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Mark Berent is a well-known author of many Vietnam airwar books and articles. In this article he recounts the people and events that motivated him to write. As he says: "They're out there now, somewhere beyond our eyes, beyond the clouds, rolling and soaring in towering cathedrals flying beautiful airplanes that need only the fuel of their love. These are the men I honor.”
The weather, the built-in hazards of night refueling, target identification, and the karst mountains hiding in the dark are all enemies -- and of course, there's the enemy, too. These pilots have a saying, "And if the big guns don't get you, the black karst will." But then back on top in the moonlight, a man finds brief moments to think his own thoughts before cracking a low ceiling back at home base. Berent flew such missions.
In this hilarious tale, Berent goes out on patrol with a Special Forces team he has supported many times from the air. Seeing the pilot is having a hard time keeping up, one of the Chinese mercenaries called Nungs, says to the team leader, "Let's kill the Dai Uy." Dai Uy is Vietnamese for captain. Read on to see what happened.
Until the day a friendly FAC presented us combat pilots with a mascot, all any of us knew about snakes was that they were slimy creatures that could poison you, eat you, twist your bones, or crush you at their leisure. But that was before we came to know and love our squadron's resident reptile, whose name was ... RAMROD
As the Vietnam War interdiction campaign spread to North Vietnam, Laos, and eventually Cambodia, the slow moving Forward Air Controllers (FACs) in their small prop planes began to encounter intense ground fire. It was then, in 1967, that the jet FACs began to take over in high threat areas. Berent, a former commander of the famed 8th Tac Fighter Wing Wolf FACs, poignantly reminisces about these men and the mission.
Combat fighter pilot Mark Berent writes of a dragon-shaped karst mountain in Laos along the Ho Chi Minh Trail that bristles with physical and psychological danger. He writes of it as he first saw it on an F-4 FAC mission from Ubon RTAFB in 1969. Then he adds an excerpt from "Phantom Leader," one of his historical fiction books about war and politics in the Vietnam era.
"The Graduate" is a short story about a retired fighter pilot (Berent) who, at 74, went back to college, Cowboy College that is.
In January of 1973, we in Defense Attaché Office in the American Embassy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, found ourselves in an unusual situation. President Nixon had declared his Southeast Asia policy of Vietnamization was succeeding. In Vietnam, all U.S. forces were ordered to cease fighting and that included air assets as well as the ground troops. Yet we had authorized air support for the Khmer Army until August 15.
What did all this mean to me, the Air Attaché (AIRA) in the Embassy? First off, it meant I was in the loop to approve all B-52 strikes, secondly it meant, along with my co-workers, a daily briefing to the Ambassador and the Country Team about how things were going on the battlefield. Theoretically, we should have had no other involvement. But war always skews things in unforeseen ways.
My office suddenly had the task of taking over where Blue Chip left off. Blue Chip was the USAF 7th Air Force command post at Tan Son Nhut AB, SVN, whose job during those war years was to manage all air assets, i.e., approve and schedule all war-related missions. And that mission is what I found myself in charge of for a few weeks until a new CP was established at Nakhom Phanom (NKP), Thailand.