Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

Local News

July 12, 2013

Kiwanis member recounts rescue that embodies the spirit of American teamwork

JACKSONVILLE — Dan George was unable to produce his grandson Thursday to discuss the military situation in Afghanistan with his Jacksonville Kiwanis Club lunchtime group.

Instead, George, 78, took over the presentation himself and shared with them the classic true military story, “The Rescue of Roger Locher.”

Thematically, George's presentation was in the same ballpark as that of his grandson – Warrant Officer 2nd Grade Josh McSwain. McSwain originally was slated to provide modern military insight during his presentation. Unfortunately, he was called away by the death of his maternal grandmother.

The group of 20 Kiwanis members sympathized with the reasons for McSwain's absence but lamented it nonetheless. After all, George's grandson flies awesome armed reconnaissance helicopters. And McSwain had only recently returned from a year tour in January. He is currently on leave from duty stationed in Hawaii.   

Improvising with a more classic approach, George relayed Locher's story because, he said, it embodies the power of the fighting American spirit.

George would certainly know about that. He's a retired lieutenant colonel who served two terms in Vietnam.

Locher's rescue, George said, took place in June 1972 during the initial phase of what was called “Operation Linebacker.”

Incidentally, the 23 days Locher spent behind enemy lines evading capture set a record and was the deepest inside North Vietnam achieved by the United States during the entire War, according to reports.

It all began when (in the parlance of the military) an American 4F-4D was shot down by a North Viet-namese Shenyang J-6.

The pilot of the American craft was a very stubborn Major Robert Lodge, who absolutely refused to eject from the plane.

However, weapons officer Roger Locher was able to escape, and somehow remained unseen by US troops or the Vietcong as he fled the area.  At the time, he was only 40 miles from Hanoi, North Vietnam.

Locher was extremely well-liked by his colleagues and was good friends with many of them. After he vanished, his continued absence haunted them.

“It became very important to many of them to try to find out if Locher had survived,” George said.

Locher traveled 12 miles on foot, losing lots of strength, hydration, and at least 30 pounds along the way.

After being behind enemy lines at least 22 days, Locher managed to transmit a radio signal to a group of American jets flying overhead: “Any U.S. aircraft, if you read Oyster 1 Bravo, come up on Guard.”

His call was heard!

A few of the pilots grew excited because they remembered “Oyster 1 Bravo” as being Locher's call sign.

Wary of enemy trickery but taking a leap of faith, the American personnel answered the call.

Locher's response to them: “Guys, I've been down here a long time. Any chance of picking me up?”

At first, some Americans who didn't directly hear this message thought the NVA might be impersonating Locher and setting a trap.

But a rescue force of planes nonetheless soon bore down on Locher's transmitted position.

Unfortunately, the attempted rescuers were greeted in return by two MiGs, as well as surface-to-air missiles and gunfire.

The rescuers successfully dodged the missiles, and even eluded one MiG in a narrow canyon. But they were driven away by enemy fire and could not get through to rescue Locher.

They returned to base and glumly reported what happened to superiors.

In an extraordinary gesture,  General John Vogt, commander of the 7th Air Force, canceled the entire strike mission set for Hanoi on June 2, 1972 and redirected a task force of 119 aircraft to instead use that time and manpower to free Locher.

It was obvious at this point that Locher had become more than just one person: He was now a symbol of freedom.

“We shut down the war to go get Roger Locher,” retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Dale E. Stovall explained at the time.

So the long-missing Locher was thankfully located and rescued. And oddly, despite their proximity to Yen Bai airfield, none of the rescuer aircraft was lost or destroyed during this daring extraction.

After returning to base, a very relieved Locher was greeted heartily by friends and colleagues at the officer's club, George said.

As a moral to this exciting story, George emphatically stated he refuses to believe stories relayed in movies such as Oliver Stone's Platoon, which indicate United States soldiers shot and killed one another with friendly fire.

George said his moral is this: The spirit of American cooperation is too strong for any soldier to allow “friendly fire” to take place.

“We don't shoot one another in the back – not when we go to such lengths not to leave one another on the battlefield,” he said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Bullard group rallies behind alcohol petition

    A petition calling for a city-wide city election this November that would make all areas of Bullard wet, including those which fall in Cherokee County, has proven successful, as more than the required 221 signatures have been collected.

    July 19, 2014

  • mom and kids_6776.tif Jacksonville woman celebrates 100th birthday surrounded by family, friends

    Ethel Terry, a lifelong resident of Jacksonville, celebrated her 100th birthday with an open house on July 15 at the Twin Oaks Care Facility in Jacksonville.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cemetery grass.tif Extra rainfall produces more abundant lawns, extends hay season

    Steady periods of rain this summer have been a homeowner's dream, as lawns appear more lush than in previous years.
    But for city workers, that same growth has taken on nightmarish proportions.
    “It's a maintenance nightmare,” said Ben Briley, director of the City of Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Cherokee County arrests: July 8-14

    The Daily Progress will publish a list of arrests from the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office on a weekly basis.

    July 19, 2014

  • Detective recovers nearly $7K in case

    When a Jacksonville woman became a victim of a scam, Jacksonville Police Detective Greg Compton stopped at nothing to solve the case.
    In early January, Compton said a neighbor of a 94-year-old woman reported that someone had “taken advantage of her.”

    July 17, 2014

  • Bullard ISD names interim leader

    During a meeting Monday night, the Bullard ISD Board of Trustees appointed Joe Dan Lee as Interim Superintendent.

    July 17, 2014

  • City to continue summer mosquito spraying schedule

    Next week, the City of Jacksonville will continue implementing its summer mosquito spraying program.

    July 17, 2014

  • 18wheelerWreck 0715.tif Double 18-wheeler wreck snarls morning traffic

    No injuries were reported Monday morning after an 18-wheel tractor-trailer bore the brunt of damage when it collided with a logging truck in front of it, according to Jacksonville Police officer Matthew Odom. The wreck occurred at the intersection of Jackson and Canada streets.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Heart transplant David.tif Jacksonville man recovering after life-saving transplant

    A Jacksonville man is on the road to recovery after a life-saving heart transplant, according to his wife.
    On July 2, David Woods received a new heart from an unknown donor. The surgery took about six hours, and he remained in the intensive care unit for four days afterwards, said his wife, Paula Woods.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • County changes speed on 4 roads

    Speed limits along four Cherokee County roads were set to 35 miles per hour following a public hearing Monday at the County Courthouse.
    Commissioners voted to lower the speed per request of residents living along CR 4910, CR 4911, CR 4912 and CR 4918, despite the fact that no one showed up for the public hearing, said County Judge Chris Davis.

    July 15, 2014