BEER BOTTLE BOMBING THE HO CHI MINH TRAIL
This is a True Story!
By Colonel Joe Kittinger
As a pilot in the Air Commandos stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand [NKP] during the Vietnam War. I flew the A-26 Invader aircraft that had proven itself time and again during both WW-II and the Korean War. The A-26 was flown by us on night reconnaissance and interdiction missions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. NKP was referred to as NAKED FANNY by those of us fortunate to be stationed at the base which was located on the western bank of the Mekong River which put us uncomfortably close to Communist activity.
I dropped empty Pearl beer bottles at least once a week on various roads in Laos and North Viet Nam. We would close the bomb bay doors and then fill the bomb bay up with the bottles. It was a great morale booster as we all laughed our butts off thinking about the reaction of the enemy to this harassment. The crew chief didn't particularly like it as his aircraft would smell of stale beer for a week after. We often wondered what the gooks after-action reports looked like after receiving this incoming!!
I can't say enough about the crew chiefs, gun-plummers and maintenance folks that we had at NKP. They were the best that I was associated with during three tours in Viet Nam. They worked during the day with no shelter, slept in bare barracks, but unfailingly produced the aircraft that we flew each evening. What a Group. There was no Unions, no "It's not my job" responses. We had enthusiastic Gun plummers working on engines and dedicated crew chiefs helping to load bombs. If I had to go to war again, that's the group of flight line folks that I would want to fight with. I was privileged to have served with them. No enemy could defeat such spirit and "can do" attitude.
Flying the A-26 in combat was exciting. It was a thrill a minute attacking trucks and other transportation vehicles and even AAA sites at night on the HCM Trail winding into South Vietnam. We encountered lots of enemy anti-aircraft weapons and small arms fire lighting up the black nights to pucker the seat cushions on the A-26. Night combat is always a challenge. Although it was exciting and demanding, it was also a lot of fun as long as you kept your wits and retained your sense of humor.
Colonel Joe Kittinger