Larry Elton Fletcher, Pilot
17th SOS, Tan Son Nhut, 1970-71
I was born in Moniteau County, Missouri, on August 15, 1943. After graduation from California High School, California, MO in 1961, I graduated from Missouri State University in Springfield with a B.S. in Education in 1965. To avoid getting drafted, I enrolled as a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri in Columbia and graduated in 1966 with a Master of Education degree. I taught high school and coached at Kankakee Westview HS, Illinois during 1966-67 and St. Charles HS, Missouri during 1967-68 before joining the U.S. Air Force in St. Louis in June 1968.
Upon commissioning from OTS at Medina ’68 and graduation from UPT at Randolph Oct ‘69, I selected the AC-119 gunship because it had guns and immediately entered the Vietnam War “pipeline”. Survival Training at Fairchild, C-119 Training at Clinton County AFB, AC-119 Training at Lockbourne AFB, and Jungle Survival School at Clark AB preceded my May 1970 war zone entry point at Cam Ranh Bay. From there, it was a mortar/rocket overnight at Phan Rang AB where I was assigned by 17th SOS HQ to C Flight at Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon, RVN. From May 1970 to May 1971, I flew the majority of my 177 combat missions over Cambodia. I flew as co-pilot for just about everybody in Fighting C Flight until I checked out as aircraft commander – Shadow 27.
I was designated Outstanding Junior Officer of the 17th SOS and was nominated by the 14th SOW for Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year. I was awarded the DFC with OLC and the Air Medal with eight OLCs for duty in SEA.
Upon completion of my Vietnam duty, I was assigned to “Dog Patch Airlines”, 4650th Combat Support Squadron, Air Defense Command at Richards-Gebaur AFB, K.C., MO, flying C-119J “Boxcars” as line/instructor pilot in CONUS and Canada. I was promoted to Captain and accepted a commission in the Regular Air Force. The 4650th was deactivated and I reported for duty in August 1972 with the 2048th Communications Squadron, AFCS as Operations Officer for American Central NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) facility, concurrently flying Convair T-29s as a support pilot (Taxi Driver for SAC Generals) for SAC 7th Bomb Wing, Carswell AFB, Texas.
Upon learning that my AF future was SAC and B-52 bombers, I resigned my regular commission and was honorably discharged on August 15, 1973; subsequently I was assigned to the USAF Ready Reserve. On December 5, 1986, I was honorable discharged from the Air Force Reserves. After leaving active duty in ‘73, I immediately returned to teaching and coaching at St. Charles, MO before entering school administration. Utilizing the GI Bill to further my education, I earned the Educational Specialist degree in 1981 and the Doctor of Education degree in 1984, both degrees from the University of Missouri at Columbia.
I retired from public school teaching and administration in 1997 to devote full time to writing which initially began with publishing Moniteau County Schools History 1810-1984. Since then, I have published two novels about AC-119 gunship combat in the Vietnam War. Shadows of Saigon – Air Commandos in Southeast Asia and its sequel The Shadow Spirit – Flying Stingers and BUFFs in S.E.A.
My wife, Sue and I reside at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. We have ten grandchildren.