Cowboy Blob's Saloon and Shootin Gallery

I'm not a real Cowboy, but I play one in the movies.

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Taking a break from the Silent Warrior series, let's look at one of the truly great stories of the Vietnam War, a story dramatized in a book and movie of the same name, "Bat-21," the radio callsign of Lt. Col. Iceal Hambleton.

Col. Hambleton was the navigator of an EB-66 electronic countermeasures aircraft. He and his crew went into combat armed only with radio-frequency output and their personal sidearms. When their aircraft was struck by a surface-to-air missile, Hambleton was the only one to eject safely. He landed near a heavily traveled enemy supply line and was pursued vigorously by the North Vietnamese Army. The USAF equally energetically tried to rescue him; he had been a missile squadron commander, a very valuable prize for the Communists.

Despite the loss of one rescue helicopter and crew, the Air Force snatched up Hambleton after a complex overland exfiltration ending in the company of a Navy SEAL and an ARVN Ranger. The book and the movie hardly do this feat justice, but writers are writers, and Hollywood know.

The reason I'm posting this is that only today did I find out that Col. Hambleton passed away in September of 2004. He had retired here in Tucson and I'd met people who knew him. The 43d Electronic Combat Squadron ("The Bats"), while not descendant from the 42d TEWS, adopted Bat-21's "Mojo" as their own and retired his callsign. The 42d TEWS became an ECS in 1983, and later an airborne combat control squadron in 1994. I flew and deployed with the 43d ECS during the best four years of my Air Force career.

Update: Who'da thunk it? The History Channel showed "Bat-21" this weekend!


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