More Random thoughts from The Pit – Phantom II

Some sayings from the past:

First to the runway is lead
F-4, the greatest distributor of MiG parts!
First in – Last Out
Brief on Guard
Go cold mike
Martin-Baker backbreaker
Balls to the wall
All I want to hear from you “2” is bingo (fuel expended need to return to base)
No alcohol within 12 feet of aircraft. Hmmm…maybe that was 12 hours of flying.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot (What the F)
Gear Up, Flaps Up, Lunch Up!
One pass haul ass
In thrust, we trust
FFF- F’ it, Fly it, Fix it later
Do we count that as one landing or two?

JP4 jet fuel—to paraphrase the movie Apocalypse Now— there was nothing in the morning like the thick, oily smell of JP4 when we taxied out to the runway. It didn’t matter if one went 100 percent oxygen (O2); one could still smell it through the mask. Seldom hungover when I flew, I cannot imagine how it must have affected anyone who was hung and breathed in those heavy, nauseating odors. Even 50 years later, whenever I smell diesel fuel, I am immediately taken back to the F-4 and those long-ago taxi-outs.

Hero Photos —several men I knew had lots of hero photos taken of themselves to send home. For some reason, I never did, only a couple of shots. I mostly took pictures of other birds refueling and the Phantom with striking cloud formations. However, I did carry a Kodak Super-8 mm movie camera on some flights and filmed snippets of each mission to document what I did. Later I spliced these together into a 30-minute film to show what a combat mission was like. .

Combat: I have thought about combat now for nearly 50 years. I have worked through my mind my time in combat and read extensively about the experiences of others. It is hard to compare combat experiences. There are many commonalities, but every man has a different story to tell. There is an old saying about combat: “If you’ve been there, you understand; if you haven’t, I can never tell you about it.” One can look at the history of a battle but never really know what the combatants felt. One can attempt to bring logic to something that is, of itself, not logical. To the men in combat, the events are unclear, and what is happening defines them for the rest of their lives.

World War I British poet Siegfried Sassoon described combat in his poem The Dreamers this way:

Soldiers are citizens of death’s grey land,
Drawing no dividend from time’s to-morrows

To me, the first stanza always meant that in combat, there was only the moment to focus on—the past, the future held no sway.

In death’s grey land, there is a threshold that one passes over; sometimes, the return from that place is hard. Sometimes events and thoughts linger for years.

Nobody in his right mind longs for battle or sudden death.
But once you’ve trod the wild ways, you can never
get them out of your system.

George MacDonald Fraser
Quartered Safe out Here:
A Harrowing Tale of World War II


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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, Air Force lingo, Alaska, Alaskan Air Command, American History, Cambodia bombing 1973, F4 Phantom II, Fighter Aircraft, Fighter pilot lingo, Fighter pilot slang, Mather AFB, U Dorn RTAFB, Udorn RTAFB, Veterans, Vietnam War. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to More Random thoughts from The Pit – Phantom II

  1. You forgot, “Cleared Primary, Sync.” Here’s a related article from my experience.

  2. Jeff Sena says:

    SAM, 2 O’clock! Fool it over and take it down!

  3. Hal Donahue says:

    Thank you, brother, for summing it up so well

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