John C. Grange
GCA Air Traffic Control
I remember I requested Kontum instead of Cam Rahn Bay so I could enhance my ATC abilities and so I could cross train from Tower Controller to Ground Controlled Approach (GCA). I used to request pilots both Fixed and Rotary Wing; Army and AF to let me practice bringing them in under ideal conditions so they would feel comfortable under more adverse circumstances. This worked well for me and some C-130 pilots that were used to evacuate and resupply Kontum during the Easter Offensive of 72. Seems like it was 2-3 nights in a row when I was the only GCA guy there and we had to land those C-130's in total blackout because of the enemy fire. I know the pilots were skeptical, but I consistently put them on the centerline and would call when the wheels swould touch. I could not have done it without all that practice during the better times. I would stack up the incoming aircraft above the clouds off Channell 107 Pleiku, and then bring them in for a night time landing. I remember the "ARC Light Strikes" and the warnings to all aircraft in the area 21 miles north of CH 107. The warning said to aviod the area,, as I recall my airfiled was 21.5 miles north of Pleiku. Well as you can expect, there went the neighborhood.
Lt Barry Shearer was our OIC and we used to get him rides and stick time with outgoing choppers and we would show the replaced pilot how well the GCA worked. Spec's Elliott, Wolf, McDowell, SSG Morningstar and myself all received Bronze Stars with "V Device" for putting out fires in crashed aircraft, removing artillery shells from the aircraft, directing artillery fire, and just doing everything else that needed done in support of our troops and the ARVNs.
I believe it was the 81st ABN Rangers arrived to help provide guidance for our ARVN friends and one day I was sitting in the MACV compound and up walks a Lt. Grange, (Iwas an acting Jack buck sgt.) He was the son of David Grange that went on to become a General and commander of the Ft. Benning Ranger School. Never saw him again.
I completed OCS in April of 1974 and was assigned to Ft Leavenworth where I worked in the Aerial Systems Branch Division of CACDA, while there I worked with LTC. Johnny Gower, turns out he was the pilot flying one of the gunships that shot the Kontum Water Tower Machine Gun Nest with one of the first airborne TOW's deployed to RVN.
I went back to the states and an assignment as ATC instructor at Rucker in late June 72.
Practically never a day goes by I do not recall my tour and all you great guys that I served with. Several of us controller types are gearing up for a reunion in New Orleans this October, "God help Us"
Thanks for putting this together. "Golf Echo"