Robert P. Frederick, Pilot
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom, 1971
Born in Medford, Massachusetts in 1944, I grew up in Wakefield and graduated from Wakefield Memorial High School in 1961. I graduated from Northeastern University located in Boston with a degree in Modern Languages in 1966. I then had a choice of enlisting or getting drafted. The recruiter said the Air Force paid an extra $100.00 per month if I became a pilot, so I joined in October 1966 and graduated from Officers Training School in January 1967. Then I reported for pilot training at Craig AFB, Alabama. We got so far behind the training time line due to bad weather that all the bachelors in my class were reassigned; I ended up at Webb AFB, Texas to complete T-38 training. My first assignment prior to flying the AC-119 gunship was with SAC as a B-52 copilot at Kincheloe AFB, Michigan.
I served in the 18th SOS from January thru November 1971 at NKP. I was lucky enough to spend the entire tour at NKP, Thailand. On one occasion, I did ferry a Stinger to Da Nang. One night in “Rocket City” was enough for me. I served as an instructor pilot during the last six months of my tour.
I’ll always remember trying (usually unsuccessfully) to keep Ollie (Howard Reid) and sometimes Stanley (Gary Hitzeman) sober, or at least mobile enough to get to their hooch. For my noble service WELL above and beyond the call of duty, my buddies nicknamed me, “De Debil” as in “De Debil made me do it”” (this was during Flip Wilson’s era on TV).
Two missions stand out during my tour. First, my Stinger crew was sent to Saigon to provide security for the “Saigon Commandos” at Ton Son Nhut during the Republic of Vietnam elections and we flew a rare daylight mission on 29 September 1971 as escort for a river convoy on the Mekong. For once, it was nice to see what I was shooting at. The convoy was the first successful one in several months.
The other mission that I remember was much more exciting. While flying over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the Barrel Roll area of Laos on 15 October 1971, we got “goal posted” by three rounds of triple-A. Goal posted means taking a triple-A round or rounds between the gunship’s booms. We were fortunate to take no hits to the aircraft. In fact, I was lucky enough to NEVER take a hit.
After returning to “the world”, I flew WB-57Fs at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico until mid-1974 when the planes were decommissioned. Then I went to Travis AFB, California and flew C-5s until I retired in 1987. I was fortunate enough to be hired by UPS in 1988 and flew right and left seats in the DC-8. Now I’m relegated to the back seat due to my advanced age (by decree of the FAA).
I currently live in Louisville, KY with my wife Janice and dog.