In April of 1965, MiG 17s were first noted in offensive posture, and on July 25, an USAF RB-66C aircraft intercepted FAN SONG B from North Vietnam, signaling the operational introduction of the SA-2 GUIDELINE missile system.
These significant developments, coupled with the expanding air war, made it clear more on-track time was necessary. On September 3, 1965, VQ-1 first deployed an EC-121M “Willy Victor” (PR- 21, BuNo 135749) to Da Nang full time. This marked the establishment of a permanent VQ-1 detachment at Da Nang. Spooks assigned to these missions were ordered directly to “Senior Naval Aviator, COMFAIRECONRON ONE Detachment, Danang, Republic of Vietnam.” The official establishment of a collocated NSG detachment was still a few years away.
Missions over the Gulf of Tonkin (Da Nang to Da Nang) commenced September 5, 1965. A small contingent of NSG personnel was assigned TAD, all from NCSP. Ops tempo was heavy from the very start. During the first month 32 Willy missions were flown, despite five days lost for an engine change. Phil Szpiech, one of the first Petty Officers in Charge, recalls flying nearly 200 hours per month during late 1965. Initially there were no Chiefs, and the Petty Officer in Charge (POIC) duties fell to three CTI1s – Damon L.“Sal” Godfrey, Don Boggs, and Phil Szpiech. NSG officer evaluators started flying about this time; one of the very first was LT(jg) David R. Patterson.
By LCDR Robert E. Morrison, USN (ret.)