Letters from the War – Thailand 6

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.

27 June 1973:  We all went off base in the evening downtown for a squadron dinner. Sometimes in the afternoon, I go to the shops outside the main gate to buy clothes or gifts for family. Everybody talks about the “Big BX in the States,” but you can buy anything you want here [and some things it took some guys a lot of antibiotics to get rid of].

Main Gate Udorn RTAF

Main Gate Udorn RTAF

28 June 1973: Thoughts on Thailand.

“It’s the Real Thing,” — It strikes you really funny when you are listening to a Thai radio station to hear them talking along and then be hit with “It’s the Real Thing” in a Coca Cola commercial in the middle of the Thai sentence.

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs — The Thais like to capture these big water beetles, they have some fermented juice under their shell, and they bite off the heads and suck it out.

M*A*S*H* — You will be sitting here listening to the radio and the announcer will calmly say, “VD observation Clinic hours will be held from 7-8, 10-12, 2-3, 6-8.  A medic friend of mine told me that officers had “Non-specific urethritis,” not VD. Certainly wouldn’t want VD in some future general’s records, still as they say a Rose is a Rose.    Well I certainly know one lieutenant in our squadron who has VD, in fact 4 kinds of VD.  Let him explain that one when he gets “Back to the World,” as folks say here.

30 June 1973:  My old roommate Ed left yesterday and he has already been replaced.  Uncle Sam may not be great at straightening out pay records – yes I am after nearly 6 weeks of flying combat FINALLY going to see a paycheck this month – but he can move people to SEA without hesitation.  The big surprise is my roommate is Lt. Ed B from my nav class.

Ed and I also went through Fairchild  together.   I owe a lot to him as he helped me make it through a particularly difficult episode on our wilderness surivial trek.   Getting a new roommate is a real grab bag and I am lucky I already know him.  He is a decent guy and since I don’t smoke was happy to room with me.  13th TFS patch

About 80 percent of the squadron members smoke,  at our meetings the air is blue.   Major Blood, one of my pilots actually smokes in the cockpit.  He has me take the stick, goes cold mike, and I can smell him lighting up.  The front seater taking a quick cigarette at 35,000 feet in combat is something I never anticipated in training.   I guess he figures what does he have to lose at this point, he has been through it all.  This is I believe his third tour – I don’t know how many combat missions he has flown, people don’t talk about that.  So when he wants a smoke I have no problem.

And I say to him “I’ve got the the stick.”

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, American History, Cambodia bombing 1973, Combat, F-4 Phantom II, Family History, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang, Thailand, U Dorn RTAFB, Vietnam War and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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