January 2005

The Story of Roy Lynn, U.S. Air Force (USAF), 1955 - 1977

The following are excerpts from an oral history interview conducted by members of the Concord Historical Commission.

Colonel (Col.) Roy Lynn, USAF (retired) graduated from West Point in 1955 and went into the Air Force. He describes the many years and ways he piloted the C-47, including over Vietnam in the 1960s. The full text of Lynn's interview can be found at the Concord Free Public Library.

I started checking out in the DC-3 or the C-47 as we referred to it in the Air Force and this is what led me into my first Vietnam assignment… We were flying these ancient aircraft, the C-47, which incidentally were being designed the year I was born, mostly World War II planes. They always said about the C-47 they would probably put a man on the moon with a space rocket, but they would re-supply him with a C-47! Those things would never, never die. At his point in Vietnam, U.S. forces were supposed to be over there as advisors. When I was sent over there it was an operation called "Farmgate"… It was transport-type missions, but we also flew reconnaissance and also trained the Vietnamese pilots in fighter operations and so forth. At first, most of us were located just north of Saigon, in Bien Hoa, and I was flying the C-47 over there.

The Special Forces were out in remote locations training and operating with the Montagnard forces in Vietnam and the ARVN forces. So our job was to get out there and help them when they needed ammunition, when they needed food, tennis shoes, barbed wire, feed for their animals - you name it, we were out there delivering it… It was pretty challenging sometimes to find these places - they were in jungle locations or road intersections - and then to make sure that the supplies were properly delivered to the forces and not into the enemy hands. These places were really out in the boondocks. We also would drop flares at night to light up these remote villages when they were being attacked; and the flares were quite effective, because they allowed the defenders to see the attackers. Oftentimes we would have fighters as well, and then the fighters would come in with the light of the flares and do some bombing and strafing, and they could see what they were doing with the light of the flares. Lynn returned to the U.S., carried out a mission in the Congo, and then in 1966.

1 day the phone rang: Personnel, System Command Headquarters called, saying that I was going back to Vietnam. And I said, "Well, wait a minute, I've already been to Vietnam." They said, "Yes, but you've only gone for 6 months - you need a year. So you're going to Vietnam, again." So sure enough I went to Vietnam. I ended up going back to Saigon… going back to these C-47s, they had collected these aircraft from all over the United States. They sent them to Miami International Airport where they would take this airplane down to nothing - they removed the bolts, just took it all apart; and put it back together again and …used the basic parts but put in new engines or rebuilt engines, and so when they came out of this process they looked like new. Then they …put all this sophisticated gear in it - there was quite a lot of radio and navigation gear that needed to be installed on this airplane. Then the crews would ferry them from Nashua over to Vietnam. The Phyllis Ann Mission really was a pretty important mission, but boring to fly. What we were up to was, in back of this airplane there was a sort of capsule. I don't remember ever seeing the equipment that was in back but it was bristling with antennas. What we were doing was listening, with the crew in the back, listening…for these radio transmissions, decide whether it was a command post or what kind of target it was. If it was a target that they felt was worthwhile, we would pinpoint the location. We would be able to do that by triangulation; because of the navigation equipment on the airplane we would know where we were very precisely and then we would fly around this target and take various line of positions - we would use these to locate this target. Then we would pull off to 1 side and either fighter bombers or artillery, or even ground raids would come in. This was a pretty sophisticated way, using a very old airplane to do a very modern job, to locate these command posts or enemy positions or whatever.

The problem as far as I was concerned was that we were just flying at 5,000 feet or thereabouts, in big circles around in the air, listening to these people in the back tell us where to fly. There were long hours - and I never laid eyes on anybody who was in the back of the airplane! They were people who understood Vietnamese; we would get the airplane ready to go, pre-flight it, then this bread truck with no windows would come up. We were in the cockpit, they would get on and go into this capsule in the back of the airplane and then we would load up… [Was it to protect them on the street from being recognized.?] I'm sure I had some thoughts on it, but I really don't know. We never knowingly came in social contact with these people, I don't know who they were. When we finished the mission the reverse would occur: the bread truck would come up and take them off, and then we were allowed to get out of the cockpit and finish up the post flight. I believed they were Vietnamese, they were probably bilingual. Never laid eyes on them and I'm sure they probably were wearing civilian clothes anyway. So that was sort of interesting.

After this mission, Col. Lynn worked in the Pentagon, helping develop a radar-based air defense system for the Shah of Iran (never implemented because he was deposed), and after retiring in 1977 worked for Honeywell Electro Optics in Lexington. He is now retired.

For information contact Dick Krug, the veteran's agent for the town of Concord. He can be reached at 978-318-3038 or by email.