I have just watched a documentary about the Ravens and I am at a loss for words. The entire physical and emotional spectrum of the experience of war, from every angle and in any dimension, embodied by a single hidden conflict. They say that you die twice. Once when you pass, and once when the last person who remembers you passes. So your annual memorial gatherings are particularly moving for me. It’s part of Greek custom too.
And as a Greek, your relationship with the Mong, and the deep connection with them at your Thermopylae, resonated deeply. The documentary I saw was a bit dated. Did Ravens ever return to Laos again and finally visit Long Chen? Have you met with the Mong? Pardon my long unsolicited email sir; but the Ravens story touched me very deeply – way beyond the fact that I was a Biggles nut as a kid and that FAC was just next level! Slow planes drawing fire with pilots conducting a battle concerto from on high. It’s almost mythical! And the humanity of those mythical men … those honest, humble, loyal, true good men … swooping like Ravens and loving a tribe of people with such warm intention, amidst the madness of war, will forever remain with me. And, when I have my own home with a fireplace again, one day I too will fling an empty wine glass inside it, and albeit even for a moment in the memory of a stranger in South Africa, all the Ravens will live again.
Best Regards and Deepest Thanks
South Africa >>
From Mike Kelly
WHAT A RELIEF!
One of the secrets of the mighty O-1 Bird Dog 2 seater forward air controller aircraft was the control stick in the rear seat. The stick was used for a instructor pilot to teach a new pilot and in combat the back seater just might save the aircraft and the 2 occupants in an emergency. The stick had no electronic connections or buttons like most joy sticks. It was simply a hallow 32 inch pipe about 1 and half inches in diameter. The stick could easily be removed by a spring loaded knob with a pin to secure the stick. Just pull the knob out and you could remove the stick. It was a good idea to take the stick out when hauling cases of beer and soda. One of our FACs (forward air controller) killed himself by forgetting to remove the stick and 12 cases of beer fell in between the stick and the back seat pushing the aircraft straight into the ground. When we flew with a local person in combat with no English we would take the stick out so there was no breakdown in communication.
A normal O-1 Bird Dog mission was about 4 hours and it is a tight cockpit with not much wiggle room. There is no relief tube like in fighter planes so often nature will call in a 4 hour time frame so that hallow stick in the back becomes very useful as an emergency relief tube. So here is the procedure in flight. Unstrap and unbuckle the seat belt and let the aircraft just bob and weave on its own and turn around in the front seat and reach over into the back and release the lock pin by the knob at the base of the stick. The plane does just fine without input on the controls in combat anyway.
Now here comes the tricky part. You need to hold the stick exactly 3 inches away. Any further and you pee on your hand any closer in the bouncing aircraft and you jab your wee wee with the jagged end of the stick. Ouch. Also you need to hold the stick about 6 inches from the top. When your hand gets warm STOP. You may need to repeat this procedure 2 or 3 times to get the job done. The next challenge is empting the tube. There is a window on each side of the aircraft so if you leave both windows open and empty the tube you will learn about an Italian named Venturi. The law of physics prevails and the pee will whip around the plane and give you a golden shower you really don’t need. Closing one window is a great idea.
If you are being shot at during this ordeal you will have the satisfaction that you are giving the enemy some return fire.
Author: Mike Kelly
From Craig Bradford:
I got this from Craig Bradford. Can you get it on the News page?
After 10 years of political war with the City of Crescent City (until this last General Election, the City Council was politically far Left of center and unabashed haters of Veterans), today saw the long-awaited groundbreaking ceremony for our Veterans’ Memorial Monument. Our small committee with IRS Code 501(c)(3) tax status to legally collect donations began the construction phase of this $700,000 monument project for Del Norte County’s Veterans. The monument is an array of 5 tall obelisks representing each of the 5 military services. Starting at the center of a huge round concrete pie, each obelisk will stand at the pointed end a flat concrete section containing (in turn) U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, and U.S. Coast Guard in embedded brass letters. The obelisks crafted from beautiful marble will feature names of dead American Veterans who were associated with each of the military service branches. Their names will be carved into the marble. The U.S. Air Force section (flat concrete portion) is not empty like the others. The USAF section will host a vertical Hmong Veteran monument anchored to the widest portion of the section (near the outer ring). Carved in darker marble is the name of each Hmong Army Veteran who was a member of a Hmong family that is currently residing in Del Norte County. (Aren’t any names of Hmong Air Force pilots, unfortunately.) Concrete benches surround the entire monument pie. Tall flag poles will stand outside of each section with the U.S. Flag at the top and the associated military service flag just below. Lighting systems around the area will shine on each flag. Unfortunately the Hmong do not have a flag, so we’re considering using the now defunct ensign of the Kingdom of Laos. I brought a relatively small Lao flag home with me that was a gift from King Sri Souvang Vatthana, but I’m sure the Hmong wives here can make one that is the right size. When he lived in Southern California, General Vang Pao used to visit my family in Las Vegas at times. He explained to us that he persuaded all Hmong refugees to assimilate fully with the American culture and refrain from flying a Hmong flag inside the U.S. Maybe they will design one at some point in the future, although it is possible that such has been done already. If so, we’d like to know about it. Project completion is slated for December or next Spring. (We get around 100 inches of rain during the winter months. I live in Hiouchi, some 12 miles to the northeast of Crescent City on the Smith River and at much higher elevation. We received 150 inches of precipitation last winter. If you like to fish for steelhead, this is the place to do it.)
When my wife and I came here in 1999 from Las Vegas, only 214 Hmong individuals lived in Crescent City. Now there are over 1,000 with more coming every month. Perhaps not so significant a number in a large metropolitan area, but this geographically vast rural county only sports a population of 27,000. Some 1,900 of those are “guests” of the infamous Pelican Bay State Prison.
Today’s ceremony was well attended. We had a large number of elected State and local officials, and especially distinguished Hmong officers from the NSDF in Salem, Oregon and Sacramento/Fresno, California. The senior Hmong officer in the photo is the Chief of Staff for the NSDF, Colonel Thao. The high school senior on my right side is a young woman who I am personally mentoring toward the U.S. Air Force Academy. I have been an ALO in years past, but this girl’s family brought me back to “active duty.” If she makes it, she would be the first graduate of Del Norte High School to do so. The DNHS’ rating is so low that it prevents qualified applicants from being accepted. (The USAFA considers the school’s rating along with the student’s scores.) The fellow in the suit to my far right is the Chairman of the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors. The nicely dressed Hmong gentleman to my left is Joua Pao Vang. (Vang Pao was his uncle.) Joua Pao is a close friend from my tour as Raven 28 and also represents the Hmong Community on the Veterans’ Memorial Monument Committee. He and I also rub shoulders on the Hmong Council (9 separate clan elders) together.
This is the sole county of 50 California counties where a Veterans’ monument does not exist. We must pay for it ourselves or acquire financial donations from private parties. Fortunately for us, a growing number of local businesses are stepping up to the plate with in-kind donations. Every other California county erects monuments for deceased Veterans with public money. Also know that the Hmong monument represents a “first” for all of California. Such is why the Hmong are paying close attention to this particular project. It should attract widespread attention from Hmong leaders across the U.S.
So, that’s the story. Hopefully we’ll be able to help a local Hmong student to acquire an EAPLS scholarship in 2018. We’re working on it.
From Chartlie Felsenthal:
Pete’s RLAF project
When I arrived in Savannakhet near the end of November 1971, the RLAF Wing Commander there was Col. Concy Phimphavong. He was smart, conscientious, and effective, the youngest Wing Commander in the country at 37 years of age. John Roach (the AOC Commander) and I worked closely with him, and we always found him to be an excellent colleague. Concy was an engaged, hands-on commander whose pilots respected him, and he ran a very effective wing.
When the end came for the Royal Lao Government, Concy departed with his wife and children, eventually reaching the U.S. and going to work as a commercial pilot flying helicopters. He became active in the Air Commando Association, and the last time I saw him and his wife Lam was at the ACA’s annual meeting. He died in 2006. Lam still lives in Arizona, as does their son Pete, who was a small child when the family left Savannakhet.
Pete has always admired his father, and he remains loyal to the old flag with the Erawan (three-headed elephant) emblem. Some time ago, motivated by respect for his father and for his father’s colleagues, he decided to establish a nonprofit organization and a website devoted to the Royal Lao Air Force. The website is up and running, and you can find it at http://www.rlafproject.org. He already has a fair number of photos and narrative texts, but he is actively seeking more – preferably from people who were there and have first-hand knowledge. He would love to have input from the Ravens.
With the Executive Committee’s permission and on Pete Phimphavong’s behalf, I invite you to visit the website, and I ask that you consider allowing Pete to post any photos and/or reminiscences that you might care to submit. You can communicate with him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if there’s anything that you‘d like to ask me, I’m reachable at email@example.com.
Some good news for the web site–
The following Air Commandos will be inducted into the 2017 Air Commando Hall of Fame:
CMSgt (Ret) Bruce Brandewie
Col (Ret) Steven F. Dreyer
Lt Col (Ret) Jack Drummond
Col (Ret) John “Jack” Hester III
Col (Ret) Ben D. Orrell
We hope you will join us in recognizing the great accomplishments of these Air Commandos during the Annual Convention Banquet and Awards Ceremony at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Fort Walton Beach, FL on Saturday, October 14, 2017. For more information or to register online please visit us at www.aircommando.org. We hope to see you there!
I have been informed that our President Emeritus, H Ownby passed away peacefully this morning, 19 Sept, 2019.
H served as Raven 26 from Oct, ’72 until the cease fire in Feb, ’73. He was reported to be the last Raven, departing Laos in Sept, ’73.
H was deeply involved in EAPLS from its inception and served as our elected President from Oct, 1995 to Oct, 1997.
I will send information on a memorial as soon as I have it.
Rest in Peace, H.
Fred Roth passed away on March 30, 2015 at the age of 82. Fred was born on November 29, 1932 in Denver, Colorado.
Fred is survived by his wife of 63 years, Betty Roth, two sons Fred and Scott, five
grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Fred lived a rich life graduating with a Bachelor’s degree from Washington State University and a Master’s degree from George Washington University.
Fred entered the United States Air Force after graduating from Washington
State completing pilot training and progressing through the ranks to Colonel. Fred served with distinction in Vietnam earning the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross and Bronze Star with a V Device.
He is also a graduate of the National War College, was Wing Commander at Pease Air Force Base and retired after 27 years. He then worked for Lockheed finally retiring in 1992.
Fred and Betty lived in Lakeway for over 15 years before joining the Longhorn Village community.
Services and burial will be held at Arlington National Cemetery.