Osborn, one of the apparent front runners in the GOP Senate race, is firing back and this new assault doesn’t look like the last.
One of Osborn’s crew members, Master Chief Nick Mellos, is talking loud and clear about just what happened April 2, 2001 when their Lockheed EP-3 “was cut down out of the sky” by a Chinese fighter jet over international waters.
In an email paid for by the Osborn campaign, Mellos gives a blow by blow description of the flight’s frantic final minutes—”Looking up at the ocean is never a good feeling”— before landing on a Chinese held island where crew members spent the next two weeks being questioned before their release.
As for that “questioning” Mellos adds, “Shane will fill you in on those details later in the week.”
Although Osborn was awarded the Navy’s Distinguished Flying Cross his decision to surrender has been criticized. But that criticism has been dwarfed by Osborn’s decision to release a memo backing his split-second choices.
“While the facts in the memo are correct and it was intended to clarify the issue, the manner in which it was handled was regrettable, and I take full responsibility,” Osborn said last week.
The now controversial memo wasn’t authorized by the Navy, but written by an unnamed Osborn friend at the Pentagon.
Prior to the memo mess Osborn had made the China incident a key part of his campaign and the focus of his first TV ad.
As for Mellos’ email (in full below) he concludes with these words: “I am thankful for (Osborn’s) leadership. I know he would exhibit the same leadership qualities in the U.S. Senate. He would never leave a crew member behind, and I know he would never leave a fellow Nebraskan behind.”
Stay tuned for Osborn’s “details.”
Osborn, Sid Dinsdale, Bart McLeay and Ben Sasse are battling for the GOP nomination. The primary is May 13 with the winner set to take on Democrat Dave Domina in November.
Nick Mellos’ email (paid for by the Osborn campaign):
I was a member of Shane’s crew, and I want you to know what I remember about the experience and Shane’s leadership.
This was a pretty ordinary day – a Sunday. Our mission began early at 3:45.
We had to reschedule the flight a few times because of thunderstorms. We were pretty excited about the opportunity to finally take this mission.
Having flown over the South China Sea before, we were accustomed to seeing Chinese fighters in the air near our plane. Flying over international waters near the Chinese coast, it’s really not surprising they wanted us to know they were watching.
But as months passed, the Chinese fighters got closer and closer to our wing.
During the last 10 minutes of this particular mission (we were literally getting ready to fly back home), Shane shifted over to autopilot and received a call from the back of the plane.
“Hey, he’s right off our wing. He’s tight. That’s the closest I’ve seen…”
As the Chinese pilot came up on the right side of the plane the second time – just a few feet away from us – Shane suspected he’d drop and fly back to China.
But his flight was unstable. He dropped back and flew by a third time. That’s when we knew something bad was about to happen.
There were screams from the back of our plane as the Chinese fighter pitched up into us.
Our plane shook violently. There was a loud pop – the nose of his plane hit ours. He shot off to the side and we were upside down before anyone knew what was going on. Shane was trying to stop the plane from going completely inverted.
We were all pretty certain we were dead at that point.
The plane was completely upside down, and we’d lost our nose. We could hear the wind screaming through the plane, and we knew that number one propeller was violently shaking
Shane did everything he could to keep the plane from spinning out of control. The plane just wouldn’t respond. We were in an inverted dive and we lost about 8,000 feet, upside down, and as the airspeed came on, the plane finally rolled out of it.
At that point, we had a runaway propeller that was missing large chunks and violently shaking and we tried to get that shut down, but it wouldn’t shut down.
The plane lost its airspeed, so we couldn’t tell how fast we were going. There was a lot of noise in the cockpit; we’d obviously depressurized with the holes in the nose.
Shane put full power on the other three remaining engines, but we were still screaming out of the air. It wouldn’t hold the altitude up that high with all the drag, so it took to about 8,000 feet before we could hold the altitude.
Some of the guys in the back kept their parachutes on, but if the plane started to fall apart, the prospects of survival weren’t going to be good.
We approached an airstrip on Hainan Island and were able to land.
During the entire ordeal, the crew in the back were destroying sensitive instruments and information in case the Chinese captured the plane.
As Chinese soldiers surrounded the plane, we slowly shut down the engines to give us time to communicate with folks back home.
Once we were forced off our place, Chinese troops took us to their barracks and guarded us there. Over the next 12 days, they would take turns questioning us…
I just wanted you to know that – because of Shane’s tremendous leadership throughout this ordeal – we were able to land safely, rather than crash into the South China Sea.
I am thankful for his leadership. I know he would exhibit the same leadership qualities in the U.S. Senate. He would never leave a crew member behind, and I know he would never leave a fellow Nebraskan behind.
Master Chief Nick Mellos