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A South Vietnamese Air Force Officer and a Crazy Carrier Landing (2015) (tacairnet.com)
241 points by vinnyglennon 11 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments





It seems worthwhile pointing out the comment at the bottom:

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I’d like to point out that a lot of our young men are currently attempting to do the exact same thing as was described above for the Afghani translators who served with the US Army even at tremendous risk to their lives. They have sponsored them for visas since their lives, and those of their families, are increasingly at risk back in Afghanistan because of their work with the US. Many of these Afghani and Iraqi translators saved US American soldier lives, and made it possible for the our soldiers to work with the local populations when this was critical.

Unfortunately, even as American soldiers are working hard to bring their translators they worked with, along with their families, to the US, they’re running into a lot of red tape back in the US, even though we’ve only filled a fraction of the visas that Congress allotted for Iraqis and Afghans who served with the US Army and other branches.

See: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/09/10/afghan-tra...


I’ve had some personal experience with this.

Having worked in Afghanistan in 2012-2014 and employing interpreters daily that we shifted between government and military programs, a few of our interpreters got caught outside of parameters for visas because we shifted them between programs.

We’ve managed to get all of our long-term male interpreters out of the country legally.

The biggest problem was getting our female interpreters out of the country legally.

Our female interpreters were, on average, far better than the male interpreters.

Further hindered by cultural differences making it exceptionally difficult to get family permission to allow female interpreters to move overseas without male family leadership, as well as a continuing paycheck to the family that was all that prevented them from getting involuntarily married off.

We managed to get 2 of 3 female interpreters legally overseas, the 3rd is still employed in various NGO programs providing good income for the family, stalling on getting married off.


I know it's not your comment but for others benefit who might not know - people of Afghanistan are Afghan, not Afghani. One afghani, or af, is the unit of currency there. The confusion may come because people of stan-suffix countries do use the stani, like Pakistani. Anyway it's pervasive mistake in us media.

For those curious, here's a recent photo of Lawrence Chambers and Buang-Ly pictured together at a 2014 commemoration of the event: http://www.navyhistory.org/2014/04/the-opportunity-to-make-h...

    A South Vietnamese UH-1H being pushed overboard to make room for a Cessna O-1 landing. (U.S. Navy/released)
Why don't they just fly the helicopter and bring it back once the plane is landed ?!

> Chambers ordered all available hands to the flight deck, regardless of rank, to assist in moving any aircraft parked on the deck to a different spot, clearing a long strip for Lee to land on. Any helo that couldn’t be moved in a safe and timely manner was to be pushed over the side of the deck after a quick gear strip. An estimated $10 million worth of South Vietnamese UH-1Hs were thus stripped and jettisoned from the flight deck. When five more South Vietnamese Hueys landed on the deck during the mad dash to clear the deck, their occupants were hustled into the ship and their helos met the same fate as the others.

Seems there wasn't time or resources to get them all into the air quickly enough.


The same thing happened at the end of WW2 with all the PT boats that has been shipped to the pacific. In the course of a war, a lot of equipment gets moved to the field. When war ends (particularly abruptly as was the case in Vietnam), it’s a cost benefit analysis as to whether it makes sense to ship it back. PT boats were burned and scuttled in WW2, helicopters were dumped in vietnam (not just in this case but in others to make room on the decks for people). I’m sure a lot of equipment was left in the field as well.

And more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, billions of dollars of equipment, including thousands of Hummers and MRAPs were scrapped or donated to local allied security forces as the cost of shipping them back the United States was prohibitively costly. Embarrassingly, some of the equipment fell into the possession of the Islamic State when they conquered northern Iraq.

> in the field

You can still see an OV-10 (I think) and a handful of C-130s parked in a corner of the airport in Ho Chi Minh City:

https://goo.gl/maps/MbtvWxhn4as


After the Japanese surrender in WW2 the British Pacific Fleet dumped a load of lend-lease carrier aircraft over the side, although I believe in this case it was related to the terms that the US had imposed on their use.

More importantly there was no use to the equipment. South Vietnam fell. There is no where for this equipment to go.

That and risk. They probably had no way of knowing what mechanical condition some of those helicopters were in, and to have half a dozen or more helos hovering around the carrier would be half a dozen potential emergencies that would have to be dealt with in the midst of an already complicated situation.

And then you also risk the lives of all of the crew members.

This is an odd logic, isn't it? The country that owned the chopper practically ceased to exist, it doesn't mean the equipment is no good...

Equipment doesn’t exist in a vacuum. There must be a supply chain to maintain it.

... it was just US equipment with a different coat of paint

No time to do a full check over equipment which by the end of the war may have been maintained to the bare minimum if not worse.

What do you think they stripped before dumping the aircraft? Is there modular, compact stuff like radios? Or what? No time to remove an engine, presumably, even if that was something that could happen fairly routinely during maintenance.

There was a period in the late 1970s when North Vietnam was undercutting the US in supplying parts & replacements to some Latin American countries, I recall.

While only pilots can fly a helicopter, everyone on the boat can push a helicopter into the sea.

If I had to guess, I'd bet that it was going to happen anyway. After all, the nation they belonged to didn't exist anymore. The optics of keeping them would be questionable and they weren't all that useful anyway.

Lack of fuel?

I just visited the Midway in San Diego this spring. The ship has been turned into a museum, and the Bird Dog is one of the first exhibits you can see. It’s an amazing vessel, with lots of awesome and terrible stories to tell. Veteran crew are always aboard to answer questions about the ship and their service. HNers might especially like the CIC and other information handling rooms — they’re configured like they were during Operation Desert Storm.

The Midway is definitely the best in the country, but if the west coast is too far of a trek there are similar museums within decommissioned aircraft carriers in Mobile, AL (USS Alabama) and Charleston, SC (USS Yorktown) that I'd recommend. Each has interesting histories and exhibits, and veterans in attendance.

Also Intrepid in NYC, or do you not recommend that for some reason? I enjoyed when I went, but that was over 20 years ago now. They've had a major restoration and put one of the Concordes on display since then.

And the space shuttle Enterprise is there now.

Havent been in 20 years either! For all I knew it wasnt there anymore :)

USS Alabama is totally worth a visit, but it is a battleship, not carrier.

Yes its a battleship. If you want to vist a carrier you can go to the Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas. https://www.usslexington.com/

This reminded me of an even crazier, and quite moving, story that appeared here a few years ago. It's so similar that at first I thought the stories must be the same, but they're not: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9462885

Man, what a great 3 hour rabbit hole that just led me down. The linked video about the USS Kirk was amazing. Thanks for the link.

I think there may not have been a better airplane for landing on a carrier than a Bird Dog. Those things have amazing landing performance. With the tanks empty, it might not even have been overloaded.

What I don't get is why they couldn't make radio contact. There are standard emergency frequencies (121.5, 243) that the pilot should have known about and the ship tried to contact them on.


[1] says there was no headset, though who knows where they're getting that information from. The photos in the article do kind of look like the pilot is bare-headed.

1: http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675069507_evacuation-of-...


That would totally make sense, thanks. I doubt they had speakers and hand-mics, although civilian Cessnas of the era sometimes did.

A wild guess: given the airplane's role as a spotter, it only had radio for communicating with troops in the field, and that was on different bands?

Or they threw the radio out to save weight.

Or, like the helicopters on deck in the story, any useful equipment that could quickly be stripped during retreat and evacuation was already gone.

That seems unlikely given that he knew his only chance was landing on a carrier or ditching close to a ship. Also, I don’t know if that airplane had an easily removable radios.

There's also the class of extreme STOL aircraft that includes the Wilga (Polish) and Storch (German). They would be perfect for this, but obviously they weren't present in that situation.

Not on a moving/bobbing/weaving/zigging/zagging carrier, but here's Alaskans doing what they do best... taking off and landing in ~3m / 10 ft.

https://youtu.be/f7u1jzjFL8s

And here's a "helicopter" plane that plants it in 0 ft... doesn't even need a runway. :D

https://youtu.be/HJJI3kPZ0-I


And without all that wind?

Longer than 0 ft. ;)

Contrast the carrier Captain's behavior with that of our current Secretary of Defense (when he was a Marine General) when he was asked to aid Green Berets in Afghanistan after they were hit by friendly fire.

First the Captain: Captain Chambers’ actions could have very well had him court-martialled and killed off his career in the Navy, and he was well aware of that. Even still, he put his livelihood on the line and took the necessary actions to save the Lee family.

Then the Marine General[1]: "He was indecisive and betrayed his duty to us, leaving my men to die during the golden hour when he could have reached us,"

[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/former-special-forces-...


Marines do not leave Marines behind. The Army are on their own.

> Other witnesses quoted Mattis saying that he didn’t want to send a rescue mission into an uncertain situation

If the rescue mission went sideways ,we may be sitting here asking why mattis was so stupid as to risk his men's lives on a mission with basically no chance of success.


I just can't believe Buang-Ly doesn't have his own Wikipedia article.

>By the end of the war in Vietnam, a fairly sizable number of Republic of Vietnam Military Forces (the South) officers and senior enlisted soldiers/airmen, as well as their families, were marked for death. Their civilian peers in the South were especially fearful of reprisal from the invading North Vietnamese Army for supporting and harboring ranking RVNMF personnel, who were often unceremoniously dragged out from their houses and shot in the streets, their bodies left to rot as both a warning to anyone who wouldn’t give up RVNMF troops and to the soldiers themselves that their demise was imminent.

War absolutely disgusts me, but the Vietnamese war in particular was a horror show. My grandpa tells me stories that make me want to vomit. Study the history as much as I'd like, I will never understand how "start killing people" becomes a valid solution.


> I will never understand how "start killing people" becomes a valid solution.

It's always the solution. The reason a "civilized" world exists is there are people out there who are willing to commit extreme amounts of violence upon others if called for. The credible threat of violence is what puts negotiation and diplomacy on the table. Even something as civilized as a court of law depends on the existence of armed enforcers in order to be respected.


>Even something as civilized as a court of law depends on the existence of armed enforcers in order to be respected.

I disagree with the premise that the threat of institutionalized penalty is what causes people to be good. I think the primary cause of good behavior is lack of reason to commit crime (i.e well fed and housed comfortably) as well as culture.

Why else would cities with exactly the same legal systems across the USA have different crime rates?


Society cannot guarantee that 100% of the population will have no reason to commit crimes. Even something as fundamental as not agreeing with a certain law can be reason enough to break it, as seen in the case of civil disobedience.

When we talk about the reason to commit crimes, we're talking about intent, the very first stage of violent crime. That's the part where someone convinces himself that it makes sense to use violence to get what he wants. Of course, the less intent people are on committing crimes, the better. However, at this point, violence is not happening yet.

Violence comes into play during later stages, when the criminal is actually making his move. The purpose of the threat of violence is to convince people that it's in their best interests to behave according to the rules. Warranted use of violence exists to convince criminals that things could end up very badly for them should they choose to escalate the situation.

Violence is what you use to make unwilling people do what you want. Robbers use overwhelming violence to make victims give up their belongings. Cops use overwhelming violence to make the robber surrender to arrest. If someone is being judged in court, what stops them from literally getting up and walking out to freedom? There are police officers there who will violently prevent that from happening.


Both can work.

Greed complicates things.


In a word - emotion. To be specific, fear which is largely responsible for survival is a huge contributor.

In general, Those who can manipulate others emotions by triggering them can manufacture certain outcomes. If you create a environment of fear humans can do a lot of things that otherwise outside the context of fear would be unspeakable.

Fear in the masses usually leads to confusion and/or convictions. Confusion is what allows bystanders to do nothing. Conviction is what allow doers to do.


I’d say “start killing people” is a great solution when other people are trying to kill you (e.g. WW2, Korean War).

Self defense is easy. So too is violence in defense of others. What becomes harder, particularly in modern war, is killing people who are no immediate threat: the enemy asleep in their barracks. Harder still is killing people working in something like a munitions factory, the people who build things that other people might one day threaten you with. You cannot rely on emotional crutch of self defense in such tenuous circumstances.

Israelis, US Army and many other would like to disagree about the hardships of killing people who are not an immediate threat. I don't think some Israeli fighter/bomber pilot can't sleep because he killed some iranian nuclear engineers, or construction workers.

Same would go for any US drone pilot - often, to get 1 important target, tens of civilians are killed/wounded too. It ain't clear on the screen who is who, so plenty of room for the doubts. I am sure some of them have PSTD or are depressed, but many others sleep well at night, feeling they do serve their country well.

Humans have strong need to feel OK with themselves, and if the reality doesn't support this, then they twist/ignore some parts of it to make it better.


>I don't think some Israeli fighter/bomber pilot can't sleep because he killed some iranian nuclear engineers, or construction workers.

>but many others sleep well at night, feeling they do serve their country well.

Your experience doesn't match with mine, or really most soldiers':

>What we’re beginning to learn now is that, of all those things Marlantes mentioned, unaddressed guilt might be the most dangerous for returning veterans. A recent study by the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) shows that nearly two-dozen veterans are killing themselves every day, nearly one an hour. This attrition, connected at least in part to combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other war-related psychological injuries, is an enormous price to pay for avoiding the subject. So great, in fact, that the total number of US active duty suicides in 2012 (349) was higher than the number of combat-related deaths (295).

https://www.google.com/amp/s/aeon.co/amp/essays/how-do-soldi...


Erica Chenoweth would agree with you. She's done the research that shows that "start killing people", in many situations, is ineffective.

https://www.ericachenoweth.com/research/wcrw


> I will never understand how "start killing people" becomes a valid solution.

If another group of people decides to start a genocide on your people (IE, kill you and all of your people), what would you do?

Edit: I'm not familiar with the vietnam war, I am just responding to the claim for why "killing people is a valid solution".


I don't understand how "start genociding" became a valid solution.

> but the Vietnamese war in particular was a horror show.

It wasn't any more a horror show compared to any other war.

> Study the history as much as I'd like, I will never understand how "start killing people" becomes a valid solution.

You studied history and you don't understand war? That doesn't seem possible.


>You studied history and you don't understand war? That doesn't seem possible

Why don't you just rephrase this as "you're lying." Or maybe "having also studied this subject, I can speak to all others that have studied this subject. They clearly would have reached the exact same conclusiond as me, therefore you must be lying."


Vietnamese people fleeing their country for helping the US in the Vietnam war: immediately brought to the US in helicopters and aircraft carriers and given refugee status. Iraqi people fleeing Iraq because they helped us: forced to stay in Iraq for >8 years while paperwork is done and then denied. https://www.thisamericanlife.org/607/didnt-we-solve-this-one

There is a small difference. The US was retreating to a hostile enemy in Vietnam. Iraq is left in the hands of a US backed regime. When the talibans take over Afghanistan, that will be a better analogy.

A US-backed sectarian regime which has been persecuting a segment of its population...

Don't worry, they're making their way to Vietnamese refugees too: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/la-ol-enter-the-fray-in-yet-a...

Don’t forget how current gov Brown wanted to block the settling of legal Vietnamese refugees in California in the fist place back in ‘75... He felt it a little strange at the time...

California basically already made all of the mistakes around immigration that the rest of the U.S. is currently making. We just did it from the 70s (the 1870s) through the early 2000s. That's how we know they're mistakes.



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