Kjell Lorang “Ole” Hoelstad, IO
71st and 17th SOS, Tan Son Nhut, 1969-1970
I was born at Oslo, Norway in 1936. My family immigrated to the United States in 1950. We lived in Winnetka, IL and I graduated from New Trier High School in 1955. Because the U.S. Air Force was the best choice for me, I enlisted in March 1956.
Following are my USAF assignments by years: 1956-58, 36th Air Rescue Squadron at Johnson AB, Japan; 1503rd FLMS at Haneda and Tachikawa Air Bases in Japan; 1958- 64, 90th Air Refueling Squadron, Forbes AFB KS, 97th Air Refueling Squadron, Malmstrom AFB MT; 1964-65, 34th CAMRON (Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron) at Bien Hoa AB, RVN where I maintained C-47s, including the original AC-47s “Puff the Magic Dragon” of the 1st Air Commando Squadron; 1965-66 C-47s at Malmstrom AFB MT; 1967-68, test flew EC-47s with R-2000 engines as flight mechanic at Grenier AFB NH and 1969-70, AC-119G Shadow IO at Tan Son Nhut AB RVN. From 1970 to 1974, I was assigned to units at Malmstrom AFB, MT flying the C-47 and T-29. I was then assigned to the Strategic Missile Wing at Malmstrom as Launch Control Facility Manager, Branch Chief, 341st CAMS (Minuteman Missile Site Management) from 1974 (graduated from NCO Academy in 1976) until my retirement as Master Sergeant at Malmstrom in June 1978.
I was an Illuminator Operator in the 71st and 17th Special Operations Squadrons. I was assigned to the C Flight at Tan Son Nhut AB, RVN from June 1969 to May 1970. I flew on Lt. Col. Buckley’s crew and then Capt. Griesnik’s crew. I was airborne, flying missions, during the crashes of Shadow 76 and Shadow 78 at Tan Son Nhut. I knew both crews very well.
I lived at the Merlin Hotel in Saigon while assigned to C Flight at Tan Son Nhut along with all other Shadow enlisted aircrew members including my best buddies, Carl Vanderlaan, Abe Moore, John Bergin, and Virgil Zins. I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with seven (7) Oak Leaf Clusters for aerial combat action in Southeast Asia.
I graduated from College of Great Falls, Montana in 1982 with a B.A. degree in History and Political Science. My wife, Orpha Jo, and I have lived in Norway since 1983, but now have relocated to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Glyndon, MN is the place to be.