Lieutenant Lyle Bull
, U.S. Navy
, were awarded the Navy Cross for "extra-ordinary heroism" and performance "above and beyond the call of duty."
had just finished the planning for a routine night hop in which they would be going after trucks in North Vietnam.Finding and hitting moving targets in complete darkness was no trick for the crew or the highly sophisticated electronic black boxes in the A-6 Intruder."Piece of cake," they called it.They discussed the mission thoroughly, but Bull
did the actual planning.The pilot looked over his
navigator's work very carefully, but, as was usually the case, made no changes.
The final weather briefing was scheduled for 1800.There was time to relax-it was only 1630-until a phone call from the squadron duty officer changed their plans."Better get down to IOIC, Lyle
", said the duty officer, "you're going to Hanoi tonight."
While Barrick left to get the target folder, Hunter and Bull
glanced at the air defense charts of the Hanoi area, noting fresh red markings which indicated new surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites.
Barrick, Hunter, and Bull
studied the target carefully.
"Stand back, you guys, here come Charlie and Lyle
There were at least 560 known anti-aircraft guns of various calibers in the area Hunter and Bull
were to fly over.
Hunter and Bull
did not discuss the fact that they might not make it back.
Hunter and Bull
would be the first to know.
...With precision accuracy, Bull guided the pilot by search radar down to 300 feet, with the jagged hills rising on either side.
At the lower altitude, their instruments indicated they had lost the SAM lock-on.In the radar scope, Bull
could see only the ridges of the hills on both sides above them and the reflection of the valley floor below.
Four miles straight ahead was the initial point (IP), a small island in the Red River.The IP would be the final navigational aid en route to the target.From this spot, distance and bearing had been precisely measured to the railroad ferry slip.Both the pilot and navigator had to work as one if the mission was to be a success.
eves fixed on the radar scope, Bull
placed the crossed hairs on the IP in his
As the Intruder flew at near tree-top level, Hunter and Bull
could see a missile lift off from its pad.
head and could see the ground beneath him lit up by flak.The Intruder rolled out close to the target heading.Bull
attention on the radar scope, noting that the radar cursors had stayed on the target through the roll.
could clearly see trucks and people on the road below.They were now only seconds from the target.The five missiles guided perfectly in azimuth, but could not reach down to the A-6.Bull
sensed that the missiles exploded above the canopy, but he
didn't look up.His
attention was momentarily fixed on the ground where multiple rows of anti-aircraft guns were firing at the aircraft.He
watched the muzzle blasts as the jet shot past each row.
Hunter must hold the wings level and the course steady, so that Bull
and the computers could do the job they had come so far to accomplish.
For the first time Charlie Hunter and Lyle Bull
had time to realize what they had been through.