Hellborn 20 SAR

25 Jul 1968

(Tape contributed by George Marrett, with assistance from Don Condra)

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Hellborn 20 is down near the bank of a river. He has gun positions surrounding him and has been working with Misty 41 who is putting air strikes on them.

The players

Hellborn 20A - Maj Curtis Lawson, USMC A-6 Intruder pilot,

Hellborne 20B - Capt Paul G. Brown (Captured and held as POW. Released on March 14, 1973)

Sandy 07-08 Lead Sandy pair Need names

Sandy 05-06 Escort Sandys with Jolly Greens Need names

Jolly Green 31 - Pickup Jolly

Crown - Command and Control HC-130

Not on Tape

Spad 11, flight of three - Skinny McGinnis, John Hayes, Don Dineen


Need all possible information relating to this SAR.

Hook, Ask and you shall receive. Attached is a copy of the 7th AF News about the Hellborn 20A (Maj Curtis Lawson, USMC) mission. Sometime later I heard that Hellborn 20B (the backseater) was kia or died after capture.

HB20 was shot down the evening of 25 July 1968 about 32 miles north of the DMZ. Don Dineen, Gene "Skinny" McGinnis and John Hayes were in the Spad alert detachment at Da Nang. Normally we only had two birds on alert but early the next morning (26 July) we were told to put up all three and told about the rescue effort. We were scrambled about 1000 hrs. We crossed the DMZ at the western end and met with the JG's. We were put on hold with the JG about 5-10 miles west of HB20. Two Sandys from NKP were working over the rescue site and when it was cool we would escort the JG in for the pickup. About that time Sandy took several hits and "we were told to go home and have lunch".

We RTBd to DaNang with only 1:20 total fly time. The Sandys also recovered at DaNang. Sandy 2 was Charlie Flynn (Now Deceased) I had been stationed with Charlie form 1956-59 at Stewart AFB and hadn't seen him since. Sandy lead (Maj Hale) had quite a bit of damage. I think that his plane was left at DaNang and they both returned to NKP in Charlie's.

After lunch (what a war!) we were again sent north about 1500 hrs. From early morning F-100 Misty Fast Facs had been putting two strike sorties every 5 minutes. I heard at the club that night that one FAC had gone out over the water and refueled three or more times before he would leave the scene. We went back north by the same route and met with the JG. Again there were two Sandies working over the site.

When they had expended it was our turn. I don't remember too much about it except the river ran generally east-west. All the groundfire seemed to be coming from the north side and there was a village on the south side. In spite of over 120 strike sorites that day they were still shooting. I don't remember any heavy stuff but there was still lots of 50Cal. I only got north of the DMZ 5 0r 6 times and I didn't like it one bit. On this day I remember being at 1,500 feet going straight up with almost no airspeed and saying "WHAT IN THE HELL AM I DOING HERE?" For about 6 or seven passes it was just one continuous roll-in after another for all three of us. I never let John Hayes forget about his "great accuracy". On one pass I saw him fire one rocket and it went right smack into a MG hole. We expended all our munitions and were relieved by two more Sandys. Within ten minutes after we left Wicker in the JG had had enough and decided to make the pickup, went down, landed in the river and brought the marine on board. We flew 3:40 on this sortie. We met him when he got off the JG in DaNang--talk aboutwrinkled like a prune--but after almost 24 hours in the water he was a happy prune.

I have Maj Wicker's name in some other articles. He was tough. I played him a handball match one day and made the mistake of beating him in the first game. I don't think that I scored more that 2 or 3 points in each of the next two games.

Don Dineen

Article that Appeared in 7th AF Times

(Audio File is in mp3 format)

Play Hellborn 20 Tape
(16 min 23 sec)