Dale E. Cartee, Navigator
18th SOS, Da Nang, 14th SOW Phan Rang, 1970-71
I was born in 1933 in Baxter Springs, Kansas. I grew up in Buhl, Idaho and graduated from Buhl High School, June 1951. The Korean War started while I was in high school. I earned my B. S. Ag. Ed at the University of Idaho in June 1955 and was commissioned through the ROTC program. I entered active duty in November 1955. In 1969, after completing an M.S. at San Diego State College, I received orders to the 18th SOS at Phan Rang AB. From there I was sent PCA to Da Nang AB where Larry Juday, Doug Frost, Mal Morrison and I joined Mike Newmeyer’s crew. Jim Curran replaced Mike as A/C after Mike rotated home. I served as the Navigator on the crew until I was reassigned to the 14th SOW Headquarters Standardization Section at Phan Rang in October 1970. There, I had the honor of flying with the crews of both the 17th SOS and the 18th SOS at all the forward operating locations in Vietnam and Thailand. In the K model, the Nav and FLIR flew behind the blackout curtain. As an evaluator, I flew in the jump seat and got to see all of those tracers the rest of you called out over the trails.
We had an exciting moment one night with John Hodgson (Ops Officer) flying in the right seat as IP. We were coming in for landing at Da Nang when John and I saw something moving on the approach end of the runway. As I was pushing the intercom button to say, “Go Around,” John was pushing the throttles full forward. We cleared the tail of a Navy fighter by about 10 feet. The Navy plane had no landing or anti-collision lights on. He had taxied onto the active runway without tower clearance and obviously didn’t look up final where we were coming with all lights on. We had a few heartfelt words with the Navy Ops Officer. Things I will always remember about my time with AC-119 gunships include the coldest winter of my life while training at Lockbourne AFB, OH, the good friends I served with at Da Nang, and the mission when we thought we were firing at trucks only to discover they were actually elephants. I will also not forget the close support missions (3 the same night) for a Ranger company down by the Cambodia border when they had us firing within 10 meters of their perimeter.
After Vietnam, I was assigned as a Radar Navigator in B-52s with the 96th Bomb Wing (SAC) at Dyess AFB, TX. In February 1972, the Wing deployed to Guam and during the next 18 months I flew 143 combat missions over North and South Vietnam from Guam and U Tapao, Thailand. Upon returning to Dyess I became the Current Operations Officer for the 96th Bomb Wing, then Commanded the 96th Avionics Maintenance Squadron (the best job I ever had in the Air Force). A year later I became the Dyess AFB Mobility officer. I retired in July 1980, as a Lt. Col. with 25 years’ service and 4,935 hours of flying time in USAF aircraft.
I then went to work in the Trust Department of First National Bank of Abilene where I managed the real property held in trusts and estates as well as oil and gas properties. I retired as a Vice President and Trust Officer in June 1998. In retirement, I stay busy traveling, playing golf and serving non-profit organizations in Abilene as a volunteer. I am currently a member of the Board of Directors of the 12th Armored Division Memorial Museum Foundation, and the Board of Directors of the United Way of Abilene, where I will serve as the Chairman of the Board for the coming year.