A personal account of naval bombing operations and their dangers
Although a ferocious attack airplane, the A-6 Intruder suffered a lackluster reputation throughout the Vietnam War. Despite its advanced technology, it was thought to lack the capability of dropping bombs accurately on its target.
In his new book, Ed Engle argues that the Navy completely failed to recognize the unique target planning requirements of the A-6 and did not provide the crew with the resources for planning bombing missions. “To North Vietnam and Back Again” is a memoir that chronicles his experiences as a bombardier/navigator for the A-6 during wartime operations.
“In the vast majority of cases, we only had the opportunity to make one pass when bombing a target,” Engle said. “The North Vietnamese had air defenses which were usually very heavy around vital targets. Each additional second we spent in the area provided a greater chance of being shot down.”
Getting shot down might result in the crew’s imprisonment and being subjected to treatment under the worst conditions, such as what happened to Senator John McCain in 1967. Engle argues that the threat posed to these crews was amplified and exacerbated by the Navy’s negligence in providing the navigational targeting information that the crews needed in order to successfully strike targets.
“The A-6 had an extremely sensitive weapons system that required precise information,” Engle said. “The charts the Navy gave us were printed from French surveys from the 1930’s. Even the Defense Mapping Agency that made our charts said they couldn’t be used for target planning.”
These navigators showed incredible ingenuity in solving these problems over the course of the war, turning the A-6 from a black sheep into a rock-star. Engle’s background as an engineer adds a technical depth to the analysis of wartime operations that puts readers in the cockpit with the airmen as they experience danger, frustration and, ultimately, catharsis.
“To North Vietnam and Back Again”
By Ed Engle
Available in softcover, hardcover, e-book
Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris
About the author
Ed Engle is a retired naval flight officer with engineering degrees from The Johns Hopkins University and The Naval Postgraduate School. Throughout his career, Engle provided several solutions for Navy challenges. Engle was responsible for introducing alternative methods for targeting and later introduced commercial wideband satellite communications to Navy ships so they could do much more precise targeting and photogrammetric planning.