By Wally Walters
The USAF operated the B57 out of Phan Rang. This was the American version of the Canberra Bomber and had a few differences in both performance and cockpit arrangement, particularly the full ‘fighter type’ cockpit and canopy.
One of the USAF Navs on the B57, Brendan Haniffy, expressed an interest in 2SQN Canberra operations and Lance invited him along on one of our sorties – a night mission in II Corp, 03 Jun 1967, with 9x500lb bomb load, in aircraft A84-234.
All was routine and uneventful until bomb release. One bomb was obstinate and refused to budge! We had a hang up! No problem. We closed the bay doors and secured the weapons system as we set about to return via the jettison area, off Cam Ranh Bay.
At about 17,000ft during descent into Cam Ran Bay, we experienced some medium turbulence which jolted the bomb loose! There was a loud “thump, rattle, rattle, clunk, bang”, as the bomb fell off the rack and rolled forward, and hit the bomb door jack on the forward bulkhead with a very loud ‘ringing’ noise. There was deadly silence in the cabin. We didn’t want to believe the noises nor any possible consequences. This was followed by some strong words from Lance before we settled down to advise Phan Rang Control of our predicament. The whites of the eyes of our alarmed passenger lit up the night sky, as the Walt/Halvo team set about trying to reassure our pax, Brendan, that the bomb was still safe. The bomb had to fall about 6 feet before the arming wires pulled out which then allowed the arming vane/propeller on the nose of the bomb to rotate by airflow, before the bomb was armed; so all was safe while the bomb was still in the closed bomb bay.
We continued silently, but impatiently, until over the jettison area (over the sea) where we opened the bay doors and the bomb fell free. There was a nervous chuckle as we began to relax; however, this was interrupted by a startled “WOW” from our passenger as he observed the bomb to explode on impact. We returned to Phan Rang without further incident. Our USAF friend made good his farewell and departed in haste to, no doubt, change his “dacks” and with a determination never to fly “Magpie” (2SQN Callsign) airlines again.
Lance met Brendan again three years later when in USA training on the Phantom F-4E; he had not forgotten the incident.
Lance Halvorson – pre-flight check of the bombs. Photo: Lance Halvorson
Wally Walters and Lance Halvorson, before a mission in Vietnam, May 1967 Photo: Wally Walters