Hazard, Kentucky was my birthplace in 1932. I attended Hazard High School and enlisted in the United States Air Force at Ashland, KY in May of 1952. Since I already had four brothers serving in the U.S. Army, I thought it would be better for me to join the Air Force.
In April 1968, I was recalled to active duty at Bakalar AFB, Columbus, Indiana and transferred to Lockbourne AFB, Ohio for training and then to Nha Trang Air Base, Vietnam where I served with the 71st Special Operations Squadron as a life support specialist. After 38 years of active and inactive service, I retired from the Air Force at Grissom AFB, Indiana in May 1992 as a Senior Master Sergeant.
I’ll always remember the time that I caught a Shadow flight from Nha Trang to our Forward Operating Location (FOL) at Phan Rang Air Base to work on flight crew helmets by adding more padding to help cut down on hearing loss. After taking off from Nha Trang, we were flying over the South China Sea (feet wet) on the way to Phan Rang and I was leaning over the flare launcher, taking pictures of the coastline. All of a sudden, the Illuminator Operator (IO) tapped me on the shoulder and told me that we had an engine problem. I looked out the left side of the aircraft at the engine. Oil was streaming out the engine really bad. I climbed the ladder to the flight deck, got in the jump seat, and put on the intercom head phones. I could hear the pilot and co-pilot trying to decide whether to continue on to Phan Rang or return to base at Nha Trang. They decided to turn back and land at Nha Trang, where we transferred to another Shadow aircraft and proceeded to takeoff and fly to Phan Rang without any problems.
At Phan Rang that evening around 2200 hours, the sirens sounded and we began taking incoming mortar rounds. The next morning, I went down to Shadow Operations and learned the building had taken a hit at the side of the wood building. Upon completion of modifying flight helmets, the flight back to Nha Trang was uneventful.
The thing that I remember most about serving in the 71st SOS was that we went on active duty as a unit, trained as a unit, deployed to Vietnam as a unit, and returned stateside as a unit. We worked well with active duty personnel assigned to the squadron. To be selected for the AC-119 Gunship program and then to take it into combat was something to be proud of. Thereafter as Reservists, we continued to work well together.
My wife, Jeanette, and I live in Versailles, Kentucky. I really enjoy the AC-119 reunions held each year, visiting with old friends and making new ones. I’m just proud to be a SHADOW!