CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. — The 27th Special Operations Wing on Friday held an aircraft retirement ceremony on the flightline at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.
Col. Buck Elton, 27 SOW commander, was on board the MC-130E Combat Talon I, tail number 64-0523, as it made its final flight into Cannon from Duke Field, Fla.
This particular Talon has a special historical significant to Air Force Special Operation Command's lineage.
"This Talon I was part of the 7th Special Operations Squadron and first flew in 1966," said Richard Shea, 27 SOW base historian. "This tail number was the lead aircraft that performed a Prisoner of War extraction in North Vietnam called the Son Tay Raid in 1970."
During the raid, the original call sign for the Talon was Cherry 1. In an effort to truly commemorate today's flight, the Talon once again flew under the call sign Cherry 1 for its final mission.
Retired Lt. Col. Irl "Leon" Franklin, who piloted this exact craft during the raid more than 40 years ago, was invited to be present on the aircraft during the final engine shutdown.
"I was the aircraft commander of crew SG06, the group was the original Combat Unit," said Franklin. "This aircraft was one of the first four aircraft to be modified for the Combat Talon mission."
During the nation's conflict with Vietnam in the 1970s, the U.S. received intelligence that suggested North Vietnam had dozens of POWs detained in a prison camp just west of Hanoi. The U.S. Air Force and Army put together a Special Forces team in an effort to recover the Americans being held within the camp.
Planning and training for the operation took place at Eglin AFB, Fla., while additional intelligence was gathered. When the U.S. infiltrated the prison camp, they discovered the prisoners had already been moved to another camp.
"It's an honor to have been invited to this ceremony and given the opportunity to participate in the aircraft shutdown," said Franklin. "I spent 23 years of my life on active duty and I take pride in actively engaging myself in military functions."
The aircraft will now undergo several months of demilitarization and will be put on permanent display at the airpark on base.
"We are extremely proud of our Special Operations Forces heritage and what this aircraft means to AFSOC," said Elton. "Having this aircraft here at our air park will remind us of our lineage beginning with Son Tay and moving forward."