LAKE CHEROKEE, Texas - Ed Holley's plane didn't have the moves of a jet like in the movie "Top Gun" to avoid enemy fire. But he put his big, slow plane into a risky evasive tactic ... like a fighter pilot ... and lived to tell about it.
Holley's plane was a converted cargo plane, a C-130, also known as Fat Albert. As an AC-130 gunship, it was built to loiter over the enemy and unleash auto cannon fire. It was first used in the Vietnam War, where Ed earned a Silver Star among his commendations.
The honor was bestowed to Ed for evading surface to air missiles, saving himself and his crew of 13 ... twice in one night ... as they hunted enemy targets.
"Turned it upside down. Went from 10,000 feet to less than 3 (thousand) in less than a minute in the dark of night," Ed says matter-of-factly about his maneuver. "We came out in the direction of the missile. So the missile went over us as we were facing it."
The danger gone, Ed climbed back into the sky with the plane's four turboprop engines, and he and his crew went back to their job of destroying enemy convoys -- trucks carrying weapons and ammo supplied by the Soviets and China -- down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Weaponry that would have been used against our forces.
But then came another enemy missile, locked on and tracking Ed's plane. He did the same escape act.
"It was very risky. And not recommended. But that was the only way to get away from it," Ed said of his tactic, noting it was dangerous to dive so low, unable to see the terrain at night.
One of his crew members would later write to Ed, "Thanks again for giving me the second half of my life."
But missiles weren't the only danger. There was also Triple A -- anti-aircraft artillery fire -- for Ed to dodge in that year-long tour and 150 missions in 1971.
"We struck over a thousand trucks. And received over 100,000 rounds of 37 millimeter anti-aircraft tracer fire. And they never touched me. We dodged them all," he says.
"We had a man that was hanging on the back of the ramp," Ed continued. "And he would tell me, 6 rounds at 6 o'clock. Break right."
Ed also earned nine Distinguished Flying Crosses in that year during the war.
"A lot of shooting trucks and a lot of being shot at," he explained.
Asked if he was surprised that he survived, Ed replied without hesitation, "No. Not at all."
He says the AC-130 was very responsive and performed well.
Ed became a squadron commander over C-130's at Little Rock Air Force Base, and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel after 24 years in the Air Force.
Then he was mayor in his hometown of Maud, Texas for 15 years in the 1980's and into the '90s. He now lives along Lake Cherokee in Rusk County.