Fly again with the VAW-13 Zappers in this EA-1F Skyraider. Each model is a hand made wooden model that is carefully carved and painted to provide a unique product that truly shows custom craftsmanship! Wingspan – 18 inches.
Shared by a client on VAW-13
“VAW-13 was an orphan squadron. There weren’t enough EA-1Fs to put detachments on every carrier on WESPAC deployment. The Navy devised a plan to provide deployed ships some ECM training and potential Air Group augmentation by putting VAW-13 Det One at NAS Cubi Point. The main squadron was at NAS Alameda. It served as a kind of mini-RAG. The Cubi Point detachment had ten airplanes, 24 officers and 150 enlisted personnel. Det One would fly out two plane detachments to ships deployed in WESPAC to provide them with ECM training for up to a week of operations.
In April of 1965 Det One received orders to put a 3 airplane detachment aboard the USS Midway at Yankee Station for combat operations over North Vietnam. I was the O-in-C of that detachment. The CAG and the CARDIV had no clue as to our capabilities. Fortunately, we had done enough work against ships’ surveillance and fire control radars, we had a good idea of what we could do. We just hadn’t been tested in actual combat.
Prior to 1964 our jamming abilities were limited to directional jamming. We had to be pointed at the target radar, a distinct limitation. In 1964 one of our squadron geeks, LTJG Rod Mash, designed a special antenna that allowed us to do omni-directional jamming. Directional jamming was effective out to twenty five miles and sometimes more. Omni-directional jamming was effective only within 8-10 miles. We had to fly over or very near the target radars.
Based on the above, we designed tactics to circle the target at 8,000 to 11,000 feet and stay as close over the target as possible while the attack was in progress. The crew consisted of a pilot, ECM Officer in the right seat, and two ECM operators in the rear compartment. Our operators were all experienced and could stay with the retuning capabilities of both the Fan Song and Fire Can radars. We also dropped chaff at intervals to further confuse the radars.
When we were over a target the bigger guns (105mm) sometimes targeted us. We were either lucky or they were awful gunners using their iron sights.
The first four Alpha strikes we provided jamming for went very well. The Triple A was heavy but ineffective. The Air Group and CARDIV loved us. They believed we were providing a “magic screen.” We liked earning that respect.
We saw the SAM sites under construction. The CARDIV and CAG wanted to hit them. LBJ and McNamara would have none of it.
Most of the targets Midway’s Air Group was hitting were POL sites, power plants, Vinh Airfield, minor bridges, supply depots, road recces, etc. We had never gone as far north as Thanh Hoa. Until June.
We heard scuttlebutt that the Air Force had been striking the bridge, but failed. It was our turn. We knew it was going to be well defended. The AI brief before the mission showed where and how many gun emplacements there were. Yikes, it was really bristling with triple A! We put one EA-1F over each end of the bridge because that’s where the heavy stuff was. The ready room brief (We shared a ready room with VA-25, the A-1 squadron.) was a bit more sober than most briefs. Not as much gallows humor or wisecracking.
Like all missions over the North, I was keyed up but cramming the fear down by concentrating on the details. Once I manned aircraft, got that R-3350 purring, and taxied up to the catapult I knew I was going and it might be a one way trip. I pushed that moment of fear away by concentrating on all procedures and details. Once in the air and joined up, the fear was behind me. There was a feeling that I was a part of an effort that was bigger than me. And there was nowhere else I would rather be.
As the coast in point loomed ahead, my gut tightened and the adrenaline began to flow. Time slowed down. Over target and the muzzle flashes of the triple A were near continuous. Black puffs of smoke filled the air. I caught occasional sights of the A-1s, and A-4s diving on the bridge and admired their courage and skill. (I envied them too. They were dropping bombs, my crew and I were only firing electrons.) There were flashes from explosions and dust when their bombs hit the bridge or the approaches to the bridge. One A-4 dropped a Bull Pup that went ballistic and hit the river. Another one hit the bridge dead on and nothing happened.
It was over in less than twenty minutes and we all headed for the coast with all aircraft safe. Feet wet and the usual surge of endorphins hit me. Cheated death again! How sweet life seemed at that moment.
The damage assessment was available an hour or so after we got back to the ship. Some craters on the bridge approaches, some black marks where a couple of bombs and the Bull Pup had made direct hits. Nothing serious had been accomplished.
Another strike was ordered for the afternoon. I wasn’t on that one, but the results were about the same. No lost aircraft but no serious damage to the bridge. We knew then it was a tough target and going to be hard to drop. None of us had any idea it would be seven years before that job would be accomplished.
That mission against the Thanh Hoa Bridge, though a distant memory, I still remember as the most heavily defended target I saw in my short time flying North. It must have been a bearcat after the SAMs went operational.
A month later the SAMs became operational. That began a whole new ball game for VAW-13. The EA-1Fs could no longer fly over land and survive. The new modus operandi was directional jamming from offshore. Maybe not as effective as the omni-directional jamming provided from April to July of 1965, but with the SAMs operational, it was the only available option until the electric A-3s became available, which were followed by the EA-6Bs.
ECM is now far advanced over what we had to offer in 1965. Our capabilities were akin to the bow and arrow as compared to today. As they say, you go to war with the tools that you have.
I am a fan. Especially enjoyed “Cannibal Queen.”
Jim Glendenning CDR USNR (Ret.)”