Robert Johnson, FE/IO
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom and Da Nang, 1971-72

Robert W. Johnson was born in South Carolina in 1939. He attended school and graduated from high school in Weldon, North Carolina in 1956. Robert joined the United States Air Force on November 29, 1956 at Raleigh, North Carolina to better himself. From November to December 1956, he completed basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas.

Johnson immediately reported to Aircraft Mechanic School at Shepard AFB, Texas which he successfully completed in May 1957. In June, he reported to his next assignment at Eglin AFB, Florida as QB-17 Mechanic with the 3205th Drone Squadron located at Duke Field #3. Upon completing his duty with the 3205th in June 1958, Johnson was assigned to the 421st ARS (KB-50-J Mechanic)/67th Field Maintenance Squadron based at Yokota AFB, Japan from June 1958 until May 1960.

From June 1960 to September 1962, Johnson was stationed at MacDill AFB, Florida as a KC-97 Crew Chief with the 306th Air Refueling Squadron. After MacDill, Johnson served KC-97 Crew Chief duty with the 380th Air Refueling Squadron at Plattsburg AFB, New York from September 1962 until June 1964 when he received orders to report to the 317th T.C.S. C-47/T-29 (Transient Maintenance) at Dyess AFB, Texas where he served until September 1965.

In September 1965, Johnson received orders for his first tour in Vietnam and reported for duty at Nha Trang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam (RVN) as a C-123 Flight Engineer with the 310th A.C.S. Returning stateside from Vietnam in October 1966, Johnson reported for duty at Peterson Field, Colorado as a T-29 Flight Engineer, serving as such until March 1968.

From March 1968 to January 1971, Johnson was assigned to the 4413th C.C.T.S. at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio as a Flight Engineer and Illuminator Operator in AC-119G/K gunships. In January 1971, he reported to the 18th Special Operations Squadron for his second tour of duty in South- east Asia. He was assigned to the Stinger Flight stationed at Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, Thailand as an Illuminator Operator from January to July 1971 when he was sent to the Stinger Flight at Da Nang Air Base, RVN where he continued flying combat missions until his DEROS of January 1972.

It was March 5, 1971, during his time at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand, that Johnson and his fellow crewmembers had to abandon ship and bail out of their stricken Stinger gunship. Johnson has never forgotten or ever will forget the friends that he made while flying AC-119 gunships.

Returning stateside in January 1972, Johnson reported to his next U.S. Air Force assignment as a T-29 Flight Engineer with the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron (SRS) at Beale AFB, California. It turned out to be his last assignment with the Air Force. On December 1, 1976 Robert W. Johnson separated from the Air Force at Beale AFB. During his service in the USAF, Johnson was awarded, among many other awards and decorations, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal w/ Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Robert graduated from Pikes Peak Community College in 1983. He currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (See story of bailout)