William L. Jowers, Pilot
18th SOS, Phu Cat and Nakhon Phanom, 14th SOW, Phan Rang, 1969-70
William “Bill” Jowers was born at Middlesex, North Carolina in 1935. Pocomoke City, Maryland is where Bill lived and attended school, graduating from Pocomoke High School in 1953. Four years later in 1957, Bill graduated from the University of Maryland and was commissioned an officer in the USAF through the ROTC program. Bill wanted to fly and that is the reason he selected the Air Force. He was in the first class of ROTC students who earned a Pilot’s license through the Flight Instruction Program at Maryland. After college, he entered active duty at Lackland AFB, Texas.
First assigned to Spence Air Base, Georgia for Primary Flight Training in the T-34 and the T-28, Bill then received Advanced Flight Training (AFT) in the T-33 at Webb AFB, Texas. Following AFT, he was sent to Randolph AFB, Texas for KC-97 Orientation Training and was assigned to Malmstrom AFB. From Malmstrom, Bill was sent to Castle AFB, California for KC-135 training. He attended AF Survival School at Stead AFB, Nevada.
From 1959 to 1964 Bill was assigned to the 97th Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) at Malmstrom AFB as a KC-97 pilot. From 1964 to 1966, he flew KC-135 tankers with the 7th ARS at Carswell AFB. Bill was then assigned as a KC- 135 pilot to Clinton-Sherman AFB, Oklahoma from 1966 through 1968.
Bill was then assigned to the 18th Special Operations Squadron at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio for training in the AC-119K gunship. After completion of training, he was selected to ferry a gunship from Lockbourne to Vietnam. Shortly after arriving in Vietnam, he was sent to Clark AFB in the Philippines for Jungle Survival Training. Bill served in Southeast Asia from November 1969 to November 1970. He was an AC-119K Stinger aircraft commander and instructor pilot at Phu Cat Air Base, RVN from 1969 to early 1970 when he was assigned to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base (NKP), Thailand.
On February 5, 1970, Major Bill Jowers didn’t duck soon enough and caught a 37 millimeter AAA shell in his Stinger gunship just below the co-pilot’s seat. All communications and most of the engine and flight instruments were lost. Three crewmembers were wounded, the IP (Bill), the AC and the FE. Read details in the following War Story. Sometime thereafter, Bill was assigned as Gunship Liaison Officer with the 14th Special Operations Wing at Phan Rang AB, RVN where he completed his Vietnam tour of duty.
Returning to the states, Bill was assigned to Griffiss AFB, New York, initially in the Flight Test Division of Rome Air Development Center (RADC), USAF Systems Command. He then became Flight Commander of Flight Test Division Jet Section, Chief of Plans, and finally Executive Officer to the Commander of RADC. During this time, Bill flew the NKC-135 as an IP and a Standardization Check Pilot. With twenty years military service to his country, Bill Jowers retired from the USAF at Griffiss in September 1977.
After retirement from the USAF, Bill worked for Midlands Technical College (MTC) in Columbia, South Carolina, becoming the Assistant Dean of Continuing Education. After 21 years with MTC, he retired again. He now enjoys playing golf, five wonderful grandchildren and most of all his lovely wife, Fran of nearly 50 years of marriage.
Bill’s memories of his AC-119 Stinger gunship experience center on the super group of professionals that he encountered in the U.S.A. and in S.E.A. Bill was in the initial group to train in the AC-119K gunship that required much teamwork and patience from instructors and students alike. His experience in ferrying a “K” from Lockbourne to Vietnam was an unforgettable flying adventure.
His gunship crews in S.E.A. were the best he could ever hope for. They were dedicated to the mission and brave in combat. This was proven on the night when his Stinger was hit by enemy triple-A. Every crewmember performed exactly as trained to do with little or no direction.
Bill Jowers was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star, Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart for combat action in the Vietnam War.
On February 5, 1970 while flying a truck kill mission over the Ho Chi Min Trail, AC-119K #53-7826 with the call sign “Rose” took a 37mm shell just below the co-pilot’s position which exploded inside the aircraft. The damage included, but was not limited to, loss of electrical control of both jet engines (both went to idle), loss of all radios and outside contact with anyone, and loss of almost all electrical instruments (both flight and engine indicators). Three of the crew members were wounded which included a foot wound to the pilot, glass in the eyes of the flight engineer, and numerous pieces of shrapnel, glass and plastic in the face and legs of the instructor pilot in the right seat. Using the only heading information available, the magnetic compass, a heading was determined for Da Nang AB and a turn was made to this heading to try a landing at that location if possible. After the turn was made we received the only radio message of the return trip when our escort advised us that if our intention was to land at Da Nang, we needed to turn almost 30 degrees south of our present heading. We made this correction and fortunately one of the persons in the aircraft with us that night was an F-4 pilot who had been stationed at Da Nang before he began flying cover for us out of Phu Cat. His knowledge of the area around Da Nang was instrumental in establishing our exact position and the location of terrain and other important landmarks near the base.
After flying out over the South China Sea east of Da Nang, we jettisoned all items that we could throw out the door which might cause fire dangers on landing. This included all flares, ammunition and such. Fortunately, we didn’t sink any Navy ships that we know of, as we were in and out of rainstorms in the local area. After the jettison operation was completed, we turned back to Da Nang and with the assistance and guidance of the on-board F-4 jock, we lined up with the runway at Da Nang. As we had no radio contact with the base, we had to rely on the fact that someone had advised them we were in the area and intended to land. Since we had to lower the gear manually, it was lowered as we began our approach and visually checked. Using the minimal instruments and indicators we had available, Captain Boozer made an outstanding approach and landing.
After touchdown, we turned off the runway and shut down the aircraft and exited ASAP!!! I think that most of us were surprised at the size of the hole in the fuselage and the amount of internal damage that had been done behind the instrument panel and below the crew compartment. We were greeted on the taxiway by almost everyone in the 18th SOS detachment led by Major Fred Sternenberg, the detachment commander, as we stopped on the taxiway. This was probably due to the fact that we were the first aircraft to receive significant AAA damage in the squadron. After a brief visit to the Flight Surgeon’s office, a SMALL celebration was had by all before retiring for the evening. The next morning the crew went out and looked over the aircraft and it was then that the extent of the damage and the realization of how lucky we all were became evident to all concerned.
I later learned a few interesting facts that are almost uncanny. The crew number for this crew was 13. The Aircraft number was 826. I have been advised that the crew lost later in the tour was crew number 13 and was flying aircraft 826.
This Stinger War Story is submitted by the following members of Crew number 13 that were onboard aircraft number 826 on 5 Feb 1970:
William L. Jowers (IP)
Gordon Boezer (P)
Joe Taub (Nav)
Bill Biden (FLIR)
Jim Brickle (NOS)
Don Ebbeson (FE)
Jim Forney (IO)
As of the printing of this book, the three gunners on Crew number 13 have not been identified.