On This Day, 31-JAN 1991, We Remember a Fallen Hero

Arthur “Art” Galvan was born 8-NOV 1957 in Newport Beach California.  Art joined the United States Air Force where he served as an airman for the combat control team at Hurlburt Field, Florida.  In 1980 he entered officer training.  Tapped as a rising star, Art Galvan received his BA Business Administration and the honors of Distinguished Graduate with a commission as Second Lieutenant on 3-FEB 1983.

Art was promoted to rank of captain in 1989 while stationed at Hurlburt Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach Florida, serving as Fire Control officer on the AC-130 gunship.  While at Hurlburt, Art received his MA in International Relations and completed Squadron Officers School. In 1989, he participated in Operation Just Cause.

The 16th Special Operations Squadron was stationed at Hurlburt Field when they embarked for the Middle East.  Operation Desert Storm in 1991 was Art Galvan’s second taste of combat. His Spectre gunship had played a key role in Operation Just Cause, the US invasion of Panama in 1989, that ousted dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega.

As fire-control officer of an AC-130H Spectre gunship, Arthur Galvan was in charge of selecting Iraqi targets for the heavily armed turboprop to hammer in the opening days of Operation Desert Storm. Around dawn on January 31, the AC-130H, dubbed “Spirit O3” for the mission, was told the Iraqi missile battery was a threat to US forces. The crew moved in on the target but apparently was hit by ground fire. The plane gave only a single terse “mayday” distress call before dropping into the Persian Gulf. Other aircraft heard the “mayday” distress call, but there was no indication of what caused the aircraft to crash. Search and rescue teams were unable to reach the aircraft’s location to recover any who may have survived.

The families were notified on the following day that the aircraft was down and that all aboard were Missing in Action. Suzanna received a call from a neighbor that an AC-130 went down.  On that day, Art’s son Jason was home sick from school, a very rare occasion, when looking out the bay window Jason and Geri, Suzanna’s prayer partner, spotted an Official Air Force car pull up in front of the house.  Geri started crying, “Oh no, oh no!”  The car contained an Air Force officer and chaplain who delivered the message that Art was missing in action.  Based on the knowledge that the flight engineer had transmitted a “mayday”, and later news that over a dozen prisoners had been released, the family remained in front of the television over the next thirty days hoping for news.

His wife Suzanna would say, “Because of his extensive survival training, if anyone could make it, it was Art.”  On 6-MAR 1991, another official car drove up in front of the family home.   This time the news was less hopeful.  The plane had been located under fifty feet of water, broken in half; there were no survivors, and the crew was killed in action.   Suzanna and Jason had a several family and friends around them when they received the news.  Suzanna remembers, “I fainted.”

Captain Arthur Galvan and 13 others were posthumously awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest decoration for bravery. Today, Arthur Galvin’s only son, Jason is a volunteer at the museum.

For the rest of Captain Art Galvan’s story, click on the link below.



Exhibit in the museum

Please contact the St. Charles County Veterans Museum Oral History project at sccvetsmuseum@gmail.com or call 636-294-2657 for more information and lets’ talk. We want to hear from you because we know…Every Veteran has a story.