Gregory L. Terral, Gunner
71st and 17th SOS, Nha Trang and Phan Rang, 1968-69
I was born in 1946 in Texas. I graduated from school in Houston, Texas in 1965.
I remember my youth, several of us young men just barely out of high school and Vietnam and girls were the main topics of discussion. It was a time in my life when the thoughts of adventure permeated the air.
I come from a family of veterans. My father had been in Patton’s 3rd Army and had been wounded crossing the Rhine River during World War II. I had an uncle that had died during the Bataan Death March.
I decided to enter the Air Force and went to basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, TX. I then went to Lowery AFB in Denver Colorado for weapons maintenance training.
I was assigned to Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, N. C. and loaded munitions on F4 Phantom jets. I went to Korea during the Pueblo Crisis and spent 6 months there and returned to North Carolina. I then volunteered for the AC 119G gunship program and was accepted and went to Spokane Washington for prisoner of war training. I then deployed to Columbus, Ohio for training on the AC 119G.
We regular air force supplemented the reserve aircrews that were training. After we finished training we were deployed to Vietnam but stopped in the Philippines for jungle survival training. After the jungle survival training we arrived at Nha Trang. I spent about two months in Nha Trang and was then sent to Phan Rang. I was on Major Richard Morgan’s crew # 16.
We flew numerous night missions supporting troops in contact with the enemy. I remember one night we flew into Cambodia. We didn’t stay very long. We had some big anti-aircraft ordinance coming at us from both sides of the plane. I also remember one day that we had taken off from Phan Rang and about forty minutes later we had lost an engine. We dumped 28,000 rounds of 7.62mm into the sea to maintain our altitude and made it back to base.
The most memorable time I remember was when we flew to a troops in contact (TIC) at the Black Virgin Mountain near Tay Ninh. Helicopter gunships were working the area. We were being fired on by .51 caliber positions. I remember looking out the gun port and seeing red tracer rounds coming toward us. The tracers appeared to be making sudden right turns before coming all the way to our aircraft. We were actually flying past the rounds and this made them appear to be turning.
I know my guardian angel was with me. I heard a voice in my head that told me to stop as I was approaching one of our mini-guns. I stopped and all of a sudden I heard a loud bang. I was on my back on the aircraft floor. Donald Brogan, our IO, came over to me and pulled me up to a sitting position. I put my hand up to my helmet and felt a hole in the right side. The round had gone through the side of the aircraft and penetrated my helmet. Jim Mattison, our other gunner, found the copper jacket to the .51 cal. round on the aircraft floor. I was extremely lucky. Suffered a few scratches to my shoulder and back from metal fragments from the side of our aircraft.
I was happy for the reservists when they got to go home; but I was also sad that they were leaving. I developed a lot of trust with those guys. I had a lot of respect for Major Morgan. I will never forget the crew I flew with.
I got a six month early out and returned home in December, 1969. I became a Houston Police Officer and retired from there after 21 years. I then was an investigator for a rural county sheriff’s office and an investigator for the District Attorney’s Office for that county. I am currently retired and enjoying it.