@ ANOTHER TIME

It was shortly after the major Tet Offensive of 1968 when the Air Force command on the Tan Son Nhut airbase decided to arm us in our billet area. Our billets were surrounded by an inner fence then a road then an outer fence. After that, there was a cleared area with a tall guard tower. During the first attack, the VC had killed the guards and dug fighting holes inside the outer fence. Before the Air Police and Army tanks with South Vietnamese Air Force fought them off leaving our billets riddled with holes and craters from the 250 lb. bombs all around. You could smell the battle in the air.

When we went out to take photos of the aftermath we found in one fighting hole a VC fighter, who apparently was in the process of firing his weapon when he took a blast from the 50 cal. on the tanks. It is weird that I don’t remember blood! The blast had almost decapitated him, his shoulder had been torn open. I could only imagine what he had thought.

It was then they decided to issue us M16s, helmets, flak jackets. The catch in this effort was that the weapons would be stored in a metal conex in the area. We would keep the helmets and jackets next to our bunks. I don’t think this was thought out. Under attack, we would be sitting ducks while qued up to get our weapon.

One evening we were practicing guarding the fence. We were dispersed in twos at regular intervals along the fence. I then heard one of the teams discussing the M16 … “what is this for?” I knew then this would never work!

 

FREE PRESS

‘the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people’

HUGO BLACK (senator from 1927-1937, the supreme court from 1937-1971)

 

The importance of a free and open press is of utmost importance to our democracy. It keeps our government responsive to the people.

This administrations’ constant drumbeat that the press ‘is the enemy of the people’ is unamerican and far from what our founding fathers intended. More patriots need to rise up and challenge this rhetoric that is damaging our democracy.

It has been far too common for this administration to lie and for people not to challenge those lies. It can no longer be PARTY it must be NATION!

ELECTORAL COLLEGE

John Quincy Adams … 1824

Rutherford B.Hayes … 1876

Benjamin Harrison … 1888

George W. Bush ……… 2000

Donald J. Trump …….. 2016

This is a list of the presidents who were elected while losing the popular vote. In my opinion, the Electoral College has outlived its’ original purpose.

In 1787 delegates to the Constitutional Convention debated many methods to elect a President. And they decided on the Electoral College method. one of their reasons they chose this method is that they wanted to give the less populous states more representation in the college in an election. But the Electoral College almost never functions as they intended it too.

It has made the citizen’s individual vote importance different from other states. In 48 states a presidential candidate can win 50.01% of the popular vote and receive 100% of the states electoral votes. It seems a little unfair for a representative government. It is possible for someone to win the Presidency winning only 21.8% of the popular vote! 

A candidate can focus on certain states and ignore 40 states! to gather the electoral votes needed to win the Presidency … representative government? I for one do not think so. All the money involved in today’s campaigns can be poured into those few states to win win the Electoral College, and thus the Presidency! … FAIR?

In my humble opinion, this distorts the “ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE” principle of a democracy. It is time to give the people the vote to elect our president!

@ ANOTHER TIME …

My unit in Nam was a mobile photo processing and intelligence unit. It was an interconnected series of small trailers; most were about 10×10.  It was like working in a submarine, as I imagined it to be. The lead trailer served as the orderly room. Then the middle trailer was a titling/photo interpretation area, it was the biggest trailer. On one side were attached film processing trailers and on the other side the photo printing trailers; these were the smallest. And at the end was the maintenance trailer; the walls were filled with heavy bins of screws, bolts, other hardware and the tools to maintain our machines.

We were in the middle of a large operation in support of an Army unit just north of us. Our intel officer had told us we were on a Vietcong blacklist because of our success in providing substantial and effective photo intelligence to several successful operations. This meant that we were to be targeted by the Vietcong.

I worked the midnight grew. Our unit was always darkened from the outside, except for the light at the front trailer, because we had no windows. We sat on the flight line in the darkness and smothered in the sounds of the nighttime flight line.

I had just finished processing  a roll of film from an SR-71. It was from the horizon-to-horizon camera system that produced a long, long frame. I then went to one of the printing trailers to start printing the film for the photo interpreters. Once I had tested for the correct exposure I loaded the film onto the machine and began the process. I watched in the glow of the safety light as the frames past through the viewing platform.

I  rushed the printed film over to the title machine and began to title each frame with the required information so the interpreters could reference what frame they would fine intelligence in.

Before I started the next cannister into the processor I walked back to the maintenance trailer to the only potable water in the unit. As I passed from one trailer to another there were connecting passageways that consisted of a canvas covering and a steel plate to walk over. I reached the maintenance trailer and drank a couple of cups of the water. I took a deep breath and stepped onto the steel plate to start back to my station … suddenly a horrific blast knocked me onto the edge of the next trailer. I laid there for a moment feeling the warmth of my blood running down the side of my face. With my ears still ringing I gathered myself up and walked back into the maintenance trailer.

I stood there visually taking in the scene before me … three mortars had landed at the corner of the trailer, the exit door had been blasted off its hinges. there were a large number of shrapnel holes in the wall to my left and several holes in the bins where the shrapnel past through and out the other wall.

I looked at the water container where I had just stood by … it was destroyed! I am thinking if I had not stepped onto that steel plate when I did …?

 

 

 

PATRIOTISM?

“GUARD AGAINST THE IMPOSTURES OF PRETENDED PATRIOTISM” 

GEORGE WASHINGTON

 

First let me state that I do not like this President. He is crude, amoral, divisive, egotistical, dictatorial, etc. And in my opinion a sham patriot!

From Frank Bruni’s article in the New York Times of 07/23/2016  “… [his] lavishly professed love [for America] is a largely semantic affair. It’s fickle. It’s reckless. Under its guise, he’s apparently prepared to jettison values that really do make America great and alliances that really do keep America safer. His patriotism brims with grievances.”

Trump has suggested that if a NATO member who had not, in his opinion, paid it’s fair share, he would not rise to its defense as NATO requires.

On the Morning Joe show he was praising Putin’s strength when Scarborough pointed out that Putin kills journalist that do not agree with him … Trump replied  ” well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe.” …  allow that to sink in!

During the Vietnam war he received four draft deferments (college) and one medical deferment ( foot related) that did not prevent him from playing golf. I showed my love of country and patriotism by forgoing college to serve my country proudly in Vietnam.

I am sure he likes the country for his opportunity to grab money ethically or unethically. but, in my opinion, he is not a true patriot!

@ ANOTHER TIME

We pulled into the flight-line chow hall for our shift’s midnight chow, as we called it. I had gotten used to living in the dark and noise of the flight-line generators, F4 Phantoms, and choppers. The noise had become just a constant drone that I had gotten used to. The Vietnam nights were not cool they were muggy and hot.

The chow hall was sweltering, despite the screen walls of the chow hall.  The heat of the flat grills cooking up scrambled  “POWDERED EGGS” made it worse. Every now and then we would get real eggs from Australia, that was a treat. Even the milk was powdered, really tasty.

We finished our “eggs” and grabbed a cup of coffee. As we sat sipping our cups waiting for the transport back to our unit. The incoming sirens sounded, an all too familiar sound by now. Just as we were running out to the chow hall bunkers the rockets started to land. You could hear the explosions as they walked closer and closer to us.

One landed near to us as we ran. That put me into an Olympic sprint speed. I turned from the bunkers to a closer site. The barracks had sandbags stacked around them to almost a six-foot height with a space between the bags and the screen of the barracks. In record speed, I reached the sandbags and in one continuos move leaped over the bags into that space. I ran sprints in high school but never did the high jump. I was certain that jump would have been a school record. I lay in that space listening as the explosions moved away from me. Finally, there was silence and moments later the all-clear siren sounded. When I tried to climb out of that space I realized just how much of a jump it was, adrenalin is something!

PARTICIPATE

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.’ … PLATO

 

In my opinion that is where we have come to. Congress is now incapable of debate and legislation. We have elected a petulant, vindictive President.  He, it seems, is only interested in how things affect him … not the country.

Congress, the second branch of our government, is supposed to give advice and consent to the executive branch not be compliant to the executive. I do not claim we only got here since the Trump administration. This has been coming for a long time.

Madison, the father of our constitution, pushed the idea of checks and balances from the English monarchy to our republic. It was a sophisticated idea introduced into the constitution one that staunch republican Thomas Jefferson embraced.

We can only protect these ideas of the constitution if we all participate in our politics by being informed and voting in the best and brightest. It is my belief that the ‘BULL-IN-CHINA SHOP’ and juvenile vindictive approach of the current resident of the white house is pushing the limits of our government … and that, in my opinion, is dangerous.

So I implore you to PARTICIPATE!

 

@ ANOTHER TIME

We were returning to the flight line from what was known as ‘midnight chow’. We were in a small transport truck that had a canvas top covering the back, where we all sat, which was rolled up at the time. We were all singing ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’ as the truck swayed back and forth. As the truck swung into our compound I was looking forward through the windshield. The headlights swung passed our supply containers briefly and I caught something moving away from the containers. My friend, Price, also saw what I saw. We both jumped out of the back and ran to the movement. At the time we assumed everyone saw what we saw and would follow. When we reached the containers it was then we realized we were alone, in the dark (save for the light at the entrance of our trailer) and in silence except for the drone of our generators and the sounds of the flight line.

Price and I stood looking at each other wondering what we were chasing. When suddenly a noise caught us and we moved to it, further into the darkness. We moved cautiously to the area where the noise had come from. Suddenly two figures ran away one in one direction the other in another direction. Price sprinted towards the left and me to the one on the right. The Vietnamese I was chasing disappeared behind another container. I stopped when I heard the distinct sound of a small Honda cycle start up. Suddenly the cycle came towards me. the guy on the cycle wore an open raincoat that spread out behind him.

To this day I don’t know why I reacted the way I did. But as he moved around me I grabbed the trailing raincoat and jerked it to me. To my surprise, he flew off the cycle into my grasp leaving the bike careening off onto its side sputtering and coughing into silence. I put the guy in a choke hold and looked for Price.

The darkness gathered around us, I searched the area for some sight of Price. Suddenly thoughts filled my mind. What if no one realizes where we were, what if Price was dead, what if this guy reaches for a weapon. Then the guy started to struggle, I tighten the choke hold and slammed my knee into the back of his thigh causing him to fall to the ground. That put me in an awkward position to keep him in the hold, I squeezed harder until he stopped struggling. Again I searched for Price.

I began to struggle to keep the choke hold tight. I looked off in the distance to the light of the entrance hoping someone would come out to look for us.  Just then I heard Price yelling pulling his guy towards me. His guy was really struggling as Price pulled him by his neck towards me. We started dragging them both towards the light, yelling for someone to come out.

Finally, they came out and assisted us. Our Air Police was called and they were handcuffed and turned over to the ‘White Mice’ ( the Vietnamese police). We got to follow up on the two and were told they were VC trying to steal our chemicals .. and were executed.

We received a letter of commendation from command headquarters. We believed we should have received the medal of commendation! But we were Air Force.

@ another time

I worked with the 12th Tactical Recon Squadrons Photo Processing / Intelligence unit (a mobile small trailer connected facility) that could be moved around, as needed, to process film and interpret the intelligence that is obtained and to transmit that to the field command In Vietnam.

At the Tan Son Nhut air base we were set up on the flight line for immediate access to the systems of all the reconnaissance aircraft used in the country. We were powered by huge diesel generators that sat just behind the unit and next to two sandbag bunkers where we entered when under attack. The noise from our generators and the aircraft on the flight line was intense.

We worked 24/7 in shifts of 12 hours. I worked the midnight to noon shift and it was frenzied from start to finished. It was cramped quarters much like I imagine those in a submarine would be. You had to load film into the processors in the dark on your touch, it took much practice to be able to do this and not ruin the film. The film that pilots risked their lives to get.  It was an intense effort.

On a night soon after the TET offensive of 1968, we were working on a rush top-secret mission that required great accuracy. It was frenetic in the unit, all machines were operating and rushing the titled film to the interpreter’s station. I had just stepped out of my processor station fresh film in hand when I heard the ‘incoming ‘ sirens. There was a pause then everyone rushed to the back hatches that lead to the sandbag bunkers. We, on this shift, were smaller than the day shift. As we rushed to the bunkers we all ran into the bunker to the right, the one closest to the trailers.

We sat in the darkened bunker listening to the wailing of sirens. The sounds of the rockets traveling through the night sky became apparent. Then we could hear the explosions, at first distant and then closer and closer to our unit. We sat with our knees to our chests and holding our hands to our ears. Then there seemed to be a momentary pause. Suddenly we heard that woosh sound and then the horrific sound of an explosion that was way to close. The bunker shook and dirt and dust filled the inside. We coughed and spit out the dust that filled our mouths. Then the explosions became more distant again. There was silence, we waited in the dark. Then the ‘all-clear’ sirens sounded. We released our knees as the dust settled around us.

Cautiously we crawled from the bunker. As I reached the door I noticed the others were just standing outside the bunker. As I reached the outside wiping the dust from my eyes I stood up. I followed the gaze of the others … we all just stood in silence looking at the other bunker. It had taken a direct hit and was completely destroyed. I was thinking ‘My God what if we had all run into that bunker?’  We slowly and silently made our way back into the trailers.

 

 

@ that time

Because I have had grief about my Vietnam service with the U.S. Air Force in 67/68. The jokes about how easy we had it. We never experienced the battles of the war.  We lived in air-conditioned buildings, on and on!  My billet was, believe me, NOT air-conditioned! I can handle the good-natured digs, the condemning digs I can not! On the not experiencing the war allow me to tell the story of  just one of my ‘experiences’.

 

We were awaked in the early light of dawn to the mixed sounds of small arms fire, the clanking of tanks. Our billet was situated on the perimeter of the base. There were inner perimeter and outer perimeter fences and in between was a road. As we began to go to our weapons, the Air Force in their unchallenged wisdom had them locked up in a metal container located in a central location, the tanks opened up with their 50 cals. we hit the ground. The tanks were only about 50 yards from our position. The outer perimeter had been breached and they were pinned down between fences.

I looked at the guard tower and did not see the guards. As we lay on the ground we could hear the incoming fire hitting our billet. We would later see just how many hits our billet took. At one point a voice yelled ‘GET BACK!’ Just then we heard a roar in the sky as we looked at the noise we saw a SKYRAIDER ( A PROPELLER DRIVEN, LOW ALTITUDE BOMBER) racing towards us. We scrambled away from the fence as low as we were capable of. As we reached the rear of our billet I looked up to see this plane, I could have tossed a rock up and struck the bottom of the aircraft, begin to drop two bombs. I tried to get even further away. The bombs hit and exploded with a horrific sound. I heard the earth scattering around us; at that point, I felt the hot shrapnel strike my knee.

This is but one of the battle experiences of this Air Force Vietnam Veteran!