By Martin W. Bowman
The C-130 Hercules first flew in 1954, an easily maintained aircraft which entered service with the USAF Tactical Air Command. Ten years later the 'Charlie 130' was providing the essential logistical support in Vietnam where a new landing technique, the Khe Sanh approach, added to the Hercules folklore. Paradrops, airlift and evacuation operations were completed around the clock, often at low level, usually under fire and nearly always in bad weather. AC-130 gunships blasted the Ho Chi Minh Trail at night, Lamplighters and Blind Bats dropped flares, and others scattered defoliant, 'pancake bombs' and 15,000 'Big Blue' block-busters. But more than anything else it was in the role of 'Trash and Ass hauler' that the C-130 earned unstinting admiration from ground troops and aircrews alike. The 'Herky Bird' or 'Fat Albert', as the C-130 is fondly known, went on to serve with similar panache in the Gulf War and in humanitarian relief operations around the world. Today, the modern C-130J version continues to provide the effective support for which the Hercules name is renowned.