The Watery Grave Of A B-52 Shot Down Over Hanoi, During The Vietnam War.

The Watery Grave Of A B-52 Shot Down Over Hanoi, During The Vietnam War.

Above Photo: B-52 wreckage in Huu Tiep Lake in Hanoi.

NOTE: I’ve updated this article with further information, supplied by David Martin, a relative of 1st Lieutenant Ben Fryer, the navigator of this plane who was killed when it was shot down. I’ve added these new comments at the end.

On our last trip to Hanoi, we spent the morning trying to find what’s locally called ’B-52 Lake’.

More formally called Huu Tiep Lake, we eventually found it down a narrow, winding lane full of magnolia coloured stucco houses and hundreds of years-old temples in a quiet suburban thoroughfare in Hanoi.

SAM Missile air defences around Hanoi in 1972. Huu Tiep lake B-52 lake vietnam

SAM Missile air defences around Hanoi in 1972.

Knocked out of the sky during a US bombing raid on Hanoi on 27 December 1972, part of the wreckage fell into the lake, where it still lies today.

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A B52 arriving back at Anderson Air Base in December 1972 after a bombing mission over Hanoi.

That date immediately told me the plane had been part of Operation Linebacker II, conducted between 18–29 December 1972, which was a “maximum effort” bombing campaign to destroy major industrial, military, air, road and rail transport targets in Hanoi and nearby Haiphong port.

The B-52 wreckage in Huu Tiep lake, Hanoi now surrounded by houses.

The wreckage in the lake, now surrounded by houses.

As well as for the resulting civilian deaths and injuries in Hanoi, this bombing campaign was notable for heavy losses of B-52s over North Vietnam, caused by Russian-supplied SAM missile air defences the North Vietnamese used, which caused consternation all the way up to the White House.

The B-52 wreckage in Huu Tiep lake, Hanoi shot down over Hanoi Vietnam War

close up of the B52 wreckage

Linebacker II involved the largest heavy bomber strikes launched by the US since the end of the Second World War, in an effort to force the North Vietnamese to negotiate over POWs being held in Vietnam and Laos.

The B-52 wreckage in Huu Tiep lake, Hanoi shot down over Hanoi Vietnam War

Refugees in Hanoi during the bombing in 1972.

Whilst the North Vietnamese did eventually return POWs it held in Hanoi, none held in Laos were ever handed over, and their likely fate is something I explore in my novel BACK.

The B-52 wreckage in Huu Tiep lake, Hanoi US planes shot down over Hanoi Vietnam War

Another view of the B-52 wreckage.

All that seemed a world away, as we stood contemplating this lonely wreckage in a green-coloured lake in suburban Hanoi this morning.

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If anyone has any information on the plane, the crew or its mission that night, I’d be grateful to receive it.

UPDATE:

I recently received an interesting email from David Martin, a relative of 1st Lieutenant Ben Fryer, who was the navigator of this plane when it was shot down. His comments are below:

The plane in Huu Tiep Lake is that of my uncle, 1st Lt Ben Fryer, who was killed when the SAM hit the right side of the plane where he was sitting (he was the navigator).  The plane designation was Cobalt 01 B-52D, tail number 0605, and part of Operation Linebacker II, AKA Christmas Bombing.

Their target was the Trung Quan Rail-yard, which they were one minute away from dropping their ordnance on when his plane was struck by an SA-2 Surface to Air Missile (SAM) on the right side between the forward wheel well and the bottom of the right wing.

All crew members received injuries from the SAM explosion, and all power and control of the B-52 was lost at that time. The wing fuel tank was on fire, so Capt. Frank Lewis gave the abandon ship order.

The Pilot, Capt. Frank Lewis, Co-Pilot, Capt. Samuel Cusimano, and Electronic Warfare Officer, Maj. Allen Johnson, all were heard ejecting from the plane by Radar Navigator, Maj. James Condon, who then tried to arouse Bennie, so he could eject, but Bennie was slumped forward on the nav table and bleeding profusely.  Maj. Condon had no choice but to eject himself from the plane leaving Bennie behind presumed dead (an unconscious person cannot eject from a B-52 without being ripped apart).

The rear Gunner, MSgt. James Gough, could not hear the abandon ship order as the coms were out, so he was the last to leave the plane alive.  He jumped through the burning debris of the engines and wings and was severely injured.

Capt. Lewis, Capt. Cusimano, Maj. Condon and MSgt. Gough were all captured shortly after and held prisoner at Hanoi Hilton.

Bennie’s remains were not returned to us until 1977.  Another member of the crew was also KIA but likely not until after he was captured.  His remains were returned in 1986 with no explanation.  The remainder of the crew were captured, held in Hanoi Hilton, tortured, but returned alive in Feb 1973.

A portion of the plane landed less than 500 m from Ho Chi Minh’s wooden house (a kind of shrine to the Vietnamese), and one of the engines landed in the zoo on the grounds of the Presidential Palace.  There are also parts of the plane on display at the B-52 museum in Hanoi.

My Uncle’s remains were actually the first to be negotiated and returned by the North Vietnamese in 1977, so Bennie was “The First of the Last,” which is the working title of a book I I’m working on.

Our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.

MIA button

See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. 

For POWs left behind in Laos, see:

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© Peter Alan Lloyd

BACK Parts 1 and 2:

Reviews: Amazon.co.uk: Customer Reviews 

UK: Amazon.co.uk: BACK Parts 1 and 2 

US: Amazon: Back Parts 1 and 2

Smashwords: Back Parts 1 and 2

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5 Comments

  1. Mike

    B52 returning from bombing mission over Hanoi. picture states returning to Andrews AFB.Should read Anderson AFB Guam.Wrong Base

    Reply
  2. Bob

    I visited this wreckage last week along with the “Hanoi Hilton’. I am sorry for the losses on both sides. It is now well documented that atrocities were committed by both sides. My overwhelming conclusion is that the American Government lied their way into this conflict as a result of their fear of communism. They had no business getting involved and I have a huge admiration for the people of Vietnam who overcame their aggressor against what should have been an overwhelming advantage. America does not seem to learn when it comes to conflict.Their “gung -ho ” bravado seems to get in the way of the historical fact. They have never won a conflict since they beat the British by cheating in the War of Independence. They turned up 3 years late for WW1, only joined WW2 when the Japanese caught them napping and gave them a kicking, lost in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Guam, Grenada, Cuba, Somalia, Iraq x 2 , Afganistan and just about anywhere they have poked their nose in. They continue to oppress black people and have the stupidest population on the planet. They end up electing Trump as their President ; a draft dodger and consumate idiot. America has lost any credibility it ever had, which was not a lot.

    Reply
  3. Hanoi Surprise: Bomber in the Lake – Back FROM The World

    […] trip. I won’t recant the history of the Operation Linebacker bombings here at this time.  But  author Peter Alan Lloyd has some dramatic details about this very special and sobering […]

    Reply
  4. Mitch

    I believe the aircraft in Huu Tiep Lake to be a B-52D 99th B, Westover AFB, A/C# 56-0608, Call sign “Rose 01”

    https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=48405

    It appears the aircraft Mr Martin was referencing in the update is a B-52D
    7 BW Carswell AFB, A/C# 56-0605, Call Sign Cobalt 01

    https://aviation-safety.net/wikibase/wiki.php?id=48404

    Rose 01/56-0608 was removed from the lake and is displayed at the “Museum of Victory Over B-52” in Hanoi

    Reply
    • Peter Alan Lloyd

      Thanks.

      The B-52 in Huu Tiep Lake is still there. The one which was put in the B-52 museum is the one they pulled out of the lake adjacent to where the B-52 Museum now stands. Two shot-down B-52s in two lakes very close together…

      Reply

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