Spent 5 years on Southeast Asia battlefields. Personally knew hundreds of good soldiers fighting the communist: US, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Hmong and Cambodian.
My first exposure to war-fighting was as a platoon leader in the 1st Division, and the bravest of the brave I knew then then were the E-3 grunts in my platoon, and my E-6 squad leaders who led these brave young men in jungle combat when bullets were flying, mines going off, enemy yelling, order to be maintained and infantry fighting to be done.
Then there were the Hmong hills tribe soldiers upcountry Laos, who didn’t want to die, but took on the enemy, lived their whole lives in the combat zone, and survived. And the Lao, especially those from Savannakhet, who were respected by all – even the North Vietnamese who they fought. And the Thai irregulars, a rough and tough lot who came to Laos to keep the communist from their country. Who died by the hundreds but the replacements never stopped coming. An un-broken line of Asian non-communist minute-men kept coming to NE Laos to fight invading communist main line soldiers.
And in Laos there were Air America risk takers who reported to their battlefield workplaceevery day, and survived by their wits and skill in maneuvering their flying machines through smoke, ragged mountains, enemy ground fire, to deliver food and ammunition and troops to Vang Pao’s army.
And there were the Ravens. A breed apart. Normally USAF fighter-pilots, who in our secret war flew unarmed O-1 spotting planes over the battlefield on six month tours, looking for the bad guys and his big guns. Laying smoke on targets for fast movers to hit with their bombs and napalm. Sometimes – just incredibly – falling from the sky in their little planes down towards where enemy concentrations were, to draw fire, so they would have targets for US fighter jets coming on station.
Back at Long Tieng at night, these brave young, handsome men, walked the ramp with the moxie and the confidence of Superman… their day of defying death over… next day to be at it again.
I marveled at these men.
They were to my mind, the bravest of the brave, and with the lethal potential of the Air Force and Marine planes they spotted for, they were the providers of hell on earth death to the enemy below. And they did it without rancor or pity. Sometime even with a sense of humor.
Following story was sent in by one of those guys…
One day, while an old retired fighter pilot was cutting the branch off a tree high above a river, his ax fell into the river. When he cried out, an Angel appeared and asked, “Why are you crying?” The aviator replied that his ax had fallen into water, and he needed the ax to supplement his meager pension.
The Angel went down into the water and reappeared with a golden ax. “Is this your ax?” the Angel asked. The aviator replied, “No.” The Angel again went down and came up with a silver ax. “Is this your Ax?”
Again, the aviator replied, “No.” The Angel went down again and came up with an iron ax. “Is this your Ax?” The aviator replied, “Yes.” The Angel was pleased with the aviator’s honesty and gave him all three axes to keep, and the aviator went home happy.
Sometime later the retired aviator was walking with his wife along the river bank, and she fell into the river. When he cried out, the Angel again appeared and asked him, “Why are you crying?” The pilot replied, “my wife has fallen into the river!”
The Angel went down into the water and came up with the a thirty-year-old stripper. “Is this your woman?” the Angel asked.
“Yes,” cried the aviator.
The Angel was furious. “You lied! That is an untruth!”
The Pilot replied, “Oh, forgive me. It is a misunderstanding. You see, if I had said ‘no’ to the stripper, then you would have found me a beautiful Playmate…Then if I said ‘no’ to her, you would have come up with my wife. Had I then said ‘yes,’ you would have given me all three. And Lord, I am an old man not able to take care of all three women in a way that they deserve, that’s why I said yes to the stripper.”
And the Angel was pleased.
The moral of this story is: Whenever a Fighter Pilot lies, it is for a good and honorable reason, and only for the benefit of others… including strippers!