Category Archives: Air Force

Take To The “Air” ~ 52 Ancestors #16

Me and BrotherIn 1955 my brother Gordon Smith Wilson, who was 18 years older than I, graduated High School and joined the United States Air Force.  He left home and began to travel the world.



In March 1965, President Lyndon Johnson made the decision to send U.S. combat forces C130into battle in Vietnam. My brother was among the first to go. He had achieved the rank of Technical Sergeant and was the LoadMaster for the C130 cargo plane. His unit would fly supplies and fresh troops into the combat zones and then fly the wounded and dead out. He was very good at his job and could even load a plane in the midst of the jungles without a scale.

Brother in Vietnam

Gordon, bottom left

About a year into his first tour in Vietnam (He voluntarily served 3 tours) my parents received a letter from the Air Force about Gordon. I remember it so vividly. It was a commendation letter for a heroic act that he had performed. His unit had been flying some wounded soldiers out of a combat zone when their plane was hit on the right side making a hole in the right gas tank. As the gasoline slowly leaked out, the plane began to tip to one side. Knowing they had to distribute some weight to correct this problem, my brother, using sacks filled with grain, climbed up inside the right wing and shoved the sacks as far into it as he could. He did this until there was enough weight to level the plane. They were able to fly the aircraft quite a distance until they could safely land it. Gordon’s quick thinking and courage saved many men that day. He was indeed a hero.

Over the 3 tours that he completed in Vietnam, Gordon was shot 3 times, Once in each of his legs and once in his shoulder. He was captured by the Viet Cong but was able to escape and he was exposed to radiation which left horrendous scars across the bridge of his nose. Through it all, regardless of how anyone back home felt about this war or about those who fought in it, my brother felt he was doing what was needed to be done to protect the country that he loved.

Gordon Smith Wilson was born on April 06, 1937, and died on February 12, 2018.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.



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