My Best O-2 FAC Mission

submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

I found the following (in quotes below) in my own old blue Military Records Personal 201 File. It was hand written and if memory serves, I believe it was written for the awards officer in response to a request to provide information about my own ‘best’ FAC mission. There were no specific names or locations included, and that may have been due to security protocol at the time. In retrospect, the mission wasn’t really unusual, except that the altitude was a bit lower than we normally flew, the accuracy of the Willie Petes was a bit better than I was normally able to achieve and the A-1s (who were always shit hot) were even better than usual. I don’t remember who the FAN with me was. The weather, the AAA and the trucks could have been on almost any one of the 120 or so night missions that I flew in the old black O-2A during the second half of my tour.
Usually there were more fighters to work and most of them were usually fast movers, but what I wrote back in 1969 is pretty much what I remember flying at night on the “trail” out of NKP to be like.
“Our mission was to locate and direct air strikes against enemy truck traffic. Weather was broken to overcast in the target area, but I had a good TACAN lock and the FAN was able to pick up occasional glimpses of road through his starlight scope from our working altitude of 2,500 feet above the high highest indicated terrain in the area. After approximately two hours the weather began to clear a bit and the FAN and I decided that, as we were both familiar with the area, and as we were starting to get pretty good moonlight, we could probably get a better view if we dropped down a 1,000 feet or so. That did get us below almost all of the clouds and immediately the FAN picked up six trucks moving south. I requested strike aircraft and was able to get a flight of two A-1s. When I finished briefing them the FAN set me up for a flare drop and the flare ignited over the lead truck.
I came around and put a Willie Pete on the road about 20 meters in front of the truck which caused him to slam on his brakes and slide sideways almost directly into the smoke. During the rocket pass we picked up tracers from at least two ZPUs that the A-1s said looked to be right behind the line of our shielded beacon.
After pulling off from the marking pass I cleared the first A-1 in hot with napalm. He put it right on top of the lead truck, which then started to burn like hell!! As he was doing that, three ZPUs and at least one 23 mm and one 37 mm opened up on him. I was able to pop a flare over the 23 mm and came back around and put a Willie Pete within about 10 meters of the position.
I then cleared the second A-1 in on that 23 mm as I was pulling off and he clobbered it with nape getting some good secondaries. By this time we had seven or eight AAA positions firing at all three of our aircraft and the fires on the ground were providing good reference points. The FAN directed me over the last truck in the line, which had turned around, and we popped another flare that lit him up good enough for the A-1s to see without smoke, so I cleared the first A-1 back in on it and he got it burning on that pass.
From that point on we got out of the way and just coordinated the A-1 passes on and off the trapped convoy of trucks. I did mark three additional AAA sites with Willie Petes, all of which the A1s were able to clobber.
When we left, we had BDA of five burning trucks (confirmed by photo recon the following day) and secondaries from four of the AAA sites, none of which were firing at us when we departed.”
None of that seemed very remarkable then.
It was just our job.
I believe that all of us in the 23rd TASS did our job, whatever it was,
with the highest degree of skill and professionalism.