Thursday, February 15, 2007

Vietnam: Johnny Walker, the B52's, Huey and the logistics

war story relayed to me the other day at a party. a true story in the spirit of "Apocalypse Now", "M*A*S*H" and "Catch-22":

it seems that in the military wherever you are there's always a shortage of something and too much of something else. it reminds me of a time in 'Nam when a buddy and I "borrowed" a helicopter (that is to say we took it without permission), in order to go make a pickup of some cases of Johnny Walker Red whiskey. this was near the end in '72 and it seems an officer's club was closing down and they had all this alcohol that was going to be abandoned or poured into the dirt. so we flew in and found out sure enough, it was there for the taking, so loaded the Huey full of these cases of Johnny Walker and headed back, feeling pretty good. small problem though. since we hadn't filed a flight plan, this all being "unofficial business", nobody knew about us and we didn't know what we were flying through. until it was too late and we saw the bombs falling. apparently we were going right through a bombing raid. a squadron of B52's five miles above was carpet bombing the area below us and we were smack in the middle of it. these were 500 pound bombs that exploded about 200 feet above ground for wide area impact (airburst?). we could see them dropping around us and my buddy was doing everything he could to dodge them. he was laughing crazy and I thought we were gonna die. any one of those bombs hit us and we'd drop like a rock. the worst part was when they exploded, the air concussion rocked and thundered and I thought we'd get blown out of the sky even if we did dodge them coming down. this kept going on and I was terrified; I won't tell you what I did in my pants. finally, against all odds, we made it back to camp and landed safely. we were really shook up but alive and unharmed. unfortunately the cases of whiskey did not survive. every bottle broke from the concussion of the explosions. that helicopter was soaked with whiskey and it all just drained out. nothing left but soggy cardboard and broken glass. the guys at camp were not pleased with our accomplishment. and to this day I cannot stand the smell of whiskey.