On November 24, 1964, Mrs. Marilyn Wendler was an 11-year-old missionary’s daughter scrambling aboard a U.S. Air Force C-130 Hercules piloted by Captain Mack Secord, of the 464th Tactical Airlift Wing. The Hercules she climbed aboard in Stanleyville that day was one of 12 C-130s used to rescue 800 Belgians from Simba rebels in the Congo. Belgian paracommandos had jumped or airlanded that morning from USAF Herks to snatch the hostages from certain death. Fifty years later, Secord and Wendler attended a November 20, 2014, reunion of the evacuees in Miami. Also in attendance were brothers Ken, Paul, John, David and Tim McMillan, who had watched machete-wielding Simbas slaughter their father, Hector, before the paracommandos arrived. It’s likely, though uncertain, that the McMillans were also jammed into Secord’s aircraft.
Wendler saw Secord mentioned in the rescue account included in Joseph E. Dabney’s book Herk: Hero of the Skies, and contacted him on the off chance that he had been her “gallant knight” in 1964. She invited Secord, who earned a DFC for his role in the rescue, to attend the Miami reunion. The Herk that Secord flew is now on display at the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins, Ga.