On December 28, 1972, twelve aircraft were assigned to strike the Trung
Quang rail yards near Hanoi. One three-ship cell was code-named Cobalt. The
second B52D in the flight, Cobalt 01, assumed lead in the cell because the
other two were experiencing problems with their electronic warfare
equipment. At about 2330 hours, the cell turned inbound on Hanoi and went to
independent bombing mode, meaning each aircraft used its own radar to locate
and attack the target.
The cell saw medium to heavy antiaircraft fire ahead and soon began
receiving SAM signals and saw SAM launches beginning. A total of 45 SAMs
were fired at the cells. When Cobalt 01 was within sixty seconds of bomb
release, two SAMS locked on and began tracking the aircraft. Lewis was able
to evade these two, but received a near-direct hit by another while still in
a violent evasive turn.
Every crew member onboard received injuries from the impacting SAM
fragments. The crew consisted of Capt. Frank D. Lewis, pilot and aircraft
commander; Capt. Sam Cusimano, co-pilot; Maj. Allen Johnson, Electronic
Warfare Officer (EWO); Lt.Col. Jim Condon, radar navigator; 1Lt. Bennie
Fryer, navigator; and MSgt. Jim Gough, gunner.
Capt. Frank D. Lewis, the pilot, attempted to maintain control of the
aircraft as it headed west, but he knew the aircraft had taken a fatal hit
and was going down. The wings were on fire and the ruptured fuel tanks fed
the rapidly spreading fire. All electrical systems were out, as well as the
crew interphone system. The pilot verbally gave the order to bail out only
forty seconds after the SAM impact. Lewis ejected, and the crew followed.
The gunner, MSgt. James A. Gough, could not hear the ejection order, but
knew that he would soon have to bail out. The flames from the burning
aircraft extended back on both sides of the B52 to the gunner's turret, and
he decided to wait for a better chance as long as the aircraft was still in
By then, the other crew members who were able to eject had departed the
plane. When the gunner saw that the aircraft was descending into the low
undercast, he knew he had to leave then or lose his chance. When he jumped,
he went through burning debris of the disintegrating engines and wings and
had numerous pieces of wiring and metal fragments embedded in his body.
Luckily, Gough was able to deploy his parachute. He was captured soon after
he landed on the ground.
The pilot, Capt. Lewis, was lucky to be captured alive after he landed in a
rice paddy. A North Vietnamese peasant took Lewis' revolver and would have
killed him on the spot if the gun had been loaded. As the click, click of
the empty pistol sounded, NVA troops approached and captured Lewis alive,
taking him from the custody of the peasant.
Meanwhile, the other crew members had also landed and were being captured by
NVN troops. All had ejected except for the navigator, 1Lt. Ben L. Fryer, who
was apparently killed by the SAM explosion. Lewis and Condon were reunited
soon after they were captured. After having been taken to Hanoi, Lewis
believes he heard his EWO, Major Johnson scream not too far away. The
thought that Johnson was also encouraged him -- he worried about his crew.
Lewis was subjected to the same harassment and torture by his captors that
many returned POWs have described. After a month in solitary, he was moved
to the "Zoo" where he was reunited with Gough, Condon, and Cusimano.
Together, they reconstructed the shootdown. Notably, LtCol. Condon, the
radar navigator, remembers hearing three ejection seats going above him
before he ejected. These three would have been the EWO (Johnson), pilot
(Lewis) and co-pilot (Cusimano).
Lt.Col. Condon said that Lt. Bennie Fryer was apparently killed in the SAM
explosion, as he collapsed forward on the nav table and was bleeding
profusely. His seat was the closest of any crew member to the point of
impact of the SAM. Condon himself was wounded in the leg by shrapnel, and
tried shaking Fryer and yelling at him to arouse him, but got no response.
The fate of Maj. Allen Johnson is still a mystery. The surviving crew
members believe that he ejected from the aircraft, and Lewis believes he was
alive and in the hands of the North Vietnamese, because he heard what he
believed to be Johnson screaming. Further, Lewis' interrogator told him that
Johnson was a black man, a fact not revealed by any of the crew in
Then on September 30, 1977, the Vietnamese "discovered" and returned the
remains of Bennie L. Fryer. It was not until December 4, 1985 that the
Vietnamese returned the remains of Allen L. Johnson. The positive
identification of these remains was announced publicly in June 1986. The
Vietnamese denied knowledge of either man until their remains were returned.
Reports mount that have convinced many authorities that Americans are still
held captive in Southeast Asia. Were Johnson and Fryer among them? Did they
survive to know the country they love has abandoned them? Isn't it time we
brought our men home?
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
EDITED by the P.O.W. NETWORK by request of James Gough
JAMES W. GOUGH
Senior Master Sergeant- United States Air Force
Shot Down: December 27, 1972
Released : March 29, 1973
I am married and my wife, Dianne, and I have two children, Mike and
Marjorie. I was in a B-52 that was shot down on 27 December 1972 and was
released on 29 March 1973. At the time of my release, I had 22 years of
military service, am a High School graduate and had special training from
technical schools on Turret Systems on the B-26, B-50 and B-52. I also had
technical training on the Atlas Missile.
How do you say what a tremendous feeling it is to come home to a country
such as ours. When I got aboard the C-141 in North Vietnam, it was as if I
were in a dream - I couldn't seem to comprehend that I was going home. Then
when we arrived at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines I was overwhelmed
by the greeting we received. Then after our short stay at Clark, on to
Hawaii and Travis Air Force Base where there was a joyous reunion with
family and friends.
After returning from Vietnam, Gough was awarded 2 Distinguished Flying
Crosses, the Bronze Star with V, and a Purple Heart, as well as the POW
Medal. Reflecting upon his captivity, James says it gave him a "renewed
appreciation of our country and it's freedoms."
James Gough retired from the United States Air Force as a Chief Master
Sergeant in 1979. He and his wife Dianne reside in California. They have four