We started out from McGuire and went to Scott AFB near Belleville, Illinois and from there we went to Forbes AFB near Topeka, Kansas. Then we went to Travis AFB. We punched out from Travis and we went to Hickam, in Honolulu and then to Wake and on to Guam.
From Guam we went to Mactan, in the Philippines. It was there at Mactan where Ferdinand Magellan was killed in a battle with the local chief, in April of 1521. From Mactan we flew to Cam Rhan Bay, in Vietnam. You can see incredible photography of what that war in Vietnam looked like in films like “Apocalypse Now” that was made by Francis Ford Coppola in 1979. But here is what Cam Rhan Bay pilots made into a film, in 1966.
From Cam Rhan, I took off with four soldiers who had some leave time, we were headed to Tachicawa AFB in Japan. We plowed threw a bunch of cloudy weather from Cam Rhan to Okinawa. When we got over Okinawa, they asked me what about Formosa. I said: “What about Formosa?” They said:”You were supposed to stop in Formosa on this trip.” I answered: “This is the first time I heard about Formosa, today.”
They said: “Hold over Okinawa, until we get you clearance to Formosa.” So, we started holding over Okinawa. I requested holding on the east side of the radio beacon, going into Okinawa on a westerly heading but that was not allowed. So, I held on the west side going into Okinawa on an easterly heading.
After 20 minutes of holding they gave me a frequency for Formosa. I called that frequency and I was talking to an American radio operator, He said: “Airman XXXX clears you to fly to the Taoyuan Air Base.” I rogered the message, and allowed the plane to continue flying to the east over the OK radio facility. In just a couple of minutes we flew into a clear sky. I looked at the heading and realized I was flying to the east. I said to my navigator:”Do you think we have enough fuel to fly to Formosa, on this heading?” He realized we would have to fly around the world on this easterly heading to get to Formosa, he said: “Turn around, I will make up an excuse.” He told the Japanese controller that he had had a compass problem and we flew back over the OK beacon and westerly towards Formosa.
It was a pitch black night when we made the approach into this base and we were flying in heavy rain. Finally we got my C-130 on the ground and taxied to a stop. After a couple of minutes, two guys in civilian clothes showed up. One of the two of them got VERY EXCITED that I had these four soldiers with me. I had NO IDEA who these guys were. But I told them that when I left from that airport the soldiers were going to be on my plane. It became clear to me in just a few minutes that these guys were from the CIA. I didn’t”t know anything about it at the time, but the CIA was running a squadron of Chinese pilots flying the TOP SECRET U2 airplane. Below is a quote from Wikipedia:
“In January 1961, the CIA provided the ROC with its first two U-2Cs, and in April the squadron flew its first mission over mainland China. Other countries were also covered from time to time by the 35th Squadron, such as North Korea, North Vietnam and Laos, but the main objective of the ROC 35th Squadron was to conduct reconnaissance missions assessing the PRC’s nuclear capabilities. For this purpose the ROC pilots flew as far as Gansu and other remote regions in northwest China. Some of the missions, due to mission requirements and range, plus to add some element of surprise, had the 35th Squadron’s U-2s flying from or recovered at other US air bases in Southeast Asia and Eastern Asia, such as K-8 (Kunsan) in South Korea, or Takhli in Thailand. All US airbases in the region were listed as emergency/ alternate recovery airfields and could be used besides the 35th Squadron’s home base at Taoyuan Air Base in Taiwan. Initially, all film taken by the Black Cat Squadron was flown to Okinawa or Guam for processing and development, and the US forces would not share any of the mission photos with Taiwan, but in late 1960s the USAF agreed to share complete sets of mission photos and help Taiwan set up a photo development and interpretation unit at Taoyuan.”
Well, after 30 minutes they came back with an engine on a roller trolley. It was all covered with blue plastic wrapped around it and the loadmaster fastened it to our cargo deck. These guys had papers in their hands. They wanted the soldiers to sign them. I told them that the soldiers had NO IDEA where they were and if they made them sign these papers it would be worse than doing nothing at all. In the end, they agreed with me and we soon left for Tachikawa, Japan.
When we got there, some other guys in civilian clothes came to our airplane. One of them asked me to forgive the kind of treatment we got in Formosa. I told him I realized that it was a high priority mission. I told him if I had known about if in Cam Rhan Bay, I would not have had the soldiers with me, but I only learned about this mission by radio over the OK beacon.