The following excerpts are from letters that were written to my wife and others during the Vietnam War, while I was stationed in Thailand. Because of the nature of the events, the letters seldom told the entire story to loved ones. Some things were best left unsaid. In some instances, I have added to the story to make events clearer than they were in the letters.
9 June 1973: Had a big Sawadee – Thai for hello and goodbye– party last night to welcome us new guys and say goodbye to those who were going home. 1 The “Short timers” took great pains to say that if they had just arrived, they would cut their throats. Lots of kidding and fun, there is a real spirit here.
It was held at a hotel downtown. For the occasion we had to go to one of the shops outside the main gate and order a party suit. It would be bad form to go to a squadron party in civ clothes. The suits are all black with several unit patches on them, an American and Thai flag on the sleeves, a “Yankee Air Pirate” patch over the heart as well as wings.
10 June 1973 : I am settling in; flying here is different from Luke (Luke AFB, Phoenix Arizona). First you have a survival vest that weighs about 20 lbs. and the harness has a tree lowering device that weighs about another 20 lbs. But what really lets you know you’re in a different world is when you strap on the gun. We also carry a big 5 inch (blade) bowie-knife, such is life. Who would have ever thought I would have a 38 strapped on my leg someday when I was at Hobart. You never know what the future will bring.
11 June 1973: Celebrated “Roger Locher” night at the club. 3 One year ago he was rescued after 21 days on the ground in North Vietnam eluding capture. We learned about him in Survival at Fairchild, but I didn’t know where he flew out of, now I do. Every night is a party at the O Club, Roger Locher’s anniversary was as good an excuse as any to put the day behind us. It got pretty wild — lots of bar games and fighter pilot songs such as “Nickel on the Grass.”2 I won’t go into more detail, but things were really flowing for a while. I don’t like to fly hung over, but it doesn’t seem to bother a lot of fighter jocks. Some of the old majors look pretty grim on the crew bus at dawn. One of my pilots is Major Blood, what a great name for a fighter pilot.
On another note, they still haven’t gotten my pay straightened out. I find it ironic that they can send me into combat on a daily basis, and pay me that extra $65 a month to hang it all out, and then not pay me.
I have enough cash to last until the end of the month. Hope all is ok at home.
1 The common welcome to new guys was “Say Hello to the New Guys” — response “Hello Assh….” Followed by “Say Hello to the Assh….” Response: “Hello New Guys.” Fighter units are a tough bunch.
2 “Nickel on the Grass, ” is probably the best known of all the fighter jock songs, I learned it in Arizona. It went in part: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Throw a Nickel on the grass — Save a Fighter Pilots Ass, and You’ll be saved.” It originated during the Korean War, and was always, I repeat always sung in the bar after a long day in the air.
3. In a bit of irony I would fly with Roger Locher in Alaska in the 43rd TFS doing air defense missions, if anyone ever had the “Right Stuff,” it was Roger.
to be continued :