David “Rod” Slagle, Navigator
18th SOS, Nakhon Phanom, Da Nang, and Bien Hoa, 1971-72
Captain David Roddy “Rod” Slagle was the table Navigator on Stinger 41 when it was shot down by anti-aircraft fire while defending An Loc on May 2, 1972. Sergeant Brown and Captain Terry Courtney were also lost. Lt. Col. “Tash” Taschioglu, Lieutenants Jimmy Barkalow and Larry Barbee, and Sergeants Allen Bare, Francis Sledzinski, Craig Corbett, and Dale Inman were able to bail out and were rescued.
Rod Slagle was born October 26, 1945 in Longview, Washington, but was raised in Roseville, Missouri. He graduated from Flat River High School in 1962, and the Missouri School of Mines at Rolla, Missouri in 1966. Rod met his wife Barbara on a blind date arranged by his cousins when Rod was in OTS at Lackland. They were married less than a year when they were transferred to Mather AFB in Sacramento, CA for navigator training. Rod graduated third in his class, chose TAC C-130s at Little Rock. During that tour, Rod was sent TDY in England at Mildenhall and promised he’d be home before their first child’s due date but nature and children don’t wait for anyone. In Barbara’s own words, “I went into labor early, and Trayce was born, woke in post-op where one of the nurses told me that my husband was there, and did I want to see him? I said I knew he wasn’t there because he was still in England and went back to sleep, figuring they had the wrong girl. But, the Red Cross had tracked Rod down and got him on a MAC flight back to the states. He was there when our daughter was born.”
Not too long after that Rod got orders to 119 school in Columbus, Ohio followed by orders for Da Nang. Barbara said, “The few calls he made while he was there were conversations about Trayce and his folks and stuff like that. Rod told me it really bothered him to fly the Ho Chi Minh trail and shooting up the trucks, knowing that the drivers were handcuffed to the truck and not able to escape. He said he did love the idea of swooping down to support ground troops that were in trouble.” Rod rotated between Da Nang and NKP for most of his tour. He met Barbara in Hawaii for R&R the end of March and when he got back to Thailand he was sent TDY Da Nang. Barbara tells, “I got a letter from him after he died telling me that he was going back. He said he didn’t really want to but someone had to do it.” One story Rod told Barbara was that during one of their missions they were called in to help a small contingent of Marines that were surrounded. They went in and took care of the problem but the really cool part was about a month later they got to meet some of those Marines when they were back in Da Nang. “Rod thought that was great.”
Barbara tells us, “I was first told that Rod was missing. Although 7 of the 10 men on the plane had been rescued, they said that Rod was ready to jump when they bailed out. Rod had not been picked up by the time they were all back at base. I was given numbers to call at Randolph to check on the search effort trying to find the plane. I was contacted several days later to advise me that he had been killed. He was found a hundred feet or so from the plane and had not been burned in the plane; however he had died instantly. When Rod’s body was returned to the States, at San Francisco, I was able to choose a military officer to travel with him to San Antonio to be buried at Ft Sam Houston. I selected his cousin who was stationed at Ft. Hood in Texas. His cousin carried three flags with him on the flight, making sure all three of the flags were on the casket during the flight. One flag for me, one flag for him, and one flag for Rod’s parents. As it turns out, I have three grandchildren so they will each be able to have a flag from their grandfather. Several months after his funeral I got a call from Lackland AFB casualty assistance, they wanted to arrange a parade to present his medals to the family. They said to let them know when his parents would be in town and they would set everything up. When we had the parade in late August, they presented the medals in a shadow box with his name and the name of the medal. They had made one for me and one for Rods parents which was really touching.
“Our daughter, Trayce, was not quite two when Rod got killed so he had not had the opportunity to spend much time with her. She has since met some other children who lost their fathers in Viet Nam. We have also been to The Wall and to a couple of the Traveling Walls. Trayce is now married and has three children of her own. They have been to the Traveling Wall, but don’t totally understand. They are proud to have a grandfather who served and died for his country. Every Veterans Day their school shows family pictures of service members. They get to see the picture of their grandfather up on the screen. We will continue to tell them what it is all about as they grow up. One of these days we will all go to Washington to see The Wall.”