Even though Yuma, Arizona was my birthplace in 1948, I grew up in Bellevue, Nebraska where I graduated from Bellevue High School in 1966. I graduated from Bellevue University in 1970 and entered the United States Air Force in January 1971. I completed Officer Training School at Lackland AFB, Medina Annex. The reason I joined the Air Force was because my father served in the Air Force for twenty years and being around airplanes all those years, I wanted to fly.
I was assigned to the 18th Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Base (NKP) in Thailand on 5 August 1972 as a sensor operator. I spent some time at Da Nang, Republic of Vietnam (RVN), but most of my time was spent at Bien Hoa, RVN. My detachment commander at Bien Hoa was Lt. Col. Dick Ring. I departed Southeast Asia on 6 February 1973.
My most exciting mission was in the fall of 1972 while flying out of Bien Hoa. We got a distress call over the radio from some American troops stationed on top of Monkey Mountain located very close to Da Nang Air Base. They were about to be overrun by the Viet Cong (VC). We flew to their location at full speed using our jets and spent over one hour shooting up and down the side of the mountain, killing hundreds of VC. We expended our complete load of ammunition. I was on the NOS that night and I looked over at the gun barrels; they were so red it almost seemed like you could see right through them. I also remember the pilot asking the ground commander where he wanted us to lay down the fire and he responded with, “Just spray the whole mountain side because they are coming up all around the mountain on all sides and we are just about to be completely overrun.” So, as the NOS Operator, I became the primary sensor and I put my scope on the side of the mountain, rotating it up and down as we flew around the mountain on all sides. I could see the VC running in and out of the rocks, shrubs and etc. I could also see our shells hitting the rocks and of course a “lot” of VC getting hit with our stream of bullets. For about 45 to 60 minutes, it was nothing but a steady stream of fire from our aircraft straight down to the ground. I had never seen anything like this during my entire tour over there. As we departed, in the illumination provided by our gunship and ground troop flares, we could see that every GI on that mountain top was yelling and screaming with big smiles on their faces while giving us a big “Thumbs Up.” The sight was very rewarding and heartwarming to us Stingers.
I will always remember the LAST COMBAT MISSION FLOWN BY AN ALL-AMERICAN AC-119K STINGER GUNSHIP CREW IN THE VIETNAM WAR. The mission was flown on 27 January 1973 out of Bien Hoa Air Base. All armed U.S. aircraft were required to be on the ground by 0600 hours on that date. The tail number of the AC-119K gunship ended with three numbers 121 and we landed at 0559 hours and 45 seconds. The reason I remember is that I was one of the two sensor operators on that flight. The press and journalist were on the Bien Hoa ramp and they took pictures of our Stinger crew, standing in front of the gunship. It was a glorious occasion for all of us and I even had one of the photographers take a picture of us with my camera. I cannot remember any crewmember names, but I do remember their faces and crew positions.
I retired from the Air Force as a Major at Sheppard AFB, Wichita Falls, Texas in February 1991. My wife, Linda, and I (married 35 years now) live in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. My 8×11 photograph of the last Stinger crew to fly a combat mission in Vietnam is proudly displayed on a wall in our home. Proud to be a Stinger!!