RADAR SHOP, 35TH AVIONICS MAINT SQDN, 35TH TFW (PHAN RANG AB), 7TH AF
From Andalusia, Alabama
15 December 1946 - 26 September 1969
I am writing this as a friend who served with Mike Gunnels and can only hope to post a fond memory and right a wrong. When the "Moving Wall" came to my town, I went to look up Mike's name and almost passed out when I saw that his cause of death was listed as "Self-immolation". That is not what happened!!
Let me tell you a little about him and what really happened that night: Mike was a quiet kid from Andalusia, Alabama - he was religious, loved Tommy James and the Shondells and the song Crystal Blue Persuasion, didn't drink or smoke and was a true friend!!
Now for my correction on his death - we were working midnight shift in the radio/radar shop -Sept 26, 1969 - at about 1 AM we got word that there were radar problems on an Aussie B-57 Canberra Bomber out on the flight line. When we got to the revetment in the Metro step van and dropped off Mike, the bomber was up on jacks (which means that the plane thinks it is flying and safeties are off). "Jammers" (bomb loaders) were still uploading bombs and checking the 20mm cannons which were not cleared of rounds. Mike was told "Stay away from the front of the plane until the bomb weenies are done!!! Watch yourself!!" The van had gone a short distance and we heard three fast explosions - the B-57 had fired it's guns - and there was Mike - laying on his side going in a slow circle. He had been hit in the right shoulder at the edge of his flak vest by a 20mm high explosive incendiary round. His arm was hanging by a thread - he clung to life for a few hours but died about 4 AM. At the end Mike said, "Oh, sarge, it hurts!! Don't tell my mother I cried!!" And then he was gone!
"Self-Immolation"??? Not really!! I'm sorry, Mike - but I had to tell someone this story!! You are missed - not a day goes by that I don't think about you.
From a friend,
On a hot, dark night in a far off land
a young airman died with a toolbag in his hand.
He never saw any combat, never fired a single round
he just died so bravely, lying on the ground.
He never gave death a thought,
never took a single pause,
He died bravely like the rest,
dying for the cause!!
A poem from your friend,
VFW Post #10167, Holiday, Fl.
Written on the 36th anniversary of Mike's death - Sept.26, 2006
The database page for Michael David Gunnels
Memorial first published on 29 May 2006
Last updated 02/12/2007