Q. What was the most unique mission you flew?
A. The night of November 6, 1970 when we were forced down at midnight into that deadly karst, deep behind enemy lines, and were listed as Missing In Action — Presumed Dead. Our NKP comrades held our memorial service, knowing we were lost. But to paraphrase Will Rogers, rumors of our demise were greatly exaggerated.
Q. What happened on that mission?
A. We were flying deep behind enemy lines in northern Laos, flaring a platoon of Lao good guys being overrun by bad guys, awaiting for fighters to race in. The safety of the Mekong River was an hour south. NKP was yet another forty minutes south. Events seemed barely under control when disaster struck. We took a hit. A shell ripped open a main fuel line. Fuel gushed overboard. No way to stop it. Dry tanks in ten minutes. I could order a bailout and watch all seven men tortured to death by leftover bad guys we’d just bombed to hell, or slam headlong into a mountainside.
Just as I was about to order bailout, our nav Charles suggested I attempt to land at “impossible” Long Tien airstrip ten miles west. By today’s standards, the approach would be like weaving a 747 through the canyon entrance to Yosemite Park guided solely by the light of a crescent moon that ducks behind an overcast at the worst moment, continuing by Braille — blind and mapless — then landing in the Lodge parking lot by the light of three 60-watt bulbs.
The book narrative puts readers in the left seat. They have all the information I had and can anticipate the decisions I had to make.
Q. Lt. Col Halliday, thanks for taking the time to tell us about your experiences.
A. John, thanks for a great interview. I’ve had a wonderful time.
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All Images in this interview were provided by Lt. Col. Halliday.