Dominick Romandetta, FE
18th SOS, Phu Cat, Udorn and Da Nang, 1972-73
I was born April Fool’s Day, 1931 in New York, New York. I grew up in the Bronx where I attended Christopher Columbus High School. In September 1951, I joined the Air Force and trained as a mechanic. I was part of the AC-119 gunship program in three capacities: first, as a 4413 CCTS Instructor Flight engineer, then as an AC-119K FE and, lastly, as a Crew Chief. I flew 220 combat missions (728 hours) in the AC- 119K. As a Stinger I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross twice and earned 10-OLC to the Air Medal.
My association with the AC-119K began in June 1968 when I was assigned to the 4413th CCTS, Lockbourne AFB, OH where I upgraded to Instructor FE in the AC- 119G/K. Once the 4413th trained a full complement of gunship crews, I was assigned to Captain Maxheimer’s crew as part of the newly formed 18th Special Operations Squadron. On November 20, 1969, we departed for Vietnam as part of the AC-119K initial deployment.
Our crew was deployed from Phan Rang AB to Phu Cat AB. In February 1970, we relocated 3 aircraft, 4 crews and 30 maintenance people to Udorn AB, Thailand where we established Forward Operating Location Delta (FOL-D). Then in May 1970, our crew was sent PCA to Da Nang AB (FOL-A). Ours was the first Stinger crew to have an F-4 escort shot down during a mission. On June 9, we cleared Seafox 02 to attack a target. As the aircraft rolled in, AAA struck it. Both crewmen successfully ejected. We established radio contact and remained in the area until replaced by another Stinger crew. Both crewmen were rescued early the next morning.
I concluded my tour in November 1970 and reported to K.I. Sawyer AFB, MI as a Flight Line Supervisor on B-52s and KC-135s. However, there was a critical shortage of AC-119K flight line mechanics. In April 1971, I was ordered TDY to Da Nang AB where I served 122 days as a Crew Chief. My most significant recollections from the Da Nang TDY were the heat, humidity, long hours, and frequent rocket attacks.
I enjoyed the sense of teamwork and cooperation that came from flying with the same 10 people on a gunship crew. I learned there was still a need for AC-119K Flight Engineers. After returning to K.I. Sawyer I volunteered for a second combat tour. By July 1972 I was again back at Da Nang AB where I flew regularly as a substitute FE on many crews. During that second combat tour I was also promoted to Master Sergeant. Toward the end of 1972 we began training the VNAF in the AC-119K. I flew numerous missions under the VNAF flag until March 1973 when we delivered the last K model to the VNAF and I left Da Nang AB for the third and final time.
One of my most exciting missions was the night of June 22, 1970. We located a large truck convoy, destroyed 12 and damaged many more while taking heavy and accurate AAA. Another memorable mission, was the night of November 3, 1972 when we destroyed seven boats loaded with oil and ammo, resulting in huge explosions and fires. Some of my most rewarding missions, however, were those flown in support of ground troops, often under heavy enemy attack. On one mission we landed with our fuel gauges reading zero.
I concluded my final three years in the Air Force at March AFB, CA where I was OMS Supervisor for the B-52 and KC-135. Upon retiring in 1976, I worked for Lockheed Aircraft as a flight line mechanic for their C-130 program and retired a final time in 1994.