James Stewart, Navigator
17th SOS, Phu Cat and Tan Son Nhut, 1970-71
Chicago, Illinois is my hometown. I graduated from Purdue University (BS Aero-Engr) and the University of Chicago (MBA). I joined the Air Force to experience “one big adventure and the large salaries.”
The thing I remember most about my time with AC-119 gunships was that I just flew each mission – one day at a time. I had been at Bien Hoa in 1965 and NKP in 1967, so every day was just one more of the same. After leaving the 17th SOS, I was assigned to the 63rd Military Airlift Wing and flew many missions to Southeast Asia. I couldn’t get away from that damn part of the world, returning many times to Phu Cat and Saigon. I was involved in the evacuation of Saigon in late April 1975…one of the last aircraft to depart Tan Son Nhut…gut wrenching. I also participated in “Operation Homecoming”, bringing the POWs home from Hanoi. Again, I just flew my missions one day at a time… getting paid twice a month. For all my years in Southeast Asia: God Bless those lost along the way.
The things I remember the most about my time with AC- 119 gunships are that there was a good bunch of men, flight crews and maintenance. Maintenance did a great job with those old crates!
I retired from the Air Force in 1978 with my next stop Chiang Mai, Thailand.