U.S. Air Force Korean War Tinley Park, IL Flight date: 08/08/18
By Frank Hauenschild, Honor Flight Chicago Veteran Interviews Volunteer
Born and raised in Fredericksburg, TX, Miguel “Mike” Gomez attended Fredericksburg High School. He met his high school best friend, Edward Dale McCally (know to friends as Dale) in his sophomore year, and they always spoke about joining the military. Shortly after graduation, Mike and Dale enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in July 1952. After completing Basic Training at Lackland AFB in Bexar County, Texas, Mike was sent to technical school to learn maintenance on the B-26 Invader Bomber.
Mike’s first overseas tour sent him directly to South Korea. Leaving on a troop transport boat from San Francisco, Mike stills recalls the arduous 11-day trip to South Korea. On Arrival, Mike was stationed at Pusan AFB where he maintained the B-26 Bombers that were flying combat missions from that air base during the Korean War. Mike recalls that he was only at Pusan AFB about six months when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed in July 1953 that resulted in a ceasefire between the combatting forces.
Mike remained at Pusan AFB for the remainder of his four-year commitment, and then he re-enlisted in 1956 for another four years. During that period of time, Mike remained in the States maintaining aircraft. While on his second tour, Mike began servicing the Douglas C-124 Globemaster Military Transport. The C-124 was the largest piston powered aircraft that was being operated by the Air Force. Completing his second tour of duty with the Air Force, Mike again reenlisted in 1956 for another four years.
Shortly after reenlisting on his third tour, Mike was sent to Tachikawa AFB in Japan. Tachikawa was located on the western part of Tokyo. From there, Mike was sent to various air bases in the South Pacific where aircraft were landing and departing. In such places as Iwo Jima, Okinawa and the Philippines, Mike serviced and maintained the C-124s and other transport planes. Mike recounted the size of Clark AFB in the Philippines as being “massive” and that many troops, not only from the Air Force but also from other military branches, were stationed there or stopping there during reassignment. Mike chuckled as he remembered three to four NCO (non-commissioned officers) clubs at Clark that operated on a 24/7 schedule to provide rest and recreation to it’s attendees.
While on a short mission to Thailand to service aircraft, he ran across his old high school buddy, Dale, who at that time was a major in the Air Force and was flying transport planes around the world. Mike recalled their first visit since enlisting and attending Basic Training at Lackland. At that time, they exchanged stories of their experiences and their future intentions after leaving the military. Mike and Dale remain friends and are in contact with each other to this day. Leaving Thailand and returning to Japan during his last year of this enlistment, Mike again reenlisted for another four-year tour of duty in 1960.
Returning from Japan, Mike was assigned to James Connally AFB near Waco, Texas. While there, he was sent to Ft. Benning/Lawson Army Airfield where he trained to maintain the new de Havilland DHC-4 Caribou aircraft. The new plane was a specialized aircraft with short takeoff and landing (STOL) capabilities. After training, Mike returned to Connally AFB and reenlisted for another four-year tour of duty in 1964.
As tensions were elevating in Vietnam and the U.S. began sending troops, Mike was sent to Vietnam to maintain aircraft. Leaving from California on Christmas Day, 1967, he flew to South Vietnam. On his commercial jet flight, which took approximately 15 hours, Mike recalled that his first trip to South Korea took about 11 days by boat and realized that the “world really shrunk” due to the advancements in aircraft over the years. While serving in South Vietnam, he would often be deployed to Thailand to service aircraft when they would land there to deploy troops and supplies.
Upon returning after his tour in Vietnam, Mike was sent to Lockbourne AFB where he trained on maintaining the newly redesigned C-119 transport which was then being retrofitted as a gun ship. He was amazed at the fire power of it. The transports were now being powered by twin turbo-prop engines and being equipped with GAU-2/A miniguns, capable of firing 6,000 rounds per minute. Mike recollects that some of the AC-119 planes, in addition to the miniguns, where also equipped with additional twin 20-mm cannons.
After receiving his training, Mike was again deployed to Vietnam to service military aircraft after reenlisting in 1968. Returning to the States after this tour, he was assigned to Mather AFB in California where he remained until 1972 servicing aircraft. Thinking about retiring, Mike decided to reenlist for just another two years.
Leaving California in 1972 in his relatively new pick-up truck that was equipped with a camper top, he and his family drove to Panama, his new duty assignment. Mike recalled that it took almost nine days to make the trip and quipped that he would never do that again in his life. Completing his last tour of duty in 1974 as a master sergeant, Mike returned to Texas where he was employed as a maintenance man for Oscar Mayer for 21 years.
Desiring to remain in Texas, he met his second wife, Iola, after the passing of his first wife. Iola was no stranger to Mike, as she attended the same Fredericksburg high school as he did. Iola, having her adult children living in the South Suburbs of Chicago, they packed up and moved to Tinley Park, IL.
In completing my interview with Mike, he again stated how the world was shrinking. Recalling his tour of duty in Korea, which took him eleven days by boat, his second tour of duty in Japan which took 32 hours in an Air Force transport plane, and then fifteen hours by jet to South Vietnam, he was amazed by the technological advancements which made this world smaller during his 24 years of service to our country with the U.S. Air Force.
Thank you Master Sergeant Miguel “Mike” Gomez for your twenty-four years of service to our country. Enjoy your well-deserved Honor Flight with your fellow veterans!