Thomas L. Morrissey, Gunner
18th SOS, Da Nang, 1969-70
I was born in Charlotte, Michigan in 1950. I claim Lansing, Michigan as my hometown. I was number 16 on the draft list in 1968 when I graduated from Everett High School, so I quickly joined the Air Force to avoid the alternative. At weapons tech school I learned about the AC-47 gunship program and decided to investigate. The AC-119K program was open and I volunteered, as did my classmate Mike Nobach.
I was part of the third wave of the 18th SOS deployment from Lockbourne AFB to Phan Rang. I left the states December 26, 1969, having said good-bye to my family and spent Christmas day traveling. I was reassigned to FOL-A (Da Nang), where I was assigned to Crew 10, led by aircraft commander, Mike Newmeyer. Crew 10 included Larry Juday (CP), Dale Cartee (Nav), Doug Frost (NOS), Mal Morrison (FLIR), Barney Lowe (FE), Ted Nealy (IO), and gunners J. R. Davis, Ken Mohler, and myself.
I completed my tour in December 1970 and reported to a weapons shop at Shaw AFB, South Carolina. I took an early-out in March 1971 to return to school in Michigan. I went to work for Charter Township of Lansing in 1974 and was recently promoted to Director of Utilities providing water and sewer services to over 30,000 people.
My strongest memory of being a gunner is how physically demanding it was even as a fit 20 year old. On our “day off” we loaded 7.62mm and 20mm ammo onto the aircraft for the next missions. It was often over 100 degrees on the ramp. The ammo cans weighed 60 pounds and had to be lifted and stacked into racks. We learned to sleep on the way to the target area, three of us taking turns laying under the 20mm guns. The big joke was not to wake the one sleeping, but to let the gun wake him when it fired. One of the hardest tasks was loading ammo while on target. We had to do this with no lighting except the small Sanyo flashlight we held in our mouth. (Still have it. It doesn’t work, maybe too much spit in it). It was particularly difficult trying to move ammo cans and load weapons when the pilot was kicking the rudder or cranking the bank to 45 degrees, as many did.
When I was not busy with the guns, I was positioned on the left side of the aircraft scanning for AAA. I recall one mission when we were caught in a nasty gun trap, guns firing at us from both sides of the aircraft and one up the nose. We thought we bought the farm that night. I will never know why nothing hit us. My closest encounter came when a mini-gun flew up in my face because of a short round. Thank goodness I had my face shield down; I got away with a bunch of cuts on my arms.