Bangkok and Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base

Bangkok – Wikipedia 

Don Muang Royal Thai Air Force Base – Wikipedia 

“In November 1961, four RF-101C reconnaissance aircraft of the 45th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron stationed at Misawa ABJapan, and their photo lab arrived at Don Muang under “Operation Able Marble”. The RF-101s were sent to assist RTAF RT-33 aircraft in performing aerial reconnaissance flights over Laos. “That was our secret mission to Thailand.”  Amazon.com: Leland Olson: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Category:Vietnam War in 1961 – Wikimedia Commons

Top two pictures on left was our work area. Top right Ferris Anderson at barracks,   

Bottom right Salvatore Pusateri at the Marble Temple. Bottom left Capitol area. 

Top two was our work area. Bottom left temple of Gold Buddha and Lee at barracks.  

Bottom right another temple.  

temple of golden buddha wat traimit – Bing 

Leland waiting to enter the temple. The light was so poor my camera didn’t work well, they discouraged photos. 

Leland 1961

A nice little bug infested klong ran past our quarters. It was usually full of snakes the same as our outside

showers and toilet. The mess tent was at least several hundred yards away.

Served warm in quart bottles, that 11% beer was made for short parties

Statue Of King Vajiravudh

The famous Thai Dancers.

Temples everywhere.

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The US Air Force Museum

https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/579668/early-usaf-reconnaissan

The U S Air Force museum continues to honor pilots from throughout history. The Vietnam War era is of most interest to me, the events that took place during my service to the country. I served in the US Air Force from 1958 through 1962. Two of those years were spent at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. In November and December 1961 we were sent on a temporary duty assignment to Thailand. It was a secret mission with the name Able Mabel Project. The pilot in this story  Capt. Jack Weatherby flew my aircraft when I was the crew chief on RF-101 C 56-080. I strapped him into my aircraft many times in 1962. He was shot down and killed over North Vietnam in 1965. I hope to honor his memory and the memory of all the other pilots who served in the Vietnam era.

https://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/Visit/Museum-Exhibits/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/579606/capt-jack-wilton-weath

All of the pilots in this picture flew my plane so I got to know them well. I recall one day when Lt. Weatherby landed, he said, “I was flying low over a clearing in the jungle,  I saw all these people, I thought they were waving at me, he said hell they were all shooting.” We found a few small caliber bullet holes in the wings. We had to come up with a special putty to close small bullet holes with. That became routine but created a lot of work removing panels to inspect for other damage. One day after we’d been flying out of there about a month a 50 caliber round went through the canopy right behind Major Harbst. A piece of plexiglass cut his neck. He was possibly the first US Air Force pilot to be injured by enemy fire. I don’t recall ever hearing anything about it later. I did communicate with his wife, she wrote to me after he passed away. The Major got through Vietnam and retired from the Air Force. I have lots of fond memories of those days but also sad memories as more information comes out.

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Secret Mission

Able Mable Crew.JPG

Able Mable Crew after 1000 Sorties South Vietnam

I was in the U.S. Air Force from 1958 through 1962. I was stationed at Misawa AB, Japan from 1960 through 1962. The biggest secret I ever had to keep was when twenty-four of us received orders at Misawa, Air Base that we were supposed to ship out for an unknown area for two months starting on 1 November 1961.

Our orders read hand carry weapons as required, personnel will have in their possession all necessary field equipment including two blankets, shelter-half, and mess gear. Personal copy of immunization record, medical clearance, and personal
identification tags. Security clearance for this mission is secret and top-secret. We left Misawa Air Base in two C-130 cargo planes. They were both loaded with aircraft maintenance equipment. We all wondered where we were headed, maybe a camping trip, huh? I didn’t think much of the tent idea.

We refueled at Okinawa and then proceeded to Clark Air Force Base, Philippine Islands. One day was spent there for processing. We still didn’t know our destination when we left there. A short time after takeoff we found out we were the members of the first Able Mable Reconnaissance Task Force. We landed at Don Muang RTAFB, Bangkok Thailand on November 6, 1961. Everything we needed to get four RF-101C’s ready for flying was packed with us on two C-130 cargo planes.

When our planes rolled to a stop and the rear of the planes opened. We were surrounded by Thai Army Soldier with weapons in their hands. They knew we were hand carrying weapons on the planes and they wanted us to turn everything over to them before we got off. So they took our guns and ammo. This was supposed to be a secret mission but the Thai Government sure had a copy of our orders. If we wrote letters home we were told not to give our location. Stay out of trouble, don’t embarrass the USA while you are here, wear civilian cloths if your off duty.

We immediately began unloading and setting up our maintenance area to get the planes ready to start flying the next morning. We found out the next day we would be eating from a tent field kitchen and using the old G.I. Mess Kits while we were there. Three big garbage cans full of boiling water to dip your mess kit into after chow. Our quarters was an old building the Japanese used for prisoners in the 1940’s but it served as a roof over our heads. We set up cots with mosquito nets over them. It sure beat sleeping in a tent! We had outside latrines and showers, there were boardwalks to get there. Often times there were snakes underneath the boards, I traveled quickly to shower or latrine. Our photo lab crew had a portable lab tent set up processing photos as soon as the first planes landed. “Able Mable Reconnaissance Task Force”. The aircraft were ready on 7 November and began reconnaissance sorties over Laos the next day.

I kept the secret of the Able Mable Task Force to myself but it soon became well known to the world that the U.S. Air Force was flying sorties and out of the Royal Thai Airport. This was an international airport with planes coming and going day and night. The Thai government set us up on the far south end of the runway. We used a big old hanger that was partly in the jungle. The U.S. flying reconnaissance missions over Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam continued for many years out of Thailand. In the years soon to follow there were different airports built in Thailand and South Vietnam.

(“Able Mable Reconnaissance Task Force”).

 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USAF_Able_Mable_reconnaissance_pilots_in_Thailand_1961.jpg

First six

First six “Able Mabel” pilots from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, Misawa AB, Japan.
Front row (left to right): 1Lt Fred Muesegaes, Maj Ken Harbst, Detachment Commander (45tj TRS Ops Officer), 1Lt Jack Weatherby
Back row (left to right): Capt Ralph DeLucia, Capt Bill Whitten, 1Lt John Linihan
Jack Weatherby – On a later tour was KIA over North Vietnam and was awarded the Air Force Cross (posthumously).
Muesegaes, Weatherby, Linihan and Whitten (in chronological order) flew the RT-33A previously on “Field Goal”
Picture taken at Don Murang RTAFB, Bankok, Thailand in front of RF-101C, 56-079 “Mary Ann Burns” which was my squadron assigned aircraft. We were less than six weeks into growing our mustaches when the picture was taken – probably around the first week of December 1961.

pilots - Copy

Don Muang 45th TRS

Don Muang 45th TRS

The first six U.S. Air Force “Able Mabel” pilots from the 45th Reconnaissance Squadron, Misawa Air Base, Japan, at Don Don Muang RTAFB, Bangkok, Thailand in front of the McDonnell RF-101C-65-MC Voodoo (s/n 56-079, “Mary Ann Burns”), in December 1961.
Front row (left to right): 1Lt Fred Muesegaes, Maj Ken Harbst, Detachment Commander (45tj TRS Ops Officer), 1Lt Jack Weatherby;
Back row (left to right): Capt Ralph DeLucia, Capt Bill Whitten, 1Lt John Linihan.
Muesegaes, Weatherby, Linihan and Whitten (in chronological order) flew the RT-33A previously on “Field Goal”. On 29 October 1961, four RF-101s and ground crews from the 45th TRS were ordered by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff to deploy to Don Muang (“Able Mable Reconnaissance Task Force”). The aircraft were ready on 7 November and began reconnaissance sorties over Laos the next day.
Date December 1961

Leland

Leland

Leland Japan 1961

Leland Japan 1961

Misawa 4 (2).jpg

I was a member of the first Able Mable Reconnaissance Task Force. After leaving Japan we refueled at Okinawa, then spent one night at Clark AFB, Philippines. The last leg of the flight must have been fairly high altitude, there was frost on the walls in the plane. We were packed in like an odd assortment of sardines with equipment and parts all over.

We landed at Don Muang RTAFB, Bangkok, Thailand on 6 November, 1961. Everything we needed to get four RF-101C’s ready to start flying was packed with us on two C-130 cargo planes. When our planes rolled to a stop and the rear of the planes opened. We were surrounded by Thai Army with weapons in their hands. They knew we were hand carrying weapons on the planes and they wanted us to turn them over before we got off the plane. So they took our guns and ammo. We immediately began unloading and setting up our maintenance area in an old hanger. We had the planes ready to start flying the next morning.

We found out the next day we would be eating from a tent field kitchen and using the old G.I. Mess Kits while we were there. We ate real good, the food came in from a Navy ship. Our quarters was an old building the Japanese used for prisoners in the 40’s but it served as a roof over our heads. We set up cots with mosquito nets over them. There were friendly little lizards all over the walls and ceiling eating bugs, It sure beat sleeping in a tent! We had outside latrines and showers, there were boardwalks to get there. Often times there were snakes underneath the boards, I traveled quickly on the boardwalk. Our photo lab crew had a portable lab tent set up processing photos as soon as the planes landed.

These five brave pilots and many more flew low-level reconnaissance flights over Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam and received small arms fire almost from the first missions. There were no guns on these planes, only cameras to shoot with. Later they were sitting ducks for surface to air missles. Major Harbst landed one day after a 50 Cal round shattered the canopy right behind his head. I saw some blood on his neck when I was unstrapping him from his ejection seat. A piece of the canopy hit his neck just below his helmet. He might have been the first American hurt by enemy fire. Over 58,000 died before that war ended. We spent two months flying many missions out of Don Muang RTAFB. The Able Mable project later move to a different airbase. Many of those brave pilots were shot down later in the war over North Vietnam. I knew these five pilots personally and helped send them off on their missions. I was the crew chief on RF-101C 56 – 080. A/1C Leland Olson

December 1961, Thailand pictures.

Don Muang 1.jpg