Flying Hand-held Camera Missions
arrived in DaNang in March 1968. I was a 96B20 and was
assigned as an Imagery Interpretation Specialist to
Detachment B. I canít remember the Command Officerís
name, but I do remember Sgt. Ferris and Sgt A.C. West as being
there when we arrived.
I met John Ripper who at that time
was very active, if not the only one, in the hand held program,
and I asked a lot of questions about how to go about getting
into it. He helped me along the way.
The areas we covered
in our missions were primarily I Corps, from the DMZ
(De-Militarized Zone) south to the Central Highlands, around
Kontum, and west as far as Laos and Cambodia. The 21st
Reconnaissance Airplane Company normally flew two missions per
day, one into the mountains to the west with 2 aircraft, one
high and one low, and another solo mission along the coast from
about the DMZ south to Chu Lai.
[Combat] units requested the 21st
RAC to fly missions through the G-2 (i.e., the Intelligence
Officer), I Corps, who, in turn, would contact the 21st RAC.
Missions were requested based on information of military
intelligence value derived from ground troops, the aerial
imagery that 1st MIBARS interpreted, or the Army Of the Republic
of Vietnam's (ARVN) intelligence sources. We also flew
missions on request for the Marines, Air Force, Special Forces
and the ARVN.
the hand held photos that we took while flying, we were often
involved in the direct support of ground troops. Units
needing assistance were helped by the available assets of all of
the American and allied forces. We marked targets
with white smoke, directed air strikes conducted by aircraft of
the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy or the U.S.
Marine Corps. We directed naval gun fire from war ships
cruising off of the coast of Vietnam, and we directed artillery
bombardments from U.S. Army, U.S. Marine or Army of the Republic
of Vietnam fire bases scattered throughout the
countryside. During these engagements, we were in constant
radio contact with the bomber pilots and artillerymen --
adjusting the accuracy of the munitions for maximum benefit to
military ground forces in defensive situations or on the attack."
Photo Credit: Gene Zwarcyz
This "B" Detachment observer is pictured in
front of the operations shack of the 1st Platoon of the U.S. Army's 21st
Reconnaissance Airplane Company -- the Black Aces -- at Marble
Mountain Air Base in 1968. The logo on the right side of
the Company sign -- the ace of spades inside of a circle
-- was painted on the vertical stabilizers of the Company's aircraft. The
smaller sign to the left, partially cut off in this
picture, actually reads "Clearing Point," a reminder
for all personnel to unload -- or clear -- their weapons before
entering the building. Such signs were often posted next to a 55-gallon
drum, fixed on a wooden frame at a 45-degree angle and half
filled with sand, where weapons could be pointed safely so that
chambers could be cleared or de-cocking safely accomplished
during the process of unloading. If the weapon
accidentally discharged, the bullet would be contained
harmlessly by the sand.