Cincinnati, Ohio was my birthplace in 1942. I grew up across the Ohio River in Elsmere, Kentucky where I attended Lloyd High School. Immediately after watching the movie “Psycho” at the local theater, my high school buddies and I walked across the street to the Air Force Recruiter and joined up, saying that it was better to join than having our draft numbers come up. Shortly thereafter, I entered the United States Air Force at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
I served with the 18th Special Operations Squadron as a Stinger Flight Engineer during 1971-72 at Nakhon Phanom (NKP) Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, Da Nang AB and Bien Hoa AB in the Republic of Vietnam.
There are two missions during my Vietnam tour that come to mind as the most exciting. On one mission, we found 24 trucks coming down the Ho Chi Minh Trail and proceeded to destroy all 24 trucks while dodging heavy triple A. We actually went past Bingo Fuel during the attack, but we accomplished the mission and safely made it back to base. I received a Distinguished Flying Cross for that mission.
The other mission was defending Da Nang Air Base during a rocket attack in which our Stinger gunship warned the base of rocket launches and then spotted and attacked rocket launch sites. The rocket attack on Da Nang was stopped, thanks in a large part to our Stinger. Later, our crew was called to the VNAF Headquarters and presented with the Award of the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star. We were also given a captured 122mm rocket to give to our commander Colonel Tom Teal. Col. Teal got a little upset about the rocket because it was still a live rocket. He had our building evacuated and called in the EOD squad.
I will always remember one party in particular at NKP. We had just returned to base because of aircraft malfunctions that I couldn’t repair and we were hungry! At the party, the main dish was a roasted pig that wasn’t done all the way, but we couldn’t wait; we were hungry! So, we ate the meat anyway. Well, at least three of us got food poisoning. I was the worst case. I had to be taken to the hospital for IVs and observation. I was in the hospital for four days! I remember that Rick Ward, Jerry Brightman, Wayne Laessig, and Ron Hinton were among those who attended that party.
Another NKP story that I will always remember is about Fred Graves. Fred and I were sitting on the walkway, talking about things when he asked me if my name was German. I said my last name was German and my first name was Italian. Fred thought for a minute before saying, “Then that makes you a Goose Stepping Ginny!” I chased Fred all around the compound until I was out of breath.
The thing that I will always remember about my time with AC-119 gunships was, believe it or not, having good times with everyone including the flight officers. When we flew together, we worked together as a team to get the job done and accomplish the mission. I also remember good times spent at the hootch, drinking and playing cards.
I retired as Senior Master Sergeant from the USAF at Hurlburt Field, Florida in June 1983. I currently live in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.