John William Morrow, Gunner
17th SOS, Phan Rang and Tan Son Nhut, 1970-71
I was born in Hammond, Indiana in 1944. I attended Harrison High School in Chicago, but dropped out and earned my GED at age 17. Then I joined the Air Force on 13 March 1961 in Chicago because I needed a job.
In Vietnam, I served in the 17th Special Operations Squadron as an aerial gunner at Phan Rang in October and November, 1970 and then at Tan Son Nhut ‘C’ Flight from November 1970 to September 1971.
I’ll never forget a Shadow mission over the Tonle Sap (Big Cambodian Lake) in which an OV-10 FAC very nearly hit our gunship. It was unbelievable how close we came to colliding in mid-air. I remember our pilot jerking the aircraft into a hard-left bank, standing the gunship on its left wing tip to avoid getting hit. Immediately, we started a rapid loss in altitude and simultaneously we lost all communications aboard the aircraft. There was no intercom. As we’re diving toward the lake, I put on my parachute not knowing what else to do. Finally, the pilot gained control and pulled the aircraft out of the dive about one thousand feet above the lake. At level flight, Flight Engineer Garry Gourley came back to the gun compartment, motioning that things were going to be okay. It was a good thing that Garry showed up. I was ready to bailout.
What caused our communications to fail? When our pilot jerked the aircraft to avoid hitting the OV-10, an ammo link loosened and caught in the inverter box which caused the left generator to fail, thus causing loss of communication power. The whole incident was wild and scary.
I always remember the many Troops-in-Contact missions in Cambodia. The satisfaction of breaking up enemy attacks on friendly troops was well worth the risk.
In April 1980, I earned my Associate Degree from Community College of the Air Force at Lakenheath, England. I retired from the United States Air Force at Holloman AFB, New Mexico on 1 March 1992 as a Chief Master Sergeant.