John R. Funk, FE
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom, Da Nang, and Bien Hoa, 1972-73
I was born on 22 July 1945 to Oliver and Myrtle Funk. My father was an Army career soldier; the family was sent to Pearl Harbor Hawaii after the war (WWII). Later we went to Mannheim Germany for 3 years. After returning, we spent the remainder of my father’s career in Ft Riley Kansas. I didn’t have the money to attend college, and my father had been a career Army man, so I joined the Air Force upon graduating from High School (no one in our family had ever served in the USAF and I started my career when I enlisted in the AF on 15 August 1963. After basic at Lackland AFB, TX, I completed technical school at Sheppard AFB, TX in Aircraft Mechanic school on B-36 Bombers. My first assignment was to Bergstrom AFB where I served as 3rd wiper on B-36 56-3911.
After my first year I volunteered for Nam. I got accepted and was sent to school on the C-47. Little did I know it had 3 50 cal guns. I got assigned to the 4th SOS and after 3 years got promoted to E-5. I was next assigned to McClellan AFB, CA, went to flight engineer school, and was assigned to the 554th ABCCC. Did 3 tours to Korat AFB, Thailand flying C-121R Models through 1968, when I left the 554th and headed to Ubon, Thailand flying the early C-130E Spectre gunship, where I served 1 year in the 16th SOS. I returned to Langley AFB 36th Tactical Airlift Squadron; our mission was rotations to Mildenhall, England, Frankfort Germany, Panama, and CCK.
I then volunteered to go back to Vietnam, and in late 1971 got an assignment to the 18th SOS, NKP Thailand. After all the schools at Lockbourne Ohio and Hurlburt Field, Florida, I finally arrived in NKP Thailand March 1972. I started flying thereafter and stayed until the end.
All of my flights in the AC-119K were memorable and exciting. All the people were top notch. We had each other’s back while in the air, and on the ground we respected each other’s alone time.
One mission I remember well. Took place out on the 4 – 5 splits. While chatting with our FAG, we ran across several trucks on the trail. We blistered them with 7.62 first than we were ready to clean it up when all hell broke loose. We were getting peppered, when all the sudden the scanner screamed break right. I think we were all in shock in the amount of rounds that we were getting. Our Pilot cranked it over hard right, and accidently left his finger on the trigger. Well, the only harm that does is light up the sky with tracers until they hit the ground; which for us resulted in a direct hit on an ammo dump. The explosions were easily heard and felt. I think we all had a big laugh and went about our jobs. The rest of the night was uneventful.
Flew some out of Da Nang and Bien Hoa, then I had the honor of flying the last Stinger flight of the war. After turning in all of our gear, AC Col. Dick Ring, a Co-pilot, and myself were selected to deliver a Stinger gunship to the South Vietnamese Air Force in Saigon. We were told to take all of our gear including our personnel belongings. After the delivery we were directed to “get out of Saigon the best way we can”. After arrival in Saigon and we taxied into the holding area, we departed the airplane and walked over to command post to see what options we had in getting out of Saigon. We were told that the North Vietnamese delegations had just landed and if we did not want to be arrested, that we should be looking for a way out. So we moved out of the way and watched the delegation deplane, but decided we should get serious about getting out of Saigon. Just as we turned around and started to walk away, a C-130 from my old squadron taxied into the operations area. After down speeding, the Flight Engineer deplaned and we both recognized each other. I ran over to him and asked if they had room for 3 more. He radioed the pilot and he gave a thumbs up. And that is how we got out of Vietnam. They headed back to NKP, and dropped us off where personnel set us up for a return to the states. My decorations include 6 Air Medals.
My last assignment was to McChord AFB, WA, 8th MAS where I spent my last 12 years flying the C-141 Star Lifter before retiring Feb 28, 1986. I earned my College Degree from the University of Illinois in 1977 and I eventually worked 25 years with Boeing Commercial Airplane Co as a Customer Quality Engineer, supporting American Airlines, KLM, Delta, US Air Force C-32A, and China Eastern Airlines.