Various Things…

In a few weeks, this country will be taking some time out to remember our fellow brothers & sisters who paid the ultimate cost in a distant war (both time and mileage). This coming Memorial Day, please take a minute out of your day, and say a prayer for our fallen brothers & sisters and their families. As the Chaplain reminded us just before we left for Vietnam, “In combat, there is no such thing as an atheist!”

A few things from the “old days” for your reading pleasure…

This is from a “sea story” told by a friend who was flying off the Bonnie Dick in 1967…

A Whale Tale

The Russian “Trawlers” (Russian AGI or intelligence collector) with what looked like one thousand”fishing” antennas plied the Gulf of Tonkin on a daily basis…needless to say, it was a cat and mouse game to see what havoc they could raise with our two carriers operating there 24 hours a day.

Since the U.S. government had proclaimed the waters of the Gulf of Tonkin three miles off the coast of North Vietnam and Hinan Island , People’s Republic of China , to be international waters, American ships in the Gulf were bound to obey the international rules of the road for ocean navigation.

This meant that if the Russian ship maneuvered herself into the path of an aircraft carrier where she had the right of way, the carrier had to give way even if she was engaged in launching or recovering aircraft. The navigation officer was constantly trying to maneuver the ship so that the trawler wouldn’t be able to get in position to abuse the rules of the road and gain the right of way.

Sometimes he was successful in sucking the trawler out of position, but the room available for the ship to maneuver was limited by our on-station requirements, and sometimes the trawler was successful interrupting our flight operations. The pilots of the air wing were strictly forbidden to take any action against the Russian ship, but on this day CDR John Wunche, the commanding officer of the heavy tanker KA-3B detachment, had finally had enough of the Russians’ antics.

John Wunche was a big man with bright red hair and a flaming red handlebar mustache. He was a frustrated fighter pilot whom fate and the BUPERS had put into the cockpit of a former heavy bomber now employed as a carrier-based tanker. CDR Wunche flew the tanker like a fighter and frequently delighted the tactical pilots by rolling the “Whale,” as we all called the KA-3B tanker, on completion of a tanker mission. Consequently, John ‘s nickname was “the Red Baron.” On 21 July 1967 he proved just how appropriate that name was..

The Bon Homme Richard had nearly completed a recovery. The Russian trawler had been steaming at full speed to try to cut across our bow, and the bridge watch had been keeping a wary eye on the intruder. For a while it looked as if the Russian would be too late and we would finish the recovery before having to give way to the trawler. But a couple of untimely bolters extended the recovery and the “Bonnie Dick” had to back down and change course to comply with the rules. The LSO hit the wave-off lights when the “Whale” was just a few yards from the ramp. John crammed on full power and sucked up the speed brakes for the go-around. The “Bonnie Dick” began a sharp right turn to pass behind the Russian, causing the ship to list steeply, and there, dead ahead of John , was the Russian trawler.

He couldn’t resist. He leveled the “Whale” about a hundred feet off the water and roared across the mast of the Trawler with all fuel dumps open like a crop duster spraying a field of boll weevils. The Russian disappeared in a heavy white cloud of jet fuel spray, then reemerged with JP-4 jet fuel glistening from her superstructure and running lip-full in the scuppers. The Russian trawler immediately lost power as the ship’s crew frantically tried to shut down anything that might generate a spark and ignite the fuel.

She was rolling dead in the water in the Bon Homme Richards wake, the crew breaking out fire hoses to wash down the fuel, as we steamed out of sight completing the recovery of the Whale.

Needless to say, the Red Baron was an instant hero to the entire ship’s company.

I originally had this forwarded to me (by hand) from another Vietnam veteran. I took a few minutes out and read it. It seems to be dead on from the way I remember the reports in the late 70s. I would hope each and every one who reads this, please think about what is said here.

These are the real, researched numbers, not hype or rhetoric. only the truth…

Vietnam War: Facts, Stats & Myths
Credit: Capt. Marshal Hanson, USNR (Ret.)
and Capt. Scott Beaton, Statistical Source

9,087,000 military personnel served on active duty during the official Vietnam era from August 5, 1964 to May 7, 1975.

2,709,918 Americans served in uniform in Vietnam.

Vietnam Veterans represented 9.7% of their generation.

240 men were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Vietnam War.

The first man to die in Vietnam was James Davis, in 1958. He was with the 509th Radio Research Station. Davis Station in Saigon was named for him.

58,148 were killed in Vietnam.

75,000 were severely disabled.

23,214 were 100% disabled.

5,283 lost limbs.

1,081 sustained multiple amputations.

Of those killed, 61% were younger than 21.

11,465 of those killed were younger than 20 years old.

Of those killed, 17,539 were married.

Average age of men killed: 23.1 years.

Five men killed in Vietnam were only 16 years old.

The oldest man killed was 62 years old.

As of January 15, 2004, there are 1,875 Americans still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

97% of Vietnam Veterans were honorably discharged.

91% of Vietnam Veterans say they are glad they served.

74% say they would serve again, even knowing the outcome.

Vietnam veterans have a lower unemployment rate than the same non-vet age groups.

Vietnam veterans’ personal income exceeds that of our non-veteran age group by more than 18 percent.

87% of Americans hold Vietnam Veterans in high esteem. (but it’s taken 30 years to get there)

There is no difference in drug usage between Vietnam Veterans and non-Vietnam Veterans of the same age group (Source: Veterans Administration Study).

Vietnam Veterans are less likely to be in prison – only one-half of one percent of Vietnam Veterans have been jailed for crimes.

85% of Vietnam Veterans made successful transitions to civilian life.


Various Things… — 15 Comments

  1. “5,283 lost limbs.”

    This number is likely much higher. I have a friend who has lost both legs due to an Agent Orange related illness. The keep cutting pieces of him off to stay ahead of the blood clots and dead blood vessels. Not much left to take now.

  2. I will not forget them.

    Just something about the name “Red Baron” that make almost anything you do OK.

    Those are terrible and amazing stats.

  3. JR- you are correct, this is based on “actual” losses during the war, not the aftercare like your friend has had.

    ADM- Thanks- And yeah, Red Baron is a pretty good call sign 🙂

  4. I work for a transfer ambo company, and we take a lot of vets from the VA to various places (home, Soldier’s Home, etc). I always make an effort to find out what branch they were in, where they may have served, and thank them for their service.

  5. Wonderful story ended with a very touching “cartoon”. A buddy of mine worked for NASA back in the 60’s onboard one of the big tracking ships. They were constantly being shadowed by “Fishing Trawlers”, and one day the Old Man decided he’d had enough. he got on the horn to my friend, and asked him how much power the big tracking radar put out, and could he depress the elevation on the antenna to, oh, say 5 degrees or so? My buddy knew immediately what was being suggested, said a snappy “Yes Sir, we can do that!” and proceeded to bore-sight on the trawler. Since antenna was in a radome, they, of course had no idea what was going on. Let me tell you, 500kW of RF to a 5 meter dish can generate a HELL of a lot of near-field RF! He said they’d never seen one of those ships move so fast!
    Oh, and The Captain got him a steak dinner that night!

  6. I try to make sure that I thank those who have served our country so we can live as we do.

    My daughters are young, but they already recognize that our freedoms have come by the hard work and sacrifice of people we may never meet, or ever thank enough.

  7. Roaming- Thank you for doing that!

    Fuzzy- Agreed!

    Drjim- Your buddy was probably on OBIS better known as Observation Island- Tell him it is STILL in service and still doing the job!

    Lawyer- Thank you!

  8. Only 10% of us served in Vietnam? No wonder I feel so special, but then I always visit the Wall and wonder why our Serving Presidents don’t read all the names before they send the current forces into combat – should be a requirement. I am a ten percenter, cool.

  9. Memorial Day and those red “poppies” being sold by Veterans, made me first aware of what this National Holiday is. My grandfather was a WWII Marine. And he would buy those poppies and hang them on the rearview mirror. Instead of calling hin Grandpa, we called him Poppy. He would tell me the stories of battle and war. I sat fascinated and sad all at once. These men and women are amazing hero’s you included NFO. Thank you for your service!

  10. KLR- You are, sadly, correct…

    Earl- Agreed, it seems that now less than 20% of the congresscritters ever served…

    CPD- Thanks, but I was one of the lucky ones, I came home in one piece, many did not.

    Crucis- We all did…

  11. Old saying but still true,”All gave some but some gave all.” When you hear those who could have but never served say they “honor” those that did it sounds hollow. I honor everyone who took the oath, did whatever job they were given well, and kept the faith. I do think less of those who didn’t serve. Do you ever notice how uncomfortable they are around vets?