SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - An Air Force veteran is honored 50 years after his heroic efforts in the skies over Vietnam helped save thousands of lives.
"Three years, 10 months, 12 days, four hours and 20 minutes from swearing in to release discharge," and not a minute to spare rattled off David Miller.
Most of that time he spent as an Air Force radio operator, flying in unarmed C-47s.
“I was a ditty bopper, I took Morse Code,” Miller explained. “We did radio direction finding. We would intercept enemy communications. You would identify them really by the sound of the transmitter and by the spike on the oscilloscope. It would do a spike when they keyed their Morse Code key.”
His job, to track the signals to locate enemy targets.
“I believed in what we were doing and I felt like we could win it and I felt like I could be a part of it, so I flew every chance I got,” Miller said.
He flew 125 combat missions over the skies of Vietnam. However his return home to Monroe, anything but welcoming.
With a saddened face, Miller recalled the day he flew into Monroe, Louisiana.
“They spit on me. I got to my sister and said let’s get out of here as quick as we can, I want to get out of this uniform," he paused. “That was at the peak of the war, it was a brutal war.”
From that moment on Miller rarely talked about his military career. The only positive came from a certificate in the mail stating he earned a Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC), but he kept that certificate and his memories close to him until last month.
With the help of the 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, his wife and close family friends surprised him with a proper honor ceremony for his DFC.
“(It’s) overwhelming really,” he said. “When they gave me the medal and it was my turn to talk, I’m not usually speechless, but I literally did not know what to say.”
Back on November 27th,1968 after completing his initial mission, Miller intercepted additional North Vietnamese ground radio transmissions.
“I saw a spike jump and I locked onto it and called the target in and the aircraft commander called back and said we don’t have enough fuel for that,” Miller recalled. “By that time I saw two other targets, and I said I think this is significant, we need to get these, and he said we don’t have fuel I don’t think we can make it. I said we’ve got to do it, and he said OK, but when I tell you we’ve got to go, we’ve got to go.”
Fast a work Miller pinpointed five separate targets.
"The ground guys said man we’ve been looking for these guys. They estimated about 4,000 North Vietnamese regulars, I don't know the name of the battalions or what the number is in strength but an estimated 1,000 allied troops were surrounded and we were able to get the information down and prevent the overrun of Dak To."
His crew returned to base with just minutes of fuel remaining.
"The plane burned about 65 gallons an hour of fuel, and when we landed we had about 20 gallons on board," he said with a smile.
Miller says last month’s ceremony provided closure he never knew he longed for — five decades in waiting.
“It’s overwhelming, it was a great event and I never will forget it,” Miller said. “I happened to be in a place that needed a response and I responded to what was in front of me.”