Alan “Jake” Jaeckle, Pilot
18th SOS, Da Nang, Phan Rang, Tan Son Nhut, Nakhon Phanom, 1969-71
Chicago, Illinois was my birthplace on October 28, 1945. I grew up in Covina, California and graduated from Covina High School in 1963. I then entered the five- year program for architectural design and graduated in 1968 from Texas A&M University at College Station. Being a member of the Corps of Cadets, Squadron 5 aka ‘Filthy Fifth’, I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant upon graduation. I always wanted to be an officer in the Air Force rather than being a drafted ground pounder.
Upon graduation from pilot training at Randolph AFB in October 1969, I entered the “pipeline” to Vietnam, having selected an AC-119 gunship. Training at Clinton County and Lockbourne AFB, and Survival Schools at Fairchild and Clark helped prepare me for my 12-month tour of duty in S.E.A. Assigned to the 18th SOS, I flew Stingers out of Da Nang, Phan Rang, Tan Son Nhut (TDY), and NKP. My last assignment in the Air Force was flying the Air Evac DC-9A (Frankfurt Germany) throughout Europe. I separated from the USAF as a Captain in January 1975. My wife, Beverly, and I currently live at Reunion Ranch (Picnic Ranch) in Terrell, Texas.
One truck hunting mission flown out of Da Nang stands out as my most exciting. Major Tony Bautz was in the left seat, firing away at a truck on the Ho Chi Minh Trail when a scanner yelled, “Triple A, Break Right!” Bautz stopped firing and immediately tried to break right but could not turn right because of my resistance on the yoke. I resisted because of the upcoming stream of enemy ground fire I saw out my co-pilot window to our right. Simultaneously, the scanner yelled, “I mean Break Left! Break Left!” A barrage of bright 23mm ZPU yellow tracers instantly shot past the nose and right wing of the aircraft. If we had broken right, we would have taken a direct hit.
Scared to death is what I was at Da Nang when I was headed to Hong Kong on leave from NKP. It was on the third night of my four-night stay at Da Nang while waiting for my orders. I was in the barracks with my old Da Nang buddies, Dick Henderson and Jeff Ilston, when the VC launched a rocket attack and ground assault on the base. Sirens went off and everybody in the barracks quickly left for battle stations at assigned Squadron locations, leaving me alone in the barracks. Automatic weapons were firing everywhere as rockets continued impacting the area. I had no place to go, so I got under the bunk and pulled the mattress over me. I felt utterly helpless with no weapon or survival equipment. Surviving the attack, I caught a Marine C-130 (strapped to the cargo compartment floor) to Tan Son Nhut for my flight to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Airlines. I’ll never forget the wet wash cloths provided by the Cathay stewardess. After checking in at the R&R center in Hong Kong, the first thing I did was rent a motorcycle and tour the city which was high on the taboo list of things to do.
I will always remember owning a Honda 90 motorcycle at Da Nang. I helped build five Honda 90s from parts kits ordered from Japan. I’ll always remember my roommates at Da Nang, Dick Henderson and Jeff Ilston. Dick was also my roommate at NKP.
My TDY to TSN from December ’70 to January ’71 was exciting. Flying missions in Cambodia, including daylight missions with Major Bautz were special. We didn’t need an interpreter onboard to speak to the French-speaking ground commanders. Bautz could speak French. I also flew with fellow-Aggie, Major Jerry Jones, on a number of missions.
My “Sa-wa-dee” (final) flight at NKP ended without taking off for Barrel Roll. After our original sortie was cancelled, the crew was put on ground hold and we sat alert for three hours. Daylight was fast approaching and the mission was finally scrubbed for good. Fire trucks showed up at the aircraft. I departed the aircraft and took off like the trackman I once was. Nobody caught me to hose me down. And to this day, I regret that I didn’t get hosed.