This is a “to whom it may concern” recording of events that may interest those involved before and after June 18, 1972. While it is tempting, I’ll try to embellish as little as possible with the information I consider necessary for the final result.
Kenneth and I were born in the early 1930s to Fred Gilbert and Myrtle (Schrimsher) Gilbert. Myrtle died when Kenneth and I were young. Dad later married Mary (Carrell) Gilbert. Paul Gilbert was born on September 19, 1941. I was seven years older than Paul and Ken one and a half years older than me.
As close brothers often do, Ken and I often argued about inane things that seemed important at the time. One of these discussions involved Paul when he was around three years old with a big smile and dressed in a blue and white short navy suit. We were arguing about which one of us liked Paul the most. Paul solved the argument by taking my hand with one of his and taking Kenneth’s hand with the other. We walked off with Paul bouncing between us with a smile on all of our faces.
During the following years, our lives would diverge at times and then converge at other times. Ken completed his flight training top in his class and confounding all he chose the C-119. He was assigned a long tour to Evreux, France. While there he transitioned to the new C-130. He later told me that he became an excellent instrument pilot because of the foul weather.
Paul spent his young years with his really ugly dog named Jeannie. He played the piano in the stage band and baritone in the concert band. Meanwhile, I spent time studying Electrical Engineering at Texas Tech. My dream had always been to fly so at the end of the summer I decided to try for OCS and flight training. So, off to Love Field for the physical (Yep, that, too.). The last thing on the physical was the vision exam… disaster… I was slightly color blind. Just enough that my records were stamped COLOR BLIND forever! The following years were spent with an enlisted tour in the USAF which included an honor tour with a MAAG unit with the Korean Air Force. Of course, we had to wear class-A uniforms in the Korean winter… not fun. I learned one thing from all of this. Take the job at hand. Do the best you can. That’s good enough.
Kenneth returned from France and was assigned to the University of Texas where he studied particle physics via the bootstrap program. Paul joined Ken at UT where he received a degree in math. However, there was no secret that he planned on making the USAF a career. Ken had to put in flight time so he would take Paul with him. During one of these times, they were flying with an especially grouchy Major. Paul was told to get his parachute and get on board. He did. He grabbed it by the D-ring… double oops!
During the following years, Paul logged thousands of flight hours. At one time he was stationed in Cebu, Philippines. They would fly to Vietnam and spend weeks flying cargo where it was needed. Then they would return to the Philippines for aircraft maintenance and R & R. Some of the cargo deliveries required them to fly on the deck and extract the cargo pallet by throwing a parachute out of the back of the aircraft. Paul at times would volunteer to fly bladders of high-octane fuel to the places where reciprocating engine aircraft needed it. For this, they wore a red Texaco star on their flight suits. For a while, he was stationed in New Jersey. They would carry ammunition from there to Vietnam and body bags back to New Jersey thus logging a massive number of flight hours.
Paul’s final aircraft assignment was the AC-130. The Air Force used a converted A model C-130 for the gunship. Before intensive training in Florida, he was sent to Ellington Field Houston to check out on the older A model C-130. I lived in Houston so Paul and I were able to spend our final time together.
On a very dark night near June 18, 1972, I was notified that Paul’s aircraft had been hit by a SAM missile. As I walked down the street I could see in my mind from inside the aircraft as it went down. I knew that Paul would not return!
A memorial service for Paul was set up at the Episcopal Church in Plainview, Texas. For some reason, I was unable to make the trip to Plainview. Knowing the exact time of the service it was decided that I and my family would go to the local Episcopal Church and pay our respects in reverent silence. At the appointed time we arrived at the local Church. It was locked!
We knelt on the ground in a grass field near the Church. In my mind, I could see Paul when he was around three years old with a big smile and dressed in a blue and white short navy suit. He clasped Kenneth’s hand with one of his and clasped my hand with the other. We walked away with Paul bouncing between us and a smile on all of our faces.
Harold W. Gilbert (Wayne)
Addendum: On June 9, 2020, USAF COL Kenneth L. Gilbert (Amateur Radio operator W5TDH) became a “silent key”.