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The Sunken Sampan
January 1968,   III Corps

  Joe Sowa in O-1 51-4653
Joe Sowa in O-1 51-4653   © Joe Sowa

FAC Joe Sowa, Jade 03, noticed something unusual while on a visual reconnaissance mission northeast of Bien Hoa in 1968.   Because of his sharp eye and curiosity, he was able to obtain some spectacular results.   Here are his story and bomb damage assessment (BDA) photos.   Definitions of some terms and abbreviations have been added in brackets "[   ]."   Otherwise, the words are his.

  Dong Nhai river northeast of Bien Hoa.   Late January 1968, just before TET got started.   I found this river crossing and spotted something in the water along the river bank.

  Sunken Sampan
Sunken sampan discovered by Joe Sowa,
Dong Nhai River (1968)   © Joe Sowa

It's the nose of a boat sunk to hide it underwater so they can use it during the night.   Turned out there were several being camoflaged the same way.   Normal thought would have been to put a strike on it right away.   I played it cagey and took a chance on a Skyspot [radar-directed bombing technique] for that night.   Two Huns [F-100s] put 8 bombs on the river crossing with spectacular results.   Got their attention.

I figured the charlies would be doing their business around midnight so I requested a Skyspot for that time on the south side of the crossing.   We all know that Skyspots were likely to be anywhere from a few hundred to a klick [kilometer] off target.   So, when I went to BDA this strike early the next morning, I didn't expect to see a direct hit.

  Bomb Damage Assessment
BDA photo taken the morning after bombing mission.
Note that the road has been used after the bombing.
Click on image for larger view.   © Joe Sowa

Several storage pits had apparently blown up.   The resulting fire exposed trenches and fighting positions along the bank.   There was lots of debris strewn about, like mortar base plates and rocket tubes.   I can't recall what the black ring was.   Appears to be a large rubber raft.   The road is well used, as you would expect it to be before the big TET attack.   Sometimes everything goes like its supposed to.

Joe Sowa, Jade03

  Joe Sowa and O-1
Joe Sowa (right) watches Jay Cappel prepare to take-off
in an O-1 from Nui Dat RVN (1968)   © Joe Sowa

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