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News > Feature - Records detail MiG kill by 'Diamond Lil' tail gunner
'Diamond Lil' kill
The B-52 Stratofortress known as "Diamond Lil" sits near the north entrance of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., Dec. 23, 2010. Diamond Lil's tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, shot down a North Vietnamese MiG on Dec. 24, 1972. Diamond Lil came to the Academy after it was decommissioned in 1983. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Don Branum)
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Records detail MiG kill by 'Diamond Lil' tail gunner

Posted 12/23/2010   Updated 12/23/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Don Branum
U.S. Air Force Academy Public Affairs

12/23/2010 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- If the Air Force Academy's landmarks could speak, the B-52 Stratofortress near the north gate would have quite the Christmas Eve story to tell.

The crew of the B-52D, tail number 55-083, took off from Utapao Royal Thai Naval Airfield that day in 1972. Their mission was to bomb the North Vietnamese railroad yards at Thai Nguyen as part of Operation Linebacker II, which took place Dec. 18-29, 1972.

However, unlike present-day bombing missions, Diamond Lil's crew faced enemy air power. A North Vietnamese MiG-21 raced to intercept the B-52, callsign Ruby 3, and her crew. The Buff's tail gunner, Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, noticed the MiG's approach.

"I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o'clock, low at 8 miles," he wrote six days later in his statement of claim for enemy aircraft destroyed. "I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o'clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.

"When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts."

Another gunner, Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute, verified the kill in his report.

"I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away," wrote Sergeant Chute, who was a gunner in Ruby 2. "Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position."

Airman Moore's kill is one of only two confirmed kills by a B-52D in the Vietnam War and the last confirmed kill by a tail gunner in wartime using machine guns.

Following the MiG kill, Airman Moore said, "On the way home I wasn't sure whether I should be happy or sad. You know, there was a guy in that MIG. I'm sure he would have wanted to fly home too. But it was a case of him or my crew. I'm glad it turned out the way it did. Yes, I'd go again. Do I want another MIG ? No, but given the same set of circumstances, yes, I'd go for another one." Moore died in 2009 at age 55.

Linebacker II brought the North Vietnamese government back to the negotiating table after earlier talks had broken down. A month after the campaign, North Vietnam and the United States signed a ceasefire agreement.

Diamond Lil continued serving long after the end of the Vietnam War. In all, it flew more than 15,000 hours and more than 200 combat missions between its commissioning in 1957 and its decommissioning in 1983. It came to the Academy shortly after it was decommissioned.

9/22/2013 12:45:48 PM ET
I was part of the crew that put this B-52 up on the pedestals. Former USAF 81-89
8/27/2013 12:08:12 AM ET
As a co-pilot I flew 55-0083 on an ARC LIGHT sortie out of Kadena on April 26 1970. It was joy to see her so well taken care of at the Academy.
Bill Smith, Las Vegas NV
1/24/2011 4:10:42 PM ET
I flew this aircraft on a mission into North Vietnam as co-pilot.Hank HoffmanColonel RetiredClass of 1963
Hank Hoffman, Deerfield Beach FL
1/10/2011 6:41:07 PM ET
I am confused perhaps someone can clarify. I have a photograph of a B52D serial 55 0074 which was taken in 1973. The acft was on duty at the rock Andersen AFB Guam. The acft had two red stars displayed next to the SAC emblem to the rear of the cockpit. I was told that they represented Mig Kills attained during two separate Ball Games...missions over Nam. Does anyone knows 074s history Thanks.
John M, South Florida
1/8/2011 12:55:10 AM ET
Diamond Lil is probably the best kept B-52 on display anywhere hats off to the U.S. Air Force Academy for keeping this historic aircraft in such great shape She's sitting in a rightful place admired by many and serves as an inspiration for those graduating cadets who seek the B-52H as their choice of aircraft.
Mike Kaplan, Falcon Colo
1/6/2011 5:37:40 PM ET
It was my distinct pleasure to serve with a number of gunners in my time in B-52Gs thankfully in peacetime. In G models they sat in the seat beside me instead of in the tail which must have been difficult in a long mission. Not only were they a professional bunch but they were terrific people who made crew life a lot more fun too. Thanks to them all.
John Venable, Perth Australia
12/28/2010 4:38:25 PM ET
The future officers attending the academy need to understand it may be the actions of an enlisted troop covering their six that allows them to survive and therefore never take the contributions of the enlisted troops for granted. That airplane and the Airmen onboard wouldn't have survived if not for the actions of the enlisted force. That is true of all aircraft.
Jerry, Oklahoma
12/27/2010 8:20:05 PM ET
Well, perhaps because the students attending the fine institution there need to learn about the contributions of the enlisted force and the value of same. A lack of enlisted interaction is one of the major failings there perhaps Lil can be a large, very large symbol of the enlisted corps to the young men and women.
stump, colorado
12/24/2010 2:31:07 PM ET
All us gunners thought it was strange that a B-52 best known for the accomplishment of the enlisted crewmember ended up at the Air Force Academy and not Lackland. C'est La Vie
Scott Smith Best B-52 Gunner in SAC 1985, Charleston SC
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