The Rescue of "Oyster One-Bravo"

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TC

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Unread post07 Apr 2009, 01:54

This is a great story. One of those that had it been made into a Hollywood script, a good many people probably wouldn't have believed it had actually happened.

If you are ever fortunate enough to go to SERE, you will learn the story of Roger Locher. His story, however, was not the only amazing one in this rescue effort. 119 aircraft participated in the largest ResCAP in history to pull a fellow Airman out of the jungle, not too far from Hanoi.

Unfortunately, his pilot, Major Robert Lodge was killed when their F-4 was downed. However, Locher's rescue was a success, and goes to show how far the U.S. will go to ensure everyone comes home.

airforce-magazine wrote:Valor: A Good Thought to Sleep On
By John L. Frisbee
Contributing Editor
The rescue of Roger Locher did more than set a couple of Vietnam War records.

On May 8, 1972, President Nixon authorized the mining of Haiphong and other North Vietnam ports, together with regular and frequent air strikes north of the 20th parallel. Operation Linebacker was on.

Two days later, the US Air Force launched 120 aircraft against targets in and around Hanoi. Oyster Flight, four F-4s from the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron flying MiG-CAP, was led by Maj. Bob Lodge, an outstanding young combat leader. He and his backseater, Capt. Roger Locher, were veterans of the air war, both with previous tours in Southeast Asia. Also in Oyster Flight were Capts. Richard S. "Steve" Ritchie and Chuck DeBellevue, who were to become the Air Force's only F-4 "ace" team with five victories.

As Oyster Flight neared the Red River at a point about 75 miles northwest of Hanoi, they were alerted to the approach of MiGs. In the ensuing battle, Lodge and Locher shot down a MiG-21 and were positioning themselves to fire on another when they were hammered by 30-mm shells from two MiG-19s. The F-4's hydraulic system was knocked out, making the aircraft uncontrollable. A fire in the rear of the fuselage forced Captain Locher to punch out while the plane was inverted. Major Lodge did not eject. Since no one in the vicinity saw parachutes, it was assumed that both men had perished.

Captain Locher had, in fact, landed in trees near a MiG base at Yen Bai, north of the Red River, shaken but uninjured. He could not retrieve his parachute, which was caught in the trees, or his survival pack. After a brief radio call, he sought to put distance between himself and the parachute, which inevitably would attract a search party. (His radio signal was received by friendly aircraft, but, since there was no voice transmission, the signal probably was thought to be sent by a North Vietnamese using a captured radio.)

Within minutes, Captain Locher heard sounds of a search party Taking cover in a brush pile, he took stock of his situation. It wasn't encouraging. He had the contents of his survival vest, including two pints of water and a couple of snacks. Rescue so deep in enemy territory--some 350 miles north of the DMZ--was unlikely.

His best chance of rescue was to cross the heavily cultivated Red River Valley, swim the river, and work his way to the sparsely inhabited mountains about 90 miles to the west. The river lay several miles away through forested, hilly terrain. He would travel only at first light and at dusk, living off the land.

The enemy's search resumed the next morning. At one point, searchers came within 30 feet of Captain Locher's hiding place. On the third day, there were no sounds of a search party, and Locher could move somewhat more freely, but living off the land proved to be a greater problem than he had anticipated. It was too early in the season for ripened fruit, nuts, or berries. He ate what he could find, gradually weakening as the days passed. Water was no problem. There were plenty of small streams. There were also plenty of mosquitoes and drenching rains as he inched along at less than a mile a day.

Captain Locher frequently tried for radio contact, with no success. Then, on June 1, three weeks after he was shot down, as he was contemplating leaving the forest for a dicey venture into the valley, a flight of F-4s passed directly over him on their way home from a strike and, he hoped, with radio frequencies open.

Locher's call was picked up. Within hours, a small search-and-rescue (SAR) force was on its way from Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. After the A-1 Sandys were satisfied that they were talking to Locher, an HH-53C SuperJolly helicopter, flown by Capt. Dale Stovall, started in for the pickup, but the SAR force was driven off by missiles and MiGs. Maybe rescue was not possible so far north of the DMZ, after all.

Seventh Air Force thought otherwise. On June 2, another SAR force, supported by fighters, bombers, Wild Weasels, tankers, and ECM aircraft, numbering more than 100 in all, fought its way in. Captain Stovall's HH-53 picked up Roger Locher and returned him to Ubon RTAFB.

It had been a record-setting show. Captain Locher had eluded capture in enemy territory for 23 days, setting a record for successful evasion in the Vietnam War. Captain Stovall had twice flown his rescue helicopter further into North Vietnam than had been done before, earning him the Air Force Cross. All the principals emerged as heroes, but there is more to the story. Combat crews who would be flying Linebacker strikes north of the Red River now knew that eluding capture in that inhospitable land and rescue from Hanoi's backyard were indeed possible. That was a good thought to sleep on.


A big salute to all involved! :salute:
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ptplauthor

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Unread post07 Apr 2009, 02:16

119 aircraft to get one guy, that's something. Did all the ResCAP force make it out?

You're right, I wouldn't have believed it if it was in a movie.

Was this the same day as Ritchie and DeBellevue's first kill?
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo
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nam11b

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Unread post07 Apr 2009, 03:05

Wow, first time I have heard that story and I can only imagine both the rescue effort and the evasion on the ground.
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Unread post07 Apr 2009, 06:02

Very impressive, great to see that nothing is spared to get them out, even though the rescuers are at great risk themselves. Can't do anything else than to respect that.
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Unread post07 Apr 2009, 06:12

This would make a great book btw.
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Unread post07 Apr 2009, 11:16

I remember that day. The HH-53 flew low over the base as the PJs popped red smoke flares signalling their safe return with Capt Locher. But I don't think they're telling the whole story. There's much, much more.

Capt Locher didn't spend too much time on the base as he was whisked away within a couple of hours. I heard the command shuttled him out of country because they didn't want any reprisals on the base from enemy forces. I don't think it was Ubon where they landed; it was Udorn, where the Triple Nickles resided.
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Gums

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Unread post08 Apr 2009, 03:02

Salute!

Well, Bob Lodge and I were classmates at the Zoo. Also Ritchie.

I flew as a Sandy later, but we had all the debrief material as lessons-learned.

Rumor had it that Bob Lodge made it to the ground and was shot. So that's the urban legend.

For the more "real" side of the story .....

We had two pilots ( both from my class) about to be the first and maybe the only aces from that stoopid war.

Bob pressed his attack despite repeated calls from others to get outta Dodge. The Mig nailed him.

End of story, and that story ain't urban legend.

Steve was aggressive as hell, but he saved his best for the "right" times and shots. I would have bet a lot that Steve would have been the sorry story that Bob turned out to be, but it was just the reverse.

Gums sends ...
Gums
Viper pilot '79
"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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TC

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Unread post13 Apr 2009, 04:57

ptplauthor wrote:Did all the ResCAP force make it out?


I'm not sure on that one, but I don't recall hearing of anyone being downed in the rescue.

Yes, that was the day of Steve Ritchie and Chuck DeBellvue's first AA kill, and also the same day as Cunningham and Driscoll's fifth.

It's good to hear the back story on this one Gums. From what I had read of the incident, it was just as you said. He stayed with the jet, and didn't make it out. I guess I can understand how and why one might get "buck fever" when you have what looks to be another kill right in front of you.
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Unread post30 Aug 2010, 22:28

Wasn't this the same mission where Major Phil Handley killed a MiG-19 while flying supersonic?
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Unread post31 Aug 2010, 01:52

sundowner11 wrote:Wasn't this the same mission where Major Phil Handley killed a MiG-19 while flying supersonic?


Yes, I believe so!! Date and mission matches.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI3dkZ0qBnE
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Unread post31 Aug 2010, 15:09

A MiG Kill and a succesful rescue mission with no losses. Sounds like a good day all around to me!
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Unread post31 Aug 2010, 23:30

I read about this rescue in a book, even had a picture of a beared Locher walking off the rescue helo. Locher came pretty close to death in the jungle, not from NVA or the dangerous animals, but from the vietnamese version of a potatoe. Apparently the potatoes there have a cellular make-up similar to tiny shards of glass. Only cooking will break down the cells into something edible. Locher ate one of these raw and cut his throat and stomach very badly. I believe the book mentioned that his throat started to swell shut on him.
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Unread post09 Nov 2010, 21:16

My dad was part of this SAR operation. Accordingly, he recorded the rescue and I have the audio as well as other SAR ops and misc combat ops. Is this something that would interest you guys
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Unread post11 Nov 2010, 01:18

Salute!

Bring it on semper.

Ya gotta get a way to upload the files to a site and then link to that for us to hear it.

I have a few from 1972 as well, and I'll re-check my site and provide the link.

+++++++++++

TC may have misunderstood me.

Bob Lodge was rumored to have ejected and then killed on the ground. Urban legend, as far as I am concerned. Maybe Roger Locher can tell us.

What the story was was this:

Oyster was locked on a Mig while another Mig was closing on his six. Despite calls of the situation and other calls to break off he pressed on for the shot and Locher was a passenger.

Too long, and Oyster was shot down.

Least we got Locher out.

Gums sends...
Gums
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"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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Unread post11 Nov 2010, 16:54

U.S AIR FORCE S.A.R. teams are the best at what they do thier training is hard but they are the unsung heroes at the end of the day downed pilots are relieved to see them coming to bring them home they will move heaven and earth to get them home :D
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