Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Golf to the Rescue

I just accidentally stumbled over the story of 'Gene' Hambleton, an Air Force Navigator who was shot down and then rescued in during Vietnam. The rescue is the stuff of legends:

After the failed air-rescue attempts, it was decided that Navy SEAL Lt. Thomas R. Norris and a small team would infiltrate enemy lines and attempt to pick up Hambleton and Clark at the nearby Cam Lo River.

Aware that North Vietnamese radio monitors understood English, the radio message from a forward air controller in the area told Clark, an Idaho native: "Get to the Snake, make like Esther Williams and float to Boston" -- go to the river and swim east.

Hambleton, however, was much farther from the river than Clark and would have to maneuver around enemy-occupied villages and gun emplacements.

Rescue planners, who had discovered that Hambleton was one of the best golfers in the Air Force and had a vivid memory of the courses he had played, came up with a novel idea: guiding him to the river via a series of specific golf-course holes that had been provided by his golfing buddies.

As Hambleton recalled in a 2001 interview with Golf Digest, the planners told him, "You're going to play 18 holes and you're going to get in the Suwannee and make like Esther Williams and Charlie the Tuna. The round starts on No. 1 at Tucson National."

Hambleton said it took him awhile to figure out they were giving him distance and direction: "No. 1 at Tucson National is 408 yards running southeast. They wanted me to move southeast 400 yards. The 'course' would lead me to water."

You can read more about the rescue here and here.

And if reading isn't your thing, you can watch the movie.

Using Golf courses as a means of communicating navigation points? If that's not a brilliant hack, then I don't know what is.

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