Robert Eckstein, FE
71st SOS, Nha Trang, 1968-69
My home town is Kokomo, Indiana. I was born in Batesville, Indiana in 1942 and graduated from Batesville High School in 1960. I joined the U.S. Navy in June 1960 and served on active duty until May 1964 when I joined the Reserves, serving to 1966. I still wanted to stay in the aircraft career field so I joined the United States Air Force in July 1967 at Bakalar AFB, Columbus, Indiana. I retired from the USAF at Grissom AFB, Indiana in February 1997.
I was a flight engineer on the AC-119G gunship with the 71st Special Operations Squadron at Lockbourne (now Rickenbacker) AFB, Ohio in May 1968. I served in the 71st SOS at Nha Trang Air Base, RVN from December 1968 to June 1969.
The most exciting times in Vietnam were anytime we found a truck convoy or a herd of elephants on the trail. I loved to see those secondary explosions. I had only one engine failure during my tour in Vietnam and that was at Nha Trang upon landing. I don’t remember the pilot’s name but the co-pilot was Col. Johnston.
My best buddy in Nam was Bernie Westendorf. I will always remember the full effort by everyone in our unit, but also the frustration of being held back from fully doing what we were trained to do.