Honoring 609th Special Operations Squadron Of The Vietnam
Their story was never
featured in the nightly news, nor was broadcast over any radio
station. The missions they flew were perilous and were accomplished
under extraordinary secrecy in what became one of the first, and
possibly most public wars in the modern age. Now, 40 forty
years later, their experiences are coming to light and are being
honored by the people that their efforts protected; their
Few people have heard of the 609th Special Operations Squadron,
otherwise coined the "Nimrods" and even fewer have seen their
trademark aircraft, the Douglas/On-Mark B-26K Counter Invader, in
flight over the United States. The A-26 Legacy Foundation of
Jaffrey, NH hopes to buck that trend and bring the last flying
B-26K back to the American skies, flying in honor of the "Nimrods"
and allowing the public to learn more about the seldom-mentioned,
but heroic missions of the 609th.
The time was the mid-1960's... and the place was along the
Laotian/South Vietnamese border on the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail.
North Vietnamese troops were moving critical supplies and
reinforcements down the trail to support their combat forces in
South Vietnam. The American response was to station the B-26K
Counter Invader and crews of the 609th Special Operations Squadron
at a tiny base in Northern Thailand called Nakhon Phanom. From
there, they flew risky missions along the trail to disrupt troop
and supply movement under the call sign "Nimrod" in the cover of
darkness in complete radio silence.
The aircraft, the B-26K, was a remanufacture of the WWII vintage
A-26 Invader medium bomber. Re-equipped in the 1960's to serve as a
fast attack aircraft with the capacity of a bomber and the speed
and maneuverability of an attack aircraft, the B-26K was unique in
an era of jet aircraft. The plane was known for its durability and
its ability to carry a hefty amount of ordinance and yet still have
the maneuverability to avoid ground fire and low-level fighter
attack. Despite it's age, it served valiantly with the 609th.
The operations of the 609th Special Operations Squadron were
cloaked in extreme secrecy and even well after the end of the
Vietnam War, their efforts were never truly known. No medals were
awarded to flight crews lost in combat, no honors for
bravery—the service of these veterans was never acknowledged.
Even the B-26K was kept out of public hands after their service
life ended, with the few remaining examples left in boneyards in
Arizona to await their disposal.
The effort to preserve
the last flying B-26K Counter Invader and use it as a flying museum
to educate the future generations about the efforts of the 609th is
fully underway through the A-26 Legacy Foundation of Jaffrey, NH.
Led by the children of the veterans of the 609th, the foundation
mission named "Operation Final Flight" is actively fundraising to
acquire a B-26K that is currently in private hands in the Western
US. Originally saved from government disposal to become a forest
fighting aircraft, the B-26K retains most of the original equipment
that it would have had in 1968.
The daunting $250,000 acquisition cost must be fully funded by
private donations and the A-26 Legacy Foundation is seeking help
from both individuals and corporations interested in preserving
this unique aircraft for it's important role. Once the aircraft is
purchased, it will be fully restored to wartime condition and will
tour the United States to events, airshows, and museums to preserve
the legacy of the Nimrods and the missions they flew.
Sponsorship opportunities will also be available for the
operation of the aircraft.