October 9, 2020
For twenty years the military played a significant role in Forrest’s and Peggy’s life. The relevance did not end when Forrest retired from the Air Force in 1970. He was an accomplished combat pilot…and of that he was proud. He was also a humanitarian…caring deeply about the lives of humans. He was careful in trying to balance, on one hand, the killing and destruction borne in his role as a combat pilot, against the sage and human desire to honor and assist those around him. In many ways he was still a pilot long after he gave up flying; in the way that mentors always assist and push others to be as good as humanly possible.
I’d like you to look at a piece of film that Forrest and I sat down and watched in early 2014. This is 24 minutes of gun camera film from Forrest’s missions in Vietnam. Listen to Forrest’s voice. I believe he was proud of his skillful ability to destroy enemy targets, and at the same time, regretful of the inevitable pain and death to civilians that came with his best efforts.
Forrest was both a realist and a humanitarian. When watching the evening news with him I would often hear him whisper…”Why can’t we all just get along?”
There is more explanation in the film’s description on the video page.
Please look HERE for the video.
Forrest was a compulsive record keeper. These are pages from Forrest’s personnel flight log. He kept these in spiral notebooks while he was in Vietnam. These come from Chris LaFrieda’s collection of material. You will remember that Chris is the guy that organized the search for Forrest’s plane some 50 years after Forrest was shot down in Laos. It’s a great story.
You can find that story HERE
There is a guide to the “pilot language” contained in the below photos. The guide is at the bottom of this page…just before the comments.
You can click on any photo to make it larger and easier to read.
Forrest kept a mission log or flight log of every mission he flew in Vietnam. The entries were generally made as soon as he got back to his hut after a mission, while the details were still locked in his brain.
At the top of the page is the date and the mission number. Below that are the callsigns and aircraft numbers of all the pilots in the flight. There is also a radio frequency that they all used to communicate. This frequency changed for each mission so that the enemy had a harder time trying to listen in.
Then there is a list of mission particulars by abbreviation.
Forward Air Controller. This person, in a separate aircraft, ensures that attack aircraft hit the intended target and do not injure friendly troops. Forrest often refers to them by their call sign. The FAC is generally on target before the flight arrives and gives the flight final instructions about what is happening on the ground and last minute details of the mission including if there are friendlies around, where they are and where the enemy is located.
Target. Usually coordinates and a description. The coordinates are military coordinates as delineated on a military map, These coordinates have no relationship to the world coordinates that civilian maps use.
Bomb Damage Assessment. This is Forrest’s assessment of the mission success or bombs that hit the target compared to the number of bombs deployed.
Rendezvous. This is the staging area where all aircraft in the flight meet up to begin their mission. A rendezvous point is necessary because the aircraft take off one at a time and are not immediately together. After take off they head for the rendezvous point where they all meet up get any updates and head for the target.
Usually lists the take off time and then the time on the target and the time they left the target.
Forrest also sometimes mentions the weapons he was carrying. CBU-34 means a type of Cluster Bomb Unit. These are the small bomblets Forrest talks about dropping. They are the size of a softball and there are hundreds in a container. Once the pilot opens the container the bomblets fall out. Different bomblets are designed for different missions. Some are anti-personnel. Some are incendiary. Some are designed to destroy bridges and other infrastructure…etc.
An F-100 could carry many different weapons from dumb bombs to smart rockets to cannisters of bomblets to napalm. The weapons they ultimately carried were determined by the target they were going after.