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Stories and Poetry Of The TLC Brotherhood

Updated: 11/20/2011

 

The stories and poems on these pages are in no specific order, if you have a story or poetry you would like to share please contact The TLC Webmaster(examiner@cfl.rr.com).

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The Bond of Brotherhood 

(C) 2010 by Bob Wheatley
Dedicated to my TLCB brothers and sisters
 

In golden years I reminisce;
On things we did before;
When our hearts were young, our bodies strong;
And we were called to war.

We barely had begun to live;
Yet pledged to give our all;
To serve the greater, higher cause;
We answered duty's call.

And so we left our families;
Ten-thousand miles behind;
Without complaint we gave our best;
Of bodies, souls and minds.

And pining every single day;
The homes for which we yearned;
We all gave some, and some gave all;
And some did not return.

But through it all a bond was made;
That lasts forever more;
The Bond of Brotherhood forged in;
The crucible of war.
 

 

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READ ALL ABOUT THE TLCB!!!

Prez Bill Tilton's article in the Veteran's Magazine "Vet Center Voice"

Click HERE to see cover art

Click HERE to read the article

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Am I a Viet Nam Veteran?

 I know the debate goes on over who are the real Viet Nam Veterans. There are those soldiers who never set foot on Viet Nam soil but directly and indirectly contributed to the cause of eliminating the North Viet Nam insurgency into South Viet Nam. I consider any personnel who served anywhere in Southeast Asia (Land, Air, or Sea) to contribute to the halt of Communist North Viet Nam’s insurgency into South Vietnam to be a Viet Nam Veteran. To the soldiers who volunteered to go out on patrols into enemy infested regions and endured the baptism of fire and experienced the sounds and smells and sights of death and destruction, to any aircraft pilot who engages the enemy in the air or on the ground, to any soldiers or civilians that come under enemy attack while defending there post, to me these are the real War Veterans of any war no matter where it might be. To me any soldiers or civilians captured by the enemy or who give the ultimate sacrifice while engaging the enemy these are the real heroes, and as the POW/MIA Flag says, “YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN”. I served in Southeast Asia from the end of 1970 to the end of 1971. I played a minor role in the Secret War in Laos and had the privilege of riding on the Mekong Express. I went TDY to Saigon Viet Nam but other that that I did not spend any time in Viet Nam. The small camp that I was stationed at was at the borders of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I don’t think a single day went by that we did not see any snakes, lizards, or giant insects. One day we were walking the perimeter of our camp and a King Cobra stood up right in front of us with its hood open and hissed at us. One of the Thai soldiers got behind it and grabbed it by the head while we kept it busy. Then we helped him carry the snake to the swimming pool. Our swimming pool at the camp was empty for cleaning so we put the snake in the pool. (I have pics of the snake) Because we were in Thailand as guests we were not allowed to carry any weapons and the defense of our camp was in the hands of the Thai military. Whenever a threat of an enemy attack came close to our camp the sirens would sound and we were issued weapons and told to stay in the bunkers that surrounded our perimeter. This happened several times while I was there but we never did get attacked although we did hear gunfire off in the distance. The Ubon Airbase that was several miles east of us did get attacked during my tour in Thailand. For a short time I lived off camp in a small bungalow that was made of bamboo and was built on bamboo stilts to keep it above the water during the monsoon season. One night I was woken up by some Thai soldiers and told to come with them back to my army camp. I didn’t know what was going on and I really didn’t know where they were taking me. I was still half asleep when we arrived at the camp and I was sure glad to see it. The next morning I found out that some VC were seen moving around outside of town and the Thai soldiers had shot them. That day the Thai soldiers had the dead VC in the back of a pickup truck and they were driving all over town so people could see them. During my tour in Thailand I wasn’t exactly on the front line fighting for my life but the threat of dying on foreign soil was very real and there were constant reminders that there was a war going on all around us. During my tour in Southeast Asia I had some good times and I had some bad times. I had some times that I will never forget and some times that I wish I could forget. I also made some friends in Thailand that I will never forget and probably will never see again. My hat is off to the Country of Thailand and thanks for watching my back while I served as a guest in your country.

Thank You

 © John Meyer, 2007

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  SITTING IN A BUNKER

 Sitting in a bunker on a windy, rainy night,
I stare into the darkness and wonder why we fight
the senseless wars that come and go and never seem to end;
putting bucks in bank accounts and killing our young men.

I’ve seen Spookies over Laos firing death into the trees,
adding countless names of men to the list killed overseas.
Flares have shown some fighting men the place where they may die,
but many pass without a chance to think or question why.

Darkness falls and hides the fear of all the jungle cries,
as every soldier searches for the men we all despise.
The stateside war and Vietnam are in the daily news,
while riotous protesters parade their violent views.

The youth of every nation is demanding equal time,
while America persecutes our warriors for their crime.
The soldier has to kill, so he does, and then at night
his mind recalls the pain and death he witnessed in the light.

The battles will continue, and the killing will go on,
for the only change that time creates is darkness into dawn.
The rain is falling harder now, and fog is moving in,
obscuring everything until the sun shines through again.

The forest claims the losses as the enemy's advance,
overtaking weaker souls without a second chance.
We give our starving neighbors our money and advice,
which they in turn proceed to use – but not to grow their rice.

While the honest American family struggles to survive,
we’re wasting time in Vietnam keeping the war alive.
For when the action’s over and all our men are lost,
we’ll look at all the figures and realize the cost

of staying in a worthless land of sorrow and despair
and coming home to ignorance where no one gives a care
for all the countless moments of solitude and fear
that every fighting soldier shared within a single year.

So now the shooting’s over and many men returned,
leaving paddies blown to pieces and village houses burned.
We helped the shell-shocked people ride out our costly war,
but having lost so many friends, did we really need the score?

And Democracy will keep its word and rear its head again,
while the MoneyMen manipulate us toward our tragic end.

© ’71, 2004 Karl Arthur King

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Stories from NKP

by: Davis F. 'Doc' Ball

Korat, NKP, Ubon - 1966-1970


I was sent to NKP- or Nakhon Phanom, "Naked Fanny, or any other name it may use - in December 1966.  Like many others, it was my first "war", and I was notably nervous about the whole thing. I left Lincoln AFB, Nebraska, as the base was closing. I was not only headed to Thailand, it was as a Broadcaster, newly graduate from the Defense Information School's Broadcasting Course, not as a medic, which I had been for the past eight years. I was closing one base, leaving one AFSC, and opening another base, with a new AFSC. 
We flew out of Travis, after a couple of days of preparation -  jungle boots, M-16 rifle qualification, and so on, leaving at about 2230 hours on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, I spent all of Christmas day in the air. We crossed the International Date Line on Christmas day, so I arrived  at Bangkok on Dec 26. We were bussed into the city, and billeted at the contract hotel, while they sorted us out as to who was going where. Not being a very adventurous type, my exposure to Bangkok was the street in front of the hotel, and what I could see from the busses in and out.
I already knew I was going to a place called NKP, but they checked it out, anyway. Then we was bussed back out to the airport, but to a different part, which looked just like Travis. We waited some more, and eventually were boarded onto a C-130 and we began hitting the bases. Korat ... Takhli ... Udorn ... and finally NKP. I was told that I would have no difficulty knowing when I was arriving at NKP, so if I wanted to nap on the way, no sweat. Well, I didn't nap, and I don't remember even closing my eyes all the way up country. The landings were no worse - and in the first three cases, at least as good as the commercial airliners I'd flown. But when we approached NKP, everyone seemed to grab hold of something firm, and looked a bit apprehensive. All of a sudden, the plane nosed over, and seemed to dive toward the ground. Then, just as he pulled up, and I breathed a sigh of relief, the most godawful noise I'd ever heard began - I thought at first that we must have blown all the tires!  I looked out the window, and saw that we had landed on perforated steel planking -or PSP - which had made the noise. Then I looked at the base buildings as we rolled toward the ramp where we would deplane. It was just like landing at a WWII air base, with wooden buildings, dirt roads, and even a few tents. When the doors opened, we were hit with a blast of furnace-hot, thick red dusty air, which didn't look all that pleasant to inhale. My memories from that point fade into impressions for quite awhile. But I seem to recall deplaning at the end of the runway where there were a heck of a lot of little single-engine, prop-driven aircraft!  More of the WWII feeling!!
I know I was met and escorted me (on foot!) by someone, to a wooden building a few hundred feet away, where we were all welcomed. Then a new as SSgt Bob Olsen, from the radio station  introduced himself. I have vague recollections of being taken to a hootch, dumping my bag, and being taken to dinner at the "chow hall" which seemed to be a hell of a long way off - just about to the other end of the base, so far as I could tell. I DO remember that we had to go outside and down the boardwalk to the latrine, which served two open-bay hootches, since we were enlisted. They had only screens between us and the outside air. I don't have many more recollections of arrival other than that, and still have no idea where I went to be processed in.
Next morning, I had my first "Adventure" in Thailand, as I walked to the latrine to shave, shower and the third "S" of our days, there. As I walked along the boardwalk, I noticed a group of some fifteen or twenty Thais about thirty yards off, in a rough circle, squatting down, very quietly. Then one of them would sort of lurch, set still for a moment, and lurch again - sort of like catching and pitching a ball in some sort of dodge ball game. As I was doing my thing, I asked one of the other guys in the latrine if he'd seen the circle out in the field. He said, "Yeah, they're the Queen's Rangers of the "Cobra Regiment" and they spend a lot of time out there. You don't want to mess with any of them, they're deadly." 
Well, I finished up, and as I left, I stood and watched them again for a few minutes, trying to figure out their "game."  Finally, I stepped down onto the dirt and wandered over to the group. I got to within ten feet, before I saw what they were doing. They had a snake in the middle, and they were taking turns catching it behind the head, holding it a moment, then flipping it back out into the middle. The snake would head for what it thought was a hole, and another ranger would grab it, hold it, then toss it back. I know that snake wasn't more than perhaps two and a half feet long, but it was a monster so far as I was concerned, and I know I didn't take more than two giant leaps back to the boardwalk. Several GIs were there watching me, and burst out laughing at my reaction. Before I could get ticked, they reassured me that every one of them had done the same thing, and had the same reaction. It seems the Queen's Rangers were tough cookies, and were not to be messed with in any way - and I certainly concurred in that regard!
Some time during that first week I was taken down the hill to a hootch much closer to the dining hall, where the other Radio people were quartered. I do recall that among the very first things we did, was stop by some kind of storage building, and pick up what looked like a cardboard refrigerator box, and carried it back to the hootch.  We immediately tacked it up against the wall, between wall lockers, at the head of my bunk. Turns out that northern Thailand isn't always a tropical paradise, and when it's damp, the wind comes through the walls at close to freezing - or at least it seems that way. The cardboard was to cut down on the wind and chill factor. Even at that, I was really glad that I had packed my heavy blue wool overcoat - it made a great bedspread until someone else borrowed it. I hoped that it was too short for whoever the borrower was, but never did find it.
The "radio station" I soon found out, was little more than an emergency radio someone had cobbled together with a hand-made radio console, and a microphone built from a helmet mike and dropped into a cone-shaped housing. We had two turntables which rumor had it had been sunk with a Navy ship off Okinawa, and salvaged four our use. The records in use when I got there, were in a large box on the floor along side the table where we operated, and had a variety of sounds - from rock to classical - all apparently donated at some time past for the use of the guys manning the station. The "station engineer" turned out to be a Master Sergeant who had done all the cobbling together, and took a four to eight hour shift each evening, playing records by request! He was of two minds, I'd guess, when we arrived. Probably glad we were there to keep providing the music, but rueful that his days as a DJ were numbered. The transmitter in use wouldn't put out enough power to light a 40-watt light bulb, and was pumped into the electrical grid. If you were within ten feet of the electrical system, you could hear the station.  Later, we installed a standard transmitter, and a "phased-array" antenna, which was designed to transmit only to the base, itself. The antenna looked like a figure 8, and the power was adjusted so that any signal which went outside the base perimeter was very minimal. I had heard, though, that it was strong enough that occasionally some of the aircraft coming back into NKP could use it for homing. That was kind of a good feeling. We WERE contributing to the missions.
Early in our station's efforts was the coordination with the fire department as to when to blow the base siren for noon. We usually listened for it, then set our clock and based the rest of the day on that hack. One day, we realized that our news cast from AFVN (AF Vietnam Network) was not synchronized with us, and when we cued in on them, they were just signing off! After a few minutes of thought, I decided to call the Fire department to see what they were using as a time hack. Imagine that! They were using our radio signals as the cue for their noon siren!  We changed over to taking our time hack from AFVN and never had any trouble after that.
However, the first and main job we broadcasters had, was to open about fifteen huge boxes of old AFRTS records, containing both the old 16-inch as well as the 12-inch standard discs we were used to using - and then typing library cards on each one of them. Each record had to have three cards at a minimum - one for the Artist, one for the individual track of music, and one for the disc, itself.
Fortunately, most of them were albums, not singles, so the typing wasn't too awfully bad. I had brought my portable typewriter with me, but I didn't bring any extra ribbons. We wore the one I had out totally before we were through. I sat several times, re-rolling ribbon from other brand typewriter ribbons, onto my spools for use.
One of the ironies of this station was the fact that at Fort Ben Harrison, we had been taught broadcasting on the latest, newest gear they could get, and here we were using equipment that worked but in no way resembled any broadcasting gear any of us had ever seen!  As for sound proofed studio environment, forget it! Our little station was a two-room shack on the edge of the T-28 warm-up pad, and they warmed up a lot! The noise wasn't hard to defeat, as we just kept playing the music and didn't even try to talk over the noise. But the prop-wash was something else again! We had fold-down shutters on the "windows" but no matter what we did to hold them down, the wind would have them blown up again in a few minutes. When it blew, we had about all we could do to keep the tone-arms on the records, without blowing them across the face of the recording. We finally used the same technique as in the hootches, and tacked some cardboard baffles on the windward side of the turntables.

But, we figured out how it worked, and began taking shifts. One of the things we'd been briefed on since we were right on the flight line was the everyday fact of hung ordinance on inbound aircraft, notably the A-26s. Normally, when the bomb in question wouldn't release, the pilot tried to shake it loose on the trip back.  If that didn't work, the jar of landing frequently would knock it loose, and since it only had a few feet to drop, it usually wouldn't hit the fuse and detonate, but roll off the side of the runway, where it was recovered, fixed, and used again. I emphasize the word "normally," because that isn't what always happened!  One night I was working my shift, and not paying much attention to anything except playing the music. It was pretty quiet, for a change, until I heard - and felt - this 'thud' against the side of our building. I finished what I was doing, cued and started the next then got up to go see what the noise was all about. I was met at the door by a Security Policeman who told me to stay inside until they "got the bomb picked up." It seems that there had been a hung ordinance alert, and no one evacuated me. They HAD, however, evacuated the rest of the buildings on the line. The consensus was that if I went off the air, it was possible that the Thai-Cong would know we were in a crisis, and attack the base! Therefore, they didn't tell me and it was MY building that the bomb - a 250-pounder, as I recall - rolled up to as it stopped!  As though that one layer of teak siding was going to be much protection against a bomb!  And that didn't even get me combat pay for the month!!

One of the things that the Base Medics were worried about was dehydration. It seemed that there weren't enough water outlets around the base to encourage us to drink enough. Consequently dehydration was a common thing, and the only way a person knew they were there was when it burned on urination. I'd just gone through one of those sessions, and was carrying water to the station each shift in a canteen, just like everyone else. But, I had also developed a large cyst on my back up almost to the shoulder blades, where I couldn't reach it, other than by leaning against a door frame, or scrunching down in my chair and rubbing it a bit. One afternoon I had just done the scrunching bit, when one of the new guys came in from a briefing about potential mortar, sniper, and other fire from the jungle off base. He walked through the door just as I was leaning over the board to cue a record, and apparently I looked too still and awkward for a normal person. He turned and ran screaming from the building that "they shot Doc, they shot Doc!" I didn't really understand what he was yelling, but as an ex-medic, I thought I'd best get out to see what was going on. I got to the door just as six people were rushing in led by my fellow broadcaster. He saw me standing up there, and fainted! I asked what was happening, and one of the other guys turned me around so my back was toward them, and said that I had a huge blood stain on the back of my uniform!  The cyst on my back  had burst and leaked all over my shirt, and Tom had thought I'd been shot!! I had to buy a beer or two to make up for that scare!
I guess quite a few of us at NKP had the "opportunity" to fly a flare-dropping mission, although I didn't realize it was quite so popular as it was. I went through the E&E training; had my picture taken front and sideways (damn, I had a good physique in those days!); filled out all the paperwork about my dog's name, my mother's maiden name; my favorite hobbies and all. I finally got a call at the station, to meet the aircraft out on the ramp at a given day, just before dark.
To this day, all I remember for sure was that the aircraft was a C-123, and that the flares had two rings to turn - one for the parachute release, and one for the delay of ignition. There were myself in the back and one other setter, working with maybe twelve big crates of flares. The load master actually put the flares in the rack and kicked them out as needed. We just set them and handed them to him as he called for them. It sort of ticked me that every time there was something interesting going on outside, I was too busy twisting the ends of the flares to go see what was happening!  But a bit later, we apparently ran out of targets, and headed for home.  The load master pulled the rack in, but left the rear upper door up a bit, and I decided to go look out. I lay down and hung my head out the back, and looked down at all the darkness. I didn't see much else. I don't know why but my stomach chose that time to rebel, and as I put my head out over the ramp, I gave up my entire day's meals - but it all went into the slipstream, and I thought I was home free, without having been noticed. But I was never called for another mission.
We stayed pretty busy at the station, like everyone else, we had the twelve-hour duty days, seven days a week, but always seemed to have time for other things as well. I'd brought my archery gear with me to NKP, and decided that we needed a range. There were several others who were either already interested in archery, or became interested after seeing my gear, so we formed a club. Recreation Supply got us a dozen target butts (straw bales on which targets were tacked), and I ordered some field archery targets from home. As opposed to circular rings, these targets were pictures of animals from rabbits up to deer, with vital areas marked for scoring.
Soon after, we had the only National Field Archery accredited range in SEA. I guess we were lucky on several issues - we never saw a snake, and we never were attacked by the Thai-Cong!  It was sort of funny that I had some of the only unregistered weapons on the base, and never saw combat with them. We did get our picture in the NKP paper, though, and actually had several  competitions there, before I moved to Ubon.
One afternoon, one of the other announcers came in and said that he'd heard that John Steinbeck and his wife were visiting in the NKP area, and we should go see if we could get an interview with him. We spent the rest of the day scouring NKP city for any trace of a bearded farang and his mama-san, who was visiting. To this day, I don't know whether or not he was there, but we never saw him.
We did have a chance to go out with the Civic Actions guys a couple of times. We went with a Staff Sergeant who wore a necklace with every theological icon that he could find attached to it. He maintained that if one didn't keep him safe in his work, maybe another one would!  I guess one or more worked well, as we never had any problems. Our major project was an outdoor privy down town, near the river and near the middle of the town. It was a beauty when we were done, too!  It had a four foot pit under it and was a two-holer, with a door that could be locked from inside. We even gave it the traditional half-moon cutout in the door. Went back to see it a couple of weeks later, and it had a padlock on the door - our interpreter told us that it was being saved for important visitors.
We had several Movie/TV stars come through on "handshake tours" while I was there. Among them were Sebastian Cabot, Robert Mitchum, and Morley Safer. Naturally, as a junior man on the crew, I never got to do the interviews, but it was neat watching them. Morley Safer and his producer signed our NKP visitor log book. I remember that Bob Mitchum was at the NCO Club when we went over, and had been hitting the Scotch bottle pretty good. But the instant a microphone was produced, he appeared and acted dead sober. Helluvan actor! I wonder what ever happened to that visitor's log now days. Some of the signatures might have been worth something, now.
I guess in 1967, we were one of the very few air conditioned buildings. I thought it was really interesting to watch the Thai workers make the ducting for the AC. Here was a relatively modern convenience and he was sitting with two clubs for lack of a better word, bending and "breaking" the sheet metal as perfectly as the guys with the machines here in the states. When he was done, the metal fit together as well as a precision, machine cut duct would have! The craftsmanship - even with primitive tools - was always amazing to me. I guess he didn't know he was working with primitive tools, it was just the way he had always done it.
It's amazing to me that I was at NKP for a year, and never realized that there had to be hangars, some kind of hospital/dispensary, and other workshops. I simply do not remember any hangars or a hospital on NKP. In fact, I know I went to the movies several times at least, and I can't recall the theater, either. What was it one of you guys said on email the other day - creeping old age is the pits!  And I have no recollection of the replacing of the PSP with the newer non-perforated plank runways.  I know that all of a sudden the runways were longer, and they were bringing C-141s into the base. I also remember the 'dozers cutting the site for what we called "McNamara's Funny Farm" down the road a bit toward the bomb dump, but I don't recall when it was built and put into use. `
I guess in retrospect, all of this is part of the feeling that I wasn't actually much of a contributor to the war effort during those days. The things I recall were actually rather interesting, fun things, things that you do when you're home and pursuing a "normal" life. I knew that there were rather serious missions being flown from NKP, what with the Sandy's, T-28s, and A-26s - and even the ARRS helicopters, but it was all relatively outside my scope of things. I knew that they flew serious missions - otherwise I wouldn't have my bomb-bumping story to tell. I knew that we occasionally had mortar or gunfire attacks on the base, but it wasn't real to me, I guess. It is only in recent weeks, and the acquaintance with the TLCB that I have actually begun to realize that doing my job there at NKP was all that anyone else was doing. The fact that I wasn't being shot at regularly and others were, wasn't my fault. They did their jobs and I did mine, no matter what it entailed.  I guess I can finally accept the fact that I can be a peace with myself about my contribution to the war, and feel good about it. That's important. It's why "Welcome home, brother!" has a special ring to it, now. Thanks.

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F-105 Crashes- Takes out Bravo Two Nine
Nakon Phanom  RTAB Thailand

By
George L. Conklin
56th Security Police K9 Section
1 April 1970 - 31 March 1971

Having been only 350 air miles from Hanoi, North Vietnam, Nakhon Phanom
(Naked Fanny as we locals called it) was safe haven for many of the fast
movers;F-4s, F-105s, F-5s, and some of the navys A-7, A-4s, A-6s and many other battle damaged Aircraft Who flew missions over The North, the Ho Chi Min Trail or The trail as it was more commonly known.

Well this particular day wasn't so different. As I don't remember the day,
I do remember that I was down town at Johnny's  (a quaint little bar along the Mekong river) with some of the local talent.

Having to work that night, I decided that I would catch a decent meal. We
had pretty good chow at the Skyraider Inn. Named after our many A-1
Skyraiders (call sign HOBO / SANDY ). So I jumped on the bus and got off at the main gate and took a taxi back to the hooch.

It was when I got back to the hooch, that I heard of this F-105  Thunderchief (thud as they called it) was inbound with battle damage, a fire warning light and smoke in the cockpit. Word traveled fast.

Well this Lt.Col. couldn't make it in and punched out. He hit the silk about a
quarter mile out . The aircraft impacted just outside the base perimeter
and the debris splash took out our concertina wire, tangle foot and numerous trip flares. Leaving a gaping hole in our defenses.

Continuing on, the aircraft (or what was left of it) slid across the perimeter road and slammed into the observation tower and the M-60 machine gun bunker at it's base. B-29 or Bravo-two Nine (as it was better known) which was located at the end of the active runway, Was now destroyed. Given the fact that it was daylight, there was no U.S.A.F.Security Policeman posted there, but we did lose the life of the Thai guard posted in the bunker. The pilot, made it out just fine.

At guard mount that night, I was Taken aside and met with my flight chief,
kennel master and some brass from the head shed. I was the Briefed on the events of the day and was promptly given my post. Yep, you guessed it ......That gaping hole at Bravo two nine.... .

My mission, was to enter that area just off base and secure it. I was
assured  that there was no ordinance left in the area as EOD cleared it and deemed the area safe. Yea right.; the checks in the mail too..... . Hell, there was 20 mike-mike rounds scattered all over the place.

Well, who am I to argue. After checking out my assigned weapon and a few
extra slap flares (hand fired parachute illumination flares). I then
proceeded to the kennels and picked up my best friend and partner-Ango (ear tag 0k31). A dark dog of 5 years and about 75 pounds. He knew his job and did it well...... .

This night he was to save my life........ .Upon entering the area I immediately sized up the situation, Wind direction, cover and concealment and the best way out should things really heat up, bunker locations etc. Call sign: Night Fighter Six Four.

Earlier at the briefing it was best determined that I clear the area and then
take-up a defensive position where as if any one entered the area I would
call in the dog's alert  and then receive the necessary help from the sector reaction team) the QRF (quick reaction force) and of course the Thai AF As well as our nightly orbiting HH-3E / HH 53  Helicopter with flare kicker, Sunspot search miniguns. We also had a very eager mortar pit crew at our disposal and K-sat (K-9). Now the vegetation was something else, as you could get down on your hands and knees and see for many yards. Yet , if you stood on your feet you then could only see for a few feet. As Ango and my self were clearing the area; he stopped and looking over his right shoulder, streaked passed me and proceeded to rip into one of three
individuals lurking under this bush just inches by my side.

I let him chew, as I was know very busy with two others that failed to
heed my challenge. I'm now popping illumination and squeak'n and freak'n on the radio. It did not take long for the QRF in their M-113 to come bust'n in, as did the QRT from bravo sector in their 706 / v100 armored car. I had learned later that they were never very far away.

Well, One Thai national got away, which we figured was OK as he / she could tell the others that..... , It's not the dark you have to be afraid of
.......But what hunts in the dark and that you don't fool around with those K-9 cops at NKP. One of the other teams caught another and of course Ango, my dog, had his trophy.

As things settled down and we debriefed. It was then determined that the
Thai that Ango had got had a US issue bayonet on him (I wonder where he got that?) and at the time the dog had struck all this guy would have had to do was to thrust his hand and arm up and he would have got me between the ribs and probably my liver. I would have just bled out...... . Right there.


Well things settled down, and pretty soon it was business as usual, A few
months latter I rotated back to the 'World' and my new duty station. Of
course, saying good by to Ango was hard; did ya ever see a grown man cry?...... .

Now today, thirty years later as I reflect back, the good Lord had his
hand on my shoulder as he did for all of us during those difficult times. I often think of the good o'l days at NKP. Someday I hope to return for some closure and to reminisce. But there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of 'Ango'


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A true tale from my younger days:


Seems there was this Raven named Steve. Now Steve was a Texas Tech boy - linebacker type, and no neck. Really. His body went from chin to shoulders - nothing in between. Anyway, he is out Ravening one day in his deadly O-1 with his trusty Hmong interpreter in the back seat when this ground team calls and asks for help. Seems the guys have gotten themselves in a bit of a scrap and needed a little airstrike to help out. "No problem," says Steve as Cricket tells him that a flight of God's finest Phantom-4s from Ubon Ratchitani are inbound and looking for a target or tanker. Steve thanks him and hears the bombers - sorry fighters - check in with a full load of enthusiasm and Mk-82s. Steve gives them all the briefing stuff and asks what they need. "Just a hold down," replies the steely flight lead. Steve admired such spunk and two minutes later, he looks up and there they are, entering the orbit just above his position. Great. Steve rocks his wings and the bombers call tally on him. He checks with the ground team and things are getting tense and they are really ready for that airstrike NOW.


OK. So Steve rolls in to mark the target. Now he liked to use a real steep dive for his shot. Made for better accuracy. And this day was no exception. "Whoooosh," goes the rocket and splashes the enemy location. "Good mark," call the friendlies. But as part of his expert rocket technique, Steve also liked to do a steep recovery to escape the pull of the earth and the enemy gunners. But as he got the nose up way high, God decided - at the exact moment, - that the front bolts holding Steve's seat in the aircraft would release. And they did.

Well gravity being what it is, Steve and his seat rotated back until Steve's head was in the lap of his backseater. To which the surprised Hmong replied, "Steve, what you do?" Well unfortunately as Steve rotated into the back seat, he held on to the only thing that he had a hand on which was the stick. Now the throttle was full and the airplane was smart and knew that stick back meant go up. So it did. Except that the O-1 does not have a lot of smash for going up much. Well aerodynamics being what they are, the airspeed reduced. Now Steve liked to fly with the windows open. As the airspeed got real low, all his maps went out the window. That happened just before the airplane stalled. But all that torque from that full throttle told the nose to go left and the aircraft started to spin. The ground team wanted to know what Steve was doing. He didn't answer. The enemy gunners all thought that it was real neat and they celebrated with lots of groundfire.

But Steve was cool. He grabbed hold of one of the side braces and got the seat back forward. Then he did some real neat pilot stuff and got his machine flying again - the guy puking in the back seat didn't faze him at all. Then he decided to take a few minutes to climb back to altitude because he knew that the most important thing for a FAC to do was to sound good on the radio and a few minutes might settle the voice. Well, back to the airstrike. Steve checked with the ground team and yes, they were ready. He checked with the fighters and yes they were ready too. Just to be on the safe side, Steve asked them if they still had the target. Oh yes they replied. So Steve cleared them in hot. But instead of rolling in, the flight lead asked for another mark. Steve was confused and asked what the problem was. "No problem the leader replied, "We've got you and we've got the target, we would just like to see that rocket pass again."

True story.

1999 Darrel Whitcomb
Nail/Raven 25


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I wanted to provide a little introduction. Colonel Walter Forbes served as a fighter pilot in World War II and instructed in the F-51 Replacement Training Unit after returning from the European Theater. He "served his time" at NKP, arriving in 1967 as the Commander of the Steel Tiger Task Force, which was the precursor to Task Force Alpha that worked with the sensor data from along the Trail. Like General Heinie Aderholt (56th Air Commando Wing CO), and Colonel David Pallister (23rd TASS CO), Colonel Forbes didn't command from behind the desk. He checked out as a Zorro in NKP's T-28s, and I know of at least one night mission in November 1967 when he and I were part of a hunter-killer team (O-2 and T-28) in airstrikes along Route 911 in Central Laos.

I have been sharing some material from Crickets on a Steel Tiger with him and a few of the stories we've been exchanging. I explained to him about our e-mail brotherhood, and asked if he'd like to be added. The following is his response:
"Count me in on the Email ftrjock298@aol.com "

I am the classic retired golfer, civic involvement (mostly in the past). But I am here in Air Commando land and a life member. I see Heine several times a year a various places-sometimes Daedalians. He is putting together a book and his writer is a former historian research person in 7th AF that spent a good deal of time at NKP-and is now at Maxwell. He was most interested in the Gen.. Momeyer/Aderholt relationship (read problem) which was Heinies campaigning for dedicated resources (against AF doctrine) and Heinies close relationship with Amb Sullivan.

Keep em flying!!

So, Colonel Walter Forbes is a man who knows a lot about the brotherhood and what we tried to accomplish from NKP.

Jimmie

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One of the memories I have, and more come every now and then and some go away before I get them written down, is of the time one of our O-1 Pilots stayed over the target so long that he ran out of fuel on the way back to NKP. He landed on a sandbar in the Mekong River. The Jolly Greens, on alert at NKP, flew out and picked him up. That was probably one of the easiest rescues of the war.

Myself and two other mechanics boarded the Jolly Green and were flown out to the sandbar to retrieve the TWA (Teeny Weenie Airplane). We successfully got the sling attached to the O-1 and marshaled the Jolly Green back in to hook the sling up to it. The guy on the wing forgot about static electricity and was almost knocked off the top of the O-1. The Sandy's stayed on station while we got everything ready and hooked up.

The Jolly Green left, with the O-1 underneath it, and headed for NKP. For some reason one Sandy went with him, and of course we were stranded until the Jolly could come back for us. While we were waiting for our ride home we noticed a canoe, or some sort of small boat, heading for our little piece of occupied sand from the wrong side of the river. The Sandy that had stayed overhead just happened to disappear shortly after we noticed this boat. Now we really got worried, three guys, the only occupation forces on this piece of sand, and we didn't even have any wrenches we could have thrown at these clowns had they gotten some funny idea of taking our piece of land away from us. Actually the "occupied territory" wasn't really worth putting up much of a fight about.

As the boat got closer we started to worry more, and sweating more even though the weather hadn't gotten any hotter. We thought up some choice words we wanted to say to the Sandy driver when we got back to NKP. We started to hear the sound of a good old radial engine, and hoping the Sandy had decided to check on our welfare, we started looking up in the sky instead of at the boat. We found out in a few seconds that we were looking too high. The next thing we saw was "our" Sandy screaming down the Mekong at a very low altitude, probably a good thing he had his gear up, and straight for the boat. The people in the boat decided that what ever was going on "our" island was none of their business and headed back for their own side of the river.

When we finally got our ride back to the Fanny, we met up with the Sandy driver, and asked him just what he thought he was doing scaring us like that. He stated he just wanted to see what the boat people were going to do. He was only gone about 5 minutes (his timing, not ours). I think the whole thing including the initial rescue only lasted about an hour and a half.

Bill Carter
NKP Jan-Apr 66

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BTW, I was originally assigned to the 456th MMS atNKP until 2/68. Worked on A-26 nose guns. Randy I used to hate the chutes 'cause I would always cut my hands on the damned things. Went to the 21st Helicopter Sq. when they needed another weapons mechanic (46250). Did some flying, worked IGLOO WHITE missions, perimeter patrol, Nit-Noy Airlines to SF Camps in the area and anything else they'd let me in on... Extended to stay with the squadron and left in May 69.

Dusty, Jim Henthorn
21st S.O.S. Nov. '67 - May '69 Knife/Dusty
NKP RTAFB China Post #1,AL, In Exile; ACA L2850; VHCMA 1117; VVA 168776; Jim.Henthorn@panhandle.rr.comICQ #2144451

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Jimmie....I found this site a while back and sent off e-mail to them about the Thai & NKP Vets reunion next September....but had no reply. I was surprised they didn't respond. I have cut & pasted an entry by one of their officers who was stationed at NKP from their Guestbook: Jimmie....I found this site a while back and sent off e-mail to them about the Thai & NKP Vets reunion next September....but had no reply. I was surprised they didn't respond. I have cut & pasted an entry by one of their officers who was stationed at NKP from their Guestbook:

A BIT OF HISTORY: "...I was in VO-67 from 10/67 until it was Disestablished in 6/68. The original Skipper was CDR. Delbert Olsen USN who was CO on a temporary basis until CAPT. Wallace E. Sharp USN took over permanent Command. CDR. Olsen was later killed in action. VO-67 was commissioned and home-ported at NAS Alameda, CA. The Squadron was deployed to Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force base in Dec. 1967 with all NAVY Officers and enlisted men. These planes were painted in a multi-gray camouflage scheme and were supposed to fly at night to reduce the chances of small arms and AAA fire, as the planes flew low and slow. I do not recall the Squadron designation of this Unit (or even if it was Navy or Army, for that matter). One feature of these planes that I recall is that they were equipped with a 20mm tail turret. On a final note, VO-67 lost 20 men (nine Officers, 11 enlisted ). CDR. Paul L. Milius was (and still is) missing in action. The Navy recently named a ship after him. He stayed at the controls of his plane after it was hit by enemy fire, giving the crew time to bail out. I think (but not sure) that he was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross..." Contributed by Jim Dougherty ("Doc") TUDOX@aol.com

Regards to all,
John

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Personal background:

JOHN E. PARKER A.C.A. LIFE Member duty stations 605 = ACS Howard AFB PANAMA duties load crew A26 T28 aircrew member AC 47 and = flare kicker C47/46 TDY BOLIVEA and "TDY" 4 ACS BIEN HOA A.B. Air Crew = training on Puff THIS BEING YEARS 1966-67. 4410 combat crew trg wing = Hulburt Weapons load crew chief 1968 69. 56 SOG 456 MMS N.K.P. Weapons = Release line chief 69,70. ENJOYED ALL TOURS LIKED BEST TOUR ON GUN SHIPS = J.Parker AKA FUNKY Now teaching Automotive at South Ga. TECH. in = Americus, Ga.=20

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Hi, Hi,

Got a short story for you about the "Crickets" at NKP. As I said before, I arrived at NKP in June '66. I worked primarily on the nose guns of the A-26's. The Crickets were located just down the flightline from our birds. They flew Lua-32 rocket pods on the Bird Dogs with white phosphorus head for target marking. One day a pilot came down to our area and wanted some 2.75 rockets with "HEAT HEADS" (High Explosive Anti-Tank). He promptly reloaded and departed again. Some time later he returned. The story was that he was flying the trail assessing bomb damage. Since the 26's flew at night, we carried Mk 24 parachute flares, which had about a 12' diameter chute, and we used them by the ton! Seems this pilot noticed a chute laying right on the trail. He also noticed that below the chute on the trail there were bomb craters, but none above the chute. After taking a closer look, he saw that the chute had been stretched as a hoop over a small bulldozer, and it was making its way down the trail closing up craters. He burned the chute off with a WP round, and returned to NKP to get some real firepower to finish the job! After he returned the second time, someone said he was down there painting a small bulldozer on the side of his bird! On one other occasion, we hung some "empty" napalm tanks on one for some picture taking. I wish I had gotten a picture of that!

Yes, NKP was pretty primitive in 66. We flew directly into NKP. Later, after seeing other bases, and especially Bangkok, I was glad I didn't know there was any better place. I just assumed they were all like that place. I did 6 months the following year at Udorn with the 432nd TFW. That place was actually civilized!


Talk to you later,
Randy Ryman

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A Jimmie Butler Story

Greetings to all and congratulations on a well-executed web site. I'm a civilian who has never been to Southeast Asia, although I was shot a few years ago chasing an armed robber, so while I might not be too bright, I'm not a virgin when it comes to close quarters battle.


I met Jimmie Butler in a writers workshop in Los Angeles in 1984. At first I thought he was working on a children's book, something about crickets and tigers. I soon learned he was a colonel in the Air Force and was writing about his experiences in the Viet Nam conflict. This impressed me until the night Jimmie showed the members of the workshop the plane he had flown. His little O2 looked like something you'd rent by the hour at Van Nuys Airport. I figured he hadn't had the "Right Stuff," so the Air Force had found something not too taxing for him to do.
One night Jimmie took me aside and announced that he was retiring from the Air Force and invited me to come to his retirement luncheon. It seems that in one of our previous conversations I'd mentioned that my dad had been a captain in the Navy, and I guess he thought I'd be interested. I realized that he hadn't invited anyone else in the workshop, and so out of politeness and a sense of having been singled out, I accepted.


On the appointed day, I was seated at a prime table with a lot of Air Force brass. Everyone told me how pleased they were that I was there to honor Jimmie. They all seemed to hold him in the highest regard, but I attributed that to a feeling common at most of the "gold watch" ceremonies I'd attended.


After lunch, Jimmie said a few words of thanks, then his commanding General said a few words, and then some staff people brought out a large rectangular object covered by a cloth. The General announced that the staff had placed Jimmie's service decorations in a frame and wanted to present it to him as a going-away present. With that, he lifted away the cloth. As I said earlier, my dad had been in the service, and from the time I was a kid I'd been aware that a lot of the ribbons and medals that servicemen received were citations for having served in various theaters of operations, regardless of their individual roles in those campaigns. Sort of "I was there" awards. I'm sure there were a few of those, but even I knew no one gets the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with 16 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the Bronze Star just for showing up to work sober every day. I realized that in my stupidity I had written this guy off as a "sideliner" just because he hadn't been at the controls of an F-4 or a Thud. I also sensed that Jimmie's commanding General was a little envious, a feeling that was confirmed when the General told Jimmie that it was a good thing he was retiring, since it wasn't a smart career move to upstage one's commanding officer. We all laughed.
In the intervening years, Jimmie and I have become good buddies, and we still kid each other about a number of our mutual shortcomings, from lack of women to lack of hair. Yet, despite the ribbing, I know that if I ever needed anything, Jimmie would be there for me. I may never meet any one of you guys personally, but if you're half the man Jimmie Butler is, I'd be proud to call you my friend. May you always keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up! Rulon O

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The Evacuation of Moung Soui, Laos
Robert R. Arnau

The Evacuation of Muong Soui, Laos Early on the morning of June 27, 1969, all available 21st SOS (NKP) and 20th SOS (Udorn) CH-3E helicopters assembled at Long Tieng (LS 20A), Gen. Vang Pao's HQ and home of the Raven FAC's, about 40 miles SW of the Plain of Jars (PDJ).

We were joined there by a few Air America H-34's. We even had a couple of Jolly's (which must have taken very high level approval as they normally weren't involved in special operations!). Approximately 350 Thai Army troops were under attack by a large force of the North Vietnamese Army in Muong Soui, a key town at the west end of the PDJ on Route 7, the main east-west road that ran through the PDJ to North Vietnam. We sat on the ground at Long Tieng for several hours drinking the Raven's coffee, while Vang Pao, the American Air Attaché and the CIA folks decided whether the Thai's could hold or not.

As weather deteriorated and a low ceiling made air strikes in support of the Thai's impossible, the decision to pull the troops was made. As we arrived in trail a couple of minutes apart, Muong Soui looked like a scene from an old war movie. Fires burning all over the place and sporadic mortar explosions occurring. The HLZ was in a large open field but surrounded by flooded rice paddies. I clearly remember that the Thai troops were very well disciplined and stood in ranks awaiting their turn to load despite mortar explosions not very far away. We landed into the wind but had to takeoff down-wind as the fire was coming from the up-wind direction.

I was flying as co-pilot that day with Bill Knapp. (Believe me, flying as a co-pilot when you're being shot at REALLY sucks! There's not much to do but sit there and be scared!) When we were full with troops, Bill turned the helicopter downwind and started to takeoff. We were overloaded and barely had enough power to hover. Because of the downwind takeoff, we were unable to get into transactional lift. We staggered along above the flooded paddy headed directly toward a large bamboo hooch. With little else to do at the time except watch the hooch grow larger in the windscreen, I hit the fuel dump switch.

At the last minute Bill pulled all the pitch that he had and we just cleared the hooch top then fell (and I do mean fell!) with a huge splash into the flooded rice paddy on the far side. (Thank God it was the wet season as we all know how hard a dry rice paddy is!) Unbelievably, we had no damage. I signaled to the Thai NCO holding up four fingers and pointing to the door. He immediately ordered four of his troops to get out which they promptly did--- without argument much to my amazement!. We were then able to takeoff and made it back to Long Tieng. (One of the 21st SOS Ch-3s crashed into this same paddy when shot down a few minutes later!) The four Thai's waded back to the HLZ and eventually all the Thai's and the downed aircrew were evacuated.

Epilogue: The next day the Bangkok Post had a large front page story stating that there was absolutely no truth to rumors that Thai forces were involved in the war in Laos!! The evacuation of Muong Soui is described in a pretty good book that the Air Force History Office published in 1983 titled, "The United States Air Force in Southeast Asia - Tactical Airlift", by Ray L. Bowers. I obtained the book from the U.S. Government Printing Office. It is a large volume, approximately 900 pages, and has one entire chapter, "Airlift In Irregular Warfare", that is primarily about the 20th and 21st SOS.

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The attached pictures show:

90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) The Long Tieng Ramp w/Lao T-28's and Raven O-1's (Karst barrier at end of runway.) 90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) Rescued Thai's back at Long Tieng.
90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) CH-3 at Long Tieng just after the evacuation. 90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) At Tacan 113 site looking down on Long Tieng.
90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) Terrain between Long Tieng and Muong Soui during the evacuation (looking eastward.)

Oliver O'Mara recognized both pictures and also said that they used to stay in a tent on the right side of the H 34 on the evacuation picture. In the mid '06's he'd sleep with a 38 in his hand on his chest, yet he said it was a secure and safe spot.

I was a pilot in the 21st SOS - "Knife" - at NKP from Feb '69-Feb '70 and have found your site extremely interesting with great pictures.

One of your first pictures I viewed was of Ed Homan in A-1H "TS 609". I found it of particular interest because I was involved with the recovery of TS 609 from the Plain of Jars in December '69.

A-1H (TS 609) Recovery from the Plain of Jars
Robert R. Arnau

In the fall of 69, a "Zorro" flying A-1H # TS 609 had his engine shot out over the Plane of Jars. He was over an old W.W.II Japanese airfield (and sometimes Lima site) so he made a dead stick landing into it. After touchdown, he saw that the PSP had been removed ahead of him so pulled up the gear and slid to a stop on his belly in the dirt. The pilot was quickly picked up by a Jolly.

The next day, I was fragged to take a 56th SOW maintenance officer and NCO with two CH-3Es and A-1 escort to the site to see if the A-1 could be recovered. The only problem was that no one knew whether the area belonged to the North Vietnamese or Gen. Vang Pao. Intel said the situation was fluid"!! (This "uncertain situation" was somewhat typical for the "Terry and the Pirates" type of special operations missions that we --21st SOS-- conducted in support of the CIA in both the Barrel Roll and Steel Tiger areas of Laos. Unlike the highly centralized control that most of us had been accustomed to in the Air Force, these special operations missions usually depended on on-scene decisions by the mission commander ---which is exactly the way it should have been!)

As we got near the Plane of Jars, I inquired on Air America common freq. if anyone had been in the area recently. One Air America pilot indicated that he had taken fire there the previous day (rather obvious since the A-1 had been shot down there!). Another suggested that we try it and, "if no one shoots at you, it's ok"!! That was really a lot of help!

On arrival we saw troops on the ground. However, when one of the A-1's "trolled" the area no one shot at him so we decided they were friendly! As the second helicopter held high and the A-1s circled, we landed, the maintenance guys safetied the cannons and ejection seat , quickly assessed the damage and we departed. A team came in the next day and the A-1 was sling loaded into Long Tieng and eventually returned to full status at NKP.

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The attached pictures show:

90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) TS 609 in the dirt

90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) Bob Arnau next to TS 609

90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) TS 609 at NKP after repairs


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The attached picture shows:

90bbtrib.gif (864 bytes) On the road to NKP, Nov 69


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I remember one trip to downtown NKP, to the river, watching the gunboats on patrol. It was at night, and I never got back to town at NKP.

Many times the biggest trouble we had was convincing the M.A. at the club, that our drivers were all GI's. They always thought the Tokinaga brothers were Thai's trying to get in the club.

I spent a few anxious moments in the beer garden one evening, listening to the chatter on an SP's radio about incoming rounds on the southeast corner of the base, and deciding it was suddenly time to hit the sack (as we had an early departure scheduled for the next morning). It was always an event,  coming to NKP.

Like many others, we felt kind of like cheaters during the Vietnam War, many of us didn't even know where Thailand was before we got sent there. We didn't know or even realize the importance of our jobs in relationship to the rest of the war effort. It's 1998 and we now know that what we did really did count.

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Hi everyone, Hi everyone,

Thinking about the roots of this group-both those that go back to this summer, and those that go back about 30 summers-I was leaning toward something that would combine Brotherhood and Thailand. I appreciate John's sentiments in trying to get my name involved, but that isn't necessary. I understand what this is all about, and I know there will always be that "Jimmie Butler Fan Club, " whether it stays just the original 4 or 5 or grows to include a couple more. For those of you who are just finding us-or just being found-I'll give some background below.

Jimmie H. Butler

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When you write a novel, you hope people will be entertained by spending some time with your characters and your words. Sometimes you go for more, hoping people will be moved by the things you need to say. That was a goal of A Certain Brotherhood. I wanted to tell a story on behalf of some guys who didn't come back. (A couple of major scenes were inspired by the shoot down of Captain Lucius Heiskell, who was flying his O-1 in MuGia Pass on 6 February 1967, the day before I arrived at NKP. Last week I received an e-mail from Jim Henthorn saying that his wife wears an MIA bracelet with Lucius's name on it.) I wanted to help reaffirm the pride of those of us who came home to a country and a people who weren't as appreciative of our service as they should have been. When you write a novel, you hope people will be entertained by spending some time with your characters and your words. Sometimes you go for more, hoping people will be moved by the things you need to say. That was a goal of A Certain Brotherhood. I wanted to tell a story on behalf of some guys who didn't come back. (A couple of major scenes were inspired by the shoot down of Captain Lucius Heiskell, who was flying his O-1 in MuGia Pass on 6 February 1967, the day before I arrived at NKP. Last week I received an e-mail from Jim Henthorn saying that his wife wears an MIA bracelet with Lucius's name on it.) I wanted to help reaffirm the pride of those of us who came home to a country and a people who weren't as appreciative of our service as they should have been.

In the mid-1980s, I read an article in Esquire by a guy who had fled to
Canada during the war and nearly 20 years later was having second thoughts. The premise of his article was that the Vietnam War had been the major event of his generation-and he had missed out on being part of it. By then, he had seen enough vets of the war in SEA to recognize that they had something he had missed being included in, and he was sorry he wasn't sharing in it. To me, the brotherhood was what he had missed. I had felt it for years. In the beginning, I felt it so strongly when someone got shot down and the focus of every other American around went to saving the one in danger. Those of you who have read ACB will recognize that was what I was trying to capture in the following scene that came fairly early in the book.

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"Nail, Cricket, we've got Laredo coming to you. You're cleared to use them at your discretion. We'll divert additional ordnance shortly." The words sent a shiver through Mitch. A fullness in his throat told him tears of pride would come if he let them. He always felt the same emotions whenever the radios told of a pilot being down-and of scores of other Americans rushing to risk their lives to save the one in danger. "Nail, Cricket, we've got Laredo coming to you. You're cleared to use them at your discretion. We'll divert additional ordnance shortly." The words sent a shiver through Mitch. A fullness in his throat told him tears of pride would come if he let them. He always felt the same emotions whenever the radios told of a pilot being down-and of scores of other Americans rushing to risk their lives to save the one in danger.
The feeling of mutual loyalties was mystical. A special camaraderie united him with fliers he'd never met-but he knew they'd try to save him, and he'd try to save them. It was a certain brotherhood that draft evaders who fled to Canada would never experience. Mitch wasn't sure he could adequately describe the feeling, even to Elizabeth.

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The A-26's
at NKP were the most formidable truck killers that flew against
the Ho Chi Minh Trail in the early years of the Vietnam War
[photograph contributed by Jimmie Butler]

 

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And finally, I'd offer a quote by a reviewer in a local weekly newspaper:

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., is an imposing black granite wall bearing the names of thousands of men and women who died in the Vietnam War or are still missing in action. The wall would bear an even greater weight but for the Cricket FACs, pilots who flew tiny, unarmed Cessna's over enemy territory to monitor the movement of North Vietnamese troops as they advanced along the Ho Chi Minh Trail into South Vietnam.- Jane McBee

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Submitted by John Sipkens

 

Operation Commando Buzz

KORAT, THAILAND, 1970

On July 28, 1970, two EC-121 Lockheed "Super Constellations" from the 193d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron took off from Olmsted State Airport, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. United States forces were fighting in Vietnam, and the EC-121s were headed for Korat in the neighboring country of Thailand, 12,000 miles away, where the United States Air Force was operating from a Royal Thai Air Force base. Korat Air Base would be home for 252 Air Guardsmen for the next six months. The men were rotated as part of Operation Commando Buzz, with approximately 60 officers and airmen at a time serving tours of duty of from 30 to 90 days. In addition to the aircrews and technicians, an additional 75 officers and airmen supported Commando Buzz by flying materiel and personnel from Olmsted to Southeast Asia and back. The Pennsylvania Air Guard's EC-121s were laden with electronic equipment, and their mission was to act as flying radar stations and airborne control platforms. They possessed search and identification radar, interception equipment, and a battery of communications gear. The range of the EC-121s extended over all of North Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin, and they were a key element in Seventh Air Force control of tactical air operations. The final group of Air Guardsmen rotated during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays of 1970, and early in January 1971, the mission was completed. Within three days after the return of the 193d to Pennsylvania the Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Air Forces sent a message to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, commending the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by the exceptional mission performance of the 193d, which won the USAF outstanding unit award that year. The 193d Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron is today the 193d Special Operations Group, still a proud part of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.

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