This jet crashed on Monkey Mountain sometime in 67
or early 68. It was off the aricraft carrier USS. Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31).
I am writing to set the record straight concerning the caption accompanying the “Jet Crash on Monkey Mountain”. I was stationed at the Small Craft Repair Facility, Danang from August 1968 to August 1969, and during my tour I saw and photographed the F-8 sticking out of Monkey Mountain. This past spring I started searching the Internet in hopes of learning how it got there. I learned that at least two F-8s hit Monkey Mountain one was the Navy jet that appears on your web site and the other was a Marine Corp plane. The following is what I have learned from those who were involved.
The Navy F-8 (BuNo 150306) that buried itself into the top of the ridge on Monkey Mountain was flown by Lt. Jerry Weber (Ref. 2) of VF-53. According to Jerry’s flight log the crash occurred on 12 March 1968. Jerry and his lead pilot Lt. Rick Harris (Ref. 1) were diverted to Danang after an uneventful BARCAP off Haiphong. Weather had prevented the two Crusader pilots, along with several others, from recovering aboard the Bon Homme Richard, and although conditions weren’t much better ashore, at least the runway at Danang wasn’t pitching and rolling.
Jerry’s radio and TACAN gone out so he had to follow Rick. Rick’s TACAN wouldn’t hold a lock sufficiently to shoot an approach. So Rick decided their best option was to let down though the cloud cover out over the South China Sea well to the east of Danang and make a visual approach to the south end of Danang. The ragged ceiling was forcing the two Crusaders lower and lower, so at 800 feet Rick decided to climb back above the clouds for another try. As Rick tells it he was concentrating on his instruments when he encountered a major “tree” head on. The impact tour up the nose and leading edges of Rick’s plane pretty bad, but he was still flying. Rick said that when he broke through the cloud cover he saw Jerry was no longer with him was more terrifying than the ride through the trees. Jerry had his own encounter with the tress on Monkey Mountain. As his plane started to lose power and roll over Jerry grabbed the face curtain and ejected.
Rick, wasn’t as they say, out of the woods yet, his close encounter with that major “tree” pushed his instrument panel and radar head almost into his lap. If Rick had tried to eject under those circumstances he would have left his legs on the underside of the instrument panel. Because of the damage done to his plane an Air Force pilot had to lead Rick down for a landing approach.
While the first Sea Air Rescue (SAR) helo was able to talk to Jerry over his survival radio they had trouble finding him and had to return to Danang to refuel. Another helo arrived and Jerry fired a flare, the helo crew lowered a jungle penetrator to pluck him from the side of Monkey Mountain. After a medical exam and treatment for his cuts and bruises Jerry was reunited with his flight leader Rick. Rick told me that seeing Jerry alive and in one piece was one of the greatest moments in his life.
The other F8 that hit Monkey Mountain belonged to Marine squadron VMFA (AW)-235 a.k.a. “the Death Angels”. This one crashed in late summer of 1966. The pilot on its last flight was Captain Ed (Panatella) Kowalczyk and Patrick (Banshee) Jones (Ref. 3) was his wingman. They launched as a section from Danang each with 2 1000 lbs. Bombs under the wing. After take off while Ed was lowering his wing, Ed informed Pat that his hydraulics and fire warning lights were lit up. Ed declared an emergency and headed out to sea. Pat cleared the area below him so Ed could jettison his bombs. Ed then raised his wing and lowered his gear to slow down for the impending ejection. Pat still had his ordnance but dirtied up with Ed flying his wing. Pat was wallowing around in and out of burner trying to maintain position. When Ed told Pat he was getting out Pat took a loose position and watched him leave the airplane. Pat said he recalls it looked as everything was happening in slow motion. They were about at 2000 feet since Ed’s aircraft was not responding to control or power inputs. Pat watched the seat separate, and after want seemed a long time, Ed separated and then a good chute. Pat was talking to Danang tower throughout and SAR was on the way. Pat watched Ed drift down to the water and saw what he thought were local fishermen making there way to Ed.
At about this time Ed’s F8, now a pilotless drone, did a 180 and was headed straight back to Danang with a full load of fuel on board. Now Pat was in deep Kimchee, he couldn’t jettison his ordnance because of all the traffic on the water beneath him. Pat cleaned and positioned himself between Danang and the stricken Crusader prepared to try and shoot it down. But as fate would have it, the wounded bird dropped a wing and nosed over coming to rest about a third of the way side of the southeast quadrant of Monkey Mountain. There was an explosion and fire. As all good Marines do Pat continued on their original mission which he says was to “kill some trees in the open” up around the DMZ. Pat was back in Danang two years later on another tour and while getting checked out in an OV-10 he flew the crash site and was surprised to see the tail of Ed’s F8 sticking up proudly with the markings still very fresh. Pat had originally thought that nothing would be left after the fire but was pleasantly surprised to see the red comets tail paint job looking as fresh as it did on that fateful day two years earlier.
Pat tells me that Ed passed away a few years ago from cancer.
References and contacts:
1. Rick Harris, e-mail; RC.Harris@delta-air.com
2. Jerry Weber, e-mail; JSWeber@bellsouth.net
3. Patrick Jones, e-mail; PJUSMCRET@worldnet.att.net
MILITARY MEMORIES GUESTBOOK ENTRY
|Thursday 08/04/2005 0:34:07am
||Steven A. Vaughn USMC MAG-11 Da Nang
||Photo Gallery Jet Plane Crash Mky. Mtn.
||Just Surfed In
||Monkey Mountain - Da Nang RVN
||Date unknown. As a young Marine at MAG-11 H&MS-11 I watched a F8 Crusader make an emergency landing at the Da Nang air strip. It had a small tree hanging off the stabilator (tail section). The tree was about 15-20 feet in length. This plane was one of two that had got in trouble at Monkey Mountain that day. We were told the other plane had nosed in just below the crest of the mountain. The pilot had ejected safely and had landed on the beach about 1200 feet below the crash site. I was one of those Marines who were sent to the site the next day to salvage as much as we could. I was out of the Hydraulic Shop at H&MS-11 there with people from Avionics,Airframes and Safety and Survival. I recall 4 of us in the back of the 6x6 the driver and a Gunnery Sergeant in the cab. We departed the compound,drove through Da Nang and up the winding road passed the AFRTS broadcasting site to just about 100 yards below a Marine SAM site. This crash was caused by low visibility through the clouds surrounding Monkey Mountain that morning.The clouds had cleared around the mountain giving about a quarter mile visibility. The surviving plane had gone into afterburner and just cleared the crest taking with it a little vegetation.The crashed plane pilot had ejected and survived. Now that's the rest of the story.