position of the gun he had located.
“Lead is off left, join it up,” was the call Dave heard as he saw
Jonesy complete his pass and begin a pull-off above him. As he
rolled in toward the gun emplacement he had spotted, he did not
have the site visually. However, he knew where it was, so he lit the
burner and pulled in to the target area. “Two’s in, last pass,” he
called as he squinted in the area of the target. The muzzle flashes
he had seen on the previous pass reappeared, and he brought his
pipper toward the target. He now realized he was much lower than
he wanted to be but decided to continue the pass. He began firing
before he got into range and held the burst until he was within 1,500
feet of the muzzle flashes that continued to appear.
Knowing he was too close and too low, Dave made a hard right
turn and started to climb out of the target area. Suddenly, he felt a
hard concussion, and his aircraft bounced violently followed by a
second lurch. He knew at once he’d been hit, and since he was
already headed to the southwest and Thailand, he rolled out of his
turn and began a climb. Smoke began to rapidly fill the cockpit, and
he could feel his eyes burn.
“Two is hit, smoke in the cockpit,” was to be his last radio call.
He continued to climb. As he stared through the thick smoke in the
cockpit, he could see the caution panel was lit up with several
warnings, including the fire and overheat lights. He heard the ATM
shutting down and realized the engine had also failed and was
winding down. “Shit!” He could see the horizon through the thick
smoke and zoomed the aircraft straight ahead until he could feel
the slight burble indicating he was getting close to stall. He
assumed the ejection position, raised the handles, and without
hesitation, he pulled the triggers.
This wasn’t Dave’s first rodeo, so he knew what to expect. The
canopy disappeared in an instant and the noise became deafening.
The smoke was gone in an instant as he felt the powerful push of
the rocket behind his seat as it accelerated him up the rail and clear
of the cockpit. He remembered the sensation of being propelled out
of the cockpit and, almost in slow motion, watching the cockpit
disappear below. Soon after, the lap belt fired, freeing him from the
seat, and the butt slapper pushed him clear of the seat. He felt
gravity grabbing him and pulling him to the earth, but the tug of the
parachute dramatically slowed his acceleration toward the earth.
Suddenly, the world was quiet. Dave assessed his situation and
realized his ejection had gone picture-perfect. His chute was fully
blossomed above him and his seat kit was dangling well below him.
When he heard the engine of a prop aircraft, he looked toward the
sound and spotted an A-1E headed in his direction. He waved
excitedly at the “Sandy” (A-1E) and was relieved to know he had
been spotted. Knowing he was in sight of friendlies, he reached for
the survival radio on his right shoulder and turned off the
emergency beeper. He estimated he was about 4,000 feet above
the menacing karsts and jungle below and assessed where he
might land. He could not sense that his chute was drifting at all, so
he surveyed the area right below him and spotted what appeared
to be a small grassy field in the jungle on the side of a karst to his
left. Making it to that field would avoid a tree landing, and the
surrounding jungle would give him a good place to hide.