Jerry Wayne McDonald, Maintenance
71st and 17th SOS, Nha Trang and Phan Rang, 1968-69
I was born in Carthage, Missouri in 1947. My family moved to my home town Sarcoxie, Missouri where I graduated from Sarcoxie High School in May 1966. Faced with being drafted into the Army, I joined the Air Force and entered service for basic training at Lackland AFB, Texas in February 1967.
In April ’67, I trained in C-130 aircraft maintenance at Wichita Falls, Texas. In July ’67, I was assigned to C-47 aircraft maintenance at McConnell AFB, Kansas. One year later in July ’68, I reported to Lockbourne AFB, Ohio for AC-119 gunship maintenance training. I reported to the 71st Special Operations Squadron at Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam in October 1968. I was stationed at Nha Trang until March 1969 when I was transferred to Phan Rang Air Base and eventually to the 17th SOS, where I served to the end of my tour of duty in October 1969.
At Nha Trang, our squadron commander Lt. Colonel Pyle came back from a night mission and when he came off the aircraft, we started talking. He asked me when I was getting my third stripe. I told him I didn’t know; the paper work was all messed up. He said he would take care of that and three weeks later, I had orders in hand for my third stripe. Col. Pyle was a great commander.
I was working the night shift at Phan Rang on 6 June 1969 when the base came under enemy fire with mortars and rockets. Now an Airman First Class, I was driving a Ford tractor to bring ammo to my aircraft when the mortars and rockets hit the flight line. I dove off the tractor and laid down flat on the flight line tarmac. I then crawled on my belly to the sand-bagged bunker and dove in. To my surprise, the bunker was full of men. After a few minutes, I ran to my aircraft, fired-up the engines, checked the magnetos and props, and taxied the gunship out of the revetment. The flight crew boarded the aircraft and I got off. The Shadow was airborne in minimum time to attack enemy positions and to eventually stop the attack on the base. For the things I did that night during the enemy attack, I received the Air Force Commendation Medal.
I remember the great cook-outs and the blackjack tables at the party hootch at Phan Rang. When the Australians came to visit us, they were a nut gang.
In February 1971, I separated from the Air Force at Altus AFB. Since my marriage to Karen in November ’71, I have lived in Carthage, Missouri where I have worked at various jobs, the latest being with the Carthage Special Road District.