Letters from the War – Thailand 3

John Norvell F4 Backseat

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.

12 June 1973: We have been flying quite a bit lately down to Cambodia again. We had some SAM (Surface to Air Missile) indications today on the warning set, but nothing came of it.  In any case we turned it off as it was getting on our nerves.    There is enough to think about in combat without those warning lights blinking and buzzing.  You know that the Commies do it just to annoy you!  Ha.13th TFS patch

A mission goes like this:  we take off, we fly down over Tonle Sap a large lake in northern Cambodia, then it’s refueling, hang on the tank, and refuel again.   We can stay there 20-30 minutes as various flights cycle in and out to get gas.   If there is a target not scheduled we have to wait for the FAC to place us, otherwise, its hang, hang, and hang again on that big Gas Station in the Sky.  Some missions we refuel three or four times.  I will say this my bladder has great staying power. ha ha      11 months to go.

On the tank -- the big Gas Station in the Sky

On the tank — the big Gas Station in the Sky

14 June 1973 – tried to call you but couldn’t get an international operator that spoke English very well, so I gave up.  Don’t worry nothing ever happens here.

16 June 1973:  Glad to get your letters and packages.  Linda sent me a big box of goodies:  crackers, cookies,  sardines, Lays chips in cans, and unfortunately a small jar of jelly. I assume she made it as she didn’t put a top on it, only wax to seal it.  Let’s see:  jelly, wax, Thailand plus  heat, not a good combination.  The wax melted and the jelly coated everything in the box.  That’s ok I ate it anyways.

Yellow mail center

Yellow mail center

I really was glad to get your letters, I know you try to write every day.  The mail to be honest is the big thing of the day.  We watch for the mail C-130 to come in and then they raise a flag on the building when it’s up in the boxes and the stampede begins.  I suppose Linda is all excited about her wedding in August.  Wish I could be there, actually I wish I could be anywhere but here.  You can’t begin to know how much you can get homesick in a foreign country.  Oh well, tell Linda thanks, her heart was in the right place.

18 June 1973:  Happy Birthday to me, what else can be said.  Never thought I would turn 29 here, not in my wildest dreams.  Will try to call again tonight.    We have a bridge group together now and sit out between the hootches and play at night when we can.   A little civilization goes a long way.

Ah yes, the night breezes, the strange insects making their noises, and large trucks driving around fogging the area to kill mosquitoes. 1   We sit there, play a hand, hear the truck approaching, go inside, when the white fog clears — come out and continue the game.  Everybody laughs that the fogger will get us first not the combat missions.  Or perhaps it will be malaria or the dysentery or for some folks — VD.


1 In recent years many friends at Udorn experienced prostate cancer and other issues, some now feel that the defogger trucks as well as what we now believe was Agent Orange sprayed around the base were the causes.  Of the men I flew with and still know nearly all, including myself, have had prostate issues.

To be continued


About jenorv

John E. Norvell is a retired Air Force Lt Colonel, decorated air combat veteran of the Vietnam War, and former Assistant Professor of American and Military History at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He has written freelance for the Washington Post, the Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History, and for several newspapers around the country.
This entry was posted in 13 TFS, Air Force, American History, Cambodia bombing 1973, Combat, U Dorn RTAFB and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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