I was the NCOIC for the 18th Special Operations Squadron Stinger gunners at NKP, Thailand in 1972. The combat mission that I remember the most was over Laos. I was a gunner and scanner on the mission. Our squadron commander, Lt. Col. Mathews, was the aircraft commander for Stinger 23.
I was the forward scanner positioned in the open doorway of the NOS (night observation scope) and we were taking lots of Triple A. I called Triple A, 11 o’clock, Break Right, Break Right! All Colonel Mathews and the co-pilot heard over the intercom was Break – Break; therefore they automatically broke left. All other crewmembers heard my call to break right. The aft scanner (the IO located in the open doorway of the flare launcher) said we took a round close enough to the aircraft’s belly that he could have reached out and touched it. To compound our situation, another enemy gun started firing at us as we broke left. If we had in fact broken to the right as I had called, it’s very possible that I wouldn’t be writing this account. After things settled down and it got quiet on the intercom, someone blurted over the intercom, “Son of a Bitch.” Colonel Mathews responded with, “Who said that?” The answer was, “It was me sir, the aft scanner. We just took a round between the booms.” The Colonel’s response was, “Well, okay, but son of a bitch is not the right call.” There’s no doubt in my mind that someone up there was watching out for Stinger 23 that night.