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314th AW honors Vietnam Heritage

Retired Col. (Dr.) Alan Gropman, National Defense University and Industrial College of the Air Force professor, spoke to Airmen, local community leaders and fellow veterans on base March 4 about past experiences during Vietnam. Dr. Gropman, a C-130 Hercules navigator during the Vietnam War, shared his experience and the story of others during the briefing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Steele C. G. Britton)

Retired Col. (Dr.) Alan Gropman, National Defense University and Industrial College of the Air Force professor, spoke to Airmen, local community leaders and fellow veterans on base March 4 about past experiences during Vietnam. Dr. Gropman, a C-130 Hercules navigator during the Vietnam War, shared his experience and the story of others during the briefing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Steele C. G. Britton)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- A C-130, carrying more than 150 frightened Vietnamese women and children, was shot down the morning of May 12, 1968 amidst a flurry of heavy machine-gun fire not far from the runway at Kham Duc. There were no survivors.

More than 1,400 American Soldiers, Marines, Airmen and Vietnamese men, women and children were evacuated from the special forces camp after it came under heavy mortar attack by hostile forces.

On March 4, Team Little Rock, veterans and local community members attended a Vietnam Heritage luncheon at the 62nd Airlift Squadron to look back at one legacy of the Air Force and honor the people who've shaped the Air Force into what it is today.

"Everybody was involved in this, this was a joint operation," said retired Col. (Dr.) Alan Gropman, National Defense University, Industrial College of the Air Force teacher and a C-130 navigator during the Vietnam War. "There were Army choppers, Navy jets, Marine jets [and] Vietnamese aircraft. The 7th Air Force had control over ordering the missions for these particular times."

According to Dr. Gropman, half the people were evacuated by Army helicopter and the second half could only be evacuated by Air Force C-130 aircraft and C-123 aircraft.

Throughout the battle, aircraft trying to evacuate people took heavy fire and one C-130 was shot down during takeoff.

"At the time the airplane was shot down, that was probably the biggest set of air fatalities in the history of aviation," said Dr. Gropman. "We lost nine aircraft on this particular mission."

For their efforts on one day at Kham Duc, airlifters were awarded the Medal of Honor, four Air Force Crosses, four Silver Stars and the MacKay Trophy for the most meritorious flight of the year.