Service Reflections: Air Force vet recalls Congo, Cuban missile crisis, Berlin Wall and Vietnam

Service Reflections: Air Force vet recalls Congo, Cuban missile crisis, Berlin Wall and Vietnam

Air Force Together We Served


Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Profile Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.

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Editor’s note: The following Service Reflections is one of many recorded on, a secure online community with a membership of over 2 million active-duty and veteran members. This story may contain language which may not be suitable for young children.

CMSGT Joseph DeLuca
Status: U.S. Air Force Retired
Service Years: 1957-1985

Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Air Force.

Buddies in BMT

We moved to New York City on the Lower east side when I was 1year old. The year was 1939. World War II was being talked about by all; it was coming soon. I living on the Lower Eastside was like a cement jungle. Dog eat dog on the streets. Gang Fights were frequent, but I played stickball and let the rest fly by as a kid.

I was always excited about airplanes and flying. My sister bought me my first airplane kit. It was an F-80 Shooting Star wood model. I painted it Blue because it flew high in the sky. After grammar school, I attended AVIATION TRADES H.S. and really got involved with the airplane and the systems that make it go.

My classroom work consists of eight hours of classes and four hours of shop work. It wasn’t until my brother-in-law Joe came into the picture that I began to get interested in the service. He had just got out from the newly formed U.S.Air Force. He talked about his plane P-47 Thunderbolt flying every chance he got. After I graduated from Aviation Trades, I joined the U.S. AIR FORCE, and it was only ten years old on October 14, 1947.

I joined on October 14, 1957. My brother-in-law, Joe, was the person that got me started in the US Air Force.

Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?

54th Air Rescue, Goose Bay

My path was exciting. I was first assigned to the 1607th OMS on C-124 GlobeMasters. Frankly, one big flying machine. Once on a crew, we traveled all over the world. I know that was what I wanted to do.

After three years, I was assigned to the 54th AIR SEA RESCUE on SC-54D aircraft. The work and flying were very adventurous. Saving a planeload of women and children going to meet up with their loved ones. The planes C-118 out of McGuireA.F.B. Losses an engine in flight, and shortly after, the inboard engine was losing power. We flew that night and met up with the plane and directed him to the Navy base Argentia. In formation, we flew them there without an event.

I left Goose Bay for Stewart AFB New York in support of the Military Academy. By now, I was meeting great people and liking the career field of Aircraft Maintenance. From New York, it was Ton Sun Nut V.N. I crewed C123 Providers for six months, and then I was assigned to the 22TAS, Vi Tan on O1D BIRDDOGS that was one hell of an assignment, lots of action supporting the 31st Viet Nam regiment. I flew missions for fight support and many other duty’s.

By this time, I was following my path of Maintenance and flying. After VietNam, I was assigned to Griffiss AFB in Rome, New York, on C54D VIP aircraft. There I met and married my beautiful wife, Angie. Sometime later, Julie Lynn came as well. Then the Air Force decided I need a tour to Viet Nam again. So I went to the 12SOS flying UC-123K AIR DEFOLIATION. That was one hell of a year. I flew 114 missions, 440 Combat hours, and picked up 31 hits. I got home safely, and my family and I went to Stuttgart, Germany, on a T29 and c-131 aircraft.

I crewed T29 B 5118, Haggar the Horrible she couldn’t go to the end of the runway without breaking down. By the time we left in 1974, she was the best. We departed for Andrews AFB, Maryland, and now in the jet age. T-39’s then C-135s.

I made E-8 SMSGT by then after my Maryland tour, it was Patrick AFB on O2’S and OV10S .Made CMSGT, and was sent to Langley AFB on F-15 Eagles. Well, after an exciting tour of 28 years, I was shaving one morning and looked at myself and said it was time to go and start a new career.

I was able to get my Mechanical Engineering Degree during all the ups and downs, so I departed and retired in May 1985.

If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian, and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?

Chateauroux, France

In the early days of my career with the Air Force. Dover AFB and the C-124 was called on to assist the needy in Africa. The Congo had troubles with a gang of soldiers raiding the villages to take the young men and kill the old. They would rape their women and take their food. We would go into Wheeler AFB in Libya, refuel and land at a secure landing strip in the Congo to drop off needed supplies of food and med supplies. No uniforms were allowed, One crew almost lost their heads, the Navigator was wearing his flight jacket with the AF patch on the sleeve, and one of the ax men saw the patch and stop the lead from doing a bleed join.

Berlin Germany and the wall, I was extended for one year. During that year, we would go into Templehof AB with food and water for the locals.

Formation to Target - Vietnam

Then came the Cuban crisis, where Russia was going to build missile bases in Cuba. The 54th Air Rescue out of Goose Bay was called down to Homestead AB to support the fight coming up. Believe me, and we had an air Amanda down there to sink the island of Cuba. Kennedy came through and saved the world one hell of a fight. I was proud of my service and country.

Viet Nam, I was in the 309 TAS, crewing a C-123 Provider number 622. I called her Jenny. Some six months later, I was in the Mekong Delta with the 22nd FAC crewing and fling O1 Birddog. In 1970 after deciding to become a career man, I was off to Viet Nam again, going to the 12th SOS Low-Level Defoliation team. That was one hell of an outfit to be with. Twenty-Five feet over the terrain, flying fast and low 240 knots with jets and reciprocal engines going strong.

I was proud to be on the Ranch, and DOD was our caller to spray I flow mission in DaNang, HUE, Around Munky Mountain, Happy Valley, and the delta. I FLOW 114 MISSIONS, 440 HOUR in combat with 31 hits.

Yes, it was Viet Nam, 12 SOS Ranch Hands. Our mission that day was Happy Valley near Na Trang AB. After a brief, I walked out to preflight and ran my plane. Shortly after, my pilots came out and asked me about our smoke grenades. I had ten on board. They asked me to get more.

On my way back to the aircraft, I felt something was up. Sure enough, a North Viet Nam troop was seen in the area. I really felt this was the day we were not coming home, and I would not see my daughter again. We had a six-ship formation on target. From the start during descent out of 3000 ft., we began to take ground fire. Smokes were going out from all six planes. We had three F-100 in front laying down CBU and three behind us laying down 20 MM. Start of the first run, COL. Clayton's lead pilot was hit, and we took the lead as he got up to altitude. It was a rough ride with all taking hits. We escorted the plane to Na Tang, where Col Clayton was taped up and back to Bien Hoa. July 19, 1970, will always be remembered by all. I lost my landing gear hydraulic and APU we had to shut down one engine on the way home fought running. That was my DFC day.

Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?

Stuttgart Germany Headquarters UCom. Was my fondest assignment. I was with my family, and I was flying and crewing a T29B before this plane was a trainer converted to a VIP aircraft. We worked with the Army on the same field. During my stay, I met a lot of great people and got to fly all over Europe. They say you level Germany with at least one cuckoo clock. We were blessed I came home with two more, a girl and a son, as well as five cuckoo clocks.

My unit helped Headquarters change location from Weiboten to Ramstine (spelling may not be correct). I had the pleaser of fly General David Jones several times we talked about the planes we had in the Air Force and what was coming in the future. The day came when I was the engineer on my aircraft to pick up General Jones and fly him to Rien, Maine. He was chosen to be the next Chief Of Staff of the US Air Force. We taxied in, I go to open the stairs, and my door rod broke, and my stairs came down. I was so embarrassed; I turned to the General to apologize; he patted me on my back and told me, Joe, when I get into the office, my first task is to send the Receps to the boneyard.

About one year later, at Andrews AFB, I took my plane to the boneyard. If anyone out there had to take their plane to the yard, you know how sad it is to give up a loved one.

From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.

It has to be the Ranch Hand, July 19, 1970, Happy Valley Viet Nam. I still remembered flying lead and taking hits all the way down and on target. It was like hell F-100 in front and back and still get all that attention. Charlie didn’t like the Ranch Hand.

The day I had the pleasure of flying General George S. Patten Jr.out of HQ UCOM, Patch Barrack. The General expresses his opponents or demands with great force of mouth. Every other word was a curse word that only his father would love. He loved the Army and his men, but his mouth was a killer.

What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?

During my 28 year stay with the Air Force, I tried to improve myself educationally. I found it hard to get settled into my job and do classes. With my Viet Nam assignment, it sometimes took about a year to get back to my classwork. To advance in rank, you had to go to NCO Academy and sometimes the Senior NCO academy. One would say Dam if you do and Dam if you don’t.

Well, I don’t know how I did it, but I attended the NCO and the Senior NCO Academy. I found time to work at College and get my Mechanical Engineering degree. Funny, but I am possibly the only one to grad with 240 credits for a 120 degree. My family was behind me all the way. That helped. I think because of my endurance and their help, we made it.

Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations, and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?

Vi Thank So Vietnam - 22nd TAS.

The Distinguished Flying Cross for July 19, 1970, flying Ranch Hand Mission. From all my reading on WWII, the DFC was special. I was proud to be awarded it. Happy Valley was hell that day and we all took ground fire and received battle damage There were the Air Medals we earned one per twenty missions, I earned 8 Air Medals flying 114 missions.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive impact on you and why?

I was fortunate, and my military career allowed me to meet so many professionals. In each unit, the were personnel that was truly the best in their field. The transition from the F-106 to the F-15 and given six months after all the aircraft was on the station was a demanding task.

CMSgt. Colbert was one who kept the F-106s performing during their transition. Msgt. Carr Logistics planning training for all. SMGT. Sayago Weapons planed the training and was there for the transition and return of the weapons. These are the men that had a positive impact on the success of a unit.

List the names of old friends you served with, at which locations, and recount what you remember most about them. Indicate those you are already in touch with and those you would like to make contact with.


Sgt. Tassone Dover AFB Delaware 1957-59, Tass, was my first Crew Chief. He taught me the C-124C. We worked together for at least six months. He was Airman First Class, hard-working C/C with a wife and three kids. Promotions were few, so he departed the Air force.

SSGT. Joyner Dover AFB. Great crew team leader Dover AFB was our team lead and troubleshooter. Great guy. He knows those R4360 engines, so I spend time learning from him. He got out for the same reason rank.

TSGT. HESS 54th Air Rescue Chief Engineer Goose Bay Lab. TSgt Hess was my first flight test Engineer. He taught me the ropes of being a flight engineer.

SMSGT. Wright, Field Manager FAC Viet Nam. Sgt. Wright was my field coordinator during the time I was out in the fields.

SMSGT Bernie Dallies Lead Engineer UC-123K VietNam Bernie was one hell of a team engineer. He scheduled our flying and check rides. Worked close with all. Made Chief on his return to Dover.

MSGT. Don Dunn NCOIC of enlisted troops Ranch Hand VN. Don Dunn was one great NCOIC making sure his men were taken care of, clothes, boots, gloves, that Herbicide was hell on clothes. He always worried about his people. I left VN in December; Don was killed in January flying the big bird.

CMSGT. Saccartta Andrews AFB Maryland NCOIC of the fleet that supports VIP. and the VP. Gene worked very closely with his Flight Chiefs. One of the best. Gene and I studied and completed the FAA course for our A and P licenses.

These are some of the few good men that work with you and got the job done.

Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?

I was then the driver of the pickup van. This was an extra duty job because of the shortage of engineers. On return from a mission, I picked up the crews and returned them to the briefing room. Someone said, Teddy Bear, you took a hit in your flak jacket on one such travel. His response was no way, they helped him get his jacket off, and sure as hell, Ron took an AK 47 hit. He fainted. Or the time I left Dave Stramath out on the tar mat in the heat of the day. He was about to kill me. We laughed at that one more than once.

What profession did you follow after your military service, and what are you doing now? If you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?

I retired from the Air Force in May 1985. I had a great career and served as a CMSGT. Head of the Quality Assurance Chief for some three years. During my service career, I worked at getting my degree in Mechanical Engineering, I was able to complete my schooling and my A&P License to boot. I started work with Boeing Helicopter in Philadelphia, first in logics and then as a Service Engineer.

Shortly after my wife’s passing, my lead suggested sending me down to Pax River for the aircraft's flight phase. I stayed 19 years at Pax River. I retired after having a problem with my military service injuries, Agent Orange.

What military associations are you a member of, if any? What specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?

I belong to:
American Legion life member.
VFW life member.
Viet Nam Veterans Association. Life Member.
Air Force Sergeant Association.
I support the Wounded Warriors Project.

I do this not to gain fame, and I do it because we all were alone at one time or another in the service. Sometimes it’s not enough to service your country. Sometimes you want an ear to bend. Joe Gresham and I were up early one morning in Viet Nam. Flighting was on hold, and Joe and I talked about a cup of coffee. We walked down to the USO club they had, and a young lady came up to greet us and offer a cup of coffee. That coffee was so good, and she offers us donuts. Joe and I were confused is this a combat zone, or I must be dreaming. We enjoyed that visit. She made us feel we had had a job to do. A GI knows their job but needs support. That is why I do it.

In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?

V-22 Testing Aboard the USS Warps

The service puts a level of confidence in you. You know and learned your job, and now you have a sense of pride. Your dam good at your job and now wish to help others. That is what the Air Force did to me. I worked hard to get my degree in Mechanical Engineer, and it also took me a long time. Sitting at home at night after supper, my loving wife washing dishes and the kids and I doing homework.

The next morning you are up before all, flying a mission. I’m glad, and it paid off for me. After I retired, I joined Boeing and was happy to be placed on the V-22 Osprey. I worked that aircraft from ink on paper to the assembly and flight test phase. I am very proud the Osprey worked out. We had a few hills to climb, like the Pax River testing. We were trying to get a small vehicle for reaction force to use on the V-22. I got a call from my Chief Engineer asking me to measure their ramp opening. Mine was not to ask why but not do or die. So I did, and within a short time, I had the tail section designers down to see what and where I measure. In short, the engineer section of the tail (46 section) added Flange to each need of the door seal preventing the Jeep from getting into the fuselage.

What did I miss more? In my 28 years of service, I miss the people, the aircraft, and the flying that I loved. I only got 4000 hours, I made Chief Wing, and I worked to make CMST.

Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Air Force?

Get all you can out of the Air Force. They offer all the men and women various programs, and if you don’t like your job, you can cross-train. I know it is easier said than done. Try, you may get into a short field and love it.

You have a great opportunity to go to night school, use the Air Force for an Associate degree. Most bases have local colleges on base. The Air Force has Leadership Schools and NCO Academy's on base. Don’t leave the service empty-handed. Have a degree, and you will do well. One last note, in today's world, at least 85% have a degree. So get one from the USAF.

In what ways has helped you remember your military service and the friends you served with.

TogetherWeServed has made me do a lot of digging. It has been some 35 years since I left The Air Force. When I joined in 1957, the Air Force was only ten years old. Today we have the mightiest Air Force in the world, and it is only 73 yrs old if that can't knock your socks off.

In 28 years, I had the opportunity to do and see a mind full. There were so many friends I met and had fun with. We all watched out for each other. Each outfit was a new challenge and a new place. TWS gave me a strong force to dig up my pictures and remember my friends. I dug deep for names and many I forgot, but I remember the faces and the stories.

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