Vietnam rescue helicopter pilot to address Aero Club gathering


         The Jolly Green Giant 

A retired USAF lieutenant colonel who was one of the pilots onboard a mission gunship on the Son Tay prison camp raid in Vietnam some 45 years ago will be guest speaker at the Sun Lakes Aero Club (SLAC) gathering Monday, April 18 at the Sun Lakes Country Club Mirror Room.  The session starts with coffee and camaraderie at 6:30 p.m., followed by the presentation at 7 p.m.  The public is invited to attend.

          Sun Lakes resident Tom Waldron will describe the training and deployment for the secret and dangerous mission on Nov. 20-21, 1970. Hovering at 50 feet above the ground, the giant Hh53 Jolly Green Giant helicopter’s crew members fired their mini-guns to take out the two compound gun towers.  This allowed the HH-3 helicopter landing inside the compound with 14 US Special Forces on board to exit cleanly and find the POWs. Waldron was awarded the Silver Star after the mission.

          Waldron graduated from Clemson University and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the USAF.  He completed pilot training in March 1963 and went on to fly in the Strategic Air Command for six years with 2,000 hours in the KC-135.  He earned three air medals flying air refueling missions during the Vietnam war.

          He has published a book, “I Flew With Heroes,” a true story of rescue and recovery during the Vietnam war, including the raid at Son Tay.

          This will be the final SLAC gathering this spring.  The group will reconvene this fall, with sessions the third Monday of each month from November through April, 2017.  SLAC also sponsors monthly field trips and fly-in breakfasts at nearby airports. 

 Additional information is available at the club’s website,, or by calling club president Cannon Hill at 509-539-7857 or program director Gary Vacin at 298-7017.