28. September 2004 · Comments Off on Bat 21 · Categories: Military

Maybe someone else with more knowledge can fill in the details on this man. I learned about him in this week’s issue of “This is True” – he was the “honorary unsubscribe.”

Gene Hambleton, perhaps better known by the call sign “Bat 21” died earlier this week at age 85. From his “honorary unsubscribe,” I learned that this Air Force navigator was shot down in 1972, while on a mission, jamming enemy radio signals. He parachuted from his plane, and landed in the middle of 30,000 NVA troops. While avoiding capture, he used his survival radio to call in airstrikes on the invading soldiers. He was eventually rescued, but not until one helicopter lost its entire crew trying to get him out.

I don’t know how I ever missed this story, among all the Project Warrior readings I did as a young airman. A book was written about his experience in 1980 (Bat 21), and another in 1998 (Rescue of Bat 21). Looks like I’ll be adding another couple books to my “must read someday” stack.

Randy’s “unsubscribe” does a better job of giving a picture of who the man was than the Legacy.com obit did. And a little more Googling turned up this article in Golf Digest. Seems the LTC was an avid golfer, with a fantastic memory for courses he’d played. They used that knowledge to tell him which way to go to avoid enemy villages and get to the river.

Update: His name was Iceal “Gene” Hambleton.

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