Robert Andrews, Gunner
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom and Da Nang, 1972-73

Robert Donald Andrews was born at San Luis Obispo, California in 1949. He graduated from San Luis Obispo High School in June 1967 and enrolled in Cuesta Junior College. To avoid getting drafted into the Army, Robert gladly joined the United States Air Force to do service to his country. He entered the Air Force in Los Angeles on February 11, 1969.

He completed Basic Training at Lackland AFB, Texas at the end of March 1969 and was assigned to Weapons Mechanic School at Lowry AFB Denver, Colorado from March through July 1969. From Weapons School, Robert was assigned to the 475th Munitions Maintenance Squadron; 475th Tactical Fighter Wing stationed at Misawa, Japan from September 1969 to March 1971. From March 1971 to January 1972, he was assigned to the 307th Munitions Maintenance Squadron of the 307th Strategic Wing stationed at U-Tapao Air Base, Thailand.

Andrews completed Survival Training at Fairchild AFB Spokane, Washington during January and February 1972 before reporting at the end of February to Hurlburt Field, Florida for AC-119K Gunship Training as an Aerial Gunner (AG). Upon completion of gunship training in early May 1972, Robert departed the States for Southeast Asia and the AC-119K Stingers of the 18th Special Operations Squadron stationed at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand (known to American fliers as NKP). From May to December, NKP was home base for Robert with TDY’s (temporary duty stations) at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). In December 1972, he was assigned to Stinger gunships based at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam where he completed his tour of duty in January 1973.

One mission stands out

Of the many combat missions that Andrews flew, one Stinger mission flown from Ben Hoa stands out. For four consecutive nights, his Stinger was providing fire support for an Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) outpost located in the Mekong Delta. The Viet Cong (VC) were determined to overrun the outpost and kill everyone which included American Advisors. One night, the VC were on the verge of destroying the outpost, having made it through the wire to infiltrate the inner compound. The American Advisor radioed Stinger to rake the entire compound with mini-guns, all friendly troops were in protected bunkers. The Stinger efficiently and effectively hosed the entire compound area with thousands of 7.62mm rounds, cutting down many attackers and causing the VC forces to retreat and ultimately to discontinue any further attacks on the outpost. Saving the lives of several Americans along with a few ARVN troops was most rewarding for Andrews and his fellow-Stinger crewmembers.

Another memorable event for Andrews occurred while stationed at Da Nang. Just before the end of the Vietnam War, a flight of US Navy and Marine F-4s dropped several 500 lb. bombs on Da Nang Air Base, destroying one AC- 119K Stinger gunship and setting fire to a large fuel storage tank. The signing of the Paris Peace Agreement on January 27, 1973 brought about the end of war in the Republic of Vietnam for American combat forces.

Robert’s memories of Stinger gunships and Southeast Asia focus on the people he served with and grew to know as brothers; the aircrews, aircraft maintenance troops, munitions troops, survival equipment personnel, and even intel and weather briefers. As Robert wrote, “I have not met a greater bunch of people before or since and I will always remember them all.”

Upon returning stateside, Robert Donald Andrews separated from the Air Force on February 1, 1973. Andrews was awarded the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, Expert Marksmanship Medal and the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross with Palm Cluster.

Robert currently lives in Grover Beach, California.