I was born in Evansville, Indiana in 1940. After graduating from Bosse High School in 1958, I soon found out that good jobs were far and few between in the Evansville area, so I joined the United States Air Force in February 1960.
I served in the 71st SOS from April 1968 to July 1969 as a loadmaster/illuminator operator at Bakalar AFB, Indiana; Lockbourne AFB, Ohio; and Phan Rang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. We had many exciting and memorable missions in Vietnam. One evening mission turned into a true dusk to dawn marathon, as we fired 68,000 rounds and launched 12 flares in three sorties. Another mission, among many, that left our aircrew frustrated was flying for hours tracking lights on the ground, but we could not get clearance to fire. With no clearance, we broke off at dawn to RTB.
In Tay Ninh Province at Black Mountain (Nui Ba Dinh Mountain), we arrived to find Huey gunships flying low attacking enemy positions on the mountain. When they had to leave for fuel and ammo, we were tasked with attacking the mountain gun sites of 51mm AAA. During this attack, while working between guns 2 and 3, one of our gunners, Sgt. Greg Terrell, was blown across the cargo bay to the right side of the aircraft. I reached him and determined that he had been hit, but not too severely. The pilot was told what had happened, and being close to Winchester (out of ammo), we broke off our attack and flew to Tan Son Nhut for medical assistance. After landing and parking, an inspection of the aircraft showed 20 hits.
I will always remember the time I spent in gunships as most enjoyable. My training into a new aircraft system was a great experience. The times at Phan Rang when we got together with our Aussie friends will always be remembered. A fellow crewman getting hit will always be a memory both good and bad, good in that the injury was not severe. My time with the 71st Gunship Squadron was a part of a long association with this unit, both on C-119s and AC-119s.
After Vietnam, I flew on C-130s as a loadmaster, spent 3 years in the Army with an artillery battery, and after retraining for the 4th time, served as munitions maintenance supervisor with the 434th TFW, 930th Maintenance Squadron. After 26 years of service, I retired from the Air Force as a Master Sergeant at my last duty station, Grissom AFB, Indiana in December of 1986.