Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal

Fire in Flight

The crew of Homey 302 was shot down in a C-130E aircraft on 25 June 1968, during the Vietnam War.  We have a website that commemorates this event and the subsequent crew reunion exactly 30 years later:

Fig. 1  On final, no gear...well not much, anyway.

Fig. 1 - On final, no gear...well not much, anyway.

However, I thought I would post all the pictures of the flight that I have in my collection here for those who might be interested.  I'll add a little personal perspective as we go along so I hope you'll join me as I relive this wild ride!

"The only time you have too much fuel is when you are on fire."  Aviation humor; and in this case, too true!

Just a brief word on how I came by these pictures.  Shortly after my return to the States and taking up residence in Nashville, TN, more specifically at Sewart AFB in Smyrna, TN, I received a box of slides in the mail with no return address.  There were 15 slides in the box and an attached note, that I am paraphrasing, but went something like this, "It took me a while to find you, but I thought you might like to have these slides that I took while standing next to the runway when you crash-landed your C-130."  There was no signature on the note, and to this day it is a mystery to me who this person is and why he chose to remain anonymous.

So, if you have read the story at Fire Flight at Katum, written by my good friend and English major, Britt Blaser (and copilot on this flight), hope you enjoyed it; he did a great job.  There's really no new information here, just my insights on the flight, and a lot of new photographs.

So let's get started.  We were all assigned to Ching Chuan Kang Air Base (CCK) on the island of Taiwan.  This was our PCS, or permanent-duty station.  The assignment would last about a year with the expectation that we would get credit for an in-country tour of duty.  That meant we would have fulfilled our Vietnam obligation.  However, the time "in-country" was considered temporary duty, or TDY, as there were head-count limitations due to the politics of the war.  A typical duty cycle would be about 20 days or so in-country where we would fly every day, and then head back to CCK to take care of the details, like paperwork, training, laundry, and maybe some R & R.  Usually, after a few days we were on our way back in-country.

I was a brand-new aircraft commander (AC) and had just been assigned my own crew.  They had made a big deal about it back at CCK because we were supposedly the youngest C-130 crew in the theater--see the attached CCK base newspaper article here.  It says I was 25, but actually I was born on St. Patty's day, 1944, (thus the nickname "Pat"), so that made me 24 years old.  All of us had been through Tet in February 1968, we had all flown into places like Khe Sanh, and made drops in the A Shau Valley, so we had seen our share of combat.  But my crew had only been flying together since May 1968.  On this mission, we were assigned to Tuy Hoa Air Base, S. Vietnam for a normal 20-day rotation.  See a copy of our flight orders here.  We had been in Tuy Hoa for about a week, flying almost every day.