Eugene D. Schaltenbrand, Pilot
71st SOS, Tan Son Nhut, 1969
I was born in Amityville, NY in 1932, but consider Louisville, KY my home. I graduated from Babylon High School in 1950, and then attended the University of Louisville where I graduated in 1958.
I was a pilot with the 930th Tactical Airlift Group, Bakalar AFB, Indiana when the unit was activated in May 1968. We relocated to Lockbourne AFB, Ohio in June 1968 where we were redesignated the 71st Special Operations Squadron. Our unit comprised the bulk of the first AC-119G training class of the 4413th Combat Crew Training Squadron. I arrived at Nha Trang AB on Christmas Eve 1968, but flew most of my missions from Tan Son Nhut AB. I redeployed to Bakalar AFB in June 1969 when the 17th SOS replaced the 71st SOS.
My most exciting AC-119 mission was an un-happening. I was flying right seat for Sid Petty that day. We were supporting a firebase in close contact for better than four hours when the NOS (Dick Hamilton, I think) reported sparks coming from the left engine. I looked across the cockpit, saw a ring of sparks just behind the prop, and recognized the need for immediate action to avoid the engine seizing. I pulled the prop lever to feather. Darn engine froze before the prop was all the way in feather. Sid, who had been absorbed with the target looked over at me and asked why I feathered his engine. My comment was, “Let’s go home.” Luck was with us. The good (right) engine was a little tired and couldn’t quite make METO power and I figured anything above METO was asking for a long walk.
The thing I will always remember about my time with AC- 119 gunships is the people! The 71st people were dedicated. We had a job to do and we did it without the complaining and bickering I observed in other units.
I served as commander of the Reserve Airlift unit at Pittsburgh where I was promoted to full colonel. My final position was as a staff officer at Robins AFB where I retired on 30 July 1988.