Stories & Sorties
Stinger Gunship Nets 40 Trucks
Gunfighter Village Newspaper, Danang Air Base, Vietnam
Maj. Dick Wargowsky knew he had a good gunship crew working with him when they destroyed 19 trucks in one night over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. He didn't know just how good until they came back the next night and picked off 21 more to put them far ahead of the competition.
Dubbed the "Polish Bandits" by other members of the 18th Special Operations Squadron, the AC-119K Stinger crew has many good nights of truck hunting behind them, but never two like this, back-to-back. Only moments after they reached the target area, sensor operator Maj. Tom Vandenack spotted the first of many trucks he was to identify that night.
"We started following a branch of the Trail and there it was, like a big fat plum just waiting to be picked." A short burst of the 21mm cannons and the gunship was again prowling the trail for more targets. After blasting four trucks scattered down a short stretch of trail, the Polish Bandits found themselves orbiting a truck park near an intersection of two trails. Feeding corrections to the firing computer, the gunship crew managed to allow for an erratic wind and soon found they had destroyed eight more vehicles.
Still brimming with pride from the previous night's work, the bandits returned to Laos the next night under a shimmering white moon. With both sensors working overtime, they soon found themselves orbiting a truck park and storage area.
Beautiful ..15 Trucks
Each man participating in a mission destroying or damaging 20 or more trucks is entitled to wear a lapel pin depicting a 20mm cannon, a highly prized honor in the 18th. With about four minutes of target time left, the sensors located a pair of trucks, hidden deep under the heavy jungle foliage. Major Wargowsky lined up his gunsight and squeezed off a short burst. Whoom flashed the truck as it exploded into oblivion. The sensor informed him there were, still two close together, not far from the gutted truck, and as he fired the burst which emptied his cannons, both trucks lit up in the dense Jungle far below.
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