Waco, TX was my birthplace in 1943. I graduated from Bellaire High School in 1961 and Sam Houston State University in 1968. I joined the United States Air Force in April 1968 in San Antonio to fly, fly, fly. I separated from the USAF on 9 March 1974 to enter commercial aviation.
As a First Lieutenant, I was assigned to C Flight of the 17th SOS at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, RVN from December 1969 to November 1970. I flew my first combat mission on Christmas Eve 1969. We flew mostly in III Corps and the Mekong Delta the first five to six months of my tour and, thereafter, almost always in Cambodia. After serving my time in the right seat, I was upgraded to aircraft commander. I flew the first C Flight daylight mission in Cambodia. That was very exciting after flying only night missions. We didn’t know what to expect. One of the most exciting combat missions that I remember flying was an intense TIC (troops-in-contact) at Fire Base Brown in May 1970. I was co-pilot for aircraft commander Gary Weaver. The FE was Smolinski. Other supporting aircraft at the TIC included Army Cobra gunships and C-130 flare-ships. The large number of flares launched in the area created a localized overcast sky condition which got lower and lower throughout the mission. We ended up firing at somewhat below “A” altitude – 2500’ AGL and received substantial enemy 50 caliber ground fire. We took a hit in the left engine oil cooler and a hit which severed the right elevator cable but remained on target. At sunrise, we assisted the FAC with target identification for F-100 air strikes. Fire Base Brown was not overrun and our Shadow was directly responsible for dozens of Regular NVA troops killed. Our crewmembers were awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses for this mission.
I’ll always remember the outstanding crewmembers in C Flight and the uneasiness felt at liftoff after the loss of Shadow 78.