John Martin “Marty” Noonan, Pilot
17th SOS, Tan Son Nhut, 1970-71
My name is John Martin Noonan, “Marty”. I was born in Long Beach, CA in Los Angeles County on 5 March 1946. I grew up in Downey, California, attending Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary, St. Vincent’s Seminary, and graduated from Pius X High School in June, 1964.
I graduated from St. Mary’s College, Moraga, CA in June 1968 and entered the USAF Officer Training School (OTS) on 8 November 1968 at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, TX. As a new 2nd Lt., I was assigned to Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) at Reese AFB, in Lubbock, TX in Class 70-05, earning my USAF Wings on 28 February 1970. I chose the AC-119G “Shadow” Gunship as my first choice assignment as a volunteer for South East Asia. I arrived at Clinton County AFB, in Wilmington, OH in April 1970 for transition training on the C-119. Then was assigned to “Gunship” School at Lockbourne AFB, in Columbus, OH in July 1970.
I was assigned to the 14th SOW’s 17th SOS at Phan Rang, RVN arriving in country on 10 August 1970. After initial processing I was transferred to the 17th SOS “Fighting C Flight” at Tan Son Nhut AB (TSN), Saigon, RVN. I flew 206 combat missions from 21 August 1970 to 10 August 1971 as a co-pilot, with an Aircraft Commander Check out in July 1971. I logged 1100 combat hours in the AC-119G Shadow Gunship. My crew all were awarded the Distinguish Flying Cross for a mission over the small village of Prey Tutung, Cambodia defending a Cambodian unit from hostile fire from a large enemy force. We silenced 3 or 4 of the 6, 51 caliber Anti-Aircraft gun positions firing at us and successfully held the enemy at bay from the friendly forces with our accurate 7.62 minigun fire and Mark 24 flares. It was a fine example of the precision delivery of ordnance and support that a Shadow Gunship provided to our troops on the ground.
One incident I was famous for was delaying my R&R until the end of my tour in 1971. I traveled with Captain Tim Thompson to Australia to go skiing during the winter (July) in the Snowy Mountains between Sydney and Melbourne Australia. I broke my right leg skiing and returned to the 17th SOS on August 8th on crutches, only two days before I was scheduled to return to the States at the end of my tour. I never flew my “Fini” Flight in combat because of the broken leg.
I was assigned to the 7th MAS at Travis AFB, CA flying the C-141A for the Military Airlift Command. I transferred to the California Air National Guard flying the C-119G in June 1973. I transferred to the USAF Reserves at Travis AFB, CA in September, 1975 back to the C-141A. I separated as a Captain from the USAFR in February, 1979 with over 3200 hours of total flight time. I met my wife, Sandy, in Aspen, Colorado in November, 1974 and we were married in Moraga, California in November, 1975. We have two children. Ryan Patrick Noonan, a USAF F-16 pilot with the 510th TFS, Aviano AB, Italy. Kelly Lang Noonan lives in California and is a successful model and actress.
I was hired by Continental Airlines in February, 1977 as a pilot and flew the B-727 and the DC-10 as a Second Officer and First Officer, until the Bankruptcy and Pilot Strike of 1983. I flew for Jet America Airlines, out of Long Beach, CA during the ALPA Strike. I returned to Continental in March, 1987 as part of the settlement with ALPA. I checked out as a Captain on the B737 in June, 1988. I spent the next 18 years as Captain on the DC-10, B757, and B777 flying Continental’s international routes. My last years I was a Check Captain on the B757 and B777 until my retirement in March, 2006.
Sandy and I spend our time between our home in Long Beach, CA and lake cabin in Amery, WI. We fly our V35B Bonanza all over North America visiting the places I flew over in my USAF and Airline career.