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A WEEKEND IN BANGKOK
by Jack Drummond
(A preview of one of Jack's stories to be published in Raven's Chronicles)
I was the Air Ops Commander for the RLAF Squadrons in both Savannakhet and Pakse during my time in Laos, so
I frequently flew back and forth between the two locations. One of our T-28’s at Savannakhet was a real old D
model that did not have all of the latest upgrades of radios and its TACAN was completely inop. It also had the old
500 round gunpods on it, so it was a little slower than the later versions. And it must have had bad pi because the
RLAF would not fly it.
Anyway, by default it became my ride back and forth between the two sites. It was not uncommon that I somehow would
wind up in Pakse on Friday afternoons after flying had ceased. Since you could almost see the bright lights of Bangkok
from Pakse (after all, it was only 300nm), about once a month I would go to Bangkok for the weekend and return to
Savannakhet early on Monday.
Well, it was Friday afternoon late and I was at Pakse. As I was loading my trusty duffle bag into the luggage
compartment of my ride, one of the Pakse Ravens drove up and asked where I was going. I told him Bangkok and
asked him if he wanted to go. He assured me that he did and would be back shortly with his bag. He was back
within the hour and we strapped in for the flight.
One of the reasons the Lao wouldn’t fly this particular a/c was due to the radio setup. The standard Tango had a UHF,
VHF, and FM radio but this tired old D only had UHF. Plus, it was a crappy radio. It’s normal range was about half that
of others and it had a lot of static. Full of anticipation for the weekend, we launched off towards Bangkok. After crossing the Mekong I called the USAF radar site at Ubon to to file a VFR flight plan.
I noticed that the radio was really bad and I had a lot of trouble understanding the radar site but was sure that they had
gotten my info. It was also the ‘rice field burning season’ in Thailand and the in-flight visibility was under a mile until we
topped out of the smoke at about 10 grand. We were making good time but guard channel was really active. Even
though radio reception was full of static, I could tell that the RTAF F-86L interceptors were really looking for someone.
I wondered who it could be.
Time out for some background: For some unknown reason, the REMFs had decided that Bangkok was probably a
target for someone (but no one knew who) so a detachment of USAF F-102’s was based at Don Mueang with a
standing alert commitment. Back to our story.
As we passed the northern border of Cambodia and Thailand, we made a slight left turn to Bangkok. We were making
really good time. As we rolled out of the turn, I noticed movement out to the left of our a/c and, lo and behold, a F-102
came sliding into position about 100 yards off my left wing. I quickly checked my six and there was another one – in
about a one-mile trail. I quickly pointed out both of the Deuces to my Raven passenger and told him that perhaps we
should be concerned.
Then we received a radio transmission, “T-28 on heading of XXX, this is so and so on guard, state your intentions!” My
first thought was about how clear the damn radio was now! Then I quickly answered him that I was an American and
my intentions were to have a nice weekend in Bangkok. No answer. No answer for long enough that I began to get
sort of nervous. What were they doing? Who were they communicating with; stuff like that.
Then he transmitted, “What are the markings on your aircraft?” And it struck me – I had forgotten to remove the
plates on each side of the aircraft that had the Lao three headed elephant on it. I carried three sets of markings with
me and had intended to replace the Lao markings with the USAF side panels I carried but had just overlooked that
little chore in anticipation of going to Bangkok. I immediately informed him that I was an American and the side panels
were Lao, a friendly country to both the Thais and the USAF.
Then he transmitted, “Why are you armed?” I politely asked him what he was talking about, I was not armed. The F-102 driver then said, “I can see your bombs from here.” I realized that he was talking about the aforementioned 500 round
gun pods that this D model was carrying. I then tried to explain to him that this model of T-28 had these external gun
pods – they were not bombs!
After a short period of silence, the escorting F-102 instructed me to begin a descent to Don Mueang AB, that I
would be accompanied by the two interceptors until landing. Now, several factors came together: First, the
F-102 had slowed to about his stalling speed to maintain formation with us; Two, we had gotten very close to
our landing airfield during all of these conversations; and Three, we were only about 500’ above the smoke layer.
I pulled back the power and began a descent. The last time I saw the F-102 was as he pulled ahead of me because
he could not slow up without stalling. After diving to hit the point to turn on initial for the pitch out, I called Don Mueang
tower and requested landing instructions. The tower promptly approved a left hand and break for landing and
to call turning base. The tower then said, “Bulldog (my call sign), you have 102 with you?” No, I replied, I did have
but I had not seen them for a few minutes. “They look everywhere for you.” was the tower’s understated response.
I began my turn to base and reported gear and flaps down. Tower cleared me to land. Then I noticed that the runway
was lined with blue USAF vehicles, many of them with flashing lights. I could not believe that the USAF had that many
vehicles at Don Mueang. Touchdown was nice and we turned off at the first intersection. Two MP trucks blocked the
taxiway! MPs exited the vehicles and were armed with AR-15s. Holy shit! For the first time, I realized I had really
stepped on my dick and I might not get out of this situation unscathed!
A follow-me pickup emerged from the parking lot of blue vehicles and beckoned me to follow - which I did! They
escorted us to a deserted taxiway and motioned me to shut down. After completing my cockpit checks, we exited to
meet the oncoming hoard. More background: My personal appearance was not USAF-like! We were encouraged to
get away from the military look in our jobs in Laos and I had maybe gone just a little over even that line. First of all,
I was wearing matching black top and pants with no markings. Next, my mustache had not been touched in four
months. Last, my hair was a little longer that the USAF allowed but it only reached my collar! Back to the story.
Upon reaching the ground, I was accosted by a full Colonel who was really pissed! He wanted to know who I was, who
gave me permission to be on his airfield, and some other stuff I don’t recall right now. Being in full CYA mode by this
time, and having had four months of CIA exposure in Laos, I told the Col. that his security clearance was not high
enough for me to answer those questions and I demanded to be taken to the US Ambassador.
During this exchange, I noticed that my Raven passenger had been able to work his way to the back of the pack of folks
standing around, and was quietly walking towards the taxi line over at the passenger terminal. Good for him was my
About this time, one of the MPs opened the door on the side of one of the 500 round gun pods and hollered, “These
guns are armed!” The number of folks standing around quickly decreased by 75%. “No they are not” I replied, “I just
haul ammo around in the pods in case I want to feed it through the breech for use on a strike.” For some reason, my
word did not seem to satisfy the Col. and I had to take the ammo out of each pod to show him. He directed an MP to take the bullets for evidence! The situation was about to get out of hand!
About this time an RTAF jeep pulled up and a Thai Air Force Lt Col stepped out. I could hardly believe that the person
was a pilot training classmate of mine. Last time I had seen him, he was a Major and commanding the RTAF T-28
squadron at Korat and now he was here in my time of need. He walked over, ignoring the USAF Col., put his arm
around my shoulders, pulled me to the side, and asked what was going on. I quickly explained the string of
circumstances we had faced that afternoon and told him that I might be in a world of deep shit unless we could bullshit
our way out of this. He nodded.
The Thai Lt Col then walked over to the USAF Col. and told him that he would be taking responsibility for me! The
USAF Col. turned a shade of very deep red, causing me some concern that he might be about to have a heart
attack, and exploded at the Thai officer that he was the Base Commander and that no Lt Col was going to take his
prisoner! My pilot training classmate very professionally explained that Don Mueang was not a USAF base, it was a
Thai AF base, and that he was the weekend duty officer with the responsibility for all operations. He assured the
USAF Col. that if any more assistance was required he would let him know. Turning to me, he said, “Mr. Drummond,
get in the jeep.” I quickly complied and we drove away. He took me to the Thai AF HQ and asked could I join he and
his family for dinner that night! “Sure” I said.
I saw the Raven at the bar in the military hotel later that evening and he mentioned that he probably would find another
ride back to Pakse. So, just before dawn on Monday morning, I preflighted my bird and took off for Savannakhet
for the morning AOC meeting, concluding my weekend in Bangkok. I learned several lessons from this experience:
1. Preflight you’re a/c properly – ensuring that the markings on the a/c are suitable for your destination.
2. Remove all ammo from your guns if going to a REMF destination.
3. Ensure your a/c has a functioning radio.
4. Keep up and be friendly with all pilot training classmates from the country where you are currently living.
It is with great honor I present Jack Drummond's biography. Wherever and whenever conversation turns to the T-28D, Jack's name comes up; his name is synonymous with the T-28D having flown with the Zorros, Ravens, RLAF, and the KAF. If ever there was a legend, Jack is it: handsome, dashing and usually smiling he lived the pilot's dream. I asked Jack to share his biography shedding light on his mystique. - H. Murphy
Jack was born and reared on a dry land cotton farm northwest of Abilene, TX. As a young boy, he became fascinated with the exploits of flyers from WWII and vowed to become an Air Force pilot.
He graduated from Texas Tech University and the Air Force ROTC program and immediately entered pilot training.
Unfortunately there were not any fighter slots available upon graduation but Jack vowed to get into fighters in the future.
His participation in the activities in Southeast Asia began as a C-130 pilot. Volunteering for the Blind Bat program, he
began flying from Danang over the southern part of North Vietnam, searching for trucks at night. After approximately
30 missions and with the advent of SAM installations in the Southern North Vietnam, the Blind Bat program was moved
to Ubon and flying over Laos.
The Blind Bat area of ops ranged throughout Laos, from Ban Ban to Tchepone. Through flying these missions, Jack
became very familiar with the road network and continually looked for ways to get into the position of dropping bombs
on trucks instead of directing others to do so.
As luck would have it, Jack was tasked to help move a newly arrived unit from Bangkok to NKP. The unit was the Lucky
Tiger AT-28 Squadron destined to hunt trucks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Encouraged by one of the 28 pilots, Jack
applied for the AT-28 unit and was selected.
After a quick return to Hurlburt to check out in the 28, Jack was back at NKP to hunt trucks on the road network he was
so familiar with from his Blind Bat experience. He quickly became renowned for his truck kills, at one point building a 47
mission streak with truck kills. All pilots have additional duties but Jack was lucky! His additional duty was working and
flying with the Thai AF AT-28 squadron at NKP. When his night time schedule allowed, he flew and advised the Thai
pilots on techniques, tactics, and procedures. Jack would later be able to take advantage of his Thai contacts from
flying with the Thais.
The highlight of his time at NKP was getting to know the wing commander, Col. Heinie Aderholt. Heinie would become
Jack’s mentor during the remainder of his Air Force career.
After flying about 170 night missions, the AT-28 mission at NKP began to change. The aircraft were experiencing engine problems and they were pulled from the night mission to daylight sorties well away from the AAA on the Trail. Quickly
becoming bored, Jack volunteered to go to Laos and work with the RLAF AT-28 squadrons.
He was assigned to work with the RLAF Tangos at both Savannakhet and Pakse; with additional periodic duties of
working with the mercenary Thai pilots flying in Laos. During the course of his duties, he was able to get all over Laos,
from Hua Xai in the northeast to Bolaven Plateau on the southern border with Cambodia. In his spare time he also flew O-1 sorties with the Ravens.
Upon his return to the US from Laos, Jack was assigned to the Special Ops Headquarters at Eglin AFB. Fl, commanded by Heinie. As a check pilot, he flew AT-28s, A-1s, and A-37s. Occasionally he was tasked to conduct weapons and
aircraft tests for Special Ops. One example was the stateside testing of the 2500 # Pave Pat propane bomb. Jack spent several weeks at Edwards AFB flying sorties designed to certify the Skyraider to carry and deploy the weapon.
Subsequent to the Eglin assignment, Jack was assigned to Hurlburt as an Ops Officer with a newly formed A-37
squadron, commanded by Lt. Col. Dick Secord. Jack assisted the squadron in transitioning A-26 pilots into the A-37,
as well as upgrading the squadron to combat ready status. One of the more interesting facets of the A-37 experience
was getting the squadron pilots qualified in in-flight refueling. Later he participated in delivering A-37s to Panama via
non-stop refueling over the Gulf of Mexico.
Afterwards, he was assigned to Florida State University to study for his MBA. Following graduation, he lucked out
to get back into flying; serving as an Operations Officer for an A-37 Squadron at England AFB, LA. After about a
year, he again hit the jackpot by checking out in the A-7.
Two years later, he was off to Armed Forces Staff College. The assignment was viewed with mixed emotions! Being
selected usually meant that one could expect promotions to Lt. Col. soon, but being selected also meant that an
assignment to the five-sided building was imminent! Late one evening near the end of course, Jack received a call
from Maj. Gen. Dick Secord, asking what assignment he wanted after the Staff College. Jack told him that he thought it
was mandatory to go to the Pentagon. Maj. Gen. Secord asked Jack if he wanted to volunteer for a classified tour in
Southeast Asia. Jack asked if it included cranking 1820’s, the engine in the Tango. Secord said it did and Jack
volunteered on the spot.
Shortly thereafter, Jack received his orders assigning him to the Waterpump AT-28 Training Detachment at Udorn RTAFB in Thailand. Thinking that a mistake had been made, Jack called Maj. Gen. Secord and asked for clarification. Secord told him not to report to Udorn. That he should report to Brig. Gen. Heinie Aderhold at MACTHAI in Bangkok; that all would be made clear there. Landing in Bangkok, Jack made his way to the Hdq of the US Air Force Advisory Group where he found that the Commander was Heinie Aderholt! Heinie welcomed Jack with a warm embrace and began to cover a new program called Project Flycatcher. The effort was designed to give the Cambodian Air Force capabilities similar to what had been provided to the Laotian Air Force – squadrons equipped with AT-28D’s, capable of providing support to the Cambodian Army.
Jack was assigned as the Ops Officer of a Detachment at Don Mueang Airport with the duties of providing operational
and material support to the AT-28’s in the Cambodian (later renamed as Khmer) Air Force. This included overseeing
the repair of Khmer Tangos at the ThaiAm facility at Don Mueang and the ferrying of aircraft between the KAF (Khmer
Air Force) and repairs. The pace of work was never ending, from dusk to dawn.
In 1975, SEA was in a state of constant flux. In South Vietnam, the NVA invaded and slowly worked their conquest towards Saigon. In April, Saigon fell, and over 100 South Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF) aircraft flew to U-Tapao Air
Base in Thailand. Just prior to this event, Heinie had asked Jack to establish an intermediate airfield in Thailand on
Cambodia’s border for those VNAF aircraft that did not have the fuel to reach the primary recovery base. Within days,
Jack and his crew had established a presence in Trat with a grass runway, radio beacon, and fuel. On the appointed
day, Trat International (so named by the Air Commandos working onsite) hosted a steady procession of VNAF light fixed
wing and Huey helicopters as they made their way out of Vietnam.
During the evacuation, Thailand experienced VNAF aircraft landing not only at U-Tapao but all over the country.
Aircraft attempted landing on roads, airfields other than U-Tapao, villiages, etc. It was utter chaos and the Thai
Government demanded that Gen. Aderholt get the mess cleaned up immediately. The Gen. asked Jack to oversee
the cleanup process. Over the next two weeks, Jack and his band of Air Commandos flew aircraft out of villages,
schoolyards, parking lots, rice field dikes, short airfields, and situations they had never dreamed of. But the Air
Commandos did the job!
As the last part of this operation, the Gen. asked Jack to move 11 Skyraiders the VNAF had flown into U-Tapao to the
Thai Air Force at Takhli AB. The A-1s had been out of the USAF inventory for over three years and there were no Air
Commandos with current flight status in them. Jack relayed this info to the Gen. and Heinie left no doubt that Jack
was to get off his ass and move the birds. So he and another ex-A-1 Air Commando jumped into two of the birds and off
they went. It seemed as if it were only yesterday since he had been in the bird and the best Skyraider landing he had
ever made ended the flight. The next day, two more were flown. Then the powers that be decided that no more of the
transfers should be made so his Skyraider days were done!
In an interesting note, those 4 birds made their way into the US civilian market in the ‘90s and two of them are on the
civilian Warbird airshow circuit now. Jack had the opportunity to talk to the current owner of one of the birds that he had
flown to Takhli and was able to fill him in on part of the bird’s history.
After the conclusion of this exciting assignment, Jack finally got pegged for the long-dreaded Pentagon assignment.
About a year later, as a project officer for SEA, he was assigned to write a response for the Secretary of State to an
inquiry from the Prime Minister of Singapore. The inquiry asked if the US would assign USAF personnel to replace the
RAF advisers to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). After initial discussions with several agencies, Jack
went to Singapore to get a better feel for the situation on the ground in Singapore. Over the next six months, the two
countries agreed that the USAF would send five officers to assist the RSAF in writing a strategic plan. During this time,
Jack made three visits to Singapore to coordinate all of the aspects of the agreement. The last night of the last visit,
several high-ranking Singaporean officials had a going away dinner for Jack to celebrate the successful conclusion
of intense negotiations.
At the dinner, he was seated next to the Minister of Defense (equal to the US Secretary of Defense). During casual conversation, the Minister asked Jack if he would be part of the team. Jack told the Minister that he had only been in the Pentagon for two years and that the normal tour length there was four years. Nothing else was mentioned about it and Jack began the long trip home the next morning.
Imagine his surprise when he was accosted by his boss at his first day back to work! It seems that the Prime Minister of
Singapore had made a by name request for Jack to head up the team and that he be allowed to hand pick the other four
team members. You can be assured that the request stirred up a hornet’s nest! For one thing, every one believed that
Jack had put the Singaporeans up to making the request! And few accepted Jack’s denial! The stir got all the way to
the 4-star level in the Pentagon. The only way Jack got the accusations stopped was to call the Deputy to the Minister of Defense in Singapore and put him on the line with Jack’s 1-star boss. The situation was quickly solved and Jack was
on the way to Singapore via an A-4 Skyhawk checkout with the USN. While in Singapore, Jack had the opportunity
to fly both the Skyhawk and the Hawker Hunter. Needless to say, his time there was both fun and personally rewarding.
Jack retired from the Air Force and settled in Austin, TX. He started his own firm and has been self-employed since then.
Photographs and articles by Jack Drummond © all rights reserved no reproductions without permission
Smilin' Jack getting ready to fly the AT-28D-5
Helen Murphy © 2009-2019 All Rights Reserved
Lt. Col. (Ret) Jack Drummond received the prestigious honor of being inducted into the Air Commando Hall of Fame in October 2017