‘We’re in it, let’s win it’

Published 12:34 pm Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Lindabury was copilot on missions during first tour.

Lindabury was copilot on missions during first tour.

Tryon Lindabury reminisces on military service during the Vietnam War

Written by Michael O’Hearn; Photos submitted by Tryon Lindabury

In preparation for Veterans Day this month, Tryon Lindabury sat down to reminisce about his military experiences, with one underlying theme in common: his honor in serving the United States of America.

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Lindabury, with a towering presence even at the age of 74 (he jokingly said he just celebrated his 47th dyslexic birthday on October 8), was a B-52 bomber pilot during the Vietnam War and is now retired. During a slideshow presentation, he showed photographs of his combat missions from Guam where he was stationed at Andersen Air Force Base on his first tour of duty.

A native of St. Louis, where he was raised until he was 13 years old, Lindabury said he is named Tryon because his grandmother’s maiden name was Gertrude Belle Tryon. He added that while the Royal Governor of the Carolinas had no direct descendants, the Tryons from which he is descended were a part of the same family.

Ironically, he now lives approximately 10 minutes from Tryon at Tryon Estates with his wife, Anne, in Columbus. He and Anne married on April 24, 1965 in Augusta, Ga. while Lindabury was still in Air Force training at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga.

According to Lindabury, Anne was a Good News Club teacher, Sunday School teacher, executive secretary, freestyle canoe instructor, national newsletter editor for Freestyle Canoeing and four-time national champion in freestyle canoeing.

“My first tour of duty after coming out of pilot training at Moody Air Force Base was to learn how to fly B-52 bombers at Castle Air Force Base in California,” Lindabury explained. “That lead to my first actual permanent duty station which was down in McCoy Air Force Base in Florida – Orlando — and that base has since been closed. I was in the very first contingent of bombers that was sent over to fight in the Vietnam conflict and so I was still a copilot at this time.”

Lindabury flew with the Black Eagles outfit while stationed in Guam on temporary duty with the 306th bomb fleet out of Orlando. Lindabury being a jokester, said with a laugh that the nickname for the B-52 bombers was “B.U.F.,” otherwise known as the “Big Ugly Fellow.” Each B-52 had tip tanks that held more than 3,000 gallons of fuel and weighed 450,000 pounds fully loaded with 108 weapons at takeoff.

“The B through D models of the B-52 were known as the ‘Tall Tail’ because they had very tall tails, and when they went to the G and H models, they cut off about 20 feet off the tail to 40 feet,” Lindabury said. “There were some different adjectives used in there, and at the time it was the largest aircraft flown in the United States as part of the Air Force and it was a throwback to WWII with a gun sticking out of the tail of the aircraft, where a physical tail gunner would be used sometimes. There is only one known case where a B-52 gunner actually shot down anything.”

Bomb-shaped decals were attached to the side of the B-52 Lindabury flew, and he said he had more than 150 bombing missions under his belt.

“Subsequently, I went out and was assigned to the CH-3 helicopters and had a little more than 50 missions in those,” Lindabury explained. “This was almost all behind enemy lines, as I was working with Special Forces and Special Operations.”

After eight years in the military as a captain and B-52 aircraft commander, from 1964 to 1972, Houston, Texas became Lindabury’s home where he went on to serve as a police officer for 30 years. When he left the police force, Lindabury was a senior police officer in rank holding a Master Peace Officer certificate from the State of Texas.

“From the time I was a freshman in high school to the time I had graduated from Emory University with a military distinction, I had worked in Black Mountain every summer and I grew to love this area. When I retired, we started looking around and found ourselves at Tryon Estates,” said Lindabury.

Lindabury said he has a history of military service in his family with his great grandfather, grandfather and father serving before him. His father served in the Army Air Corps during WWII, and was on a ship en route to Japan when the Japanese surrendered. Lindabury said he is unsure of where and when his grandfather and great grandfather served.

Being in the military was not Lindabury’s first career choice, however.

“I thought I was going to become a doctor and so I was in pre-med, and I thought, ‘Well, okay, as a backup plan I better have something going on,’” Lindabury said. “I joined the Air Force ROTC at Emory University and I took a full year’s worth of organic chemistry in six weeks. It was very concentrated and after that I said there’s no way I wanted to be doctor if I had to put up with this.”

He ended up majoring in chemistry, history and political science because, like many college students today, he didn’t know what he wanted to pursue as a major. He originally thought he wanted to be a career political attaché, which he explained as being like a liaison between an ambassador in the country he would be serving in, and his particular branch of service.

“You were just representing your branch of service in a foreign government,” Lindabury said. “If they ended up with the questions, you would be the one to answer them. That never worked out as I got out because I was offered a regular commission as opposed to a reserve commission. With a regular commission, which I accepted, there was no termination date. With a reserve commission, you had a 20 year date that was set even when you signed up so you knew exactly when you were going to get out of the Air Force.”

Although he had accepted the regular commission as a career pilot, Lindabury said he only spent eight years serving in the Air Force because he felt he had spent too much time overseas.

“I spent more than two years overseas, being forced to do what these young men are being forced to do today,” Lindabury explained. “You get to rotate over, come back, rotate over, come back. The first Christmas my wife and I observed together was on our fifth Christmas because I was always overseas. Sometimes it was six months, sometimes it was two months and, of course with helicopters, it was for a year.”

Overall, Lindabury said he felt proud to serve in the Vietnam War for eight years.

“Our generation had the phrase, ‘We’re in it, let’s win it.’ I think that once you commit troops of any nature into a conflict, your government should back them to the hilt,” Lindabury said. “The term used during the Iraq invasion was ‘shock and awe’ and that was the idea that you went in with overpowering force and ended the thing. Unfortunately, today that’s not the way we do things. We send 100 troops here and 100 troops there and we just keep escalating it. That’s what happened in Vietnam, exactly. Lyndon Johnson felt like he had to OK every mission, and it was no wonder we never really hit anything. We tore up a lot of territory though.” •

Honoring veterans for patriotism, service and sacrifice

According to Sara Staton, life engagement
coordinator at Tryon Estates, a short parade and
ceremony honoring the more than 100 veterans at the retirement facility will take place on Nov. 11, 2016 at 10:30 a.m. at the main entrance lobby flagpole. Tryon Estates is located at 617 Laurel Lake Dr. in Columbus. These veterans are welcome to attend and be in the Columbus Veterans Day parade on November 12 if their health permits. The Columbus
Veterans Day parade, according to Bevin Corbin, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 10 a.m. and be hosted by The Patriots Salute to Veterans
Association, a subsidiary of the Polk County Veterans Association. Corbin is the commander of American Legion Post 250 in Tryon. The parade will honor the more than 2,200 veterans living in Polk County.