Chapter Thirty-two: Sam Gets Shot Down and Rescues a Dog?

Kurdish Madtiff, bred and trained to guard livestock.

Iraq lost a total of 259 aircraft in the war, 122 of which were lost in combat. During Desert Storm, 36 aircraft were shot down in aerial combat. 3 helicopters and 2 fighters were shot down during the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990. Kuwait claims to have shot down as many as 37 Iraqi aircraft. These claims have not been confirmed. In addition, 68 fixed wing aircraft and 13 helicopters were destroyed while on the ground, and 137 aircraft were flown to Iran and never returned.

The Coalition lost a total of 75 aircraft ‒ 52 fixed-wing aircraft and 23 helicopters ‒ during Desert Storm, with 39 fixed-wing aircraft and 5 helicopters lost in combat. One coalition fighter may have been lost in air-air combat, a U.S. Navy F/A-18 piloted by Scott Speicher. Other claims include an RAF Tornado GR.1A piloted by Gary Lennox and Adrian Weeks., however the Tornado in question crashed to the ground due to pilot error on a different date than the supposed air-to-air kill is claimed to have taken place. One B-52G was lost while returning to its operating base on Diego Garcia, when it suffered a catastrophic electrical failure and crashed into the Indian Ocean killing 3 of the 6 crew members on board. The rest of the Coalition losses came from anti-aircraft fire. The Americans lost 28 fixed-wing aircraft and 5 helicopters; the British lost 7 fixed-wing aircraft; the Saudi Arabians lost 2; the Italians lost 1; and the Kuwaitis lost 1; the Canadians, on the other hand, lost 0. During the invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the Kuwaiti Air Force lost 12 fixed-wing aircraft, which were destroyed on the ground, and 8 helicopters, 6 of which were shot down and 2 of which were destroyed while on the ground.

While Papa Sam flew countless missions over Iraq and Kuwait, only a few were actually in combat situations. The vast majority of them were as protection details  for transport planes and high value individuals such as generals, and leaders and politicians on fact-finding missions. Most of these missions were in fact quite tedious and boring, so when he heard the warning that a missile was locked on his heat signature and was closing at supersonic speeds and all countermeasures had failed he had no option but to jettison to safety. In this case, discretion was the better part of valor, because there was no surviving a direct hit by a SAM, despite what the movies depicted, and it was always better to survive to fight another day. In case you are wondering, the quote is from the 2nd century AD Greek Historian Aeneas Tacticus and it states: “He that fights and runs away, May turn and fight another day; But he that is in battle slain, Will never rise to fight again.” Papa Sam considered himself to be a brave man he also had no intention of becoming martyr over the Kurdish countryside.

Since being shot down over Iraq was a life altering event for Papa Sam, I think it’s appropriate to spend a little time discussing exactly what the hell he was doing at the time.

When an American-led international coalition bombed Iraq
and drove the forces of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait in 1991,
it weakened his power. Rebellious Kurds in northern Iraq,
whom Hussein had brutally suppressed with chemical weapons three years earlier, launched a new uprising in early
March. When Iraqi government troops defeated the rebellion a
month later, threatening to repeat the massacres of the past,
more than a million Kurds fled to Iran and Turkey. Hundreds
of thousands more gathered on cold mountain slopes on the
Iraqi-Turkish border. Lacking food, clean water, clothing,
blankets, medical supplies and shelter, the refugees suffered
enormous mortality rates .
On April 3, the United Nations Security Council authorized
a humanitarian relief effort for the Iraqi Kurds . During the
first week in April, the United States organized a combined
task force for Operation PROVIDE COMFORT. Maj . Gen.
James L. Jamerson, USAF, served as first commander. USAF
C-130 cargo airplanes, which had deployed mostly from bases
in Germany to Incirlik AB, Turkey, began air-dropping relief
supplies directly to Kurdish refugees in the mountainous Iraqi
border area on April 7. They delivered about 600 pallets of
relief supplies per day, staging at Diyarbakir and Batman in
southern and eastern Turkey. But airdrops alone proved to be
inadequate . The refugees needed different quantities and
185th Fighter 21 st Special Operations 92d Air Refueling
187th Fighter 32d Fighter 93d Air Refueling
192d Fighter 43d Electronic Combat 114th Fighter
313th Tactical Airlilft 58th Military Airlift (later,
58th Airlift)
123d Tactical
352d Special Operations 67th Special Operations 911th Air Refueling
44th Fighter 91 st Air Refueling
Though the operation provided more types of cargo than those chosen for delivery, not enough
cargo reached the people who needed it most, and some items
actually landed on refugees, killing or injuring them. Moreover, the operation failed to address the root of the problem.
The refugees could not stay where they were, and Turkey,
faced with a restive Kurdish population of its own, refused to
admit them in large numbers . PROVIDE COMFORT, therefore,
evolved into a larger operation, with more than one phase, and
the use of American ground troops .
On April 17, 1991, Lt. Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, USA,
took command of the PROVIDE COMFORT Combined Task
Force, and General Jamerson became commander of the air
component . With United Nation’s (UN) approval, Shalikashvili
built temporary camps in northern Iraq and southeastern Turkey so that the refugees could come out from the mountains.
He could better identify the needs of the refugees once they
were in the camps . General Shalikashvili’s next step was to
enforce a security zone for the Kurds in northern Iraq so that
they would feel safe enough to return to their homes. Once
there, they would no longer need so many relief supplies . At
first, such a security zone required extensive coalition ground
and air forces . In a month, the Combined Task Force strength
grew beyond 20,000 members . Over half of these were Americans, but the forces of twelve other countries participated in
the operation.
Between mid-April and mid-July, General Shalikashvili and
his task force were able to accomplish their immediate goals
in the first phase of PROVIDE COMFORT. The Iraqi army
withdrew from a security zone that eventually embraced the
cities of Zakho, Al Amadiyah (Amadiya), Suri, and Dihok (Dahuk) and covered several thousand square miles. Shalikashvili
met periodically with Iraqi military officials to avoid misunderstandings. USN sea-lift ships transported cargo to ports in
Turkey for shipment by truck and helicopter to the Iraqi-Turkish
border area . USAF cargo aircraft, including C-5 Galaxies and
C-141 Starlifters, also moved thousands of tons of relief supplies from the United States to Turkey, flying via Germany to
Incirlik, Adana, and Diyarbakir. During the first twenty days
of PROVIDE COMFORT, C-5s and C-141s flew seventy-five
missions from the United States and Europe to Turkey. C-5s

also transported allied troops from Italy to eastern Turkey,
and from there they moved overland to Zakho . The Air Force
used C-130s to deliver cargo from eastern Turkey to Sirsenk
Airfield in the security zone . By mid-July 1991, USAF airplanes had transported more than 7,000 tons of PROVIDE
COMFORT relief supplies.
U.S. and coalition fighter aircraft provided air cover for the
PROVIDE COMFORT ground forces in the security zone . The
combination of air cover and ground forces, along with a
promise of some degree of autonomy from Baghdad, persuaded most Kurdish refugees to return to their homes. By
the end of May, only about 41,000 refugees remained in the
camps . On June 7, the United Nations resolved to send forces
to replace those of the American-led coalition, and by the
middle of July, the PROVIDE COMFORT Combined Task Force
withdrew from northern Iraq. A six-nation coalition ground
force remained in southern Turkey, ready to enter Iraq again if
necessary. Thus ended PROVIDE COMFORT I .
The second phase of PROVIDE COMFORT, which began in
mid-July 1991, enforced the established security zone with
U.S ., British, French, and Turkish air power. All PROVIDE
COMFORT II commanders, beginning with General Jamerson,
were USAF generals . Coalition ground forces withdrew from

southern Turkey at the end of September, increasing the burden
on the remaining air units. By the end of the year, USAF
members assigned to PROVIDE COMFORT still numbered
more than a thousand, but the number of U.S. Army, Navy,
and Marine Corps declined to less than 200. The coalition
enforced a no-fly zone over northern Iraq, north of 36° N, from
which Iraqi aircraft were forbidden. This no-fly zone covered
more area than the UN security zone on the ground .
PROVIDE COMFORT relied increasingly on fighters as its
primary missions evolved to enforcement of the no-fly zone,
reconnaissance over the area, and readiness to retaliate if the
forces of Saddam Hussein attacked the Kurds again. Humanitarian airlift, however, did not completely disappear. USAF
C-5s, C-141s, C-130s, and KC-10s, supplemented with coalition aircraft and commercial airplanes, transported 119 tons
of food and water and more than 4,000 bundles of clothing to
the Iraqi Kurds during the winter of 1991-92.

Parachute practice and how to survive being ejected from the cockpit of your fighter is part of a fighter pilot’s initial training. Of course, no pilot likes to think that this will happen to them but it is something that all cadets take very seriously. It was a good thing for Papa Sam that he was paying attention to his instructor on that day because everything he had learned was now helping him to survive. Of all the places that he could have been shot down in Iraq, he probably was in the best area. A great deal of Iraq is desert, but there are fertile regions as well. The northern Kurdish region near the city of Mosul has been described as the Pearl of the North. It is located next to the Tigris River and is quite lush and is known for its fertile farm land. Unfortunately, thanks to the fighting throughout Iraq, little farming was taking place. At least there would be water, and with the purification tablets provided in the pilot’s survival kit, he was in no immediate danger of dying from dehydration once he found the river.

Thanks to his training, he was able to survive his parachute landing without breaking either his neck or legs. Sure, he was dinged up a little but otherwise, he was none the worse for wear. Under normal circumstances, it is recommended that the pilot stay close to the downed plane because of the transponder aboard it. But in Papa Sam’s case, there was little left of the plane. So the chances that the transponder was still intact and transmitting were slim to none. So he didn’t want to waste valuable time waiting for a relief team that may never show up. Besides, there was little cover where he landed. That was of course by design, he had to admit he wasn’t the most experienced jumper in the air force, which if you look at it at this way, do you really want your pilot jumping out of their planes on a regular basis. Since Papa Sam had limited experience parachuting, he wanted the smoothest terrain to land on.

Now that he was safely on the ground, he needed some place with cover to give him time to re-group and make some plans. After a little scouting around, he found a place with some passable cover where he could rest in the shade and do some thinking.

He was escorting cargo planes going to Zakho and into Turkey, which was northeast from Tabuk. It was also 0830, so the sun would be in the east, so as long as he kept the sun on his right, he would be heading north or towards Turkey. He knew that he did not want to go back into Iraq because all the southern portion were crawling with Iraqi troops.

Since a great deal of relief supplies were being flown to Zakho for the fleeing  Kurds. There should be a way to communicate with his base. Zakho was approximately 120km from Mosul, which was where the SAM came from that knocked his F-16 out of the sky. Being dependent on water, he had no choice but to follow the Tigris River, which meant he would have to go out of his way some to do so.

Topographic map of Iraq

Another thing he had going for him besides the ready availability of water, most of Iraq was basically flat, though parts of Southern Kurdistan were quite rugged. It could have been worse because Afghanistan and Turkey were quite mountainous.

After plotting out his route with his compass and navigation map, he started walking. He knew if he continued due west, he would eventually come across the river. It took him several hours before he finally hit the Tigris River. By keeping the river on his left navigation would be quite easy as long he was able to follow it. The only downside of following the river was that everyone in the area was also dependent on it as a source of water, including the Iraqi army. To avoid discovery, he would have to travel by night while he followed the river.

While Papa Sam had never been a big lover of dogs or pets in general, that doesn’t mean it was OK with him if they were abused. Which is precisely what he witnessed as he was settling in for his nap. He witnessed what appeared to be two Iraqi deserters tormenting a large dog who was doing nothing but trying to get a drink of water on one of the inlets of the river. Not only were they hurting the hapless dog they were keeping him awake. They also had supplies that he needed, including two AK-47s, ammo, packs, and hopefully food as well. Besides that, they were the enemy. So he pulled out his service revolver and shot both of them. The fair thing to do would have been to warn them first but besides being the enemy, he was significantly outgunned. He had a single 9-mm pistol with only one clip, and they each had an AK-47. Even though he was concealed, the chances of him getting hit by even a stray bullet was very high, so despite how distasteful the act was he had no real choice in the matter. After disposing of the bodies, he took their weapons, packs, and supplies and brought them to his hiding place.

Only now he had a problem, he had a damn big dog that was following him every place he went. Papa Sam looked at the dog, and the dog tilted his head and looked back at him, and all he could say was, “Ah, hell.” So he motioned for the dog to come into his hiding area. The dog followed right after him. Papa Sam pointed for him to sit, and the dog complied. Papa Sam finally made a motion like he was going to lay down, and the dog thinking this was great fun promptly laid down.

Papa Sam quickly sorted through the packs and condensed everything into one pack. When he was done, he took the empty pack and bunched it up into a pillow shape, and laid down next to the big dog.

As the sun started setting, Papa Sam woke up and looked over and saw the dog sitting there watching him. “OK, since you have apparently adopted me, I will call you Sarge.” He took out some of the food from his backpack and divided it between himself and the dog. Even though the dog appeared to be starving, he did not touch the food until Papa Sam started eating, and then he virtually inhaled the food.

Papa Sam took his hydrating bladder and walked over to the river, and filled it up. He added a couple of purification tablets into the bladder, as Sarge drank his fill. He went back to his hideout and got the rest of his gear, and started his long trek towards Zahko. Sarge started immediately following behind him. There was no acknowledgment or communication between the two of them. Everything just seemed natural like it was meant to be.

The first night went by without any incidents. The terrain was easy to navigate, and they easily made roughly 30 km. They could have gone further, but the sun was starting to crest and besides, they had come across a nice area where they could hide while they slept through the day. Once they got situated, Papa Sam got the food allotted for that day and first gave Sarge his portion, as before he didn’t touch it till Papa Sam started eating. He marveled at how well-trained the dog was.

Before they started this nights leg, they ate their meal and completed their toilet after which they proceeded to start hiking. About four hours in, Sarge gave a low growl.  The dog had never done that before, so Papa Sam immediately stopped in his tracks. Within a few seconds, he heard the noise of someone crossing the trail up ahead. What a dog. He had just kept him from being discovered by an Iraqi patrol. Sometimes, things happen for a reason. Maybe this dog was his guardian angel. Little did he know how fortuitous rescuing this dog truly was. Not only would Sarge save his life a second time on this journey, one of Sarge’s offspring would save his son Peter’s life. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. That story will be told in the next volume.

The rest of the night went by uneventfully. The terrain however, was gradually becoming more rugged, so they were not able to cover quite as much territory. They had finally reached a time when they were going to have to leave the river behind and start cutting across the countryside if they were ever going to reach Zakho. Since they would no longer be following the river, the likelihood that they would encounter anyone was greatly lessened. Therefore, Papa Sam decided to only rest for a few hours before he started his journey again. Since the countryside was a little more rugged and he no longer had the navigational aid of the river, traveling by day was definitely in order.

He would have to use his compass and map and line of sight navigating the rest of the way to his destination. Frankly, he had become a little spoiled with the digital navigation on his fighter, so he was a little rusty. Even though the terrain was a little more challenging than what they had encountered on the first two nights, the better visibility provided by daytime travel more than made up for it. Besides, Papa Sam could sense that their journey was nearing an end. All these factors resulted in a much quicker pace being attained. The excitement he felt made him push on into the night. Eventually, about 0300, the lights from the camp came into sight. Even though he could see the US troops at the checkpoints into the town, he decided to wait till daytime to approach them. He knew from previous experience that troops tend to be more jumpy at night, and he certainly did not want to get shot by accident.

Besides, they were both exhausted, so they found a hollowed out area that provided some shelter from the wind that had picked up. There was no real need to hide from Iraqi troops since they were so close to US forces. After finishing up the rest of their rations, they quickly fell asleep.

Whether it was from shear exhaustion or finally reaching a safe haven, Papa Sam slept later than usual. When he finally woke up at 0820, it was to the face of Sarge who was just sitting there watching him. It was somehow reassuring to know that the large dog had been watching over him.  Especially when he saw the dead cobra lying not too far from him. Apparently, good old Sarge had saved his bacon a second time. He quickly cleaned himself up. He thought it best not to be carrying Iraqi gear with him, especially two AK-47 rifles to a military checkpoint, so he left them covered up in the hollow. He kept the ammo with him, just in case some young children found the guns.

Now that he looked fairly presentable, he and Sarge cautiously approached the checkpoint. As part of the recovery mission, Papa Sam’s ID photo had been copied and distributed to all military checkpoints in a 200-mile radius, just in case he had survived the missile strike. So when he approached the coalition troops, they pulled out his photo and quickly verified his identity.  The first thing the Sargeant at the gate said after saluting him, “Welcome home, Lieutenant Anderson, it is good to have you back. Everybody thought you were a goner.” Then he jokingly asked him if he road that horse all the way to the camp?

“No” replied Papa Sam, “but he sure did save my hide a few times in the last three days. So he is coming with me.”

The Sargeant called up HQ for a humvee to pick up Papa Sam and his special partner. Within twenty minutes, a humvee pulled up to the gate driven by Private 1st Class Strickland. When he saw Sarge the dog, he was slightly taken a back by his size but said nothing.

Papa Sam motioned for Sarge to get into the back of the humvee and he promptly jumped in. Once the dog was comfortably situated in the back and only then did Papa Sam get in the passenger seat. Meanwhile, Private Strickland and the Sargeant just looked on with wonderment.

The ride to the HQ was fairly quick. When they arrived Private Strickland said that Lieutenant Anderson’s dog would have to stay outside. Papa Sam pointed to a shaded corner and the dog jumped down and sauntered over to the corner and sat down on his haunches. Papa Sam asked the private if he could get some water for his dog as he entered HQ.

When Papa Sam entered the operations room, Colonel Bill Jackson was talking to one of his staff members. Papa Sam immediately came to attention and saluted the Colonel, who turned and saluted him back. The Colonel said kindly, “You look a little rough, son.”

Papa Sam tiredly replied, “Yes sir, it has been a rough three days. By my estimate, I covered well over 150km, mostly at night. My plane including my transponder was totally destroyed in mid-air by an Iraqi SAM fired from the outskirts of Mosul. I released countermeasures but the missile already had a lock. If I hadn’t immediately ejected from the plane, I would be pushing up daisies right now. The point of impact was too hot, so I decided my best option was to continue onto Zakho. Along the route, it became necessary to take out two of the enemy. If you don’t mind, sir, I need to notify my CO at King Faisal Air Base of my status.”

Colonel Bill Jackson kindly said, “Not to worry, Lieutenant, we notified your CO as soon as the Sargeant at the Southern checkpoint notified us of your presence. They are sending a C-23 Sherpa over to pick you up. It will take a few hours for the plane to arrive, so why don’t you go relax at the mess hall and get a bite to eat. You can also get something for the horse you brought with you.” The Colonel added chuckling.

After the Colonel pointed Papa Sam in the right direction to the Mess Hall he went out and collected his dog Sarge. The private was standing by the dog waiting for him.

When Private Strickland saw Papa Sam he explained, “It seemed like you really cared about the dog so I stayed with him to make sure he didn’t get into trouble.”

Papa Sam thanked him profusely, especially when he saw that he had brought a large bowl of water for his dog. He also had a belt and a length of rope with him. Private Strickland suggested that it might be a good idea for the dog to have a collar and a leash while he is in town, air base, or in the transport plane.

Papa Sam thanked him for his thoughtfulness and consideration. Well, here goes nothing as he took the belt and length of rope. Sarge gave a quizzical side glance as he approached him. He talked to him in a quiet and gentle manner as he put the belt around his muscular neck. The thirty-two inch belt barely fit around his massive neck. The dog remained calm and submissive to his ministrations. After the belt was on and he was still alive, he looped the short length of rope through the belt and tied it off. Sarge did not seem to mind in the least. He pointed to the direction of the mess hall and started walking the dog followed by his side with the leash dangling loosely. Obviously, Sarge had worn a collar before.

They quickly found the mess hall. Papa Sam had a feeling that Sarge could have found it on his own by just following his nose. He ordered five hamburgers without buns for his dog and he ordered one burger and fries for himself. He put the plate of burgers on the floor next to where he sat. Before he had taken his second bite Sarge’s hamburgers had vanished as if by magic.

When Sarge finished inhaling the burgers, he laid down next to his master with his massive head resting on his paws. Papa Sam finished his meal at a more pedestrian pace. It was nice to have a warm meal for a change.

He had just finished eating his food when Private Strickland came to inform him that his plane had just landed on the dirt airstrip outside the relief base camp. Papa Sam thanked Private Strickland as he and Sarge followed the private outside.

The flight back to the Saudi Base was uneventful. The pilot must have been informed about the Papa Sam’s dog because he did not seem surprised by his presence or when he hopped into the plane. It turns out that his dog was becoming quite famous around the bases and was already reaching celebrity status.

When he reached his air base, his CO Brigadier General James Frances was waiting to greet him and if truth be told, to see the now famous Sarge. Papa Sam saluted the General as he walked to the Command Center with Sarge. The General saluted back and walked up to them and exclaimed, ” So this the dog that killed a cobra while you were sleeping?”

“Yes, sir,” replied Papa Sam, standing at attention. “At ease, Lieutenant, I knew your father, I served under him in Korea. This is an old man being nosey. Can I pet him?” the general asked.

Papa Sam replied hesitantly, “Just a few hours ago, I would have said no, but now the more time I spend with him, the more domesticated he appears to be. So I would definitely say it is OK, I just recommend that you do it slowly, sir.”

General Frances gently patted Sarge on the head and Sarge licked his hand. “It appears, sir, that Sarge has taken a liking to you,” said Papa Sam.

“I think you’re right,” said the general smiling as he scratched Sarge’s ears and continued petting him. “We need to find a safe place for him to be housed while you are stationed here. I don’t think your quarters would be large enough for him,” continued the General. “I am assuming you would like to take him back to the US when you’re sent back home.”

“Yes Sir, I think my son Peter would love him,” reaffirmed Papa Sam.

“No problem, I will have Adjutant Colonel Sanders prepare the paperwork and put it in your file so that it is ready when that day comes. We will also need to make sure he has the appropriate shots as well. I am sure the Saudis will insist on it since we are only borrowing their base while we are at war with Iraq.”

The General finished petting Sarge and added, “It was good to have you back, Lieutenant. It is a big load off my mind that I did not have to call your father to tell him that you had been killed in action. I am also giving you a couple of days off so that you can recover from your ordeal.”

“Thank you, Sir,” said Papa Sam ss he saluted the departing General.

During Operation Desert Storm, Sadam Hussain ordered his fleeing troops to set hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells on fire between January and February of 1991. This created a massive environmental hazard. The wells burned for eight months until the last fire was extinguished in November of that year.

As the well fires were put out, Papa Sam and other pilots had to fly repeatedly over the wells in covering flights to ensure their safety. There was a concern that the Iraqi Army might attack not only the “hell cats” putting out the fires but try to reignite the well fires. No one from the General staff seemed to take into consideration what the ramifications of pilots repeated exposure to these fires would be.

Papa Sam flew routine flights over those fires for over six months right up to the last fire was put out. Even though the first Gulf War was over soon after the fires were set, Sadam Hussein was still in power, and he still controlled armed forces. Frankly, none of the coalition leaders trusted that he would keep his word. That is really the reason the US kept flying routine flights over the wells.

As a matter of fact, Papa Sam continued to fly over Iraq into early 1994 when it was finally deemed safe to leave. It was ascertained that if Hussein hadn’t caused any real problems by then, he was not likely to do so.

Around sometime in the early part of 1992 just before Papa Sam was scheduled for his yearly leave of absence, Tammy contacted him with the news that she wanted to file for a divorce. She said that she had not signed on for an absentee husband and father. Of course, Papa Sam tried to convince her otherwise. He said that he was scheduled to come home at the end of this month. Tammy finally agreed to hold off filing the papers until he got home.