I am a native Nebraskan; born at Beatrice in 1935, grew up in Blue Springs where I graduated from high school, and joined the Air Force in Lincoln on 12 February 1953. My Uncle who served in World War II on B-25s, was my inspiration to enlist and serve my country in the USAF.
I will always remember one night combat mission that we were flying on the perimeter at An Loc, South Vietnam. Ernie Cole was our Stinger aircraft commander. We fired on and hit a North Vietnam Army T-34 Russian-built tank, causing secondary explosions from the tank. On the same mission, an F-4 Phantom was making bomb runs on a target and was obviously concentrating on the target because he did not see our “blacked-out” gunship during his pull-out. The F-4 was headed directly for us. I immediately turned on our landing lights and went 100% on both J-85 jet engines as Ernie pulled into a climbing right break. Simultaneously, the F-4 pilot saw us, turned off his anti- collision light, went to after-burners, and turned on his landing lights as he shot by us, narrowly avoiding a mid-air collision. It was too close for comfort.