Combat Cranberry

The commitment of Canberras to Vietnam would ultimately provide new missions and different aircraft for the 190th. This process started with the commitment of a small detachment (never more than six planes) of RB-57Es (tow planes reworked for reconnaissance) in 1963. In August of 1964, following the Tonkin Gulf incident, 36 additional aircraft, mostly B-57s, were sent to Bien Hoa. The commitment of a B-57 force to Vietnam posed difficulties for the Air Force. The last active duty squadrons flying Canberras as bombers were deactivated in 1959. Now they had to find a system for providing combat ready crews fro the Vietnam units, and Air Force training facilities were already being overtaxed by the Vietnam buildup.

The regular Air Force turned to the most experienced Canberra-flying unit in the nation to solve the dilemma. The 190th was granted additional funds for parts, and fuel, and permitted additional technician strength. In return, it undertook to train virtually every one of the early Canberra crews committed to Vietnam . At the peak of the activity, six two-man (pilot and navigator) teams were being trained monthly. All told, the 190th trained 119 pilots and navigators for Vietnam , under a variety of programs and code names known collectively as "Combat Cranberry." The training took 35 to 65 days, depending on other training received, and was intended to make the regulars almost as proficient as the weekenders.

Many of the 190th look back on summer camp of 1965 as the finest ever. For the first and (so far) only time, the unit went to Cap Cod, Massachusetts at Otis AFB. The scenery was beautiful, and it was a part of the country not many of the unit had seen before. The base and the local civilians were friendly, but what is best remembered is the food. The club was open about every other night with special seafood meals for the midwestern visitors.

Other guardsmen remembered different things about Otis. Some were able to see the historic sights of New England , such as Boston or Plymouth Rock. Some remember "Pete's Puddle," a small lake on base, on which sailboats could be rented. Boating was less popular in Kansas then, so a number of men in the 190th had their first experience with sailboats on "Pete's Puddle." No doubt this provided as much amusement for the natives as it did for the Guardsmen. Others recall with wonder, admiration and gratitude the coeds of the nearby Falmouth area, but on this the unit historian maintains a discrete silence.

Also in 1965, it was announced that the 190th had taken the Spaatz Trophy in Silver, for 1964, second among all the units of the Air Guard. Years of training with the same men and the same aircraft were paying off.

In June of 1966, a tornado swept through Manhattan and Topeka , Kans. and men of the 190th were called to active duty to help maintain order in the aftermath. Called up on the 10th, the 94 men of the unit were still on duty as late as the 24th.

July saw them on a more pleasant activity. The unit went back to Gulfport for summer field training. A total of better than four-fifths of the unit, or 498 men of the 616 assigned, attended. Weather seems to have been a serious problem, though. Flying activities were limited to only seven days, though in those days the aircraft flew for almost 200 hours. (187 hours and 50 minutes, to be exact). This, of course, does not count flying time back and forth to camp.

There with the 190th, sharing the facilities, were 800 men of the United States Army's 20th Special Forces, Army National Guard. Contrary to popular expectations, their food too was cooked.

For its performance in 1966, the 190th received the Air Force Association's Most Outstanding Flying Unit Award for the Air National Guard. The award was given in 1967.