Douglas A/B-26 Invader

Operation Mill Pond

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Operation Mill Pond

Despite the fact they were supplied in order to strike Soviet and North Vietnamese transports on Plain of Jars, the RLAF T-6s were never used to attack that airfield. In fact, even the four CIA-controlled (and unmarked) B-26 Invaders, deployed at Takhli AB, in Thailand, in December 1960, which were operating against the Pathet Lao logistic hug in Vang Vieng, were never used for that purpose. CIA�s Invaders were frequently supported by South Vietnamese Douglas AD-6 (A-1 Skyraider), which were already active over Laos, and at one point Saigon even agreed to deploy a secret unit to Vientianne, but this idea was eventually dropped.

Instead, the original four B-26s were reinforced by additional 12 B-26B/Cs and four RB-26Cs within the Operation Mill Pond. The aircraft were then prepared to strike targets in Plain of Jars and to bomb the airfields used by the Soviet transports. On 16 April 1961, the Invaders were fully armed with 250lb bombs, rockets and Napalm canisters, ready to be launched. Six USAF F-100Ds were also deployed at Bangkok to fly top cover for the strike. Nevertheless, when news leaked-out that at the same time that the other CIA air offensive that was taking place over the Bay of Pigs in Cuba had failed, President Kennedy cancelled the strike in the last moment. The B-26s remained in Thailand for three further months but no order for attack was ever issued.

One of the twenty B-26s and RB-26s deployed to Takhli AB in Thailand in spring 1961 in the cadre of the Operation Mill Pond. The unmarked aircraft were flown by CIA aircrews. These black-painted B-26Bs were seen armed with Napalm tanks on 16 April 1961, ready to depart for a strike against the airfield used by the Soviet on the Plain of Jars. The strike was cancelled at the last minute by President Kennedy. (Photo: Ken Conboy via Albert Grandolini)

Meanwhile, the RB-26Cs flew regular reconnaissance sorties until the end of 1961 and at least one aircraft was damaged by hostile fire. Vietnamese sources reported that on 6 November, a VPAF Li-2 piloted by Dinh Ton over Laos was attacked by an Invader but that the North Vietnamese gunners had damaged it with 12.7mm machine-gun fire. Namely, by that date, most of the VPAF transports operating over Laos or South Vietnam were modified to carry 7.62mm and 12.7mm machine-guns, fired through windows, for self-defense.