Aviation History

CH-46 crew member tells the story of when his Phrog Bombed Vandenberg AFB with Ketchup and Mustard Completing the Only Successful Bombing Raid on a USAF Missile Base in American History

“It was hilarious, and those boys found out you don’t mess with Marines without getting some ‘feedback,’” Alex Landi former CH-46 Phrog Crew Member.

The twin-turbine tandem-rotor Boeing Vertol CH-46A Sea Knight won a design competition for a medium assault transport helicopter for the Marine Corps in 1961 and made its first flight in August 1962.

The first US Marine Corps (USMC) Sea Knight was delivered in 1964 and began military service during the Vietnam War a year later, carrying troops and cargo to and from Navy ships in the China Sea.

By 1968, the Sea Knight, affectionately known as the “Phrog,” had flown 75,000 hours on 180,000 missions, including 8,700 missions rescuing wounded Marines, and had carried 500,000 troops.

Between 1964 and 1990, Boeing Vertol delivered more than 600 Sea Knights. During the 1980s and 1990s, Boeing developed modification kits and upgrades to modernize the Sea Knights.

Alex Landi, a former Marine and crew member aboard the legendary Phrog and a reader of The Aviation Geek Club, sent us this incredible (and funny) story.

Landi recalls:

“I bombed Vandenberg Air Force Base with red and yellow, plastic ketchup and mustard bottles from my CH-46, and I was only an E-4. Two CH-46s carried out this bombing raid on the transient parking snack shack on the flight line at Vandenberg. We were provoked and counterattacked as all good Marines should. Was really funny stuff! At least the Air Force didn’t shoot us down.

“True, and there is a story behind this.

“Only successful bombing raid on a USAF missile base in American history.

This print is available in multiple sizes from AircraftProfilePrints.com – CLICK HERE TO GET YOURS. CH-46E Sea Knight HMM-161 Grayhawks, YR02 / 154841

“General details are thus:

“Two CH-46 choppers took off from our base in Southern California. Can’t remember if it was Los Alamitos or the big Tustin helo base. Was about 1970 or so. We were headed to the bay area; (Alameda?) routine training mission.

“We stopped at Vandenberg to refuel. After we did, the pilot in charge said we could get lunch at the flight line snack shop. We four enlisted Marines went in and ordered our food. Almost immediately, a bunch of Air Force guys started ragging on us. Just penny-ante interservice rivalry stuff. We started jawjackin’ back. Just then, one of the co-pilots came in, saw what was happening and, not wanting any problems, told us to take our food and go eat on the choppers.

“We got our food and took a bunch of plastic, red and yellow, ketchup and mustard bottles with us to assemble our burgers. We ate on our birds and were just finishing up when the pilot in charge returned and asked why we were eating on the bird. We told him what happened, and we could see he was a bit pissed. He told us to get ready. We fired up the birds, taxied a very short way from our parking spots, and lifted off.

“The pilot hovered at about 50 feet, kicking up a lot of dust and making a racket. All the Air Force guys came running out to see what was going on, and that’s when we bombed them with the condiment bottles. They ran in every direction imaginable!

“It was hilarious, and those boys found out you don’t mess with Marines without getting some ‘feedback.’ As I said; had to be the only bombing raid on a US missile base in American history. It was highly successful, too. It still makes me laugh!

“As far as I know, there were no serious repercussions. Never heard of any. Nobody got impeached.
It was about 50 years ago. Me and my Phrog were cutting edge technology then. We’re both museum pieces, now.

“Don’t remember the pilot’s name, but will always think of him fondly. A real Marine!


Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps and Matt Udkow/Santa Barbara County Fire Department

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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