Burke Lester Wilson, Navigator

18th SOS, Da Nang, 1969-70

I was born in 1933 at Washington, District of Columbia. My hometown was Bladensburg, Maryland even though I graduated from McKinley Tech located in Washington D. C. in 1951. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 1955. I took Air Force ROTC at Maryland so I could graduate before being drafted. I entered the USAF in October 1955 at Lackland AFB, Texas.

I was assigned to the 18th SOS at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio from April to October in 1969. I was the navigator on Major Sternenberg’s crew that ferried the first AC119K from Lockbourne to Phan Rang AB, RVN. After arriving at Phan Rang, I was assigned to the 18th’s Forward Operations Location (FOL) at Da Nang AB, RVN from November 29, 1969 to September 18, 1970 when I returned to the states. Of the 151 combat missions that I flew on Stinger, 126 were flown over Steel Tiger (Laos).

My most exciting mission that I recall was when 7th Air Force received reports from our ground units in the A Shau Valley that they could hear trucks at night. 7th AF decided that the 18th FOL would be assigned the mission of working the A Shau Valley the first night the moon was too full to work Steel Tiger. Since the moon was too full to operate in Steel Tiger on the night of March 5, 1970, Major Sternenberg’s crew was directed to go truck hunting in the A Shau Valley. Soon after we started looking for trucks in the A Shau Valley, we located 12 trucks that were climbing a hill and had no place to hide. We attacked the first and last trucks to trap the remaining 10 trucks. After we had expended all our 20mm ammunition, seven trucks had been destroyed and three were damaged. Ground fire was light since we only received AAA fire from one heavy machine gun.