When I was in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1961, the nightlife was pretty laid back. It mainly catered to merchant marines and sailors who came to port there. But, unfortunately, there was a sailor who did get an unwanted tonsillectomy at one of the older clubs.
We got told we were in the country as unofficial ambassadors and not allowed to go into Bangkok until the second month. After that, we had strict orders ‘do not get in any trouble.’
As the Vietnam War continued to escalate in the following years, our troops got sent to Bangkok for R&R’s ‘rest and relaxation’ trips. As the war escalated, Bangkok nightlife escalated to a frenzy. The term R&R should have been replaced with H&E before the war ended. The H&E would stand for ‘hungover and exhausted.’
The U S Air Force museum continues to honor pilots from throughout history. The Vietnam War era is of most interest to me, the events that took place during my service to the country. I served in the US Air Force from 1958 through 1962. Two of those years were spent at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan. In November and December 1961 we were sent on a temporary duty assignment to Thailand. It was a secret mission with the name Able Mabel Project. The pilot in this story Capt. Jack Weatherby flew my aircraft when I was the crew chief on RF-101 C 56-080. I strapped him into my aircraft many times in 1962. He was shot down and killed over North Vietnam in 1965. I hope to honor his memory and the memory of all the other pilots who served in the Vietnam era.
All of the pilots in this picture flew my plane so I got to know them well. I recall one day when Lt. Weatherby landed, he said, “I was flying low over a clearing in the jungle, I saw all these people, I thought they were waving at me, he said hell they were all shooting.” We found a few small caliber bullet holes in the wings. We had to come up with a special putty to close small bullet holes with. That became routine but created a lot of work removing panels to inspect for other damage. One day after we’d been flying out of there about a month a 50 caliber round went through the canopy right behind Major Harbst. A piece of plexiglass cut his neck. He was possibly the first US Air Force pilot to be injured by enemy fire. I don’t recall ever hearing anything about it later. I did communicate with his wife, she wrote to me after he passed away. The Major got through Vietnam and retired from the Air Force. I have lots of fond memories of those days but also sad memories as more information comes out.