Air America® Association
May 28 – June 1, 2014
Crowne Plaza Arlington
700 Ave H East
Arlington, TX 76011
The following is a special reunion note from Jim Parker (Codename MULE):
Y'all on the To: line asked about the Air America® reunion, and to a couple who didn't ask but knew about it... here's what I know.
It was a gathering of old warriors, and their spouses... and fortunately for the eyes, more fit and attractive second and in some instances third generations of old warriors. No kids. Did not see any little people. No one bouncing a crying child anywhere.
It was altogether a mature, senior event, among good, patriotic and decent people.
As for my speech... it was a mess. My jokes fell flat, and I never recovered. Sputtered and stuttered at times and never got the right pronouncement of some people and places... and that, all before an absolute break down in my presentation... a memory lapse that went on and on long beyond un-comfortable. The only noise was people squirming in their seats and me in the front, sweating, saying "Ah, ah, ah...." Eyes wild... no place to hide.
No that's not true, that's what I feared would happened, but the speech went OK. Had several interesting comments after the talk.
From Jim Glerum (paraphrased): "Eisenhower cared what was happening to the French at Dien Bien Phu, and may have been behind that rumor of the possible use of a US atomic bomb in defense of the besieged French position... but it was more than just a rumor. I (Jim Glerum) was a young Navy intel Lieutenant on a US aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam (somewhere). We had a special top secret bomb on board with a group of people who knew how to put it in a special plane and then how to fly the special plane... in fact an entire atomic bomb package. So the big, bad bomb rumors everyone assumed were concocted, had a basis in fact. The US did have the capability to drop a nuclear bomb on the Viet Minh or whoever, to help the French cause, if Eisenhower so decided."
And on my little story that after the 21 December NVA attack in the valley in which the Hmong killed all the sappers and later when the sun came up, some Hmong cut off the privates of one of the sappers killed and stuck the whole bloody mess in the dead sapper's mouth... one of the old Air America® guys, and I've forgotten his name - know his face - but have forgotten his name - reminded me that after battles, or during battles, Vang Pao would often cut the belly's open of dead NVA to see what was in their stomachs. It would tell him how well they were fed/supplied, which helped him understand what he was up against. VP probably sought out some of the dead from that sapper attack to do a little autopsy himself, to find out if the Skyline attackers were well fed or not... and in this instance, probably not. So, yea, the villagers mutilated the body of that one poor dead sucker out by the T-28 ramp, but also as sure as anything VP was doing similar work somewhere else, but for tactical reasons."
From Bob Nobles... he and John Greenway flew the helicopter that went up to Romeo ridge and picked up "Tahn" body after he had been left on the position - or he had elected to stay on the position overnight - and it was over run. Bob said that "Tahn" had been - it seemed to him - executed by the North Vietnamese that had overrun his position. Bob had pulled "Tahn" from the bottom of the fighting position and his face was blown away from NVA who must have been standing on the edge of the position shooting down, because the hole was filled with spent AK-47 shells.
Brian Johnson and I went over a rescue attempt he made months after the Skyline battle in which he had to go down into a ravine in sort of a "S" route getting his blades around a tree that stuck out in his route down, and then an overhanging of rocks or something coming from another direction, to pick up this little Hmong grunt with no rank or particular importance other than he was part of our force... and we were there to fight together. An action like that gets talked about by the troops, and was one of contributing factors in the close brotherhood among the different tribes on our side of the fight. Brian also renewed his promise to get me more on life in the Griffin compound so that I can add a few pages to the story of how he and seven (?) other pilots lived in this little America compound near the Udorn air field and would go out for work upcountry to fight in that great fight, and come home each night to their hand built "little America," with Brian's center piece being that four legged tub in the middle of his bathroom that he used to sit in, all bubbled up, with the kids playing in and out of the tub... him with a cigar stuck in his mouth, leaning to the back of the big tub, smiling.
Jim Glerum, as I said above, was there in that mostly Air America®n crowd. John Holton, Jerry Conners, Bob Nobles. Larry Margolies and "Growth" who are CCed.... they added tremendously to the talk in that they were in the story of the Skyline battle and added voice to the parts they played as they came up in the talk.
Plus there was Prow, Jerry Conner's wife, who was a very good friend to Brenda during our stint in Vientiane 1972-1973. They picked up right where they left off without a hitch, from 40 years ago. And it was good to see H Ownby, Lee Gossett, Mike Kandt, and others I've known forever.
And something's to be said for the banquet Saturday night. To me the center piece was the professional posting of the colors by a active duty Marine color guard. We've all seen it 500 times, but this one was done just perfect. It gave us the chance to put our hands on our chest and pledge our full support to our country and to the freedom it provides... and I know that's corny. I'm sorry. But that was the program, not the appetizer, it was the main course, and it stands out in my mind as the bottom line to what we did over there, what brought us together that night. This common event in reunions - this almost overlooked event - was emphasized at this one... as if "let's not forget, here's what all this is about." Course there was good wine, good conversation, just surprisingly good food, and some Texas line dancers to follow. But the way that bed-rock pledge was emphasized, was very classy. I liked that moment a lot. All in all it was a pretty damn good affair - well set up and run (thanks to Kathy Bruner) - absolutely worth the time and money. I hope to be there next year too. Mule www.muleorations.com Reunion photos courtesy of Dan Gamelin
Reunion photos courtesy of Tony Coalson
Tony Coalson Images - Reunion 2014