Ty Newton of College Station could have pursued a pro sports career if he hadn't loved flying more than he loved baseball. He was pretty good at both but flying was in his blood. He was an instructor pilot both before and after his 4 1/2 years of service in Viet Nam, and even pulled duty as then Congressman Lyndon Johnson's personal pilot in the late 50's.
Ty Newton flew C-130s during Viet Nam... at the time classified missions that included everything from re-supplying the Loatian Army to dropping flares for U.S. Fighters to better see their targets. It was a mission he could not talk about then, but can now.
"After graduating from high school, I was in Louisiana playing semi-pro ball, and one of the - the Baylor coach saw me play there in the playoffs, and he offered me a four year scholarship to Baylor. And so, this was in August before school started in September, otherwise I would have gone to Arkansas A&M and played football and gotten killed playing football..."
Ty Newton's love of playing baseball was only surpassed by his love for flying. So, when he gave up the game to pursue a career in the Air Force, he traded his bat and glove for the controls of a C-130.
"After being out of baseball for four years at a critical age in a baseball career, I decided, and about the same time, I had the opportunity to go to the Air Force Academy to teach, so my wife and I talked it over and decided we would stay in the Air Force and make that commitment."
Newton was a flight instructor at the Air Force Academy before and after his 4-year service in Vietnam, which included classified missions that he is only recently able to talk about.
"For the first year I was flying just regular Air Force missions and then after that, the squadron commander came to me and asked me if I'd like to fly some classified missions. Well, I said, 'tell me about them.' He said 'I can't. You have to commit to do it before I can tell you about it,' so I said, 'Ok, let's do it.' My first duty in that classified job was to go into Laos with a little hand roller and measure the airfields or the runways in Laos to see which runways we could get the big plane in, the C-130. Air America had been flying in there for a few years in small planes trying to re-supply the Laotian army who was fighting against the North Vietnamese. "
"And so, we determined which fields we could go into and they said, 'all flying would have to be non-military, because of the peace agreement had been arranged in '62 said all military had to leave Laos...so, the only way we could combat that without overtly disobeying the order of the peace agreement, was by going in there in civilian clothes. So, we had silver airplanes, no Air Force markings and we went in in tennis shoes and blue jeans and baseball caps, flying re-supply missions and working to train the Laotian troops and re-supply them to fight against the North Vietnamese."
In addition to flying C-130s, Ty Newton also had a stint as the pilot for LBJ on a speaking tour in Texas during the summer of 1959.
"...LBJ was actually the speaker of the house, majority leader of the house in the summer of '59, I was asked to fly him around on a speaking tour hear in Texas, so we loaded up him and his wife and his press secretary and a couple of others and went around several places in East Texas, and he made speeches, and we headed back to Austin and he wanted to land at LBJ ranch and the weather was horrible. There were thunderstorms everywhere, and I told him we couldn't, we had to go to Austin, and he was not too excited about that, he was upset, in fact...he didn't say a word to the crew or anything. He just headed out the door and left."
But, despite it all, Ty Newton has a sense of pride about his 30-year service to the Air Force, that he still carries to this day.
"...It's something that I feel very fortunate to have been involved in and had so many assignments, varied assignments, that I thoroughly enjoyed and my family did too. Our 3 kids felt as much a part of things and my wife felt as much a part of it as I did. And they still look upon that as a wonderful time in their life and I do too. I'm proud to have served.".
For Voices of Veterans, I'm Tom Turbiville.