Bob Moise, of Warrensburg, was one of the few chosen to be a part of the Dirty 30. They hold a place in history because they served under the command of a South Vietnamese colonel.
Moise was part of the ROTC program when he was in college. He always wanted to be a pilot, so he joined the Air Force in 1953. He went to pilot training in Mississippi and got his wings in Oklahoma. He mostly flew transport planes like the old DC-3, C-47, C-130 and C-119, also known as the “Flying Boxcar.”
After he received his wings, he was sent to Europe for a few years. During his time in Sicily, sometimes he flew up into the mountains and dropped hay down to stranded animals. The Italian government awarded him a ribbon for this.
He then returned to the States and was an instructor at the Air Force Academy for four years. He made the decision to become a regular officer even though it meant he would be sent to Vietnam.
In 1962, he was one of 30 American pilots chosen to be part of the Dirty 30. The South Vietnamese Air Force was experiencing a shortage of pilots. They decided to send their co-pilots from the transport unit to the United States to be trained as fighter pilots.
Thirty Americans were sent over to Vietnam to take their place in the transport planes.
“There wasn’t a whole lot said about it at the time because we were one of two units that had been commanded by a foreign officer,” Moise said. “Back in World War I, the Lafayette Escadrille that was commanded by a French commander. Then in Vietnam, there was the Dirty 30 being commanded by the Vietnamese colonel.”
Moise’s role was to be an adviser and a co-pilot on the plane. They flew numerous missions for the South Vietnamese. The hardest part was getting used to the antiquated navigation aids and the French markings.
“The ones I flew with had been trained by the French back in 1954 in the French-IndoChinese War. They were pretty good pilots,” he said. “Some of the missions we dropped food out of the C-47. They would put ducks in a wicker basket and put a parachute on it and we’d drop that. There was feathers and stuff around in the airplane. We dropped a live bull one time too. It was a small one with a parachute at a little outpost the Vietnamese had. It was pretty interesting flying all and all.”
Moise was impressed with the navigators because they could tell by the color of the trees and vegetation where in Vietnam they were. He never got shot at, but one of the crews did get hit by bullets in the tail of the plane. No damage was done though.
Moise served in Vietnam for a year under the command of a South Vietnamese colonel who later became the president of the country. At the end of his tour, the Dirty 30 pilots were awarded the South Vietnamese Air Force pilot wings. He later lost his set.
The Whiteman Chapter of Air Force Association sets up a memorabilia display at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg twice a year. Moise noticed it and mentioned how he lost his Vietnamese pilot wings. Mel Johnson, chapter president, took note and found not only the Vietnamese wings, but a South Vietnamese Air Force patch and a reproduction Dirty 30 patch. He had them framed and presented it to Moise, along with chapter member Lt. Col. David A. Williamson.
After he served in Vietnam, he did multiple things including serving as the director of the administration for the communications services at Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base. He retired in 1995 and started teaching at Metropolitan Community College.
He also worked with Saudi Arabian Airlines for about eight years. He trained Saudi pilots and flight crew members. He was quick to add, “I didn’t train any of the ones that ran into the building. I trained them not to do that.”
He also taught in the graduate program for aviation safety at Central Missouri State University for 17 years.
Overall, he is very proud of his service in the Air Force.
“I had a good time doing it, so I didn’t think I made any big sacrifice to do that. Where else can you find somebody who will let your fly their airplanes around for free and pay you for it? I love flying. I kept flying when I got out of the service,” he said.
Now he is a resident at the Missouri Veterans Home in Warrensburg. He is married and the father of three children and seven grandchildren.