William “Bill” R. Isham, IO
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom, Da Nang, and Bien Hoa, 1972-73
Lakewood, Ohio was my birthplace in 1950. I grew up in North Olmsted, Ohio where I graduated from North Olmsted High School in 1968. I joined the Air Force on 18 December 1969 in Cleveland, Ohio and subsequently reported for basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas. I joined the Air Force because my father flew B-17s in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and served thereafter in the USAF Reserves. He enjoyed it so much that I wanted to do the same.
I served with the 18th Special Operations Squadron in Southeast Asia, arriving at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand on 26 April 1972 and departing the Vietnam War at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam on 5 March 1973. I was a Stinger gunship illuminator operator (IO), flying out of air bases at NKP, Da Nang, and Bien Hoa at various times.
My most exciting mission by far was my last AC-119K mission when I had to bailout of “Old 839” on 1 March 1973. That mission cannot be explained any better than the excellent account written by my aircraft commander, Lt. Col. Roy A. “Tony” Simon. His story of “The Bailout of Stinger Eight-Three-Nine” tells it like it was. I will never forget the men I flew with during my tour of duty in Southeast Asia. And I have not forgotten the many stories and experiences I have been able to share with my family and friends.
I separated from the USAF at Langley AFB on 17 December 1974 as a Staff Sergeant. My wife of 39 years, Janet, and I live in Jacksonville, Florida where I retired on 1 February 2007 from CSX after a 38 year railroad career with the Penn Central, Conrail and CSX Railroads.