BG Dale Stovall briefs the Roger Locher Rescue

Our favorite BG Dale Stovall USAF Ret presented one of the biggest events of his HH 53C service in VN with the story of the Roger Locher rescue.  On May 10, 1972, day one of air combat in Operation Linebacker, CPT Locher (WSO) and his pilot MAJ Lodge were one of two flights of the F-4D MiGCap for the morning strike force. They engaged several Migs when they were hit and only Locher successfully ejected at about 8,000 feet, but due to smoke, no one saw his parachute canopy. Locker hid on the hills for the next 22 days watching for American aircraft. On June 1, 1972, he was finally able to contact a flight of F-4s overhead, on Guard”. One of the F-4 pilots had witnessed Locher’s jet fall out of the sky and recognize his callsign, and the rescue attempt began.  Because of the time from his ejection there was some concern about the authenticity of his message.   A SAR mission of several A-1H Sandy aircraft and two HH-53C Super Jolly Green Giant helicopters from  40th AARS SQN at NKP, one flown by CPT Stovall and crew, launched that same day (June 1), but was driven off by heavy anti-aircraft fire and MiGs. CPT Stovall came under attack from a MiG but eluded the enemy fighter in a narrow canyon. The rescue force then dodged missiles but failed to get through to Locher.   On day 2, Commander 7th Air Force, canceled the entire strike mission set for Hanoi that day and dedicated over 150 aircraft, to rescuing Locher. This time the Sandys went in ahead to locate Locher and returned to guide in the rescue helicopters. The lead A-1H saw Locher’s mirror flash, told Locher to “pop” his “smoke”, and guided CPT Stovall to Locher’s position. Spotting the flash from Locher’s signal mirror, Stovall hovered over the steep slope, rotors dangerously close to the trees, and lowered a jungle penetrator under enemy fire.  Only when Locher rose out of the jungle canopy riding the jungle penetrator were all of the Americans sure it was him. Despite their proximity to a NVA air base, no aircraft were lost during Locher’s rescue.  CPT Stovall had twice flown his HH-53C helicopter further into North Vietnam than had ever been done before. For his efforts in rescuing Locher, CPT Stovall was awarded the Air Force Cross. Stovall’s citation described how, “…he willingly returned to this high threat area, braving intense ground fire, to recover the downed airman from deep in North Vietnam”.  This rescue was only one of many that Dale and his crews made that year, all in NVN.  As always, Dale was thorough in his presentation and humble of his service, but he is a highly decorated pilot for a reason.