Wonderful news! Our guys in blue terminated the life of the most evil man in the world. Have you noticed that vast majority of the people celebrating in the streets were young people? It is great to see them involved and cheering the success of that long sought goal.
Yes, I will have to admit it. I did watch the Royal Wedding real time on TV. Along about four o'clock in the morning I got up to check on my wife and found her curled up downstairs in front of the TV enjoying the spectacle. I joined her in watching for a few minutes and got hooked. Now in my mind weddings are a girl thing, an exercise that we males have to endure to capture the prize and in my case well worth it.
No it wasn't the wedding ceremony itself that captivated my attention, it was the pageantry, that the British do so well. The events of the day were carried off with absolute precision. The royal uniforms fitted and worn perfectly looked splendid and every lady wore a dress, tasteful and elegant. I detected nary a glitch, not a detectable error in timing, no intrusive television camera, no obnoxious reporter poking a camera into someone's face and nary a picture of a protestor holding an obscene sign. Even the gloomy English weather cooperated with sunshine.
The United Kingdom just has to be proud of their handsome young prince and his beautiful princess. Pride in one's country is a good thing and the rest of the world can only wish them well.
An Air Force Academy classmate, Don L. Brooks, has recently released a book on his experiences as a forward air controller -- FAC -- in Vietnam. Vietnam, the war that we in the military won hands down only to have defeat snatched from the jaws of victory by our politicians aided by a liberal media. Why might I be bitter?
Don's book "Fly to the Sound of Battle" describes his life at the academy, and as a young bachelor officer flying the mighty B-52. He then had an assignment at SAC headquarters in Omaha and was a major when he received his assignment to spend a year in Vietnam. Don drew the twin-engine turboprop powered OV-10 to fly the FAC mission and spent the year as commander of a unit at Quan Loi. His narrative is well-written even if he uses the gritty language of aircrews operating in constant danger. It is a great read.
Don's narrative brought to mind a vivid memory of a conversation that I overheard one day on guard channel sometime circa 1968. Flying our tanker at 25,000 feet altitude in air-conditioned comfort we heard a FAC working with the survivor of a bailout up in the DMZ (Supposedly demilitarized zone between North and South Vietnam) somewhere north of Hue. The crew of a Navy F-4 had been forced to eject and the surviving backseater was on the ground absolutely scared nearly to death. The FAC flying his single engine unarmed and unarmored light aircraft was calm personified. Somehow the FAC spotted the survivor on the ground and directed him to get into a nearby bomb crater. The survivor reported small arms fire, obviously coming from bad guys nearby. We could only hear the radio transmissions on the emergency frequency but the FAC had to have been having concurrent conversations on at least two other radios and frequencies with a controlling agency, fighter bombers diverted to help out in the rescue and the Jolly Green Giant helicopters coming to pick up the guy on the ground.
Flying over Vietnam all too many times we heard the yelp yelp yelp of a rescue beacon as some poor aircrew had to punch out of a disabled aircraft. It seemed that whenever that happened the whole war came to a halt and all the Air Force and Navy fighters airborne at the moment, along with the Army helicopters in range, all headed for the site to help out in a hopeful rescue.
So it was that day when a flight of Navy F-8s, several flights of Air Force F-100s and at least two Air Force A-1 "Spads" (A large propeller- driven fighter that had flown off carriers in a prior life) arrived on scene.
The FAC directed the "fast movers" to drop their ordinance in the area near where the survivor was holed up in his bomb crater. They did so dropping on his smoke rocket marks, then the FAC got on the radio to ask if all was quiet in the area. Evidently the survivor was panicking a bit and worried that his hand held radio might fail. The FAC stated "No problem, I have a couple extra with me and I can drop you one if you need it."
Then the two Jolly Green rescue helicopters arrived on scene and the FAC cleared the first one to make the pickup. The chopper crew sighted the survivor and came to a hover over him. Then they lowered a cable with a seat on the end (called a "jungle penetrator") for him to ride up to the helicopter. No sooner than the Jolly pulled into a hover a bad guy shot the chopper hitting the engine compartment. Evidently the hit was in the fuel control units and his engines began surging, one going to idle and then to 100 percent rpm and the other engine alternating while doing the same. The pilot prudently called "uncle" and departed the scene.
That caused the survivor to panic (couldn't blame him) and the FAC had to calm him down while promising that things would get better. Now picture in your mind that this FAC was probably a 25 year old Captain, listening and talking on at least four radio frequencies while directing the action. It had to have resembled a juggler keeping four balls in the air while simultaneously hand flying his aircraft all while being exposed to enemy fire himself. Then the FAC directed the Spads to drop CBU's (cluster bomblets, about 100 hand grenade sized units per container, illegal now but a very effective anti-personnel weapon) around the area to neutralize any enemy activity. That done the enemy fire ceased and the second Jolly could go in to the attempt the rescue.
Whether that action was successful we never learned because by then we had flown out of radio range. Unknown to us was the identity of any of the warriors below us that day. Whether the rescue was effected or the fate of the pilot who never came up on the radio we will never know.
During the war I lost two friends flying their O-1s in the forward air controller role. Richard Whitesides, was a pilot training friend that simply disappeared over the jungle and was never heard from again. The other, Harlow K. Halbower, an Academy classmate from Kansas was shot down in a fire fight trying to defend an isolated Army outpost. Both their names are engraved on the Wall of the Vietnam Memorial. It was a different world then and a different war but I proudly call them my brothers.
Upon reading this Ann wanted to state that she is thankful that I never got the assignment to fly A-1s for which I volunteered. She didn't want me in the FAC role, either, as she is convinced that I would have stayed in the action too long and never made it back home. Either would have been an exciting tour but instead I did my part by simply passing gas.
That is the way I saw it.