Gary Hitzemann, Navigator
18th SOS, Da Nang and Nakhon Phanom, 1970-71
I was born on September 28, 1945, in Austin, MN. I grew up in Brownsdale, MN and graduated from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN in 1967 with a degree in psychology. I entered the Air Force on my birthday that same year. After my commissioning through OTS, I completed navigator training in January 1968, then went to Dover AFB, DE in the C-133A.
In 1970, I received orders to the AC-119K and trained as a FLIR operator. I left for Vietnam on my birthday in 1970. I flew 125 combat missions, about half from Da Nang and half from NKP. I completed my tour with three DFCs and nine Air Medals.
From NKP, I went to Pope AFB in C-130s and was part of the initial contingent that went to Howard to set up Central Command in 1972. I separated from the Air Force in September 1972 (on my birthday) and two years later entered a Master’s program in Architecture at the University of Minnesota. I have been a practicing architect since 1980.
I missed the military, so in 1975, I joined the Minnesota Air National Guard. I flew the C-130A with the Guard until retiring (on my birthday) in 1989 as a Lieutenant Colonel, having served my last three years as the 109 TAS commander. I have been married to the same woman, Diane Demmer Hitzemann, for 41 years. We have two daughters and two grandchildren. My life has been blessed beyond all hope or expectation, and the crew I flew with in Southeast Asia was the finest group of people one could ever hope to work with or know. I am a patriot, and I love my country.