On early April 13th, 1966 Tan Son Nhut Air Base was attacked by mortars, which caused serious damage to several aircraft on the ground. OASU Det Westpac’s Blue Eagle II was one of the victims.
Blue Eagle II took two direct hits. The first was a hole on the top of the fuselage just forward of the aft door about two feet in diameter and much too serious to repaired by us. At that time, there was an Air Force repair facility at Tan Son Nhut called “STRAAD” which equated to an O & R repair team. They patched the damage to the fuselage.
The second hit was to the starboard vertical stabilizer where it joins with the horizontal stabilizer with shrapnel to the entire tail section. All 3 rudders were severely damaged since they were covered with fabric. All 3 were recovered by the Vietnamese Air Force within 3 weeks. Great job.
The mortars also damaged the props and flattened some tires in addition to airframe damage. The ground crew was refueling when the attack started – photos show a fuel hose still in tank #3 after the attack was over. No one was injured, which was a miracle in itself!
The AM’s were stuck with the patching of the remainder of the holes, about 200 or more. The replacement vertical stabilizer came off of a stricken VQ-1 “Willie Victor” from Atsugi, Japan, thus the dark color and tail letters of “PR” -The damn thing didn’t quite fit! The attaching holes were too small and we drilled them to fit. May have not been “legal”….?
We thought we were finished with the repairs, feeling really good about our job well done! As an added precaution, we decided to inspect the entire aircraft inside and out to be certain we didn’t miss anything.
In the aft lower baggage compartment, we discovered a frayed control cable along the right side. It was about to snap and needed to be replaced ASAP. The process of elimination revealed the cable to be the rudder trim tab cable, which went through the aft pressure bulkhead. That proved to be the worst of the worst.
Thanks to the Air Force Det. Big Eye for loaning us the tools and equipment needed to manufacture a new cable. Since it passed through that bulkhead, however, we had to run it through and then assemble the fittings to it. This is called swaging, and not easy to do by hand, but we got lucky and it worked, thanks to the knowledge taught to us in the early days in VW-11 about rigging cables.
A couple of Junior Officers were worried that we did not have the cable installed correctly but to their surprise (not ours), when the trim tab was neutral, the indicator on the center console was at zero! Did they think we were a bunch of amateurs or what?
All is well that ends well. Blue Eagle II was back in service a a little less than a month later.
Earl J. Conro
OASU Flight Engineer 1965/1966