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Conversational Dialogue with Oswaldo Jose Hernandez Sr

Hernandez Sr, Oswaldo Jose
Hernandez Jr, Oswaldo Jose
Date of Interview: 
Relationships with people and places; Stories and storytellers; Cultural identification
Oswaldo Hernandez talks to his son about how he came to the US and his service in the US Airforce during Vietnam.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Oswaldo Jose Hernandez Jr interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
Interview Audio: 
OH (Oswaldo Hernandez, Sr.): My name is Oswaldo Hernandez, better known as Waldy Senior, because there is also Waldy Junior. I'm, I was born in Puerto Rico 49 years ago. I was also raised in Puerto Rico and I lived there until I was about 19 years old. Then I joined the military service and moved to the States. So, for your information, I'm Hispanic, Puerto Rican, by race, American, by citizen-, citizenship and that is because, uh, there are Hispanics that are not US citizens, except the ones from Puerto Rico because of the agreement there is between the United States and our island. Well, here I am. I'm in a very, very tight situation right now. I'm a trying to help my son with one of his homeworks. And, as you can see, I'm having a heck of a time trying to get words out into this microphone, 'cause it's by nature that I don't like to speak to machines [laugh]. If I were talking to somebody face to face, I guess it wouldn't be this hard. So, here I am. I'm going to try my best. I beg your, uh, you put up with me. And let's see how we do. I'm supposed to, uh, talk for about 15 minutes, roughly. I don't know how I'm going to do it. We're going to have to choose a subject.
OJ (Oswaldo Jose Hernandez, Jr.): Talk about Vietnam.
OH: OK. He is suggesting I talk about Vietnam. He just want you people to know how old I am.
OJ: [Laugh]
OH: I'm from the, I'm from the Vietnam era. And, uh, like I said, mentioned before, I served in the US military, in the Air Force, which I started as a aircraft mechanic, many years ago. And, uh, I used to work on, uh, work, cargo airplanes called C-130's. And the C-130 is a airplane that the Air Force has been using since 1953. And they use it for so many different things, that it's, I would, it would take more than 15 minutes to, uh, to talk about them. But one in particular, uh, version of the C-130 was, uh, the C-130 Gunship that was widely used in Vietnam as an attack aircraft. This was a normal cargo airplane that was converted into, uh, fighter, fighter aircraft, if we might say, which is, uh, like, it's some kind of contradictory term because, uh, a big cargo airplane being converted to a fighter airplane, it don't, it don't, it don't make sense. But the Air Force did it and it worked. As a matter of fact, it worked so well, that it is still being used in the present in the, in the war against, uh, terrorism that we are fighting at this moment. This airplane, like I said, the conversion consists of, uh, installing some high caliber machine guns, 20 mm to be more exact and for those who know something about weapons, the 20 mm shell is pretty good sized and also had some, uh, 40 mm cannons. The later, the latest version was converted, instead of having two of those 40 mm cannons, they had only one, one mm cannon, 40 mm cannon and a one-oh-five, 105 mm. This, this type of gun is a huge gun, and it was taken from a battleship and modified and put into an airplane. I am going to try to talk to you about one, one of the many missions that we flew. Uh, preparation for the mission, what does it take, what it consists of. And I'll, I'll do my best in describing this. First of all, in this airplane, it required a crew of a minimum of fourteen people on board to include, the pilot, co-pilot, navigator, flight engineers, several gunners, this is where weapons trained people to, uh, operate the guns, and some specialist in electronics to operate the different sensors that were installed on the airplane. Some of these sensors were radar, radar, uh, detectors, heat seeking detectors, radio detectors, and all this, uh, electronics, which I cannot go into too much of the details because it's still being used and it's still, some of it is still classified. I cannot give you, uh, too many details about it. The most common mission that we were assigned to, consist of, uh, finding a target that was provided to us before flight. Go to the area we were told, like I said, find a target and destroy it. This target, 99 percent of the time, was the traffic of Vietnamese, uh, supplies from North Vietnam down to the, by, through the Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh Trail to South Vietnam to support the North Vietnamese invasion on South Vietnam. In preparation for this mission, each crew member had to inspect the airplane, on their area of expertise, the area that they would be working at. After the inspection, we all met back at the operations building for a pre-mission briefing. In this, in this briefing, we were told all the details about the mission, where the, where the mission was going to be at, what altitude we were going to be flying, what our target was, how much time we were going to spend on, on the target, what kind of ammunition we were going to use against that target, what to do if we got shot down, what to do to get ready for, for, uh, rescue, and for the most part we were told what kind of, uh, resistance we were going to encounter, what kind of, uh, weapons they were going to be using against us, if any. This was pretty accurate because, uh, there was another part of the military that, uh, their, their job was to get all this information for us before we flew, and, uh, they usually were pretty accurate. From the briefing room, we all left and went, went to the, uh, survival equipment room. Everybody grabbed their, their gear and headed towards the airplane. At the airplane, we, we did all the, all the checks, made sure that everything was working, in, in working order. And we just took off, headed out to the, to the target area. Within a few minutes, we found the target we were supposed to be working on. We encountered very heavy anti-aircraft artillery. We responded back, we had to change this, the, uh, target from the, the target we were supposed to be attacking, we had to change it to attack the anti-aircraft artillery sites that were attacking at us. Then after we eliminate them, then we had plenty of time to, uh, to attack our original target with no problem. In a sense, in a sense they came out better because we did more than we were supposed to. In this particular mission, it so happens everything turned out OK, nobody got hurt on our side. The enemy was, uh, the enemy was destroyed as planned and we all have a, had a happy return home. Unfortunately, not too many of our other friends ran the same luck. Many of them didn't make it. Well, this concludes my fifteen minutes of, uh, talking. I don't know if, how you like it, if you did, but I didn't. I'm just glad it's all over with. Thank you. Bye.