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TOPPIE GERALD ROBINETTE

biography

When I arrived in Saigon, the squadron lived in a building just outside the main gate of Tan Son Nhat AFB. One night the Viet Cong decided to attack the base. I had gone to bed early as I was scheduled for an early flight the next day. At about midnight, there was a huge boom and I was asleep. I awoke and jumped under my bed. I was startled and shaking. My first encounter with war! The Viet Cong had attacked the main gate with a huge satchel charge. I didn't get much sleep that night. When I arrived at the flight line the next morning, there were Viet Cong bodies stacked up like cordwood. I remember one of the bodies was the barber who cut my hair the week before.
After a month in Saigon, I was selected for transfer to Pleiku, Vietnam, to form a new squadron there, the 362nd Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron. Pleiku is in the north-central highlands. The only real contact I had with the Vietnamese was with the maids who did our laundry and polished our boots. The base had a Civic Actions Program for the Montagnard Tribe who lived there. We built the Tribe a concrete water reservoir, dug a well, and then installed a large windmill to pump the water into the reservoir. Most of the work was done by our enlisted men, with a few officers involved. It was a very nice facility for these very, very poor people. They really appreciated the freshwater project.
The EC-47 mission in Vietnam was to fix the position of enemy radio transmitters on the ground. Onboard Intelligence personnel used electronic equipment aboard the aircraft to listen, record, and identify radio transmitters. They really amazed me. I couldn't tell the dots from the dashes in Morris Code, but they could identify every person's nationality doing the transmission. When they found a target, they would tell me. I had a button that I could push, and the directional needle would point toward the target. I would direct the aircraft toward and then around the target, pushing the button and plotting Lines of Position on the map at the target as we flew around it. Where the lines crossed is where the transmitter is. The smaller the triangle where the lines crossed, the more accurate the position. I rated the accuracy and gave the coordinates to the intelligence crew member. He would then call that position into the friendly forces on the ground. The neat thing I loved about our missions was that I was in complete control of where the aircraft flew when on station.
During my tour ln Vietnam, I was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. The citation with this award reads as follows.
Captain Toppie G Robinette distinguished himself by extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight as an EC-47 Navigator supporting Operation Hood River near Quang Tin, Republic of Vietnam, on 25 August 1967. On that date, Captain Robinette was flying a combat support mission against unfriendly ground forces. With great determination and superior airmanship, in constant danger from hostile ground and artillery fire, he caused his aircraft to be maneuvered in such a manner as to remain on station and provide timely intelligence to friendly ground forces. This contributed immeasurably to the success of Operation Hood River. The professional competence, aerial skill, and devotion to duty displayed by Captain Robinette reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.
Two of the nicest events that occured were meeting my wife, Barbara, in Honolulu for a week of R&R and another R&R to Hong Kong for an electronics shopping trip.
Some nights we would end up in bunkers as the Viet Cong would always attack the US Army base that was near the airbase. We wondered why the airbase seldom was attacked. A month before I was to go home, the Vietnamese Air Base Commander was fired for paying off the Viet Cong to not attack the airbase. I said, "Hope he has paid up for this month as I leave then."
The greatest moment was the day I departed my squadron for home. The last thing you do is say goodbye to your Commander, Colonel John Allison. He asked me if I completed my departure checklist, and I said, "Yes, Sir." He said you forgot one thing. He reached into his desk drawer and threw a set of Major's leaves to me. He said the promotion list was released this morning, and your name is on it. What a surprise! That promotion ensured I would fulfill my retirement requirements.
During my tour in Vietnam, I was awarded:
The Distinguished Flying Cross
7 Air Medals for sustained Combat Flights in Vietnam
The Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
The Air Force Organizational Excellence Award with 1 oak leaf cluster
The Air Force Combat Readiness Medal
The Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
The Vietnam Service Medal with 5 oak leaf clusters
While in Vietnam, I accumulated 1098 combat flying hours in the EC-47.
My full Military History is available to view at - http://airforce.togetherweserved.com/rsbv/MajorToppieGRobinette

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