Sun Lakes Rotarian Tom Waldron…I Flew with Heroes in Vietnam
 
Tom is a USAF Lt Col retired and has been a Rotarian since 2014.  Over the years our club has enjoyed several members who have experienced many levels of the Armed Services and Tom is one of those that experienced some very heavy duties in his Air Force career.  Picture this as one of those…At 2:15 am, November 21, 1970, the mission gunship, Apple 3, was approaching the Son Tay POW camp some 23 miles northwest of Hanoi, N. Vietnam.  They were level at 50 feet above ground and approaching the camp at 25 knots from the west so the flight engineer and the pararescuemen could aim their mini-guns and take out the two compound gun towers.  This allowed the HH-3 landing helicopters inside the compound with 14 USA Special Forces on board to exit cleanly and find the POWs...
 
In 1970, then USAF Captain Waldron was one of the pilots onboard Apple 3, the mission gunship on the Son Tay prison camp raid some 45 years ago. In Jan., 1962, Waldron graduated from Clemson University in Civil Engineering and was commissioned a 2/LT in the USAF. He completed USAF pilot training in March 1963 and went on to fly in the SAC (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.
 
In 1969, the Air Force needed experienced pilots to staff a new HH-53 helicopter Squadron in Thailand. Waldron and other KC-135 and C-141 Aircraft Commanders were selected to attend rotary wing training in Texas and follow on specialty training in the HH-53. Waldron flew several combat missions during the War and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and four Air medals during his time in the war theater. In Sept 1970 he returned to Eglin AFB, FL as an HH-53 Instructor Pilot. While there he was asked to volunteer for this secret and dangerous mission on the Son Tay POW camp.  Tom and others on this mission were awarded the Silver Star for their brave efforts.
 
Tom graduated from the US Army Command and Staff College in Kansas, and then was Det 1, 37 ARRS Commander at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ. and also served in USAF in Europe Headquarters and in the Pentagon. He retired in 1984 with 22 years active service. He met his wife Sandy (met in the Pentagon) and they have lived in Sun Lakes since 1998.  He is active in the Tempe C of C Military Affairs Committee, belongs to many military/retired associations and is a member of the Military Writers Society. 
 
Our members really appreciate Tom as a very active member of our Sun Lakes Rotary Club and for his military service.  Take a look at his recently published book, “I Flew with Heroes” which tells the full story and is available on Amazon, Kindle and Kindle Library.