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Little Town Up North


Downtown. Ho Chi Minh. Bac Mai. Gia Lam. The Paul Doumer Bridge.

I never cared a whole helluva lot for this song because I thought the tune was kinda ho-hum, the lyrics a bit junior high. But now, I think the real reason I don't like it is that it makes going to Route Pack Six seem so routine, makes it look easy.

After the third or fourth time I went up there, the clue bird lit on my shoulder and shat copiously down my back, and it dawned on me that this was no picnic.

The military historians have called Hanoi the most heavily defended area in the history of air warfare. I don't know. I've read about Ploesti, and what the Germans faced in the Battle of Britain. It's still too soon after. I yet have trouble with the forest and the trees.

I do know that the North Vietnamese shot the shit out of us every time the Alpha Day Strike Force went downtown to Route Pack Six.

I went to Pack Six thirty-one times, and that ain't no record by a damn sight-talk to the Thud jocks, and the Navy pukes who flew the A-6's. Each of those thirty-one times, just prior to landfall or crossing the Red River-not the Red, the Black-I asked the Man Upstairs for one more favor.

I guess a streak of naivete is essential to a fighter pilot; otherwise, he'd never fly in front of the enemy's guns and we'd probably lose the wars that really matter.

We had a chart board on the wall in operations with the name of every jock on it. Each time we went on a mission into North Vietnam a grease pencil mark filled a square signifying a 'counter.' When I was there, the tour-length was one hundred missions over North Vietnam, or a year, whichever came first. A hundred counters was a ticket out of the war and back to the States.

The counters over Hanoi came awfully dear. I remember the day Hotrod, a flight of four Thuds, went in from the water (Gulf of Tonkin) side, and only Hotrod Three came out.

Two died and the other one went to jail.

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