The 6th Air Commando Squadron was formed at England AFB as a unit of the 1st Air Commando Wing. The unit was deployed to southeast Asia in February 1968 and arrived at Pleiku AB, SVN March 1968. During the stay at Pleiku, the squadron maintained a forward SAR alert unit at DaNang.
The 6th ACS was designated as the 6th Special Operations Squradron on 1 August 1968 and assigned to the 633rd Special Operations Wing. The 633rd was commanded by George P. Birdsong, Jr, and later by Samuel D. Berman (A-l Pilots).
The 6th SOS was manned with around 25 pilots and 135 airmen. Their A-1 inventory numbered approximately 20 aircraft. They used the call sign SPAD and tail code ET.
Wallace A Ford was the first commander of the 6th. He was lost 24 May 1968 while on a mission over SVN and listed KIA. There were eight (8), including Ford, KlA's and four (4) MlA's who were later changed to deceased. Many 6th S0S personnel will remember the facility named for Wallace Ford at Pleiku.
In October 1969 the unit was being broken up and the pilots were transferred to NKP. They were assigned to either the 1st SOS, 22nd SOS, or the 602nd SOS (Fighter), There was a small group that manned a detachment at Pleiku but were there for only a short period of time. During this time period the 56th SOW Operating Location Alpha Alpha was established at DaNang commanded by Jim Wold. Jim had been at Pleiku with the 6th SOS. The personnel manning the OLAA were assigned to the 56th and on TDY at DaNang. This arrangement gave them certain privileges such as stateside leave. Even while all the kinks were being ironed out missions were flown daily. In the end the 6th ACS/SOS was finally deactivated on 15 November 1969. Still the 56th OLAA carried on as SPAD.
by BG Wm. M. "Blll" Constantine
Enjoyed the article on the 6th SOS in the March 87 Newsletter. Jim Reeves and I were the first two pilots assigned to the 6th in August '67 at England AFB, L.A. We spent several months ferrying J's and H's from the boneyard at Davis-Monthan to the Navy IRAN facility at Quonset Point, RI and back. We set up a training program at England as new pilots joined us. In February '68, sixteen of us loaded on a C-141 for Pleiku via Survival School at Clark. Our planes arrived at Cam Ranh Bay via carrier three weeks after we arrived at Pleiku.
We filled the time listening to "Civic Action" briefings, getting drunk at a Montagnard Village in the Highlands, and visiting "Grunts" at Dak To. It was great to start flying! The Spads did good work at Pleiku and it was well reported thanks to our PR man "Bullshit One" Gene "Skinny" McGinnis.
by Stretch Ballmes
Regret I haven't made all that many reunions but the Air Commando Reunion is right here and at about the same time. Now if I had retired with BG pay like my near neighbor Hienie Aderholt, I could afford to do them both. Especially enjoyed Don Dineen and Bill Constantine's article about the 6th Air Commando Fighter Squadron (I never did accept that Special Ops crap). Did it really say BG in front of Bill Constantine's name? Boy those Greeks got a bit of pull. Ought to know, my daughter married one. We did call him "Greek" didn't we?
I was also a member of that original sixteen by the intercession of Jack Ford. He asked for me. The guys name that became our new Commander at Pleiku was LtC Repp. Enjoyed Don Dineen's account about the cannon exploding! We strongly suspect that the same thing happened to John Hayes and Jack Ford (KIA) . They had just given me 065 for my very own. Hadn't owned it for a week yet, and John Hayes shot himself down. Didn't even have my name painted on it yet. Was so mad at him I didn't talk to him for a month. Tough to do because he lived right across the hall. On 10 January 1969 the same thing happened to me in a "G". Only thing different was I wasn't intelligent enough to "punch-out". Actually, I started to but that little hemorrhoid ring we used to sit on had slid way out from under my butt and I couldn't find the lanyard. By the time I found the lanyard it occurred to me, "Hey, how come I wanna punch-out, when this old bird want's to fly". Truthfully, I was more frightened to get out than I was of flying that great blowtorch. Didn't realize how close we were to DaNang and was gobbling altitude for all I was worth, by the time I got everything that would burn shut off and got my head back out of the cockpit DaNang was just forward of me. Well with all that altitude and speed and no hydraulic pressure for flaps and speed brakes would you believe I ended up taking it around? On the closed downwind my wingman said these most beautiful words, "Hey, Stretch, The fire just went out and the gear is starting to move". Got three green and touched it down at about 200 kts. Wasn't much skin left on that wing. As a result they were able to determine that what happened was the brass didn't extract and when it punched in the next round the warhead hit the brass and detonated. Sure scared me. Was a lucrative target, too.
Hey Bill Constantine, do you remember a night when one of our brother pilots was in an alcohol fog and finally marched into the AP HQ and demanded that they lock him up because he was being drunk and disorderly? I think he had just belted you and the AP's were protesting they had no facility in which to lock him up. We finally got him off to bed before the Squadron Commander got there and I think he was glad too because that guy was a big strong dude. We must have set a record for Squadron Commanders. We had one small really humorous little man for awhile and I can't remember his name. I keep getting Swain but I don't think that's correct. Anyway, my most favorite war story is about him. Damn, let's start a new war, I wanna do it again!
Webmaster note: Stretch Ballmes was my instructor pilot in the A-1 at Hurlburt Field in Aug 1971.