After I was commissioned on the Quarter Deck at the NROTC Unit I headed to Quantico for TBS. TBS was only 5 months back then due to the war. Was selected for NFO (Naval Flight Officer) training and headed to Pensacola for Flight School. In Flight School was second in my NFO class and was able to be assigned to training as an Airborne Electronic Countermeasures Officer (ECMO). Training was by the Air Force at Mather Air Force Base where all Air Force and Marine Electronic Warfare Officers were trained. From there headed to MCAS Cherry Point and was assigned to VMCJ-2. Back then flying hours were scant and equipment was not 100% as all of it was in Vietnam. Eventually headed to Westpac in August of 1972. Assigned to VMCJ-1 Det Cubi Point, Philippines, where our EA-6As were flying round the clock missions off North Vietnam. Paris Peace Talks were ongoing and restrictions to having planes in country existed!!! That is a story in and of itself.
Each morning about 0300, 2-3 aircraft would launch from Cubi Pt and fly direct to Danang in South Vietnam. Flight was less than 2 hrs. Upon arrival the crews from the night before who had stayed over night hot seated us and launched on the dawn missions off North Vietnam’s Coast. Missions were about 2 hrs long. We would set up in race-track orbits about 15 – 20 miles right off shore “feet wet” a target area. As an ECMO my job was to monitor the receiver system and identify all radars encountered. If a treat radar came up, I would set an appropriate jammer at that frequency and “jam” the radar. Radars could be anti-aircraft guns, surface to air missiles (SAMs) or others which I would “jam”. We would fly about 3, sometimes 4 two ship sections a day (Dawn, Lunch, dinner and night time). After the last night flight returned, the crews from the day before would launch back to Cubi Pt and once the planes were recovered, they were readied for the next morning launch!
Remember this is back in the day when all of this was done manually, and no computers were involved! When the Peace Talks bogged down in December of ’72, President Nixon had had enough and ordered the unrestricted bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong. It was known as Linebacker II. Also known as the Christmas bombings. I was part of these missions. We were on a full press attack and somehow all our aircraft were in UP status. The missions were mainly at night where we were responsible for providing jamming coverage of the known radar threat spectrum. The attackers were the B-52s out of Guam and Thailand and Navy aircraft from Carriers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The USAF tactics the first few nights were antiquated and I, unfortunately, saw several B-52s get blown out of the sky by SAMs. That is another story for later. These missions were the highlight of my training and Marine Corps life. I was doing what I was trained to do and felt I did it pretty well. Only downside is when you are jamming a SAM site they don’t like that and try to shoot you down!!!
The Paris Peace Accords ended our flight operations in late January of ’73 and the rest of my Marine Corps life was nothing compared to those flights over North Vietnam during Linebacker II.