This is the sixth installation of a promised series of articles on what veterans have endured. This is the last in a series of articles that deals with life as a radar flight controller in Vietnam. Again I ask my readers to compare this one individual’s experience with those of bureaucrats who did not have their retirement benefits cut. Readers should note that the civilians that I am talking about do not feel that their retirement benefits are generous—this and a second view are available on the website
Some people were sacrificed because of stupidity on the local level because of squabbles between Eastern and Western Air Rescue. Others were sacrificed because of fear of making a decision that could cause an international incident involving the Red Chinese. One such incident took place around May, June, or July of 1967. Chinese fighters flying from Hainan Island shot down two US Navy flyers under my direct control. This incident would surface again in my life in 1992, when I was stationed in Panama, and involved conspiracy and cover-up. I have deeply regretted not keeping a daily journal while I was in Vietnam. We weren’t just in a war against North Vietnam and their cronies in Laos and Cambodia; we were fighting a war against Washington D.C. We were blind to the capabilities, tactics, and strategies of our enemies. We relied on our superior technology. Doesn’t this seem familiar to what is currently taking place in Southwest Asia today?
I just don’t want to write anymore about specific events. I could barf up for my reader what happened with Muskrat 01, the marines on the “Rock pile” during the winter monsoon who had run out of ammo, Flying Tigers airlines, and many others who have escaped into the deep neurons of my brain. Suffice it to say, this war really sucked and it was a daily time of suppressed grief and guilt. I guess that I must tell you that just prior to leaving Vietnam, I read in the 7th Air force newspaper that my alter-ego, the striking USAF Para Rescue Sergeant had both legs cut off by NVA machine guns when he went to rescue a downed pilot near the DMZ. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but I also felt guilty about leaving. I just hadn’t done enough. I owed these brave men far more and I felt that I just had not delivered. I had to do more even though I had given it my all.
Listening and watching our planes go down on a daily basis left an indelible mark on my very soul. I hated what our “Paper Tiger” nation had become. Politicians were sacrificing the best of our nation. Fools had completely castrated our military leadership. We could have easily defeated this foe, but politicians used a proud and competent military as a political tool. The psycho-sociologic make up of the American people would not support a long-term no win conflict. Americans need to see immediate results or they lose heart quickly. We were exactly what Chairman Mao said about us, “Paper Tigers”. I was ashamed and very angry. So, it was time to start “Operation Self-destruct”.
Readers should note the frustration that many veterans carry. The next article about Khe Sanh will echo similar frustration.