Combat Control supports 1960 USAFE Humanitarian "Operation Road Grader" in Kashmir by
S. (Bull) Benini, CMSgt, USAF (CCT)
William A. Fitzgerald, TSgt, USAF (CCT) Retired
thru18 December 1960 at the request of the Pakistani Air Force, USAFE
airlifted 600 tons of cement and 64 tons of heavy construction
equipment from Peshawar Air Base and airdropped them over Chilas ,
Kashmir to assist a road-building project in Northern Pakistan. Six
C-130s of the 322nd Air Division based at Evreux, France flew a total
of 55 sorties during the project, known as Operation Road Grader.
Four USAF Combat Controllers of the 5th Aerial Port Squadron were
tasked to support the mission.
Buck Evans, MSgt. Alcinde Benini, TSgt. Charlie Drew and SSgt. William
A. Fitzgerald jumped at Chilas, Kashmir. Buck Evans and Charlie Drew
were from the 5th Aerial Port Squadron Combat Control Team at Evreux,
France while Alcinde Benini and William Fitzgerald were from the
Detachment of the 5th at Wiesbaden, Germany.
Arrival to the Deans Motel in Peshawar with (pictured) Pakistini
escort, Buck Evans, Bill Fitzgerald, Bull Benini, and Charlie Drew
Mission Brief, Parachute in and control air drops in support of the
mission. We were never told of any particular name for the
mission, only that we were supporting the Pakistanis in their effort
against India over the disputed rights to Kashmir. And, that the
mission was tasked by the State Department. We were also briefed that
the Pakistanis were going to build a runway, not a road. We really
don't know what they built after we left, and the mission was
classified for quite a few years.
Evans pretty much jumped Hollywood, Benini had a Griswald Container
with a shot gun , Charlie Drew had a Griswald Bag with a fishing pole
and I had a GP bag full of shotgun shells (you can't believe how heavy
that sucker was). The Air Attaché arranged to have booze
dropped to us upon request (every other day if memory serves me right).
The drop zone was a “rock pile”
next to the Indus River. There weren't any maps or photos of it. We
were a few hundred feet from landing before we got to see what it
looked like. It was a field of rocks! We were very lucky that nobody
broke any bones. No medics, no nothing, just a lot of rocks.
The locals couldn't believe
that we had jumped from an airplane. That was beyond their ability to
comprehend. It was amazing how isolated they were then.
Most of our equipment was dropped via an A-22 container. We had a
portable VHF set and PIBAL equipment. Since the 130's were briefed to
fly up the valleys below radar they could not get a decent CARP so we
had to provide the winds aloft for them to figure their CARP. That was
mostly my function.
We stayed in an old stone
building nearby. It had a fireplace and a dirt floor but otherwise was OK
(better than sleeping outside). Our diet consisted of c-rations and Partridge
(the shotgun and shells came in handy).
On the 21st of December we started
out for our pick-up point which was Gilgit, approximately sixty miles from our
location. We rode some, walked some, crossed over wooden
suspension bridges and over several landslides.
Question to William A Fitzgerald: Did you travel by Camel Caravan?
Response from William A. Fitzgerald: No, they weren't our
mode of travel from Chilas to Gigit. It
would have made for a good ending though if it were true. A local
pointed the caravan out to me ( it was below the road we were on )
while enroute to Gilgit and I thought it was too good of a picture to
pass up. We traveled by jeep when possible and foot when not. They
wouldn't let us ride in the jeeps going across the bridges as they
didn't know how much weight they would bear and they only let one jeep
cross at a time. Often you could look straight down from the side of
the jeep and see the Indus River or a small valley around a thousand
feet below. It was breathtaking to say the least.
Above; Bridge to Giget; Buck Evans, Bull Benini, Pakistani, Charlie Drew, and Bill Fitzgerald walk across this bridge
The Pakistanis had an old Bristol Freighter at Gilgit to take us back to Peshawar, Pakistan.
We departed Peshawar on the 23rd of December and landed in France on
the 24th. Benini and I had to get back to Wiesbaden but on the 24th of
December nothing was flying. So, after a call to the Division
Commander, they laid a 130 on to fly us and one Christmas Tree to Rhein
Main. Benini and I made it home to Wiesbaden around midnight of the
24th. Our families had given up hope of our being there for Christmas so they were really surprised.
| SECRET OPERATION; ROAD GRADER
|Above are the pictures of the operation in Kashmir in 1960. The
color pictures were ones that I took and scanned into my computer. The
black and white ones were taken by an Air Force photographer who was
assigned for historical purposes (I guess that means that there is a
file somewhere in either the AF archives or the State Dept. archives)
The black and white ones were classified for several years (no one
significant knew I took color pictures or had some) and were sent to me
eight years later with the classification on the back of the photos
marked out by a black marker. They told us the classification was due
to the fact that we were helping an ally (Pakistan) against a friend
(India) in a disputed territory.
The photographer was flown into Chilas by a Pakistani light plane about
five days into the mission. The pilot landed on a dirt road (the only
available spot at the time ) discharged the photographer and then took
off telling us he wouldn't be back to pick him up since he didn't
consider the road an adequate or safe runway after using it. So, they
had to airdrop a sleeping bag and some clothes for the photographer as
he was stuck with us. He enjoyed it as he had never experienced
anything like mat before.
We were not all that far from the Chinese border which was the main
reason the 130's flew a route that kept them in the valleys and under
radar contact. Every evening around five or so we would see a plane
come from the direction of China, fly over about five thousand feet
above us then turn around and head back towards China. I guess he was
taking pictures and checking our progress............... Fitz
|Special Thanks to Red Ghormley for the above information!