Lt. Col. John Halliday (USAFR, Ret.) Page 2

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C-133

C-133

Q. What was your training prior to joining the 606th SOS?

A. The standard one year of Air Force pilot training, flying the T-37 and supersonic T38. After graduation, they assigned me to fly the C-133 at Travis AFB, California. I attended three months of training at Dover AFB, Maryland. After eighteen months of flying the “Widow Maker” into Vietnam, they ordered me to Phan Rang, Vietnam to fly C-123K cargo missions. So I attended basic school in Columbus, Ohio, then tactical training at Hurlbert Field, Florida. There was no training to be a Candlestick pilot.

Q. How many hours in the C-123 had you logged before deploying to Southeast Asia?

A. Thirty at most.

Q. What was the allure of joining the unit for you?

A. I had no allure; I was clueless about the secret 606th SOS Candlestick mission. I’d just graduated from Jungle Survival School at Clark Air Base, Philippines. I was in the Clark terminal, ready to board a C-130 for Phan Rang, when they paged me. They’d changed my assignment. My next stop was a place called Nakhon Phanom, Thailand. I was thrilled; any place in Thailand was better than every place in Vietnam. So I bounced on springs across the tarmac to board a C-141 bound for Bangkok.

Q. Post-war, what was your military career?

A. They assigned me as a C-123K instructor at Columbus, Ohio, then Alexandria, Louisiana. I left active duty as soon as my six-year commitment was up to be an airline pilot. But no airlines were hiring, so like many pilots joined the Reserves to keep food on the table. Twenty years later, after flying the C-5 during the Gulf War, I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.

Q. Post-military, what have you done prior to — and since — writing Flying Through Midnight?

A. I had a twenty-eight year airline career concurrent with my Reserve career.  I flew B-767 transcons for my last ten years and retired from American Airlines last summer. Now I have a whole new career as an author.

Q. How long did it take to write, and why did you choose to write it when you did?

A. I thought I could knock it out in one year. It took three and consumed my life… still does. Why did I write it when I did? The secret war was still going on when I came home in 1971, so I was prohibited from talking. As years passed, the events quicksanded from memory. Then something happened in 1997. I don’t want to give away the end of the book, so let’s just say I wrote it to honor a pledge I made my father. My dad didn’t live to see the story published, but his photo sat perched at the back corner of my desk. Through all the setbacks, his smiling image encouraged, “I believe in you, Son. Keep going. You can do it.” I think the intimacy of the narrative sprang from dancing with my father again as I whispered my stories to him.

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