Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal A blog about photography & other musings…

Fire in Flight

The crew of Homey 302 was shot down in a C-130E aircraft on 25 June 1968, during the Vietnam War.  We have a website that commemorates this event and the subsequent crew reunion exactly 30 years later:

www.xpertweb.com/Katum

Fig. 1  On final, no gear...well not much, anyway.

Fig. 1 - On final, no gear...well not much, anyway.

However, I thought I would post all the pictures of the flight that I have in my collection here for those who might be interested.  I'll add a little personal perspective as we go along so I hope you'll join me as I relive this wild ride!

"The only time you have too much fuel is when you are on fire."  Aviation humor; and in this case, too true!

Just a brief word on how I came by these pictures.  Shortly after my return to the States and taking up residence in Nashville, TN, more specifically at Sewart AFB in Smyrna, TN, I received a box of slides in the mail with no return address.  There were 15 slides in the box and an attached note, that I am paraphrasing, but went something like this, "It took me a while to find you, but I thought you might like to have these slides that I took while standing next to the runway when you crash-landed your C-130."  There was no signature on the note, and to this day it is a mystery to me who this person is and why he chose to remain anonymous.

So, if you have read the story at Fire Flight at Katum, written by my good friend and English major, Britt Blaser (and copilot on this flight), hope you enjoyed it; he did a great job.  There's really no new information here, just my insights on the flight, and a lot of new photographs.

So let's get started.  We were all assigned to Ching Chuan Kang Air Base (CCK) on the island of Taiwan.  This was our PCS, or permanent-duty station.  The assignment would last about a year with the expectation that we would get credit for an in-country tour of duty.  That meant we would have fulfilled our Vietnam obligation.  However, the time "in-country" was considered temporary duty, or TDY, as there were head-count limitations due to the politics of the war.  A typical duty cycle would be about 20 days or so in-country where we would fly every day, and then head back to CCK to take care of the details, like paperwork, training, laundry, and maybe some R & R.  Usually, after a few days we were on our way back in-country.

I was a brand-new aircraft commander (AC) and had just been assigned my own crew.  They had made a big deal about it back at CCK because we were supposedly the youngest C-130 crew in the theater--see the attached CCK base newspaper article here.  It says I was 25, but actually I was born on St. Patty's day, 1944, (thus the nickname "Pat"), so that made me 24 years old.  All of us had been through Tet in February 1968, we had all flown into places like Khe Sanh, and made drops in the A Shau Valley, so we had seen our share of combat.  But my crew had only been flying together since May 1968.  On this mission, we were assigned to Tuy Hoa Air Base, S. Vietnam for a normal 20-day rotation.  See a copy of our flight orders here.  We had been in Tuy Hoa for about a week, flying almost every day.

Comments (8) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Thank you so much for dedicating this to my dad! (Captain Erle L. Bjorke http://www.gx2527leftinvietnam.com/homeerle.html) He was lucky to have a friend like you, as am I! I know that he would have loved the story and been so thankful that you were one of the lucky ones! I wish he was hear to sit and have coffee with you and talk about that amazing day of June 25th, 68.

    I understand the journey of healing has not been easy. You were not greated with warmth upon your return from Vietnam but yet still you see the beauty in life and reflect this in your beautiful pictures that you have posted. You have learned to take adversity and turn it around and look for the good things that surround us on a daily basis. I know you won’t ever forget the memories, the life lessons and the friends that you met in Vietnam. But allow yourself to be happy. Know that it molded you into who you are today and the example that you are to that precious girl CHloe. Continue to allow Chloe to build her castles in the sky and continue to build her foundations underneath! You are on this earth for a reason, to make a difference and I can say you have certainly been that difference for me. I thank God everday that you helped me through a very tough time in my life and finally allowed me to heal.

    Best Wishes and I hope to continue to see more beautiful photography! Get your but up to Washington and take some here!!
    Love, Kristine

  2. Yea I remember this scene well I was in the control tower

  3. Hey Pilot!

    Thinkin’ Ya’ outta get this down in print – its one heck of a real-world recollection, I’d purchase a copy hands down. Great Days to Ya

  4. You know Dad…Your buddy “Rowdy” has a point. Your a wonderful writing and you have an amazing story to tell! Do it.

  5. Admiring the hard work you put into your site and detailed information you offer. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account. dagkkgbdeedg

  6. Contrary to these days of short attention spans, I could not stop paging through and reading it in its entirety. Totally agree with Johnk711′s remarks re blogs. This is the best I’ve read. I was a medic at the Tan Son Nhut Emergency Room, night shift, from 1968-1969. We responded to all inflight emergencies and C-130s provided us with a good percentage of them! LOL But, it impressed me how tough that bird was/is. Your account of your inflight emergency is so detailed and well-written, I felt as if I was in the Herc experiencing everything. I agree with your daughter and Rowdy – do it!

  7. I like what you’ve done with your stuff, Pat!


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