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May 21, 2018

Bases, Places, and Memories: A Slight Diversion in Vietnam

by dianeshort2014
By Von Hatch
U.S. Marine Corps
A friend of mine, Mile Legere, and I arrived at Danang, RVN in October of 1967. We were members of VMCJ-1, a photo reconnaissance and EW squadron flying the RF-4B Phantom, the EA-6A, and a version of the EF-10B Night Fighter left over from Korea. There had been a number of us arrive at the same time so there was some shuffling going on concerning permanent housing so we were temporarily housed in tents.

I came into the tent one afternoon on the second or third day we had been there and Mike was busy writing a letter. I casually asked who he was writing and he said, “Bobby Kennedy.” “As in Senator RFK?” I asked “Yes.” I said I didn’t think we had been here long enough to complain to our Senators. He said he was asking for a New York state flag. I stated that it was unfortunate that he came from a state with so many people that his pleas would never be heard. He made some disparaging remarks about the remoteness and backwardness of Arizona and the race was on. He wrote to Sen. Kennedy and I wrote to Sen. Carl Hayden of Arizona.

I had my reply in a mail cycle plus a few days. Nothing from New York. I wrote back to the Senator to thank him for his efforts. He was unable to fill my request through his office, but he pointed me in the direction of the state official who could. In my correspondence with his office, I kept referring to the secretary who was really opening the mail assuming that she was a lovely example of the girl next door. He mentioned her name and after I quit writing the Senator, I started writing her. In the meantime crickets from New York. I wish I had Mike’s later letters to the Senator because they were pretty caustic. Need I mention that my flag arrived before Mike heard from Kennedy? He finally mailed his driver’s license to Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and said he would not be returning to New York.

Then the press got a hold of it and flags came to Mike from everywhere. From the selectmen in Schenectady, and, finally, Bobby Kennedy’s office.

It is a silly little story but it was a great diversion and made for a war story that involved no violence. Suddenly it was the big thing in several squadrons – get your state flag and hang it up. There were a lot of them.

There are two interesting footnotes to this story: after the assassination of MLK there was much tension everywhere in Vietnam and the air wing was no exception. It was decreed that all flags would come down rather than removing just the ones that involved a Confederate motif.

The other is my continued correspondence with Ann, the secretary. After extending our tours, Mike and I came home on leave and I found myself in Washington DC and reached out to Ann. Her parents informed me that she was in Chicago at the convention. I finally reached her there (by this time she was Walter Mondale’s secretary) and she said stop by the Hilton, so I did. We got into the convention to hear Mayor Daley let the rest of the Dems know how it is done in Chicago. Had the joy of sharing tear gas with the hippies being pounded on by Chicago’s finest in Grant Park. Wined and dined on the finest the Hilton could send up paid for by the DNC. Livin’ large. Twenty or so very exciting hours in my life.

One other note – Mike never did go back to New York as promised. Instead, he married a Flagstaff girl and stayed.

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