Major Meredith G (Andy) Anderson was the Nav/NOS on Shadow 78 that crashed at Tan Son Nhut on April 28, 1970. He was 37 when he died. Others who we lost in that crash were 1st Lt. Thomas Lubbers, 1st Lt. Charles Knowles, MSgt. Joseph Jeszeck, SSgt. Robert Fage, and Sgt. Michael Vangelisti.
Andy was born in 1932 in Elmira Township, Illinois. After graduating from Viola Community High School in 1950, he attended Northern Michigan College and Mississippi State before volunteering as an Aviation Cadet in November 1952. His family remembers him telling them the reason he joined was that the Air Force was a new branch of the service and a great way to travel and see the world.
Andy’s family remember several stories he wrote or told them about that were among his most exciting:
One of those was the night he flew in III Corps in January, 1970 where they went north of Saigon to support the 1st Cav Division. The ground troops heard some noise around their camp, so their Shadow fired their mini-guns all around the friendly’s camp. Next day, patrols discovered the bodies of 24 enemy soldiers. Andy wrote of another January mission, “A pretty good firefight in Kien Ghiang province. We fired 30,000 rounds and were fired at by 500 rounds of 30 cal. Quite heavy. But we caused damage to sampans and antiaircraft gun emplacements.”
A third mission that Andy identified as one of his more exciting ones involved his Shadow 78 crew at Firebase Chan Lang that was under mortar attack. In his own words, “Quite exciting. Saw the camp start firing out, then incoming start coming in. We mixed it up with 50 cal – I looked right down a gun barrel on one of our turns – got a good position on it.”
Andy told his family that the two things he would remember most about his time in AC-119s were that “It always felt good to know we were helping the guys on the ground, that we were making a difference.” and his Hawaii R&R with his wife Betty.
Lee Jordan (Anderson) and Dale Anderson, Andy’s children, remember their time together with some of his crew during AC-119 training: The summer before our Dad went to Vietnam (summer 1969), he was training to crew on the AC-119G. We as a family got to travel with him and spent most of that summer living in various hotels in Ohio. lt was that summer that my brother and I perfected our jackknife dives as we spent most of our time playing in the hotel pools. Dad occasionally would bring home one of the guys so that they could spend some time away from the barracks, and with a family. My mother would always try to put something together, and this usually meant working with limited resources.
One day Dad brought home a young guy, we believe his name was either Tom Lubbers or Charles Knowles (crewmembers from Shadow 78). He was a nice guy and spent time with my brother and I in the swimming pool. I never forgot him because he taught my brother and I how to do the “swan splash”. This is one of those fun splashes designed to make a big splash as you enter the water. We had lots of fun that day and years later I would teach my children that same splash. Whenever I do it, I always think back to that day and that guy who taught it to me.
We had lots of fun that summer and I have some great memories of our time together as a family, and I am so very glad we had that opportunity. lt would be our last time together as a family because as fall approached, my brother and I were back in school and quite soon after that, Dad left for Vietnam. He would not return home as he was one of those killed in a plane crash at Ton Son Nhut Air Base on April 28, 1970.
Major Anderson’s career started as an Aviation Cadet, with assignments as an Aircraft Observer Radar Bombardier and on KC-135s, followed by AC-119s. His decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumous) and Air Medal (1st through 5th Oak Leaf Clusters).