Robert W. Mundle, Pilot
17th SOS, Phan Rang and Tan Son Nhut, 1970-71
Robert “Bob” William Mundle was born 12 December 1945 in Red Wing, Minnesota to the proud parents of Ernest (1906-1973) and Helen (1919- ) Mundle. Bob graduated from Red Wing Central High School in 1963. Subsequently, he graduated from Rochester Junior College in 1965 and Mankato State College in 1967 with a B.S. in Business Administration.
Bob entered military service in February 1968 at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas and became a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force upon graduation from Officer Training School on 27 June 1968. Second Lieutenant Mundle graduated from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laredo AFB, Texas on 27 June 1969 and was selected to fly AC-119G gunships.
Completing C-119 training at Clinton County and AC-119 combat training at Lockbourne AFB in Ohio, Bob departed the states for duty in Vietnam. He arrived at Phan Rang Air Base in the Republic of Vietnam on 2 January 1970 and was assigned to C Flight at Tan Son Nhut, Saigon.
After flying 197 combat missions in Vietnam and Cambodia, First Lieutenant Mundle was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and nine Air Medals. Upon receiving a 30-day “rollback”, Bob departed Vietnam on 2 December 1970.
Upon return stateside, Bob reported for duty at Vance AFB; Enid, Oklahoma as a Flight Instructor in T-37 aircraft from 1971 to 1979. While stationed in Oklahoma, he attended night school and received an MBA with honors from Oklahoma City University. He then was assigned to fly C-5s based at Travis AFB, California from 1979 to 1981.
In May 1981, Bob left active duty and transferred to the United States Air Force Reserves (USAFR) 326th MAS based at Dover AFB, serving as aircraft commander on C-5s until June 1989. He retired from the USAFR in 1989 at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In February 1981, New York Air employed Bob as a pilot to fly DC-9s from LaGuardia Airport; New York, New York. Upon New York Air merger with Continental Airlines in 1987, Bob became a Continental Airlines pilot. He retired from Continental Airlines in December 2005.
Bob married his pretty and charming wife, Cheryl in October 1992. He has two daughters, Eliz (1971) and Emily (1976) from a previous marriage and a step-son, William (1969) and step-daughter, Tara (1974).
Bob and Cheryl reside in Vonore, Tennessee with a summer cottage in Amery, Wisconsin. Bob loves to play golf when not flying his Beechcraft N35 Bonanza.
My first night in-country was spent at Phan Rang Air Base, where I reported for duty with the 17th SOS. There, we were in-processed and assigned to a flight. I remember being in the BOQ (I think I was doing my laundry) and we came under mortar attack. The sirens went off and there I was crouching behind a concrete wall thinking, “This is going to be a long year!” As I remember, that was the one and only mortar attack that I experienced during my tour of duty in Vietnam.
I was assigned to C Flight at Tan Son Nhut shortly thereafter and the only thing scary there were the C-123 spray birds. I remember they would very loudly zoom at extremely low altitudes directly over our barracks compound about mid-morning, not long after I had finally fallen sound asleep (I flew only night missions at that time in my tour). Initially, I would roll out of bed sure of an impending heart attack, but after living at TSN for a month or so, I slept right through the C-123 bombing raids. I think they were spraying mosquito insecticide, not Agent Orange.
On one daylight mission during late summer 1970, we (Shadow 81 – my radio call sign) were providing direct air support for the Cambodian Army Garrison at the Province Capital City of Kampong Cham located on the Mekong River. All at once, our gunship started picking up .51 Caliber fire. We pinpointed the enemy gun site and attacked. I started “dueling” with the enemy gunner. I remember the concussion of the .51 caliber bullets sounding just like popcorn popping as the bullets flew by my windows. I must admit that my youth and adrenalin had some effect on my actions that day. I couldn’t believe the nerve– that SOB was actually shooting at me!! We stayed on target and expended 36,000 rounds at the site and he kept shooting at us periodically throughout the mission. Finally, I decided that it wasn’t worth the risk – – no TIC, and I wasn’t making any headway shutting him down so we departed for TSN. We were not hit and apparently that guy went home to tell his story too.
I remember when we (Shadow 81) launched for a night mission and had to shut an engine down very shortly after takeoff at TSN. On normal missions, it was standard routine to depart on runway 25L and recover on 25R. Until that emergency, it never dawned on me that the emergency runway would be 25L because the fire department was located closer to 25L. Anyway, I robotically rattled-off the bold faced items and we got the engine shutdown, prop feathered, and ran all checklists in preparation for a closed pattern emergency landing. It just so happened that our Flight Commander, Lt. Col. Teal was strapped in the jump seat as a mission observer.
My copilot, 1/Lt. Larry Fletcher and my flight engineer, Tech Sergeant Ed “Mac” McCormick quickly completed all checklists as I called for them. Fletcher contacted Saigon Tower and received landing clearance on downwind leg of our closed pattern. While cleared by tower to land on run- way 25L, I was concentrating on flying and trimming the gunship for single-engine flight and landing on 25R. With tunnel vision for landing on runway 25R, I eased the aircraft into a wide base turn to lineup on runway 25R and set up what felt like a perfect glide slope for that runway. Upon rolling out for final approach, Fletcher pointed out that tower had cleared us to land on the Left Runway (25L). I immediately adjusted the rollout and lined up on the much closer and fast approaching runway 25L. There would be no single engine go-around with the fully-loaded gunship. I was bound and determined to get the plane on the ground. The only thing I could say was, “OH, F—K. FULL FLAPS NOW!” At idle power, the plane came down nicely and we landed just fine but my pride was hurt a little. Colonel Teal was nice enough to not mention that little detail in the debriefing.