Class Of 1964 USAF Academy


Like many others, I guess, I came back from my year of flying combat in Viet Nam with an increased appreciation of a Supreme Being, and an increasingly fatalistic view. I recall 2 incidents that I feel that I survived because God didn’t want me yet. My name just was not on his list for that day. I considered myself to be very lucky.

Other than 1 fam mission in an A-37 Dragonfly making toothpicks out of trees, all my 250+ combat missions and over 400 combat hours were flown in the venerable UC/C-123 Fairchild Provider. This was an early 50s airlifter that was used extensively in Southeast Asia for airlift, airdrop, and was converted for defoliant spraying for Operation RanchHand (think Agent Orange). The C-123 was originally designed as a glider, and still had the tow ring and attached support angle irons in the nose. On spray runs, the navigator sat on a box over the radio panel in between the pilots. On one mission we were taking ground fire ( a very common occurrence for the 12th Air Commando Sq. [Spray] ) and one of the bullets entered the nose and hit the angle iron and ricocheted back and forth all the way up the nose between the angle iron and the skin, leaving a series of bumps on the skin. If that angle iron hadn’t been there, the bullet would have entered the cockpit, and likely my head.

The second incident wasn’t in the air, which made it all the more terrifying for me. It was during the Tet offensive in early 1968, when the Viet Cong attacked Bien Hoa AB with 122mm rockets, mortars, sappers, etc. I was not able to get to the bunker, so I crawled under my bed, pulled every loose thing I could grab around me, and prayed while rocket and mortar explosions were going off all around me. I decided being shot at in the air is much more comfortable for me than being rocketed on the ground. Luckily, our hootch was unscathed , while others around it were damaged or destroyed. It was destroyed in a subsequent attack, after I had returned to the land of the big BX.
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