The posT Saturday Evening Vietnam Exclusive: The morning sky was clear over the South China Sea, but the weather turned murky as we approached the coast of North Vietnam. Our group of four Skyraiders had taken off from the USS Ranger 45 minutes earlier—at nine o'clock last February 1—and we were flying in formation at 10,000 feet. We zigzagged to look for a hole in the overcast and to keep their radar-controlled guns from locking onto us. All at once flak appeared as noisy smudges nearby. I didn't have much time to notice it. I checked my armament switches and gunsights. Then in my headset I heard a pilot shout, "I got a target. There it is at nine o'clock." I looked down and saw it—an antiaircraft battery at a road intersection. I called my number: "Five-oh-four rolling in," I said. I pulled the stick, rolled on my back and started into my dive. Suddenly boom, boom, boom. A 57-mm shell knocked off part of my right wing. Another burst hit my engine. It sputtered and quit. I shouted, "Mayday, Mayday" into my radio. I leveled out and aimed at the target quickly, then dumped all my ordnance. Miraculously I hit the target. The antiaircraft battery had gotten me, but I knocked it out. By Lt. j.g. Dieter Dengl Gaunt, hollow-eyed and shrunk to 93 pounds, Dengler recuperates aboard the carrier Ranger, where he was flown 171 days after leaving the ship for a strike in North Vietnam.
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