Albert Robert “Bob” Krueger, Pilot
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom, Bien Hoa, and Da Nang, 1972-73
My birthplace was Preston, Maryland in 1934. I was a farm boy and grew up on a farm. After I graduated from Preston High School high school, I tried college at John Hopkins University. College didn’t like me and I didn’t like the college, so after a year, I went back to the farm. Then the Army got after me, so I decided it was time to make a jump and do something to escape the Army draft. I found out about the cadet program and joined the Air Force as a cadet on 28 July 1954. I finally got my commission, got my wings, and went into Strategic Air Command. I flew the KC-97 at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, and the KC-135 at Mather AFB CA and Plattsburgh AFB, NY. For fifteen years, I kept volunteering for Vietnam and all I got were Korean assignments and I just kept turning those down. Finally, in 1972, I got my Vietnam assignment as an AC-119K Stinger gunship pilot with the 18th Special Operations Squadron.
I went through the normal training in Ohio and also down in Fort Walton Beach, Hurlburt. I went over to Southeast Asia on my birthday, the 30th of June, ’72. I got over in NKP and went for an orientation or a check-out in Bien Hoa for two weeks, then back to NKP. Then they selected me as an Operations Officer in Da Nang so I went up to Da Nang as Ops Officer for the next nine months-until the cease fire in December. We still stayed there and then they decided to make our outfit a training outfit. We had a Vietnamese 119 squadron and we trained them for the K models. It was very enjoyable. We stayed there until somewhere near the end of March.
At the end of March, they disbanded the group and I went down to Saigon and ferried five or six old C119s over to the Philippines. Then I came back to the States. I had one more year to serve for my twenty year hitch. They gave me my choice of assignments and I took Andrews Air Force Base and retired out of Andrews in 1974.
I actually can say I enjoyed my tour in Southeast Asia. I believed in what we were doing there and I would never have told my wife, but I volunteered to stay. I drug my feet leaving there. I didn’t want to leave. I felt like we left Vietnam with our tail between our legs and we should never have left that way. There wasn’t a need to leave that way, but we did.
Going to Vietnam, I was an old man. I was 38 years old. I had quit smoking maybe eight or ten years before went. I never really had any harrowing experiences in Da Nang, but I can remember my first night in-country in Bien Hoa. My first night in the barracks, the sirens went off and there was a rocket attack. I crawled under my bed with my helmet on and my flack vest, shaking. A few minutes later it quieted down and I heard people out in the hall so I went out and joined my buddies. They were having a good time. All of a sudden ammunition started going off and in my mind I could actually see Charlie outside with machine guns. He was going to rush the building and the machine guns were going off. Somebody offered me a cigarette and I started smoking again after ten years. Come to find out the next day the shooting was somebody had hit the ammo dump and the ammo was cooking off. It sounded just like machine gun fire, and it was-it was rounds that went off. No one was after me at that time. I had no real close experiences of anything in Nam, and I came back and spent my last tour flying a desk at Andrews, where I retired in ’74.
My most enjoyable and satisfying time as a Stinger has been with the AC-119 Gunship Association reunions. My best experiences with the guys have been at the reunions when we got together. I missed the first gunship reunion. Then I made the second one in 2000 or 2001. It had been 28 years since I had seen these guys. It was just like we had never missed a day. We had tears in our eyes. We talked about the old times just like it was yesterday.
I’ve got 100 missions in SAC in KC135s, and I had 100 missions in the 119 gunships. I’m pleased to say I have two DFCs. One I hardly remember because it was while I was flying as a copilot on orientation flight and the second we actually earned ourselves for enemy killed. Also received the air medal with 11 OLCs, but that only had to do with the number of missions in a plane.
After Vietnam, jobs were hard to find for pilots; there were pilots all over the place. So, I found a job in the Washington DC area as a purchasing agent, purchasing regionally, heating-air conditioning equipment, and plumbing for mechanical contractors and then I wound up purchasing for general contractors, purchasing anything from carpeting, to furniture, to appliances to mechanical equipment.
On my 65th birthday in 1999 I finally hung it up and retired and I’ve been enjoying retirement for nine years now.