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.
19 June 1973: just when I was getting complacent about the “war” — we lost one a couple of days ago. An F4 took a direct hit while dive bombing a Triple A position (AAA – Anti-aircraft weapons) near Pnom Penh What a way to go, helping the Cambodian “Tooth pick industry” by blowing up trees.
Word has it that the GIB’s name was Jack Smallwood. Don’t know the A/C (aircraft commander) but they weren’t assigned to the 13th. Since they weren’t Recce Pukes (assigned to the 14th TRS – unarmed F4s used for photo missions) they had to be in the 555th – the Triple Nickel. The aircraft went in, no chutes, no survivors.
20 June 1973: Well, I had my check ride yesterday and it went pretty well. So now I am fully qualified to go into combat –about three weeks too late by my reckoning. We had a 4-hour mission and refueled 3 times.
We ended up flying down about 8 miles west of Phnom Penh and blowing up enemy troop emplacements. They said we could see Angor Wat near the lake below, but at 35,000 feet I couldn’t pick it out.
I have now been flying in combat for a over a three weeks, they got me in combat on May 31 so I would get combat pay, which I still haven’t seen. There is some sort of SNAFU with my orders, my whole baggage also went on its merry way to Ubon. Luckily I was carrying all my flying gear with me. Not an easy thing to do as I had to lug it to the Philippines and then here. But at least I have it.
22 June 1973: I have been flying quite a bit–29 hours this month so far. I’ll probably have 400 or so by the time I leave here. I heard the other day that when the war ends my squadron is to be disbanded in 2 months, so who knows perhaps I’ll go to Okinawa.
23 June 1973: Not too much is new really–every day appears much like the last. I get up, I eat, I ride to the squadron and brief our mission. The other morning when it was really early as I rode out on the crew bus I saw the sun tint the morning sky and wondered how many others had done this–gone to their planes and had not returned that day. I feel very happy that I am here now, rather than last year at this time. Well, I didn’t mean to get too weighty.
Write soon and remember me to my grandmother. I write to them all, but you get the real, as it is, news. And, oh yes Linda (my sister) wrote and asked what it was like to kill people….
To be continued