by Stan Prince
On June 5th 1972, after the nice send off the War Protesters gave us as we exited Norfolk Harbor, my Squadron VMFA-333 deployed aboard the USS America (CVA-66) for 293 days 242 of which were at Sea. We, in total, completed 7 Line Periods on Yankee Station off the coast of North Vietnam.
Besides from my duties as an AO (Aviation Ordnance) of loading our planes with weaponry and maintaining the weapon systems I was also attached to Ship’s Company for arming aircraft on the catapults and dearming aircraft on the bow once they came back from their mission.
On July 13th we joined up with Task Force 77 who was already engaged in OPERATION LINEBACKER I, we began immediately launching aircraft against North Vietnamese infrastructure, military and civilian targets plus mining operations around Haiphong Harbor.
It was during this deployment that my squadron got its only air-to-air kill when Major Lee T Lasseter, USMC along with his RIO, Captain John D. Cummings shot down a MiG-21 over North Vietnam, near Hanoi. After the shoot down their aircraft was damaged by shrapnel from a SA-2 SAM, which hit 201 in the tail section. Close to running out of fuel and on fire from the SAM (Surface to Air Missile) hit, the crew ejected just south of Haiphong Harbor. The incident was also the first and only all-Marine kill during the Vietnam War.
With the North leaving the PARIS PEACE TALKS we commenced OPERATION LINEBACKER II, with heavier bombing including B-52’s from Guam and Thailand and Battleship bombardment which targeted even more infrastructure, military and civilian targets. We had brought several tactical nukes with us and had began reeducating ourselves on their fusing and detonation process but luckily didn’t have to use them.
On January 27th after North Vietnam had lost 80% of it’s electrical capacity and 25% of it’s oil reserves had been destroyed plus countless number of lives lost. They finally signed the PARIS PEACE ACCORDS and on February 12th our POW’s we’re released.
During our Tour we had 14 aircraft shot down or crashed due to hard landings aboard the Carrier and we incurred 8 Aircrew deaths and several personal killed due to injures onboard or falling overboard. On February 20th after completing our Mission we sailed for home arriving back in Norfolk VA March 24th where we Proudly marched down the gangplank loaded onto our buses which drove to the airport were we loaded back on the C 130’s, we’d come on, and flew back Home to MCAS Beaufort SC. Mission completed, Job well done, Semper Fi. Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served and May God Bless these United States of America …
The author Stan Prince