Two Last Missions

submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

I can claim the dubious distinction of flying two “last” missions out of NKP to end my tour of duty.
While I was flying my intended last mission (Oct 1969) in the far eastern area of the Laos working area (close to SVN) another of my squadron mates, Jim Searcy, was flying his last mission in another area. Jim was working a SAR of a downed F-4 crew member further west of my area and due to running low on fuel had to transfer control of the SAR to another member of our squadron, Jim Swisher flying in an OV-10. While they were both concentrating on the ground situation, they ran into each other – a mid-air! Swisher and his backseat photographer were forced to eject from the OV-10 but Searcy and his Laotian observer were able to continue flying despite having suffered severe damage to one of his tail booms from one of the OV-10s propellers,including severing of the elevator and rudder cables on that side. Jim was able to divert to a nearby Air America airstrip but as he was on final approach a C-47 pulled out for takeoff forcing Jim to execute a go-around! He was barely successful (without normal controls) and as he was setting up for his second attempt he lost control just short of touchdown. The O-2 was destroyed but neither Jim nor his observer was injured beyond friction burns from the shoulder harness straps!
This was happening as I was RTB myself with little fuel left from the long mission. As I landed at NKP, I was expecting the normal end-of- tour “Sawat Dee” water hosing down of my last combat flight over Laos before my DEROS. I was relieved to be finished and ready to start packing for my return to the land of the big BX!
As I recall it was the Operations Officer who came over and informed me that the FAC who replaced me in my area of responsibility had been diverted to be On-Scene Commander of the rescue operation for the three people on the ground from the midair, AND, that I would have to go back out and cover my area for another “final” mission! There were no other pilots available.
I was given a chance to hit the head, handed a couple of hamburgers and a soda from the officers club, a very quick Intel brief and assigned targets, a fully fueled and loaded O-2, and was told to go fly another 4.5hr “Last Mission”! I put in my assigned fighters on their fragged targets at the appropriate TOTs and then flew at a rather high altitude on my way home – I didn’t want some damn Gomer to hit me with a golden BB on my RTB from a mission I wasn’t supposed to be on! My records show my second last mission was in aircraft #424 and was 4.8 hours in duration.
When I returned to NKP from that second last mission the Jolly Green celebration for the successful recovery of all involved in the SAR mission was well underway at the Officers Club and as they say, a “Whiskey Front” came through!
I was glad to have survived “Two Last Missions in SEA.” It took two days for the Whiskey Front to clear!