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· retired firefighter
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the rescue of Bat 21 Bravo, the call sign for Iceal "Gene" Hambleton, a navigator aboard an EB-66 aircraft shot down behind North Vietnamese lines, was the "largest, longest, and most complex search-and-rescue" operation during the Vietnam War.[1][2] Five additional aircraft were shot down during rescue attempts, directly resulting in the deaths of 11 airmen, the capture of two others, and another airman trying to evade capture.
On 2 April 1972, the Easter Offensive, the largest combined arms operation of the entire Vietnam War, was in its third day. An early morning flight of two United States Air Force EB-66 aircraft was led by Bat 20, piloted by Lt. Col. Robert Singletary. Hambleton was a navigator aboard Bat 21. The two aircraft were escorting a cell of three B-52s. Bat 21 was configured to gather signals intelligence, including identifying North Vietnamese anti-aircraft radar installations to enable jamming. Bat 21 was destroyed by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile and Hambleton was the only survivor, parachuting behind the front lines into a battlefield filled with thousands of North Vietnamese Army soldiers.

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