Honoring 609th Special Operations Squadron Of The Vietnam War
Foundation Hopes To Acquire And Restore Last B-26K Counter Invader
April 13, 2007
Honoring 609th Special Operations Squadron Of The Vietnam War Their story was never featured in the nightly news, nor was broadcast over any radio station. The missions they flew were perilous and were accomplished under extraordinary secrecy in what became one of the first, and possibly most public wars in the modern age. Now, 40 forty years later, their experiences are coming to light and are being honored by the people that their efforts protected; their children.
Few people have heard of the 609th Special Operations Squadron, otherwise coined the "Nimrods" and even fewer have seen their trademark aircraft, the Douglas/On- Mark B-26K Counter Invader, in flight over the United States. The A-26 Legacy Foundation of Jaffrey, NH hopes to buck that trend and bring the last flying B-26K back to the American skies, flying in honor of the "Nimrods" and allowing the public to learn more about the seldom-mentioned, but heroic missions of the 609th.
The time was the mid-1960's... and the place was along the Laotian/South Vietnamese border on the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. North Vietnamese troops were moving critical supplies and reinforcements down the trail to support their combat forces in South Vietnam. The American response was to station the B-26K Counter Invader and crews of the 609th Special Operations Squadron at a tiny base in Northern Thailand called Nakhon Phanom. From there, they flew risky missions along the trail to disrupt troop and supply movement under the call sign "Nimrod" in the cover of darkness.
The aircraft, the B-26K, was a remanufacture of the WWII vintage A-26 Invader medium bomber. Reequipped in the 1960's to serve as a fast attack aircraft with the capacity of a bomber and the speed and maneuverability of an attack aircraft, the B-26K was unique in an era of jet aircraft. The plane was known for its durability and its ability to carry a hefty amount of ordinance and yet still have the maneuverability to avoid ground fire and low-level fighter attack. Despite its age, it served valiantly with the 609th.
The operations of the 609th Special Operations Squadron were cloaked in extreme secrecy and even well after the end of the Vietnam War, their efforts were never truly known. Information on flight crews lost in combat was redacted (families were informed that their fathers were lost in Vietnam ... not Laos!) ... no publicized honors for bravery—the courageous service of these veterans was never publicly acknowledged. Even the B-26K was kept out of public hands after their service life ended, with the few remaining examples left in boneyards in Arizona to await their disposal.
The effort to preserve the last flying B-26K Counter Invader and use it as a flying museum to educate the future generations about the efforts of the 609th is fully underway through the A-26 Legacy Foundation of Jaffrey, NH. Led by the children of the veterans of the 609th, the foundation mission named "Operation Final Flight" is actively fundraising to acquire and restore the world's last airworthy B-26K that is currently in private hands in the Western US. Originally saved from government disposal to become a forest fighting aircraft, the B- 26K retains most of the original equipment that it would have had in 1968.
The daunting $500,000.00 restoration cost must be fully funded by private donations and the A-26 Legacy Foundation is seeking help from both individuals and corporations interested in preserving this unique aircraft for its important role. Once the aircraft is fully restored to wartime condition, it will tour the United States to events, airshows, and museums to preserve the legacy of the Nimrods and the missions they flew.
Sponsorship opportunities will also be available for the operation of the aircraft. FMI: www.a-26legacy.org