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Nike Air Lift Exercise, Korea, 1974

How a misunderstanding resulted in the airlifting of a Nike Hercules battery to be within range of Pyongyang

by Ed Durffee, CW4 Ret

Hercules suspended from helicopter

It was late summer I think and I had just returned from an ORE Trip to somewhere and when I got to Bn Hq to check in, about 7:30 or so, I was met by the Bn CO. He was all excited by some new Surface to Surface firing solution table some Capt. at Bliss had come up with. It was way faster than computing as we knew it. Unfortunately he extended the range out to 220000 yds for some reason and my CO thought he'd found a way to make the System reach farther. This would make Pyongyang reachable from F Btry at Inchon, and he had relayed this to the Gen at Brigade, and he had relayed that to Gen Stillwell at 8th Army.

I thought about what he was saying then had to tell him that no way could any table make the Fire Control extend the range beyond the 200K electrical and mechanical stops. But I was told there were people at Brigade S3 waiting to talk to me about this and they were not happy to be held over time. So I drove to Osan and met with them..

I told them, a full Col and three senior Warrants that I knew as they did, the table did not magically extend our range but that we had to compute both ways and make sure and we did. This was relayed to the Brigade CO and he came to the S3 very upset. He had told 8th Army and now was in a bind. I listened to him for a few min then a stupid thought came to me. I said Gen, we can't hit Pyongyang from where we are, BUT we can move closer, only taking what we need for one SS shot and then run like hell. He looked at me, and said that was my mission.

It was easy to get the Chopper guys involved, they loved the idea and were great helps. But it was soon realized that the CH-47 could not lift a launcher with a missile on it. That meant we had to bring in a launcher, and then a missile, which created a very big problem. Once you set the launcher down, the missile had to be set down exactly on spot because you could only move the rail up and down and never laterally to mate up the missile rail and the launcher rails.

Readying to receive missile

In one picture you will see what we called the Pig Pen, and it was made to be staked to the ground at exact measurements from the launcher after it was set. The missile on its rail would be flown in, and the rail feet would ride along the wall of the Pen until the side and front legs touched the wall and then dropped, then only jacking up or down was all that we needed to mate the rails up.

When we finally had a plan all figured out, I told the CO and he gave the go ahead for an exercise, to move a unit to some new location, set it up and become operational for a SS mission. I picked A-4-44 which was my old unit from years before and they were briefed but left to determine how they would do it at that end. About a week later I called the chopper people and A Btry and said GO the mission was on...

I really can't explain it but this thing went off without a glitch anywhere. We moved to K6, set up on both ends of the runway and in no time were fired up and operational. Of course Brigade showed up and we did a SS ORE.

To this day, it amazes me how great all those people were and how this thing really worked. I later was flown up to the DMZ where we looked for possible places to use for a real mission. There are many old dirt abandoned runways left from the Korean War so we had many choices.. I have no idea what happened after that. But the North knew we now had the capability and I'm sure it became a very good bargaining chip.

Ed Durffee
CW4 Ret
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