John W. Lewis, Pilot

71st SOS, Nha Trang, 1969

Moores Hill, Indiana was my birthplace in 1918. I graduated from Moores Hill High School in 1936. I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps in June 1942 during World War II because all my buddies were going. I flew 68 combat missions in the European Theater, flying B-25s. During the Korean War, I flew 50 combat missions in the A-26 Night Intruder.

I was an AC-119G Shadow gunship command pilot for the 71st Special Operations Squadron in 1969 at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam. I was involved in the only night attack by a major American force to keep enemy troops from escaping by boat while our troops attacked the Viet Cong. We supported our troops with searchlight and Gatling guns.

I supported an Air Evac C-130, replacing six choppers, one of which had been shot down while providing air cover for the C-130. The other five choppers were guarding their buddies on the ground. We were dispatched to escort the ‘130’ into the fire base to pick up wounded with female nurses on board. We were given the frequency of the ‘130’ and he was holding at 20,000 feet. I told him to follow me over the field. I would have all my lights on. Then I would circle around and follow behind him. After a lot of persuasion and a dry run, he complied with my plan while I stood by overhead until after he took off. The downed chopper crew was rescued by a ‘Jolly Green’ and the mission was completed with nobody injured.

I retired as a Colonel from the United States Air Force in 1971 at Grissom AFB, Indiana. I currently live in Dillsboro, Indiana.