LCDR Castle Rescue in Laos by Nail, Sandy & Pedro 28 Dec., 1970

LCdr Castle with the Pedro crew and Capt Lay, the pilot, who rescued him. Capt Lay is in front and just behind him is LCdr Castle. The dog was the beloved base mascot and according to Bobby Lay he had more rescue and flying time than any Pedro crew in SEA. When a secuity guard accidentally shot him the base mourned one of the most loved animal in Thailand.

LCdr Castle & Capt Lay were reunited on 2 July, 1996 through the help of the ACA organization, the Internet & the Air Force. Bob Castle is looking in all his storages to retrieve the Ranger Plaque and Bobby Lay is looking for the tree branch which was on Bob Castle's flying suit the day they rescued him. Bob Castle is in California and Bobby Lay is in S. Carolina. Thanks for all the help.

The Following is an e-mail from Bobby Lay on the rescue.

Date: Fri, 5 Jul 1996 14:58:21 -0400
Subject: LCDR Castle Rescue in Laos

Gene, 7-5-96

Thanks for your phone call concerning the recovery of LCDR Castle.

I don't recall who was flying with me when we picked up LCDR Castle. We flew
with different crew compositions on each day of "alert duty." I would
appreciate the plaque. It would remind me of a very slick, quick, and dirty
rescue. LCDR Castle was only on the ground 19 minutes - probably seemed like an eternity to him.

He was very calm - at least his voice was not an octave above normal
conversation. Our only conversation was " Pedro, do you want me to pop smoke?"
My reply was, " negative." I believe that was our only conversation. He had a large group of Air Force people welcoming him to NKP. I dropped him off at base operations and re-established my alert status.

I kept a small twig from a tree his parachute harness snapped off. Today, I
can't find it - expect to find later and will send it to him.

I am a 1954 graduate of Annapolis. It was a most pleasurable event to rescue a Navy pilot.

Please extend my warmest regards to Capt. Castle.


Bobby S. Lay


Capt Robert N Castle, Jr USN retired was shot down in Laos about 17 NM from NKP on 28 Dec., 1970, while flying an A-7E from the Carrier Ranger. He was rescued by a HH-43 Pedro Helicopter, flown by Capt Bobby S. Lay and his crew, of Det 9, 38ARRSq from NKP. He was preceded to the rescue by four Sandys' A-1 and a Nail FAC. The Pedro helicopter normally didn't perform SAR but it was the only helo available that day. This is LCDR Castle debriefing and praise for his AF rescuers. He has a plaque for the Pedro crew which he never was able to give to and would like to do it if he could find them as well as treat them to fine wine, liquor and a meal. If any of the other rescuers are around from Sandy & Nail FAC they are also welcomed to participate. Please e-mail me at any information available to locate the aircrew who saved him that day.

SAR Debriefing

a. Name Castle, Robert N. Jr., LCDR, 580429/1310
b. Date 28 Dec., 1970
c. Acft/Unit A7E, VA-25 Ranger
d. Rescue Acft HH-43 Helicopter(Pedro)
e. Zone Land/Combat
f. Recovery Operation:

SAR procedures were initiated by Nail 46, the FAC with whom NE 406 and flight were operating. He notified Invert and King while we remained on the FAC tactical frequency. When he notified NE 406 & 412 to switch to Invert frequency for flight-following we did so. Two Sandy A-1's from NKP who were RTB from Danang were vectored to our position inbound to NKP. Ejection occurred at about 1820 on the 120/16 from NKP with my wingman NE 412 and two A-1's observing the ejection. Once on the ground contact was established with the PRC-90 on 243.00 with Sandy 11. My position on the ground was established within one minute after radio contact. I was briefed to remain in that position and that the helo was on its way. Although I was not aware of it there were two additional Sandys who vectored to the SAR site when they heard the transmission on Invert frequency.

g. The AF has a PRC-64 with 3 or 4 channels. Why doesn't the Navy use the same one?

Recommendations. a. Although the possibility of sea survival for a Navy pilot is obviously more probable than a land survival situation, the land survival situation is currently the more potentially hazardous. The SAR experts at NKP advised me that pilots/downed crewmen if not rescued immediately are not currently being taken prisoner. I would like more substantiating statistics on the subject. Nevertheless, any decorated hardhat was the subject of considerable discussion, since it has quite a bit of reflective tape on it. I agree that for in-country SERE/SAR it is mandatory to be as inconspicuous as possible and I feel that I was just waiting to be seen. b. The question of whether to carry none, one or more radio/gun was discussed, and I feel that if capture is in fact not realistic that the guns might be an excellent idea. VA-25 carries 3 survival radios; a PRC-63 on the pilot, a Prego on the pilot, and a URT-33 in the seat pin.

g.3. I have been briefed that the A-1's of the 1st SOS(Special Operations Squadron) are to be turned over to SVN around 1 July, 1971. I wish to state empathetically that the primary factor in my rapid and seemingly easy rescue was the professional and thoroughly knowledgeable approach that the Sandys were observed to have. The 1840 recovery time did not leave much time to play around locating my position or in communicating with me, and it was very obvious that the Sandys knew what to do and how to do it expeditiously. I have also heard that the OV-10s' may take over the SAR requirements, and it certainly is required that the air wing personnel be briefed by the pilots flying the SAR aircraft whether it be an A-1 or an OV-10. I am quite interested in what capability the OV-10 has as a SAR aircraft. I realize the A-1's are in very obviously short supply; nevertheless, it is also the proper aircraft for SAR in terms of on station time and ordnance load capability.

h. Problem areas have been discussed in items f.9. No major problems areas were encountered, but there are several items that need be improved upon. One item I did not mention was the swaplink that Jest recommends. I concur absolutely! When I mounted the jungle penetrator it was difficult to stay seated on the small seat. I felt confident that the strap under my arms would hold me, but the additional snaplink would have been more expeditious and could have been used without impacting my of the penetrator.

I might mention that I had just been to JEST on 22 December, 1970. Thank God! The review was excellent in all respects except possibly a quick and dirty helo capability. Those pilots who for one reason or another "missed" school should go, and it should be made mandatory school. It is one of the truly few "No BS, only good info" schools' available today!

The URT-33 is presently not connected to the aircraft because the kits required for the installation are not available, but VA-L5 will not connect them up automatically anymore. Since we feel that the VC have a sufficient number of radios that they can use to home on the beacon. Additionally the beacon virtually eliminates use of 243.0 until it is shut off, and if evasion is immediate the URT-33 might not be deactivated, and this could easily reduce or eliminate the possibility of radio contact.

The PRC-63 was in my G-suit pocket ( I have an old G-suit!) but I removed it because I was concerned that it could break my leg/ankle if I didn't clear the leg under the instrument panel. My present survival vest is quite full and I have considered eliminating some of the 2 or 3 day survival equipment to ensure that I have proper 24 hour survival gear. I feel that if I can't get picked up in 24 hours I may not be picked up at all under the current situation.