Skip to comments.B-52 Tail-gunner Recalls MiG Downing (Vietnam)
Posted on 12/27/2010 8:44:19 PM PST by sukhoi-30mki
News: Face of Defense: B-52 Tail-gunner Recalls MiG Downing
Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Don Branum
U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - If the landmarks here could speak, the B-52 Stratofortress bomber sitting near the academy's north gate would have quite a Vietnam War story to tell.
The crew of the "Diamond Lil," a B-52D, tail number 55-083, took off from Utapao Royal Thai Naval Airfield on Christmas Eve in 1972. The crew's mission was to bomb the North Vietnamese railroad yards at Thai Nguyen as part of Operation Linebacker II, which took place Dec. 18 to 29, 1972.
However, the Diamond Lil's crew faced enemy air power. A North Vietnamese MiG-21 raced to intercept the B-52. The bomber's tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, noticed the MiG's approach.
"I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o'clock, low at eight miles," Moore wrote six days later in his statement of claim for enemy aircraft destroyed. "I immediately notified the crew, and the 'bogie' started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards, 6:30 o'clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the [electronic warfare officer] for chaff and flares.
"When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to three times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in three bursts."
Another gunner aboard the B-52, Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, verified Moore's kill in his report.
"I went visual and saw the 'bandit' on fire and falling away," Chute wrote. "Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fireball disappeared in the under-cast at my 6:30 position."
Moore's kill is one of only two confirmed kills by a B-52D in the Vietnam War and the last confirmed kill by a tail gunner in wartime using machine guns.
Following the MiG kill, Moore wrote, "On the way home I wasn't sure whether I should be happy or sad. You know, there was a guy in that MiG. I'm sure he would have wanted to fly home, too. But it was a case of him or my crew. I'm glad it turned out the way it did. Yes, I'd go again. Do I want another MiG? No, but given the same set of circumstances, yes, I'd go for another one." Moore died in 2009 at age 55.
Linebacker II brought the North Vietnamese government back to the negotiating table after earlier talks had broken down. A month after the campaign, North Vietnam and the United States signed a ceasefire agreement.
Diamond Lil continued serving long after the end of the Vietnam War. In all, the aircraft flew more than 15,000 hours and more than 200 combat missions between its commissioning in 1957 and its decommissioning in 1983. It came to the Air Force academy shortly after it was decommissioned.
Today, the bomber is located near the north gate of the United States Air Force Academy, near Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Bagged him a Russki pilot, eh?
Another reason to read the pages of Free Republic! Great articles to show those young aspiring aerospace warriors amongst us!
Last combat usage On 18 December 1972, during Operation Linebacker II (also known as President Richard Nixon's, "Christmas Bombing"), USAF B-52 Stratofortresses of the Strategic Air Command conducted a maximum effort bombing campaign against North Vietnam. As the bombers approached the target, SAMs (Surface To Air Missiles) commenced to explode around the StratofortressesMcCarthy, p. 139. One bomber, callsign "Brown III", completed its bomb run, and while turning outbound was warned that Vietnam People's Air Force MiGs were now airborne. Brown III's tailgunner, SSGT Samuel O. Turner, locked onto a fast approaching MiG-21 interceptor and shot it down with a burst of his four .50 caliber machine guns. Turner became the first bomber tailgunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft since the Korean War. His B-52 Stratofortress, tail number 55-0676, is currently preserved and on display at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington. On 24 December 1972, during the same bombing campaign, the B-52 Stratofortress "Diamond Lil", now on display at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado, was attacking the railroad yards at Thai Nguyen. Rising for the interception was another NVAF MiG-21, Diamond Lil's tailgunner, Airman Albert E. Moore locked onto the MiG at 4,000 yards, and opened fire with his quad .50 caliber machine guns. Moore's kill was witnessed by another B-52 tailgunner, TSGT Clarence W. Chute, who observed the MiG-21 to fall away on fire. Moore was the last bomber tail gunner to shoot down an enemy aircraft with machine guns during war time.
The last time tail gunners themselves were ever used in combat were in the Gulf War of 1990-1991, where B-52Gs were used in air-strikes against Iraqi positions in Kuwait and Iraq. However after a controversial incident wherein a missile, locked onto the signal of the tail gunner's radar, struck a B-52, tail gunners started being deactivated on all B-52s starting on October 1, 1991. No air-to-air kills were made by B-52s in the Gulf War, and tail gunners have never been used in combat since.
I knew a former Tail-gunner Vietnam veteran, and he told me that he felt that the position was outmoded and should have been abolished. Maybe if he had been more optimistic, he could have had results like mentioned here in this article.
Can’t blame him since the odds were stacked against him. That position was relevant in the era preceeding newer supersonic aircraft and SAMs.
Let’s see, he would have been 17 or 18, born in 54 if he died in 2009(died at age 55). Man he would have been barely out of high school and inducted into the Air Force...out of his schooling and into a tail gunner’s position by 12/72 when the incident happened. Not doubting the story, but man what an experience for a still then teen ager. Bet he grew up quick!
There is one other B-52 that downed a MiG. B-52D 56-0676, located on static display at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington. It participated in the Operation Linebacker II and is credited as a MiG Killer on 18 December 1972 when Tail gunner SSgt Samuel O. Turner downed a MiG-21.
Like “Diamond Lil”, it’s painted black. It also has a red star near the tail, signifying the kill. However, it is not sitting on posts, but is on the ground on it’s wheels.
There were many duties in the military that make you grow up real fast. Still holds true today.
I was 18 years old and had the knowledge and training to be able to arm and launch a ICBM with a nine megaton warhead on top. In the time of war I had the tools and knowledge to fix everything on that bird except for the warhead itself and the guidance internals.
“Atta boy! Give ‘em the gun....”
B-52 gunner at work.
Here’s my “Five O’Clock Folly” story from when I attended my first and last Pentagon press briefing in the early 70’s.
They give you a “Current Events” set of newspaper clippings of current news and in one of them, I notice that a MIG 21 had flown thru “a B-52 cell” (i.e. 3 planes.).
I openly asked Press Officer Jerry Friedheim (A nice guy with a bad job) whether the B-52 had fired on the MIG, and Jerry said, with a straightface, it was classified.
To which I replied: “The Communist pilot knew if he was fired on, the B-52 crewman knew if he fired on the MIG, the crew knew, the Air Force knew, Hanoi knew, so why can’t we know?”
My point was to find out if our B-52’s had A/A machine guns, esp. on the tails as it was reported that a number of models didn’t have MGs for self-defense (just as many F-4’s, esp. Recon models and Sidewinder models), didn’t - which pissed of a lot of pilots and may have cost us some of them).
I left the press briefing in a really bad mood and went up to Gen. Chappie James (also in the press office), and said, “this really is stupid”, to which big Chappie just smiled in acknowledgment.
Most press conferences are a waste of time which is why I never attended any in Vietnam at JUSPAO II. If I needed to know something, I knew who to go to for it.
Military Advisors were much more open and honest in answering questions that did not involve security.
Normal rank progression in the USAF is start as Airman Basic (E-1,) 6 months later automatically promoted to Airman (E-2,) then after one year time in service automatically promoted to Airman First Class (E-3.) Promotions based on merrit after that.
Since a B-52D normally carried a single tail gunner, but a second tail gunner was onboard (a TSgt,) I'd say he was still receiving on the job training for the aircrew position.
As one that was stationed at RTNAF U-Tapao, 635th Combat Support Group, during that timeframe, yes indeed, the story was known from fence to fence.
The B-52D’s only armament was a turret in the tail, complete with windows, consisting of FOUR Browning .50 caliber machine guns!
The Twelve Day Air War, also known as Operation Linebacker II, kept me very busy. In a previous post, I mentioned the helicopter dropping crushed popcorn packing to simulate snow, on the roof of the USO.
Correction: The last time tail gunners in the B-52 were ever used in combat were in Desert Storm in 1991. The gunner position was deleted from all remaining B-52s on 1 October 1991.
Currently there are tail/ramp gunners on CH-46s, CH-47s, CH-53s, MV-22s and CV-22s.
Thanks for the ping. Probably the last claim for an aerial gunner.
Were the guns removed in 1991, or did another crewmember (probably the EWO) take over the duties of gunner?
I talked to a former Vietnam POW who said that Nixon’s Christmas Bombing was felt in their POW camp. Our B-52s were bombing so extensively, that the ground was vibrating and the POWs could feel it. Not long after that, he said their treatment improved. Unknown to them at the time, they would soon be going home.
I never forgot that story and the brave hero that told it to me.
Here’s an awesome video for Freeper vets:
C-141 Tail Number 60177 was the last of the 285 C-141’s built by Lockheed to leave active service. She flew 100 POWs out of Hanoi on 12 February 1973, some of them tasting freedom for the first time in six years. Each POW put their shot-down date on the face of the oxygen panel during their flight to Clark Air Base in the Philippines. For her retirement ceremony, some of the POWs she brought home were brought back for the ceremony and one last flight by this gracious lady. Most of them are old men now but their enthusiasm, emotions, and excitement were evident during this flight and retirement ceremony. She was then flown to Dayton, Ohio where she will spend her final days in the Air Force Museum.
A very touching video - Be sure to turn on the sound.
Thank you very much, ExTexasRedhead.
Thanks, ExTexasRedhead for the video! I actually played a part in the rescue of the POW’s out of Hanoi and haven’t seen that video. I was a C-141 jock. Thanks again.
I could tell you a lot of stories about our flights on the C-141. One was to Kiev USSR with a presidential support mission. Nixon had just gone to China as the first modern day President to do so and turned around and went to USSR to tell them they were still our friends. We flew out of Tehran, Iran to Kiev then back with the White House communication people. I have tie tacks, pins etc with Nixon’s signature on them. Perhaps some day they will be worth something.
If you are interested in details from that trip let me know, some are very funny.
As a little diversion video:
Putting a 737 together
This is some video to watch. Enjoy.
The paint job is interesting;
I served out at Shemya, AFB, Aleutian Islands in 1977. (Still trying to figure out who I ticked off! ; ))
We were there to observe the Russians. Escort them home when they came into our airspace.
C-141 was an amazing aircraft. While at Mather AFB I'd watch the jets take off, almost defying the odds. They looked jut too darn big to fly.
Appreciate your service to our country.