About the Author

Dr. Larry “Elton” Fletcher
USAF Pilot 1968-73


Dr. Larry “Elton” Fletcher was born in a Moniteau County, Missouri farm house in 1943. After graduating in 1961 from California High School in California, Missouri, Larry graduated from Missouri State University at Springfield with a B.S. in Education in 1965. To avoid getting drafted, he immediately enrolled as a graduate assistant at the University of Missouri at Columbia and graduated in 1966 with a Master of Education degree.

After teaching in high schools at Kankakee, Illinois and St. Charles, Missouri, he joined the U.S. Air Force in St. Louis in June 1968. He reported to Lackland AFB, Medina Annex for Officer Training School (OTS). The “ninety-day wonder” received his officer commission and second lieutenant bar in September 1968. He was assigned to Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) “Cobra” Class 70-03 at Randolph AFB, Texas for fifty-three weeks training in T-41, T-37, and T-38 aircraft. Texas mink farmers were happy when Fletcher graduated with silver wings of USAF pilot in November 1969. According to his Squadron Commander, Fletcher’s sonic booms created by breaking the sound barrier in the T-38 affected the mating habits of mink.

Upon UPT graduation, Fletcher selected the AC-119 gunship because it had guns and he immediately entered the “pipeline” to the Vietnam War that included survival training at Fairchild AFB, Washington followed by C-119 flight training at Clinton County AFB, Wilmington, Ohio and AC-119 combat crew training at Lockbourne AFB, Columbus, Ohio. Jungle Survival “Snake” School at Clark AB, Philippines preceded his May 1970 Vietnam war zone entry point at Cam Ranh Bay. From there, it was a mortar/rocket overnight at Phan Rang Air Base where he was assigned by HQ 17th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) to C Flight at Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon. From May 1970 to May 1971, Fletcher flew the majority of his 177 combat missions over Cambodia. During his tour, he upgraded from copilot to aircraft commander with the radio call sign of Shadow 27.

First Lieutenant Fletcher was designated Outstanding Junior Officer of the 17th SOS and was nominated by the 14th Special Operations Wing (SOW) for Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) Outstanding Junior Officer of the Year. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Cluster and the Air Medal with eight Oak Leaf Clusters.

Upon completion of his Vietnam tour of duty, Fletcher was assigned to “Dog Patch Airlines”, 4650th Combat Support Squadron, Air Defense Command at Richards-Gabaur AFB, Kansas City, Missouri, flying C-119J “Boxcars” as line/instructor pilot in CONUS and Canada. He was promoted to Captain and accepted a commission in the Regular Air Force. Upon deactivation of 4650th in June 1972, Fletcher flew two “J-boxcars” to D-M bone-yard in Arizona, one of which lost an engine resulting in an emergency single-engine landing at Phoenix Sky Harbor International.

In August 1972, Fletcher reported for duty with the 2048th Communications Squadron, Air Force Communications System (AFCS) as Operations Officer for American Central NOTAM (Notice To Airmen) facility, concurrently flying Convair T-29 passenger planes as a support pilot (taxi driver for generals) for Strategic Air Command (SAC) 7th Bomb Wing, Carswell AFB, Texas.
Upon learning his future assignment was SAC and B-52 bombers, he resigned his regular commission and was honorably discharged on August 15, 1973 and assigned to the USAF Ready Reserve.

After leaving active duty, Fletcher returned to teaching, coaching, and administration in various Missouri public school districts including his former employer, St. Charles School District in Missouri. Utilizing the GI Bill, Fletcher earned the Educational Specialist degree in 1981 and the Doctor of Education degree in 1984, both degrees from the University of Missouri - Columbia.

Dr. Fletcher retired from public school teaching and administration in 1997 to devote full time to writing which initially began with the 1984 publishing of Moniteau County Schools History 1810-1984. He has since published two novels about AC-119 gunships operations and combat crews during the Vietnam War. Shadows of Saigon – Air Commandos in Southeast Asia was published in 2001 and its sequel The Shadow Spirit – Flying Stingers and BUFFs in S.E.A. was published in 2004. Larry spearheaded the AC-119 Gunships Association project of publishing AC-119 Gunships History Book 1968- 1973. The book can be purchased from the Association through the website: www.ac-119gunships.com.

Fletcher is currently working on a nonfiction history about the USAF 71st and 17th Special Operations Squadrons of the 14th Special Operations Wing that flew AC-119G gunships during the Vietnam War from 1968 to 1971.

Larry and his wife Sue reside at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Three daughters and eight grandchildren are the pride and joy of Larry and Sue.