A Hercules at Last

A Hercules transport assigned to the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 189th Airlift Wing landed at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, last week, filling a notable gap in the National Museum of the Air Force’s collection. On April 15, 1972, the crew of C-130E—call sign SPARE 617, was assigned to resupply US and South Vietnamese forces besieged at An Loc, defending Saigon against an all out offensive. Approaching the drop zone at low level, SPARE 617 was hit by anti-aircraft fire, which killed the flight engineer and wounded the copilot and one loadmaster; disabled two engines; and set its cargo of ammunition on fire. Loadmaster SSgt. Charles Shaub ejected the cargo pallets manually and took up a fire-hot extinguisher to put out the remaining fire; he suffered severe burns but saved the aircraft. Pilot Capt. William Caldwell flew on two engines, safely landing the aircraft against all odds and saving its remaining crew. “We are pleased to gain an aircraft with such a distinctive history for our collection,” said retired Lt. Gen. Jack Hudson, museum director. Both Caldwell and Shaub received the Air Force Cross for their heroism. (Museum report by Sarah Swan)