Thomas Franklin Case

United States Air Force
22 October 1931 - 09 January 1978
Thomson, Georgia
Panel 07E Line 127


USAF Pilot

Purple Heart, Air Medal, National Defense, Vietnam Service, Vietnam Campaign

The database page for Thomas Franklin Case

07 Jul 2006

In memory of this true hero who gave his life along with his crew to help in the fight to make Vietnam a democratic society so that people of that nation could live free without fear. I wear Colonel Case's KIA bracelet to honor him.

Robert O. Williams, MSgt, USAF (Ret)
22 Atwood Road, West Chazy, New York 12992-2825

Virtual Wall Note

The road and railroad bridge at Than Hoa was a perennial target for Navy and Air Force aircrews throughout much of the war. Some 50 aircraft and their crews were lost while attacking the bridges. In one of the more extreme attempts (in the opinion of a Navy attack type, anyway), a decision was taken to use C-130 HERCULES cargo aircraft to attack the bridge.

The scheme was as follows: the Air Force developed a special bomb, a rather large pancake-shaped affair 8 feet in diameter and 2 1/2 feet thick and weighing 5,000 pounds. The C-130's would fly below 500 feet to evade radar along a 43 mile route (which meant the C-130 would be vulnerable to enemy attack for about 17 minutes) and drop the bombs, which would float down the Song Ma River where they would pass under the bridge and detonate when sensors in the bomb detected the metal of the bridge structure.

Although the C-130 crews would be flying at very low altitudes, and at night, they would need considerable protection by fighters and flak suppression aircraft. The first attempt was made on the night of May 30, 1965. Although the C-130 encountered no resistance at the beginning of its approach, heavy fire was encountered after it was too late to turn back. The 5 weapons were dropped successfully in the river and the C-130 made for the safety of the Gulf of Tonkin. The operation had gone flawlessly, and the C130 returned safely to Danang. Unfortunately, recon photos taken at dawn showed that there was no noticeable damage to the bridge, nor was any trace of the bombs found.

A second attempt was made on the night of May 31. The C-130, commanded by Major Thomas F. Case, departed Danang shortly after midnight and proceeded to the target area. About two minutes prior to the scheduled C-130 drop time, supporting F-4s were making a diversionary attack when crew members saw anti-aircraft fire and a large ground flash in the vicinity of the bridge. Major Case and his crew were never seen or heard from again.

Earlier that evening, an F-4C of the 555th TFS (Udorn) had been shot down south of Than Hoa (see Captain Ned Herrold), so that a total of ten Americans were down somewhere in the area. The next morning reconnaissance and search and rescue crews scoured the target area and the Gulf of Tonkin, but found no sign at of the C-130, the F-4, or the aircrewmen. The bridge still stood, and would stand until 1973.

The ten men lost that night were

In late 1986 22 boxes of human remains were repatriated. Among them were Case, Harworth, and Zook. Twentytwo years later, mitochondrial DNA analysis identified Shingledecker's remains. Phillip J. Stickney's remains were repatriated on 16 Jan 1998, with identification announced on 10 Feb 2004. However, Ragland, Herrold, Alberton, McDonald, and Edmondson still are Missing in Action.

Both the POW Network and Task Force Omega (TFO) biographies associate the F-4C loss with the C-130 bombing attack, but the F-4 was lost several hours before the C-130 even took off. TFO states that Ragland/Herrold went down at 1812 on 31 May, about 6 hours before the C-130 took off from Danang shortly after midnight (i.e., on 01 June). It therefore seems unlikely that the Ragland/Herrold mission had anything to do with the separate effort flown against the bridge.

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
one who remembers,
Robert O. Williams, MSgt, USAF (Ret)
22 Atwood Road, West Chazy, New York 12992-2825

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 07 Jul 2006
Last updated 07/10/2006