Monday, September 23, 2013

Invader Crew Comes Home

Air Force Majors James Sizemore and Howard Andre were laid to rest, side by side, at Arlington National Cemetery today.  Their remains were recovered from a hillside in Laos, where they perished over 44 years ago.

Sizemore and Andre were flying B-26K 64-17646 on a 'Barrel Roll' night interdiction mission on the evening of July 8, 1969.  Their target was troop concentrations in central Laos.  During a strafing run, their aircraft was hit by enemy fire, and crashed into a hillside. 

This was the third B-26 lost by the 609th SOS in 1969.  Operating out of Nakhon Phanom AB in Thailand, the Invaders were very effective at attacking targets on the Ho Chi Minh trail at night.

The B-26s were rebuilt A-26s that had been manufactured during World War II.  Fast (for propeller aircraft), heavily armed, and with long loiter capabilities, they were ideal aircraft for the mission, and were widely regarded as the best night interdiction aircraft during the Vietnam conflict, with the exception of the AC-130 Spectre gunships.

30 B-26Ks served in the SEA theatre, with 12 being lost to enemy fire or in operational accidents.  They were retired from combat in November of 1969.

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