Scrapbook Two Hundred Fifty Four…

October 9, 2020
by dal

 

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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.

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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.

FAC
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. 

TGT
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.

BDA
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.

RNDZ
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.

T/O
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Seventy…

scrapbook

MARCH 2017

 

Once in a while I do something right.

Wilson Hurley was an artist, and a good one. The price of his paintings frequently ran up to around $100,000 for the larger ones. He was entertaining in a conversation. His father was Patrick Hurley, who, during WW2 was Ambassador to China. As a kid Wilson travelled widely with his father and he had personal letters from Generals MacArthur and Eisenhower. In 1945, Wilson graduated from West Point and became a pilot in the Air Force, serving as a forward air controller in Vietnam. We always had plenty to talk about.

Well, sometime in the 1980s probably, some guy ran a red light and hit Wilson’s car. The jolt pinched a nerve in his neck. He was incapacitated, unable to paint for a year maybe. He couldn’t make a living so he sued, and it went to court in Albuquerque.

Since I had a gallery in Santa Fe and sold Wilson’s paintings, I was called to testify as an expert witness about the value of his work, and how much money he lost by not being able to paint. I was duly sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Problem was I didn’t like the defense attorney at first sight, and every sight after that. I didn’t know the jerk, but he was someone I very much enjoyed not caring for. His villainous face and bulging eyes made him look like Peter Lorre. The judge broke with tradition and wore a blue robe, my favorite color. The scene was set with only a few spectators.

Well, most of the questions from the jerk’s mouth came out reeking with sarcastic idioms that were aimed at discrediting me. He covertly insinuated that I was a derelict witness, not qualified to be on the stand. I was happily getting fed up with this guy. When one of my answers turned into a short dissertation, the defense jerk interrupted me. “Yes or no, Mister Fenn, yes or no,” he yelled in a croaky belligerent voice. All of a sudden the court room was a very hostile environment. I just sat there as the lawyer’s eyes captured me. It was like a 40 pound turkey staring at a June bug.

I turned to the bench and said, very apologetically, “Judge, I swore to tell the truth and the whole truth. If the defense attorney won’t allow me to do that I must respectfully withdraw my oath.” There was silence in the court as everyone sat stunned. The defense attorney looked like he’d just crawled out from under a garbage truck. I posed straight ahead and tried to stay collected, hoping the judge wouldn’t cite me for contempt.

Finally he called the lawyers into chambers and as they disappeared, and the door slammed, I relaxed. It could go either way, I thought. When Wilson, who was also a lawyer, saw the jury feigning snickers his frown turned to a smile. When the legal force returned, the judge said I could answer the questions as I pleased, and I was re-sworn. I ducked that bullet with impressive form. Wilson agreed.

Surely what I did was not only legal, but necessary, although no one had ever heard of a witness being unsworn before. At lunch Wilson paid. I ordered chicken fried steak with the gravy on the side, and no veggies. It had been a good day. f

Wilson Hurley

 

Scrapbook One Hundred Sixty Nine…

scrapbook

MARCH 2017

EUNICE, LA

One late Friday afternoon in 1951, I found myself in Eunice, LA., visiting Peggy Proctor and her family for the weekend. It was raining when a buddy dropped me off on his way to somewhere else. Peggy and I had been dating since our early grades in high school and everyone considered me part of her clan.

At the time, I was a PFC in the Air Force making $95 a month, and attending Radar Mechanics School in Biloxi, MS. I was on the red-eye shift, 1800 to midnight.

Sunday evening came too early and I had to be in school the next afternoon or really bad things would happen to me. The Korean War was new and the military was unreasonable about discipline. PFCs were easy targets.

I told Peggy to not worry about me and when I heard her front door reluctantly close behind me, it was dark and Biloxi was more than 200 miles away.

After walking a couple of blocks while holding my little suitcase over my head against the irrational moisture, I heard voices coming from a little church just ahead. The front doors were open and the warm incandescent lights were compelling. When two ladies saw me dripping in the vestibule they rushed over, and with typical Cajun hospitality, pulled me inside for coffee.

The congregation was playing Bingo. All of a sudden I was in a completely different world.

I didn’t have enough coins to jingle, but I did have a quarter, just one quarter, and the sign on the wall said “Cards – 25 Cents.” What the heck, I thought, and I invested all of my cash. There were three winners in the first game and I was one of them. Now I had $3.75, and hope was flickering.

The bus station was three blocks away and I started running. The drizzle stopped bothering me. When the ticket man told me the fare to Biloxi was $3.95, I felt numb. I spread all of my money on the counter and asked if I could please buy a ticket with that amount?

His finger started counting and with each word he spoke my pulse rate increased. Our eyes locked for an eternity and then he said, “No you can’t buy a ticket with that amount,” still looking at me hard, “but I’ll give you 20 cents.”

I waved to my friend behind the counter as I climbed into the bus. He was smiling, and I knew everything would be alright.

I came away from that experience with some thoughts to live by.

  1. There is no such thing as a self-made man.
  2. Give it your best shot and see what happens.
  3. Never underestimate the power of a quarter.
  4. Give some of it back when it is needed.

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