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La Drang, the Second, Secrete Offensive
Vietnam, June 21st, 1968
According to the governments of Russia, China, South Vietnam, America, England and France, none of what is told here ever happened.
It was warm, too warm for Colorado native Billy “The Kid” Jones. He had been in Vietnam for the past three years, and had 0 kills under his belt. He had graduated from the Air force Academy in 1964 and signed up with the Air Force for real four years ago. His job was something he loved. He signed on for as long as they could let him stay and his tour of duty was coming to a close. Just one more year. He was on board the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. He was proud to represent his state on board the famous ship. The fact that it was nuclear didn’t bother him. He was at the time, sleeping in his bunk in the officers quarters. In two days he was going to be flying his Douglas skyraider on a close air support mission in the 2nd La Drang river valley offensive. It was going to be hell; he knew it even without reading the briefing folder, which was still unread on his nightstand. His college roommate would be down there too, he had signed on with the army after college. When Jones woke up at 0500 he went immediately to the bathrooms to get in his gym shorts. The ship was quite, and he could hear the drone of the engines behind him. He came on deck and found it empty. There were only 5 aircraft on board, and they were feeding their hungry engines with some of the new fuel. He started jogging and saw a flash. It wasn’t the sun, or one of the reporters’ cameras, it was an airplane he knew it. He sprinted over to the bridge and climbed the stairs. He charged into the control room, startling the young ensign at the helm.
“What is it sir?” he asked, a bit of an edge to his voice.
“I think I just a MiG flying top cover,” Jones said.
“Hey! Jack! Anything on the radar screen?” he said to the radar operator.
“Nope, just a civilian air liner flying 20,000 feet up,” Jack said. “Why?”
“That’s not an airliner, its an enemy MiG outfitted with a civilian transponder” Jones said, remarkably calm.
“I’ll try to get in their frequency and listen in,” offered the radio operator.
“Please do,” Jones said.
About five minutes passed, then ten, then 15 and still nothing.
“They are talking in Vietnamese, I can’t make out-wait, I think I just heard him say Enterprise, and Americans, and sleep! Oh my god he is going to kill us!” he shouted.
“Be calm, helmsman, are there any non missile and non radar weapons aboard that can take out aircraft?” he knew the answer, but it was a quiz for the helmsman.
It took him a minute to respond, but then: “Oh yes there are 5 30mm gatlin guns on the starboard, 3 on the port, and 4 on the stern”.
“Keep that MiG under the impression that we are still sleeping, radar man keep me posted on his whereabouts,” he said, a bit of an edge to his voice now.
He grabbed a portable radio from the table, and sprinted down to the flight deck.
“Ground all daily patrols NOW!” he said into the microphone. He didn’t want any planes to be shot down now. He got to the stern and located on of the 30mm cannons. He needed to know where the MiG was and didn’t know what was taking the radar man so ling. Finally after about five minutes he tore off the head set and threw it in the hanger deck door way. Suddenly, he saw a flash of metal, and knowing that there was no real airliner in the airspace, lined up the sights and squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened. He looked down and saw that the barrels weren’t turning and flipped the switch. The 6 barrels started to warm up, he knew he had to wait or else he would risk destroying himself and the gun. After about 5 minutes, the green light went on, and Jones searched for the MiG. Then another flash of metal, the guy brought a friend, boy did he have guts. Again, he lined up the targets and squeezed. The noise was tremendous; he had forgotten earmuffs and momentarily left his post to get some. When he came back, he saw two trails of smoke. Seconds later, a silver MiG 21 slammed into the water. About five seconds after that his buddy came down with him. The two geysers of water went almost 75 feet in the air and the resulting sound was enough to bring the ship alive with activity. 3 minutes after the radio came to life.
“Jones! We’ve got 3 bombers coming in from the stern, I hope you are there!” that was the captains voice, not the ensigns. He didn’t care; he could just make out the lumbering forms of 3 Tupolev Bears coming his way. What he saw in the belly though made his blood run cold. There was a single 5,000-pound bomb with each bear. Two hits and the Enterprise would be sent to the bottom. 10 seconds till they were in range, 9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1, there was a sound like a hack saw, 30mm rounds spat out of the big gun. One of the rounds struck the lead bear in the nose and in two seconds it was gone. The next bear had its wing blown off and was sent splashing to the ocean. The third kept coming even after getting hit thousands of times. After what seemed a lifetime, one of the engines caught fire. It didn’t go down though, it kept coming. Jones kept firing, another engine on fire, then a third and the fourth finally lit up. The burning Bear crashed not 50 feet from the stern of the Enterprise, and as it was sinking, Jones saw the Russian star on one of its wings.
He left the gun and was able to finish his morning jog of 3 laps around the flight deck. Then the captain came to him.
“Sailor, that was some of the best shooting I have seen yet, where’d you learn to shoot like that?” he said, with a Georgian accent.
“You really want me to answer that sir?” Jones asked.
“Yes” he responded.
“Today. I just lined it up and shot.”
“Impressive, most impressive,” He said as if in a trance.
‘Sir can I go now?” Jones asked.
“Oh yes don’t let me keep you from a hard earned day off” the captain said.
“Sailors never get days off” Jones said a little annoyed.
“True, what are you going to do today sailor?” Get briefed on the La Drang offensive tomorrow,” he responded.
The captain expressed his thanks and left. Jones went to the mess hall and was surprised to see all of his fellow officers there. As soon as they saw him there was a standing ovation, pats on the backs, “congratulation’s” and other ways of saying thanks.
“Hey guys, I know I just saved the ship, but can I please just eat?”
They let him eat and they let him go back to his cabin for a while, but then the knock on the door came.
“Sir? Time for briefing,” a voice said.
“Okay I’ll be right out,” he responded
He didn’t know it, but the briefing was postponed, and it was now one day till the attack. He looked at the clock and saw it was one day till the attack. He slept one full day.
The briefing was the same old same old. Tactics, where friendly troops were, where enemy troops were, and more tactics.
They all went back to their respective quarters that night. At 2000 he went to bed with one thought on his mind: Protect and kill.
Chapter two: The Attack
There was something different about this day and Jones Knew it. The pilots had to get up for a check of the aircraft and a final briefing. Jones got up normally and went to do his daily jog. Only this time it was in his flight gear, and the jog was to his loyal Douglas A-1 Skyraider. This plane had never failed him. Jones had landed 4 kills in it already, and it wasn’t even a fighter.
He did the flight check and got the crew members of the Enterprise to do the final check of the fuel, control surfaces, and weapons. Today was going to be hell and he knew it. 40,000 American troops versus the whole communist army. China, Russia, and North Vietnam were present. It was then that Jones looked to the port side of the Enterprise and saw a French and British aircraft carrier. He had forgotten that the French and British were going to be present too! That amassed to about 500,000 troops on the ground for the allies. That against nearly 2 million for the communists.
On thing that Jones kept telling himself is that the allies had air support and the communists don’t. But there was still that nagging feeling of foreboding keeping him from this mission.
It was his turn to take off. He came up to the runway, revved his big radial and pushed the throttle to its stop. The skyraider lurched forward. In a matter of seconds, he was in the air. Jones joined his squadron and began the short 15-minute trip to La Drang.
As soon as he was over the battlefield, he saw it. It was the yellow streaks that announced the fact that another plane was either trigger happy, or unfriendly.
Jones knew his chances of going against a MiG 21 and winning were slim, but when he got the order to peel, he did and faced the enemy fighter.
The pilot must have been surprised, because he didn’t blow Jones out of the sky on the first pass. Jones took this opportunity and snapped the stick to the right. His plane responded smoothly and soon enough, Jones was on the pilots tail. He squeezed the trigger, but nothing happened. He franticly threw the arming switches and then squeezed the trigger. He was late; the MiG had pulled a very sharp right turn that his sky raider couldn’t match. What he did do though was this: Jones pulled the stick into his gut and did a full loop. Right as he pulled out, he squeezed the trigger, 20mm rounds spewed from his four 20’s. With in minutes, the MiG was missing part of its tail.
This didn’t stop it though, the pilot managed to let loose with his cannons which tore several holes in Jones’ tough little skyraider. It was then he noticed the missile alarm blaring in his headset. He broke right and launched several flares. The missile avoided, he went and met his other attacker head on, and with a very short burst, sent him down to the ground in flames.
The other MiG was still out there, and mad. Jones was furious. Over 20 planes had been shot down all Allied. He no longer cared about the mission and dove in at a 90-degree angle he didn’t know which was the enemy, but he didn’t care. He let loose with all he had.
The jungle bellow went from hell to bedlam. The land exploded as 20mm bullets kicked up dirt and lodged them selves in soldiers of the North Vietnamese army. Rockets destroyed the camp that they had set up and two 1000-pound bombs utterly destroyed any sign of the NVA being there. The American soldiers on the ground were so glad that their position had been saved.
Back in the air, Jones was busy searching for a new air target when he saw the MiG that had been tormenting him all day chasing another skyraider. He lined up his gun sight and pulled the trigger.
Flames. BOOM. Metal. Hero. These are the only things that Jones thought about after destroying that troublesome MiG. Jones survived and shot down three more aircraft which mad him an ace-in-a-day, a rarity in Vietnam. The plane he shot down was a Russian ace, who was flying for the NVAF. When asked about his service, and how he fought, Jones will always reply like this: “War is hell, don’t let anyone tell you different. You never know when one day might be your last, especially in the navy, the NVAF wasn’t supposed to have air support, but they did, and because of that I lost 5 squadron mates and 3 friends on the ground. War is HELL”.
Jones’ roommate survived and they were both awarded the medal of honor by the end of the war for extreme bravery in another battle, but according to the U.S, and other participating countries, Nothing ever happened. not here anyway
Nothing ever happened.