Kenneth Ray Brown, IO
18th SOS, Bien Hoa, 1972
Staff Sergeant Kenneth R. Brown was the IO on Stinger 41 when it was shot down by anti- aircraft fire while defending An Loc on May 2, 1972. Sergeant Brown, Captain David (Rod) Slagle, and Captain Terrence (Terry) Courtney were lost when the aircraft crashed. Lt. Col. “Tash” Taschioglu, Lieutenants Jimmy Barkalow and Larry Barbee, and Sergeants Allen “Yogi” Bare, Francis “Ski” Sledzinski, Craig Corbett, and Dale Inman were able to bail out and were rescued.
Sergeant Brown was the jumpmaster for bailouts, and that primary role was to assure every crewmember’s equipment was on correctly, and that they made it out safely. As one survivor later wrote on the Vietnam Wall website, “It was you that made sure all the rest of us made it safely out of our AC-119K that day. Words cannot express the debt we owe you. You were there for us. You are a true hero. I shall never forget.”
Ken Brown was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1947. AC-119s were his second tour in Vietnam, and his brother, Mike, remembers the time before Ken went to Vietnam for that first tour. “It was the summer of 69 and Kenny was going to Vietnam in September. School was out for the summer and freshman year was behind me and looking forward to high school. Kenny came home on leave from Davis Monthan AB in Tucson. He usually would hang out with his buddies. But one day, Kenny just wanted to hang out with me and go for a ride in his VW Bug, it was awesome. This was the first time we actually just hung out and talked and goofed off. He asked if I’d like to take a road trip to see our sister, Anna, near Sacramento. He had to be in Washington state in a week for survival school. We left the next day for Anna’s and stayed for a couple days; then off he went to Washington while I stayed behind. A few weeks later he returned and stayed a couple days then off to Las Cruces. Kenny didn’t like any drugs and talked about that and girls, friends, school, brother to brother stuff. I was just 15 and he just wanted to watch out for me and let me know he loved me and cared about my future. Ken is 8 years older than me, so we didn’t really ever hang out together because of the age difference. About a week after we had returned Kenny and I were invited on a backpacking trip in the Gila wilderness. Kenny also liked the outdoors, hunting and fishing. We spent the next 4 days in the perfect setting. He taught me how to survive in the wild, fish for food and cook it with pots and pans.
I guess you could say that “we roughed it” for the 4 days … it is the best and clearest memory of him I have. I loved every minute. A week later he left for Travis and would stay with Anna for a few days before leaving for Vietnam. When he returned the next year he was stationed at McGuire AFB and didn’t much like it in New Jersey. He signed up for another tour so he could get stationed closer to Las Cruces when he returned. I miss my brother and miss having him around. I love Kenny and will never forget the lessons I learned from him in the summer of 69.”
Ken’s cousin, Randy Holbrook wrote, “We always thought Kenny flew cargo aircraft, dropping supplies. I knew the aircraft had a different design, but I did not know the aircraft type. Nobody mentioned gunship; dropping supplies is what Kenny did, flew a cargo plane. But once I found your website I learned a whole different perspective! We had not understood that Kenny flew with this type of aircraft or in such an extremely hazardous environment. Somehow, we believed Kenny was flying a cargo plane, not an attack aircraft; we had heard loadmaster and illuminator operator, and we assumed the plane was delivering cargo or supplies. Kenny also said he was in Thailand, so we felt he was away from harm’s way. I did not want to add any stress to any of my aunts, Mike or my Mother, but the information I shared was very important to them. They are so PROUD of their brother, Kenny, and still miss him so very much. I want to let you know how important it is to be able to have a great site like the AC-119 Gunship Association site available.”