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Statement of U.S. Naval Pilot
of circumstances and experience of being shot down in North Vietnam combat operations
and of being rescued by Helo detachment from the USS King (DLG – 10)

27 November 1966

I, W.H. (Bill) Natter, Jr. LTJG USN was on a Rolling Thunder mission today from the USS Ticonderoga at approximately 12:30 local time when I discovered I was hit. Backtracking a little, I launched from the USS Ticonderoga at 11:00 this morning in search of targets of opportunity along the coast of package area IV, preferably barges. We had a recovery time of 14:15 and estimated our departure time from the target area to be 13:30. After an extensive search of the coastal area we located a barge about ten miles northeast of Than Hoa just to the western side of a small island. Before going any further, my leader was LCDR McGrath in NM 301. I was in NM 309. Our call sign is Viceroy.


We decided to hit the barge and proceeded to position ourselves for roll-in. The visibility in the area was approximately one mile, the ceiling was approximately 1000’ overcast. I was behind and to the starboard side of 301 on a 45º bearing, 600’ from him. We were on a southeasterly heading for the run and commencing the run just below the overcast. The leader fired his two rocket pods (LAV 3’s) and broke hard to the left. I fired two rocket pods at an estimated 600 feet and broke hard to the left also. Just as I pulled off the target, my port rudder pedal gave way. I rolled the aircraft level and informed the leader of my difficulty as I pulled up along side of him. As I did, I noticed smoke in the cock pit and immediately got rid of my external fuel cell and the remaining two rocket pods. I put my oxygen mask on, went to 100% O2 and plugged my mike chords into the mask. I was anxious to ditch the aircraft as the smoke increased and I thought it might blow up. I didn’t know where the smoke was coming from and told the leader I wanted to ditch. He gave me a negative over the radio, told me I was okay, and to follow him. The lead informed me he was switching to SAR primary, Button 5, and I did likewise. Before switching, I noticed my radios were going bad. After switching to Button 5 I was unable to get a side tone and unable to contact 301. At that time my aileron control was very difficult and in a short time I had none. I shut off all pieces of electrical equipment when I noticed my flight instrument power light on and my gyro spinning. At the time, I thought I was on an easterly heading, but was informed by the SAR helo that we were on a southeasterly heading. I kept motioning to the leader that I wanted to ditch and he finally gave me the okay. I noticed my airspeed reading 130 kts at that time, dropped my hook and pulled the power back to idle. I blew the canopy open as I passed through 200’, shut the mixture off, the mags off and battery off. Once I saw 90 kts I started descending toward the water. I hit the water and before I knew it was “still” (motionless) in the water. I unfastened my harness as the aircraft began to sink. I tried to evacuate, as the aircraft submerged and became inverted, but couldn’t clear the cockpit as my mike chords were hung on some straps. I forced my hard hat off my head and floated to the surface, inflating the mae west. I located the raft, inflated it and crawled into it. Once in the raft, I pulled out my radio and told the leader I was okay. He informed me the helo would be on the scene in approximately twenty minutes. Once in the raft I checked the time as 12:45. About 13:00 the HU-16 was at the scene. I asked for information and he assured me the helo was on the way, that he could not land due to rough seas. In a few short minutes the helo appeared on the horizon. I swam clear of the raft as the hoist was lowered to me, crawled into it and was hoisted into the helo to return to the USS King DLG-10. I thought the helo pickup was very smooth.

W.H. (Bill) Natter, Jr.

Photo:

Rescued on 27 Nov, 1966 in the Gulf of Tonkin by the USS King’s “Fastest Helo in the West”, The Flying Bears HC-1 DET 5.

* LCDR M.T. Legare - Pilot “Papa Bear”
* LTJG R. Parkinson - Co Pilot “Zoomie 2”

Photos taken by David Nesbitt, STGC

AMS 1 J.D. Sheridan “Mama Bear”
* AMS 2 L. Hammon “Grumpy”
ADJ 2 D.E. Ogden “Oggey”
AT 2 W.F. Stock “Fats”
AE 2 Z. Harrison “Harry”
AMH 2 W. Maki “Makadoo”
* ADJ 3 D.D. Cogger “Coggie Poo”
AN W. Sullivan “Singing Sully”
AN J. Hood “Babykins”

* The officers directly involved in the rescue

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