Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Response to Army Morality


B52 BOMBER TAKING OFF

I received this email from a Viet Nam vet writing the moral dimension of his war. I thought you would like it as much as I did:

We deployed as a unit in the Summer of 1968: A B-52 Bomb Squadron, a KC-135 Air Refueling Squadron and various maintenance and support units and personnel. The B-52's were based in Guam with a detachment in Thailand. The KC-135's were based in Okinawa with detachments in Thailand and Taiwan. Both Guam and Okinawa had large populations of resident US citizens (round eyes), AKA "American League," and open access via commercial airlines for more. Thailand and Taiwan were vibrant economic cultures with lots of ways and places to spend money and meet members of the indigenous opposite sex, AKA "National League." The atmosphere in all these places was Fly and Party. You were doing either one or the other. A phenomenon developed in which guys were writing home, saying in effect, "I'm being good, but guess what Joe did!" It's no surprise that Joe's wife soon got a full briefing.

As it turned out, the same sort of thing was happening back home. The wives left behind were partying too, encouraged by flocks of party animals flying in on weekend cross-country "training" flights to bases where the cats were away and the mice were ready to play. I personally began receiving anonymous letters keeping me up to date on my wife's activities and upon whose couch my 4 year-old daughter had spent the night.

When we returned home after six months the divorces began. In all, among just the flight crews and the flight line maintenance troops there were 40 divorces. For some of these guys it was a second divorce, the first having occurred at a different base after a similar deployment. My marriage began to disintegrate during the interim before the next deployment.

In the Summer of 1969, we did it again. This time before we departed the Chaplain included in his "God be with You" briefing,remarks to the effect that we were not our brothers' keepers; it was not up to us to write home and chronicle the misbehaviors of our friends. When we returned from this second deployment the unit was taken out of the line for upgrade to a new aircraft, the FB-111, AKA MacNamara's Folly. The effect of the second deployment on crew force matrimony was diffused by hundreds of personnel reassignments.

There is one funny story worth relating. In 1968, a major typhoon (hurricane) blasted through the western Pacific. The island of Guam, home for dozens or even hundreds of B-52's was threatened. A sanctuary had to be found for them all. International negotiations were conducted at the State Department level to assure governments, such as China and North Korea, that this was strictly a matter of safety, not aggression. So, in due time a flock of B-52's arrived at our KC-135 base in Taiwan and the crews were billeted at the largest hotel in the nearby city of Taichung. Whoever made the arrangements was unaware that the hotel was a notorious brothel. I'll leave the rest of the story to your imagination. Such is the fog of war.