Combat Talons in Vietnam: Recovering a Covert Special Ops Crew

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Texas A&M University Press, Mar 27, 2017 - History - 288 pages
Combat Talons in Vietnam is a personal account of the first use of C-130s in the Vietnam War. It provides an insider’s view of crew training and classified missions for this technologically advanced aircraft. Many covert missions over North Vietnam were successful, but one night, John Gargus, a mission planner, oversaw an operation in which the aircraft—carrying eleven crewmembers—failed to return from a nighttime mission. For thirty years, a search for the missing aircraft remained in progress.

In the late 1990s, the Combat Talon veteran community at Hurlburt Field in Florida, still uncertain of the full story, decided to dedicate a memorial to the lost crew. When wartime mission records were declassified, Gargus embarked on a long journey of inquiry, research, and puzzle-solving to reconstruct the events of that mission and the fate of its crew. He discovered that the wreckage of the plane had been found in 1992 and that the remains of the crew were being held in Hawaii. Through numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, interviews, and site visits, Gargus sought to answer the question of why it took so long to find the wreckage and, more importantly, why the special operations command units were left uninformed. By 2000, the remains were relocated to a common grave at Arlington National Cemetery at last providing a measure of closure to family, friends, and comrades.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
1 Attraction to Special Operations
4
2 Stray Goose Training
14
3 Vietnam
39
4 Nha Trang Facilities
60
5 Realities of War
85
6 Daddy Is Coming Home
125
7 Crash Site Recovery
142
Epilogue
186
The Last Mission of Combat Talons S01 Crew
199
Transcribed Teletype Messages
217
Combat Talon Aircraft Losses
249
List of Abbreviations
253
Notes
257
Bibliography
261
Index
265

8 Official Information Sources
169

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About the author (2017)

JOHN GARGUS is the author of The Son Tay Raid: American POWs in Vietnam Were Not Forgotten, a memoir about his participation in a search and rescue mission for which he was awarded the Silver Star. Inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame, he retired from the US Air Force in 1983 after a twenty-seven-year career. He currently lives in Henderson, Nevada.

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