Monday, July 9, 2012

A Flight of Heroes Comes Home

On December 24, 1965, an AC-47D gunship took off from Da Nang for a daylight mission over southern Laos.  45-1120, assigned to the 4th ACS, 6250th CSG didn't have a specific target, it was searching for 'targets of opportunity'.  A mayday was heard from the aircraft after it arrived over Laos, and then nothing more.  The aircraft was lost, with no trace of it or the crew.

In 2010, a USAF MIA search team located the wreckage, and recovered remains from the 6 crewmen on board.  These heroes will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetary on July 9:

Major Derell Jeffords
1Lt Dennis Eilers
Major Joseph Christiano
MSgt Larry Thornton
TSgt William Colwell
Ssgt Arden Hassenger

God speed, gentlemen ... Welcome Home

As a side note, this was the second 4ACS AC-47D lost  in December of 1965.  The unit had deployed to SVN on November 14, equipped with 20 'new' AC-47s.  These were gunship conversions of the venerable Gooney Bird, sporting 3 7.62mm mini-guns firing through windows on the left side of the aircraft.  43-49492 was shot down on December 17, while on a cargo run between Tan San Nhut and Phan Rang.  All aboard were lost:

Major Robert Abbot
Major Robert Abernathy
1Lt Francis Buckley
MSgt Joseph Cestaric
TSgt John Chappell
TSgt Thomas Sloan
SSgt Ralph Hinson
A1C Claude Matthews
A1C Johnson Meade

The AC-47s were known as Dragon Ships, Puff the Magic Dragon, or simply by the 4th ACS squadron call sign : 'Spooky'.