Veterans

October 29, 2012

Missing for 46 years, air commando laid to rest

Tags:
Capt. Kristen D. Duncan
Hurlburt Field, Fla.

An air commando who died when his C-123 Provider flare ship was shot down over Ahn Khe, Vietnam, was laid to rest at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Texas, Oct. 26, 2012. The 310th Air Commando Squadron loadmaster, A1C Jerry Mack Wall, 24, was killed when his plane was hit by enemy fire and crashed into the central highlands, May 18, 1966. Until recently Wall was listed as Missing in Action.

An air commando who died when his C-123 Provider flare ship was shot down over Ahn Khe, Vietnam, was laid to rest Oct. 26 at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Texas.

The 310th Air Commando Squadron loadmaster, A1C Jerry Mack Wall, 24, was killed when his plane was hit by enemy fire and crashed into the central highlands, May 18, 1966. Until recently Wall, who was one of five crew members, was listed as Missing in Action.

An air commando who died when his C-123 Provider flare ship was shot down over Ahn Khe, Vietnam, was laid to rest at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Texas, Oct. 26, 2012. Retired SMSgt. Gary Thomas and several of Airman 1st Class Jerry Mack Wall’s family members greeted the flag draped casket when it arrived to San Antonio Oct. 24, 2012, aboard American Airlines Flight 497. Passengers on the plane watched from their windows as the fire department honored the flight with a water cannon salute and as the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Honor Guard carried Wall’s remains to an awaiting hearse.

In an intense recovery operation, three of the other airmen’s remains were recovered shortly after the crash by soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. The flight engineer, Bill Moore, remains missing.

“I thought there was a possibility Jerry and Bill were still alive,” said retired SMSgt. Gary Thomas, a volunteer with Wall’s unit. “That situation stuck with me for my whole life.”

That situation involved a small, tight-knit group of aircrew volunteers from various backgrounds. Thomas, a first sergeant with the 14th Munitions and Maintenance Squadron, spent a few months with Wall. Wall trained Thomas and several others as “flare kickers” loading the 200 or so, 27 pound flares.

“Jerry was so cool and calm, he was one heck of a guy,” Thomas said. “He had already been into battle and was highly trained. When I first trained with him, it really shocked me to go into battle, and when he started going over how those flares could blow up and kill us … There’s a lot of heroism in the 310th Air Commandos.”

The night of the fateful crash, Thomas was scheduled to fly, but was sidelined due to an ear infection. The lead scheduler, MSgt. Raymond C. Jajtner took his place.

An air commando who died when his C-123 Provider flare ship was shot down over Ahn Khe, Vietnam, was laid to rest at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Texas, Oct. 26, 2012. The 310th Air Commando Squadron loadmaster, A1C Jerry Mack Wall, and his unit of air commandos provided combat air patrol and airlift to soldiers, delivering ammunition, food, supplies and troops. They also flew out wounded and killed-in-action service members, as well as prisoners, but one of the most harrowing jobs was the “candlestick” mission. During those missions, loadmasters and flare kickers would load, unload and drop hundreds of flares from the skies over southern Vietnam, illuminating the enemy.

Thomas said everyone knew the danger of flying those missions, loaded with highly flammable magnesium flares. Wall’s flight was hit with a 40mm round according to witness statements.

“When you’re in combat and when you make friends, even if it’s for a very short time, it’s a real brotherhood,” Thomas said. “It never goes away.”

Air Commandos provided combat air patrol and airlift to the soldiers, delivering ammo, food, supplies and troops. They also flew out wounded and killed in action GI’s, as well as prisoners, but one of the most harrowing jobs was the “candlestick” mission. During those missions, loadmasters and flare kickers would load, unload and drop hundreds of flares from the skies over southern Vietnam, illuminating the enemy.

“It was a firefight, the Viet Cong loved to attack,” he said. “We had B-52s dropping bombs right outside our wings, ground artillery coming up, everybody is unloading. It got to be like the 4th of July, but of course you were scared.”

According to the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office, since 1973, the remains of more than 900 Americans killed in the Vietnam War have been identified and returned to their families for burial with full military honors.

Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command conducted an investigation mission in June 2007 and identified a site that was recommended for recovery. In March 2011 and March 2012 JPAC conducted recovery operations at the site and recovered human remains and material evidence at the site, according to the press release.

An Air Commando who died when his C-123 flare ship was shot down over Ahn Khe, Vietnam, was laid to rest Friday at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Texas. The 310th Air Commando Squadron loadmaster, A1C Jerry Mack Wall, and his unit of Air Commandos provided combat air patrol and airlift to soldiers, delivering ammo, food, supplies and troops. They also flew out wounded and killed in action GI’s, as well as prisoners, but one of the most harrowing jobs was the “candlestick” mission. During those missions, loadmasters and flare kickers would load, unload and drop hundreds of flares from the skies over southern Vietnam, illuminating the enemy.

For more than a decade the United States has conducted joint field activities with the governments of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia to recover the remains of missing Americans, according to their website. Throughout those countries, teams continue to investigate crash and burial sites, as well as interview locals to gain additional knowledge. Today, more than 1,600 Americans remain unaccounted for from the conflict.

“I’m so very proud of my nation that persevered for so long in searching for my father’s remains,” said Lea Ann Wall McCann. “It’s been a long journey home.”

Thomas and several of Wall’s family members greeted the flag draped casket when it arrived to San Antonio Oct. 24, aboard American Airlines Flight 497. Passengers on the plane watched from their windows as the fire department honored the flight with a water cannon salute and as the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Honor Guard carried Wall’s remains to an awaiting hearse.

“Everyone involved in making this happen has been wonderful to our family, from the sergeant who escorted his body to San Antonio, to the VA and the VFW, to the color guard,” Wall McCaan said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Air Force photograph

AF holds 50th anniversary Vietnam War commemoration ceremony

Air Force photograph F-105 crews played a key role in Operation Rolling Thunder. During this three-year Vietnam War campaign, Air Force, Marine and Navy aircraft bombed targets throughout North Vietnam. U.S. and Australian wars...
 
 

Airmen missing from WWII accounted for

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Feb. 23, that the remains of U.S. servicemen, missing in action from World War II, have been accounted for and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors. Army Air Forces 1st Lts. William D. Bernier of Augusta, Mont.; Bryant E. Poulsen of Salt Lake...
 
 

President signs Clay Hunt Act, says ‘Stigma has to end’

President Barack Obama Feb. 12 signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, or SAV Act. The act is aimed at reducing military and veteran suicides and improving their access to quality mental health care. Hunt was a decorated Marine veteran who struggled with post-traumatic stress. He deployed to Iraq and...
 

 

Survivor of USS Arizona from Pearl Harbor attack dies at 100

YUBA CITY, Calif. – The oldest living crew member of the battleship USS Arizona to have survived the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor has died in Northern California at the age of 100. Retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joseph Langdell died Feb. 4 at a nursing home in Yuba City, according to his son, Ted Langdell....
 
 
Photograph by Diane Betzler

Edwards Airmen celebrate Super Bowl with local retired veterans

Photograph by Diane Betzler Life is good: Retired veterans and residents of the William J. “Pete” Knight Veterans’ Home enjoy watching the Super Bowl, eating a delicious steak dinner and swapping war stories with members ...
 
 

Reunions – February thru April, 2015

374th Field Maint Sqdn., PACAF Feb. 13-14; Biloxi, Miss. For more information, contact Larry Voss at (218) 410-2192 or email levs.22@hotmail.com. 11th Abn/Air Assault Div Mid-Atlantic Chapter, and 187th RCT Feb. 21-25; Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, contact Artie Heape at (843) 846-4693 or email artieheape@centurylink.net. Seabees in Ireland & Scotland, NMCB 62 Feb....
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>