Anton “Tony” Frank Bautz, Pilot
18th SOS, Phan Rang, Da Nang, Tan Son Nhut, and Nakhon Phanom, 1970-71
Novi Vrbas, Yugoslavia was my birthplace in 1931. I graduated from high school in Augustinerschule, Friedberg, Hessen, Germany in 1951. After arriving in the USA as a legal immigrant on September 5, 1951, I joined the USAF in January 1952 and eventually applied for Pilot Training. I became a U.S. Citizen in November 1953. After taking required aptitude and physical tests, I started Aviation Cadet Pilot Training in February 1954. I graduated in May 1955 at Goodfellow AFB, Texas as Pilot (Class 55N) and as Second Lieutenant Bautz, USAF.
In 1970, I was assigned to the 18th Special Operations Squadron as an aircraft commander and instructor pilot. I flew 137 combat missions, most of them at night, as well as several day missions over Cambodia. On most combat missions, we encountered 37mm AAA over Cambodia and heavy ground machine gun fire. Our aircraft occasionally ended up with several bullet holes, but no major damage. We also participated in TIC (troops-in-contact) missions in support of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps Units. We supported ARVN and other allies (Cambodian units) as well. Most of our combat missions consisted of armed reconnaissance (truck hunting) missions over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Basically, most missions were exciting in the context of finding and destroying enemy military positions, vehicles, and material.
The thing I remember most about my time with AC-119 gunships was that crew coordination and cooperation during combat missions was always outstanding. We developed close friendships based on mutual respect, reliance, and expertise among fellow crewmembers; some friendships developed during those years have lasted until present times. In retrospect I shall always recall my exposure to Vietnamese and Thai customs, foods, and visits to shrines. At Nakhon Phanom, several among us also visited Thai Grade Schools, taking the children some treats, and introducing them to the sights and sounds of Americans. We also had some squadron parties and got to know many of our fellow-airmen, as well as our Detachment Commanders. I often think back to our maintenance men who did an outstanding job in keeping our AC-119K Stinger Gunships in excellent flying shape.
The hardest part of my combat tour was being away from my wife and sons. Especially sad was the loneliness on Christmas Eve 1970. I am proud of having been part of the USAF Gunship Operations during the Vietnam War.
I graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering in 1965 and I graduated from Texas A&M University at College Station with a Master of Science OCN in 1974. I retired as Major from the USAF with twenty years active duty service at Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas on January 31, 1972. During those years, I accumulated approximately 5,900 flying hours.
My flying experience was mainly in C-119, C-123, C-47, C-124, U-3A, T-29, and AC-119 aircraft. However, during 1959, while flying test flights at Tinker AFB, I also got flying time in T-33, C-45, JC-97 and KC-135 aircraft. My wife, Renate, and I currently live in Willow Park, Texas.