Working at his father’s business as a boy, Charles’ love of aviation began by watching the planes from Moody Air Force Base flying overhead, causing him to say: “That’s what I’m going to do someday.” He ran away from home and began flight training at the Air Force Cadet program in Kinston, NC.
Charles flew F-84 Thunderstreaks and F-100 Super Sabers with Chuck Yeager during the Cold War, then later the F-5 Freedom Fighter as a test pilot. Assigned to the 4th Air Commando Squadron in Vietnam, he flew an AC-47 gunship – “Spooky” – and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his outstanding close air support to Special Forces units.
Charles Boatwright was awarded the Purple Heart after he was shot down immediately after taking off from Bien Hoa in March 1967. Although he was severely injured during the crash-landing, his aircrew was unharmed. His story was later featured on the front cover story of Aviation History magazine as the only AC47 Spooky pilot to be shot down over Vietnam and survive.
After almost 30 years on Active Duty, Charles Boatwright served as a regional dispatcher for Roadway Trucking Company, but nothing ever compared to the honor of serving his country.