Combat Talons in Vietnam: Recovering a Covert Special Ops Crew
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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1 Attraction to Special Operations
2 Stray Goose Training
4 Nha Trang Facilities
5 Realities of War
6 Daddy Is Coming Home
7 Crash Site Recovery
8 Official Information Sources
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Air Base Air Commando Air Force Base aircraft aircraft commander aircraft crash airdrop altitude American Anh Hoa Blackbird Capt cargo Charlie Claxton Chau Province CILHI Clark Air Base combat mission Combat Talon crew members crew’s Detachment Don Fisher Dow Rogers drop zone electronic enemy excavation families feet flew flight Fulton Recovery ground speed Hanoi Hawaii Hines human remains Hurlburt Field identify interceptor interview John Gargus John Lewis joint team JTF-FA Lai Chau Province leaflet drop Lieutenant Colonel lift line loadmasters located Luong military missing in action navigator needed Nha Trang night North Vietnam parachute personal effects personnel Phu Nhung pickup pilot radar radio recovered recovery team REFNO Saigon Seventh Air Force Son La Province special operations Squadron SSgt story Stray Goose survey team team members teletype teletype message terrain following unit USAF-Ret Vietcong Vietnamese VNOSMP Wing wreckage