It was a nice clear day only few broken cloud lingering to burn off after the rainy night,
I was coming down from RON at L-54 (Louangprabang) alone, just when I contacted LS-20A tower
for landing Chaophakhao Lee Lue’s flight of three were depart L-08 (Vientiane) and asked me
if I want to joint them to kill some AAA, of course I would not refused and asked for his
position and target area.
"Chaophakhao Red, Chaophakhao Lee Lue "
"Red, go ahead"
"I got some AAA target, want to joint us"
"What’s your position and target"
"Passing the dam heading to Xieng Det"
"Okay proceed over 20A I will arm and joint you as # 4"
Evidently I just flew by couple of miles west of Xieng Det, since I was not armed I didn’t pay much attention and scanned the area and hardly notice anything unusual. I request 20A tower to relay my message to ground armament crews to get my ordinance ready for 2/500 lb., 2/250 lb. And 2/7 rockets pot set at single for immediate loading with out refueling and my 50 cal. ammo was already load from L-54, as I landed and taxi in 2 MJ1 with the bombs were awaiting, it took less than 3 minutes to load and arm my plane as the crew chief came up check the oil while I remain in cockpit. I got thumb up from the crews and cranked up request immediate take off, as I was airborne I got Lee Lue flight in sight south of the field.
"Chaophakhao Lee Lue I get you in sight proceed to target"
As I climbed and try to catch them up we reach the target area which was less than ten minutes and I still can’t get in to the position, I learned that Gen. Vang Pao (V.P. as we all knew) himself was the Ground FAC and caution us for the 2 AAA positions of twin ZPU (Double barrels 14.5 mm with the rate of 1,600 rounds per minute very accurate and deadly for prop driven aircraft)
"Chaophakhao from White Star (V.P. call sign) did you see the target"
"I got the target, I see them and gonna get them" reply Lee Lue with confident and excitement.
"Chaophakhao lead from 4 can you make one circle I still too far out"
As usual Lee Lue never waits when he got the target.
"One in hot"
As Lee Lue rolled in he was greeted with everything they had, Lee Lue lined up his bombing run to get both guns on the same pass I was closing in but still lower than them.
"Two in hot" follow # 2 in different heading.
As I watch Lee Lue release his bombs and pulled up, the first one hit the damned gun right on but his second bomb was about ten meters short I got a sudden strange feeling and follow Lee Lue’s pattern when he pulled up I saw at least 4 tracers hit his plane from nose to tail, his plane went straight up trailing white smoke instead of normal left pattern, I yelled out.
"Lue you got hit, bailed out, bailed out now"
"Lee Lue Head South and bail out" followed V.P. on the radio. We never get reply from him.
"Lue you on fire bail out, bail out"
I yelled out again when his plane caught fire but he never replied and his plane start banking right when the speed bleed off from climbing.
In the state of shock # 2 Vang Sue drop all the bombs and went back to
LS-20A .. without communicating.
# 3 Somnuk (Lang) hold high dry now Lee Lue’s plane was on right turn and diving toward my direction, I make hard right cut him off to check out, while cross under him at close range I notice Lee Lue’s head was slummed forward to the dash and his backseater Lor Neng (Another V.P. relative just barely graduated from Udorn and on his 6th observation flight, his next flight would be in the front seat as I will be his check out pilot) was leaned back with his head leaning to one side and I can see red fluid splashed all over the canopy possibly their blood and hydraulic fluid, I known then they both gone from direct hit, as I follow his plane down I heard V.P. calling out his name and crying.
"Lee Lue, Lee Lue!….."
I could not talk and swallow a big lump as I pulled up and bank left to look at the huge ball flame when his plane struck the ridge just a few hundreds yards from the hill crest where V.P. was commanding, I pulled up circling the crashed site and felt wet on my cheeks, I didn’t know since when I’d cried.
I notice the enemies firing red flare for their victory; of course they had monitored on the radio and known whom they brought down. After several circling and gained altitude I got back to myself, in my mind the only thing I can think of was get the bloody gun at any cost "Revenge, revenge, revenge" the only word that ring my ears.
"Chaophakhao 2, 3 from 4"
I search for the other 2 Chaophakhao, no respond from # 2
"Chaophakhao 3 up here"
"Damned it! Give your position" (I was pissed and scanned the horizon for # 3)
"About 3 miles southeast of Muong Soui"
"You still have the target"
"Okay you take the lead and stay tight"
As soon as we got in their range they start firing with every thing hope for more victory, # 3 drop all the bomb at early stage in order to stay clear of gun fire and fear for his safety, his bombs fell far short of the target, I followed in overhead on top of the gun and rolled in.
"4 in hot"
As I dove in almost vertical I can see and feel those tracers grazing by at deadly range. I ignored them bring the cross hair on the gun steady flame, as I released the bomb I hit # 3 prop wash, I knew my bomb would missed I eased back the cross hair over the flame again and release the 2/500 lb. and follow by the last 250 lb. all in single pass hope for the best, I pulled up hard and bank left to stay inside the silent cone (The bloody AAA can’t shoot straight up) when I look back over my shoulder my 1st bomb was slightly short but the 2/500 lb. were right on and blew the damned bloody gun spinning up in the air, the last bomb wasn’t bad at all when it hit ammo stockpile which created a big secondary explosion.
"Kham Phoui be careful son, I don’t want to loose you too"
- V.P. voice blaring in the radio
(Until now V.P. still call me Kham Phoui instead of Kham Phiou)
"I’ve got them White Star, I got the bloody gun"
# 3 kind of reluctant so I went in hot again.
"4 in hot last pass, 3 cover me"
As I came down on the last pass strafing and firing all of my 14 rockets, one rocket struck another ammo stockpile again follow by secondary explosion which startled # 3 as he yelled out on the radio.
"OH ! Shit - they still have more gun, let’s get out of here"
"Okay 3 RTB"
As I pulled out of the target heading back to the crash site make a low pass follow by an aileron roll to declare my successful revenge and gave them the last salute. I notice that ground troops were advancing to the site to secure and extricated both pilots later, the plane was disintegrated on impact now only the smoldering fire over the engine area billowing up column of smoke and V.P. chopper was lifting off head back to LS-20A.
When I landed at LS-20A and shut down V.P. chopper was settling down in front of the tower, as I got off my plane I saw V.P. got off the chopper and walking toward me, I walk to him he was weeping, put his arm around my shoulder and mumbling:
"Lee Lue’s dead, Lee Lue’s dead…."
I could not speak and emotion, my tears pouring down, I could not see just strolling with him toward the head quarter (V.P. house which located less than hundred yards from the runway) we all gather there mourning the loss of our two pilots. My crew chief report to me later my plane did picked up several small arm ground fired bullet holes but none of the AAA.
The next three days were declare - no fly - by V.P. to commemorated to
"Lee Lue" one of our best Fighter Pilots, a great Warrior and true Hero considering V.P. right hand man, and this was a big lost for V.P. and all of us. Lee Lue had a great personality, very smart, always have broad smile and grinning face, nice and kind to everybody and willing to help when some body have whatever problem, but fierce, deadly and merciless for the enemies especially NVA and PL.
I known Lee Lue when he took T-28 training at Udorn, and flew with him from the very first day he earned his wing when I checked him out in real combat, I admired Lee Lue of his intelligent and fast learning (Lee Lue had teacher background, known Xieng Khouang and Samneua territory so well, he never look at the map and still know and get to the target) Lee Lue admired my skill and experiences we did have many things in common,
Lee Lue had earned my trust and we love to fly in the same flight for the dangerous and difficult missions especially when dueling with AAA and caves bombing.
Since most of the time we were working in the Hmong ground troops territory it was easier and faster to let Lee Lue handle the communication in Hmong language, beside his unorthodox flying manners Lee Lue ranked among the top and best combat pilots. Many times RLAF high ranking or senior officers want to take disciplinary actions and grounded him, I had to remind them that Lee Lue belong to MRII and I didn’t think that V.P. like to see his best or any fighter pilot grounded, so Lee Lue became the untouchable and got special promoted so often he outranked most of the RLAF pilots and officers. Lee Lue last rank was Major and promoted to Lt. Colonel as his funeral.
Now, thirty year had gone by but that mission or the actual scene still clear in my mind like it was just happen (another word like instant replay or rerun) many thing I forgot but this was