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Interview with Dan Williams [10/22/2002]

Derrick Williams:

This is Derrick Williams interviewing my father, Dan Williams, at our house, 1136 Oleander Drive in Lilburn, Georgia, on October 22, 2002. I attend Vanderbilt University, and I'm doing the interview for the Veterans Oral History Project. Dad, what war were you in? And what branch of service were you in? What was your rank? And where did you serve?

Dan Williams:

I was in the service from 1967 through 1973. That was during the Vietnam Era. I was in the Air Force. I enlisted and was an Airman, and when I got out in 1973, I was a captain. Now, where did I serve? As a member of the military you get moved quite a bit. I guess I was probably in about eight or ten different locations during my six years in the service. As we get into the interview, I'll tell you a little bit about each place that I served -- the different PCS or permanent duty stations that I served in.

Dan Williams:

So you said you enlisted. Why did you enlist, and where were you living at the time?

Derrick Williams:

Well, I got out of college in -- well back home in South Dakota, with an engineering degree and I took a job after college with Pratt Whitney, who makes aircraft jet engines. And when I took that job, I was under the impression that I would be deferred from going into the military because I thought it was a defense-related job. And I hadn't been working for maybe about three months when my draft board -- you have to remember that back in the '60s the draft was in effect. Anybody that got out of college or any high school student, as far as that goes, that did not go to college, was expected to go into the military and there was no lottery system. There was no, "Oh, I got a high number. I got a low number. I don't have to worry about it." Everybody that was not married and was not in school went into the military. Well, I got out of college and went to work for Pratt Whitney and I thought because it was a military-related or a defense-related job, that I would not have to go into the military. My draft board sent me a letter and asked me -- well let me back up here a second. You know where I come from in small town South Dakota everybody knows everybody. And my draft board actually talked to my folks and told them that they were about ready to send a draft notice to me. So my folks called and told me that. I went to Pratt Whitney and just wanted to make sure that this job that I had as a production engineer was going to be -- was draft deferrable. And they said, "Oh, Mr. Williams. No it's not. If you were in another part of the company it would be, but production engineering is not draft deferrable." I said, "Oh, poop," or something like that. And so what I relayed to the draft board back in South Dakota through my folks was that how about since I do have a college education giving me the opportunity to try to become an officer in the service versus being an enlisted man. And so, at that point, I started -- I went to a couple of different recruiting offices. I went to the Navy, I went to the Air Force, and I said "I'd like to try to become an officer." And I tested with both the Navy and the Air Force, and I tested for flight school. Prior to this, I had never thought of flying. But when faced with the opportunity, let's say, to go into the military, I said to myself, I want to get as much out of this as I possibly can. Being a ground pounder with a rifle in my hands didn't particularly appeal to me. So I decided then and there if I had to go to the service, I wanted to be able to fly. And so over the next two, three month period I tested for flight school, and I also took physicals for both the Navy and the Air Force. And I remember fairly well the physical for the Navy. I had to drive down -- Pratt Whitney -- I was living in Hartford, Connecticut and so for the Navy flight physical, I had to drive down to Floyd Bennett Field, which is now gone, in New York City. And I remember taking the physical. There was several of us there and the very last thing they did in the physical is they dilated all of our eyes, and they said once you can see again you can go on home. I remember getting my -- this is the first time I'd ever had my eyes dilated in my life, and we were all -- none of us could see. Your vision is so blurry, so none of us could drive. I think it took maybe about three hours for that dilation of our eyes to wear off. So, we went to the officers club. And this, in retrospect, it sounds pretty funny. There was probably ten of us -- twelve of us. None of us could see. We were all playing shuffle board and shooting pool, and none of us could see what we were doing. Anybody watching from the side, it must have been quite comical. Let's see, I heard from the Air Force relatively soon, I guess, that I had passed the test and the flight physical to get in the Air Force and I don't know why, perhaps it just, the paperwork took a little bit longer for the Navy, but I never heard from the Navy if I had passed the flight physical. And around Christmas time -- this was in 1966, my folks called me and said the draft board had called them and said they were sending me my draft notice. The next week, first of January, I enlisted in the Air Force because I knew I had been accepted into their officers training and their flight training schools, so I enlisted in the Air Force so I would not have to join -- I would not get drafted by the Army. I think it was you know, a couple days later that this friend of mine up in Hartford, Connecticut put me on the train, rode on a train to New York City, where I flew down to San Antonio and got my first greeting in the military.

Derrick Williams:

So tell me about your basic training. Do you remember your instructors at all? And how did you get through the training experience?

Dan Williams:

Yeah. Basic training was -- it was like a cold shower. It's kind of a rude awakening to -- you know my life before then. They introduce you to the military by taking away all of your clothes, issuing you -- issuing everybody the same kind of clothes including underwear and socks and shaving everybody's head so every single one of you look exactly alike. They strip away all of your individuality because they are going to mold you, each one of you, into their version of a fighting man. So, we were divided into platoons. And each platoon had a drill instructor. And I remember to this day, I vividly remember my drill instructor. His name was Sergeant Dubion. Dubion is a French name and he was from Louisiana. Probably -- physically not imposing, but probably in my mind at the time, the meanest son of a bitch that ever lived. Because he would stand us at attention, I remember it vividly, at the foot of each one of our beds and berate us. And made us all feel like we belonged at the bottom of the ocean. There's nothing lower than what we felt at that time. I think there was about 50 of us in our platoon, and I had a little bit of an advantage -- well, there were about four of us in that platoon that had some, or had finished college. And the rest of the kids, most of them had finished high school, and there were a couple that had not even done that. So because of our education and for the four of us, you know a couple of extra years under our belts, we were kind of looked up to a little bit as -- as leaders and I would -- as I -- as I recall, things were a little bit easier for the four of us. We became patrol leaders. And everybody else kind of looked up to us and asked for our advice from time to time. I remember one incident in particular where -- now you have to remember this is a first time away from home for just about everybody there. I had been away from home heavens -- for four years of college, and six months of working at Pratt Whitney. But for the most part, these kids had never been away from home. And I remember about two bunks away from where mine was, there was this kid from New Jersey. We'd probably been there about three weeks. And this kid had never, to that point, taken a shower. I guess the thought of going into a -- a big latrine and taking a shower in a joint shower with -- you know a dozen other guys, intimidated him so much that he just wouldn't do it. And it became -- it came to everybody's attention that was sleeping around him that he was starting to smell pretty ripe. And so, somebody organized -- it was me -- organized a little GI party. Middle of the night, we got up, and about six of us pulled him. He was screaming and fighting and squirming. We pulled him into the shower in the the latrine and using scrub brushes and -- I don't know what all we used on him, but I think he got the idea that we didn't appreciate how he smelled. The next day, I don't know how Sergeant Dubion found out about this. Somebody obviously told him, and he asked all us before we walked out of the barracks that morning, "What went on here last night?" Well nobody said a word. He knew good and well what had gone on that night. And he didn't -- he didn't say anything after that. I'm sure he was aware of the the problem, and I'm sure he knew that we would take care of it. I might add that after that, that kid took showers very regular. The little GI party had its desired effect. I want to add that I, I think it was about halfway through basic training that I really got the word that I was going to flight school. And Sergeant Dubion called me into his office one day and I'm standing at attention at a full raise. He says, "At ease, Airman." And I went into a parade rest. He said, "This letter here just says that you're going to be going to flight school." I says, "Great, Sir." He says, "You sure that's what you want to do?" I said, "Yes, sir." He said, "Well, congratulations and God speed." You know, he appeared on the outside to be as tough as nails, you know. I know people don't eat nails, but anybody ever did I'm sure it was Dubion. And at the end of basic training, you know, he shook everybody's hand and said best of luck. Have a great career.

Derrick Williams:

So, you were in the Vietnam War. How were your experiences in the war?

Dan Williams:

Well, before I tell you about my Vietnam experiences, I should probably tell you a little bit about my flight school. Before I got -- before I got assigned to Southeast, Asia. After basic training I then -- because I had already pretested for this before I enlisted, I went to Officer's Training School and, you know there, I had a little bit of advantage. You know, you look for advantages wherever you can find them. Just -- what, three months earlier, I had my head completely shaved when I had enlisted. Everyone coming into Officer's Training School has to get their head shaved again. I don't mean again, I mean has to get their head shaved. But when I walked in the door for Officer's Training School, my hair hadn't grown out yet. And they thought hair as short as mine it was -- I don't know what it was, 1/4 inch long, something like that. Maybe 3/8 of inch, not much so heck, he doesn't need to have his hair shaved. So everybody else there had their head shaved, and I had a big advantage over them because I had about 3/8 of an inch of hair all over my head. I was way, way ahead of them. Officer's Training School though was -- kind of a repeat of basic training. They had to teach everybody to march and how to salute, and plus while the officers we got into a little bit more military tactics and history, stuff like that in our classes. But after I got out of military -- out of Officer's Training School, that's when I went to flight school. So the first three months I was in the service, I was in San Antonio, Texas; the next year flight school. I was just outside Phoenix, Arizona at Williams Air Force Base, where I learned how to fly. Now at the end of flight school, your flying assignments that you get kind of depend on your ranking in the class. And somewhere along the line here I thought, you know if I'm going to be a pilot, I might as well try and get into the kind of aircraft that I think will do me good once I get out of the service that I could use in civilian or commercial aviation. So I thought, you know I would really like to fly a cargo -- a jet cargo airplane. And that was my first choice getting out of flight school. Other guys wanted to fly a fighter jet. Some guys wanted to stay and instruct in the Air Force's flight training schools. And as it worked out, I was just high enough in the class that I got the last C-141 assignment. And my assignment was to McChord Air Force base up in -- well just outside of Tacoma, Washington, which is where I spent the next year of my life. Now, my Vietnam experience can kind of be broken into two sections because flying the 141 out of McChord, I would fly -- oh, I would guess about once a month, at least, into Southeast Asia. I had trips, also, that went to Europe, but most of them went to Asia. A typical mission for me flying the 141 would be to fly parts, like helicopter blades, into -- like Da Nang or Cam Ranh Bay. We'd get on the ground, they'd offload that stuff as quickly -- excuse me, as quickly as they could, and then their typical load out of those places in Southeast Asia -- in Vietnam, I'm sorry to say, would be coffins full of -- full of our boys that we'd brought home. That was a very difficult mission back then. Up to this point, I remember every single Christmas. I was able to be home in South Dakota with my family. However, it was Christmas of 1967. I was flying the 141, and this is the very first Christmas in my life that I was not going to be home with my family. That particular day, I was on a medevac mission. I flew a 141 out of the Philippines. We flew into Cam Ranh Bay, took up out of Cam Ranh Bay with -- I can't remember exactly, I would say 40 or 50 wounded GIs. We flew them up to Japan where they went into the hospital to recuperate, to recover from their wounds. And I remember thinking at the time, if I've got to be away from home on this Christmas day, I can't think of a better place I'd rather be than right here flying these wounded GIs out of the war zone to a hospital on their way back to the States back home. When we flew the 141 into Southeast Asia, we didn't have those airplanes on the ground very long. You know, there was always a concern that one of them would get hit by a rocket or something. So, in the war zone flying the 141, your exposure to enemy fire was limited, was short. Probably -- the only thing that we really saw -- there were the few 141s that got -- that took small arms fire, and we all saw a tracer from now -- now and again flying in and out of the -- those bases over there. But really our exposure to danger was limited flying. It was still there, but it was limited while we were flying the 141s. Now after I flew the 141 for a year, I got a different assignment. And mind you, I did not volunteer for this but it was per, as they say, the needs of the service. I was assigned to go fly helicopters. And in helicopters is where I spent the rest of my military career. The last three and a half years in the service I flew helicopters. So, one of the things I did before I went to the actual helicopter school is I went through a -- it was called a survival school. It was outside of Spokane, Washington. This is -- oh, they would simulate what it would be like to be a prisoner of war. They would simulate, as best they could, what it would be like to evade somebody looking for you, how to survive in the wild without -- without going to Kroger's, or having some home cooked food. And after that survival school then I went to a helicopter school. My basic helicopter school was in Wichita, Texas. And after I had learned how to fly a helicopter, then I went to advanced helicopter school and that was down in Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. And that was another three months and I finally learned how to fly this big helicopter, which they called the Jolly Green. What I was becoming was a Jolly Green Rescue Helicopter Pilot. And after I finished my helicopter school, the next step in this process was jungle survival school, and that was in the Philippines. This -- and this was was much more like the actual terrain that we'd be in, in Vietnam. They taught us how to escape and evade, how to find food to eat - whether it was from plants or animal. I remember one night they put us out in the jungle. They gave us a chit. This chit, you know like a quarter or something like that, was supposed to represent our life. We were to put it in our pocket. And if the next morning, at the end of the exercise, our chit had been taken from us, that meant we were dead. If you had -- still had the chit in your pocket that means you lived. So it's like -- close to sunset and they set us loose out in this -- it was -- it was an area boundary. We had to stay within this boundary, but we could go anywhere in this -- actually, it was over a couple of hills -- couple of mountains. And the idea was to not get captured by the bad guys. In this case, the bad guys were Filipino Negritos who were paid for each chit that they got from us Air Force pilots. So that night, I remember there were two of us. I think -- as I recall, we had to stay in pairs. We found this bamboo thicket on a very steep slope. I'd say it was about the 45 degree slope. And we lodged ourselves in amongst this bamboo and spent the night just on the hillside. His feet were within about a foot of my head and that's where we spent the night. I did not know that rats love bamboo. There were rats all over that bamboo thicket that night. They got so close to us that they were in between my head and his feet. I think the Negritos know that rats love bamboo because when the sun come up the next morning, my partner and I both still had our chits in our pockets. The Negritos had failed to find us or didn't want to come near that bamboo thicket. So I'm happy to say that little exercise, I lived through in more ways than one. However, to this very day I am scared to death of rats. After that exercise where I was successful in evading the Negritos, I can't say the same about the rats, we graduated from the jungle school and the next day we were on an airplane headed for the war zone. In my case, my assignment was to ____ Air Force base which was located in North Central Thailand.

Derrick Williams:

So now you're finally a combat rescue helicopter pilot. Tell me what that was like.

Dan Williams:

Well at that -- at that time, a tour in Southeast Asia lasted one year and as new pilots got to the unit, and my unit was the 40th air rescue squadron in -- at Udorn, that meant somebody got to go home. So you could imagine how happy, some people at least, were to see me when I got there. That meant they were probably getting on the same airplane that I had just landed in. You know when a guy -- when a guy left Southeast Asia, especially from Thailand, they had had a big sawatdee party. Sawatdee means "bye bye" and "good luck." And they would have big sawatdee parties and they would have, as in Hawaii, leis around their neck, and on their way home they were as happy as can be - very, very, happy to see me. I, on the other hand, was not all that excited about being there, because I knew I was in for a pretty rough year. Now, one thing about being a Jolly Green rescue pilot was everybody there knew what your job was. I don't mean just the people in your unit knew what your job was, but everybody there knew that our job was to go out into the jungle and pick up guys that had whatever -- crash landed, parachuted out of, or they were in some kind of trouble. And generally, speaking, it was in unfriendly territory with people probably shooting at us. So everybody knew it was a very dangerous job. One thing that we all experienced as Jolly Green helicopter pilots, everybody was always very nice with us, always very courteous. They didn't hold the door open for us when we walked into the officer's club, but we never had to buy a drink, not once. Everybody bought drinks for the Jolly Green pilots. And that was one of the few perks, I guess, that we had while we were there because generally speaking, our job was very dangerous. I had been there one month when we lost an airplane, lost a Jolly Green - lost a whole crew, a crew of five guys. That was the only one that we lost the year I was there, but it happened just a month after I got there. It was a very sobering, a very sad day. You know to this day -- and I do get to go up to Washington D.C. on occasion -- to this day, I never go to Washington D.C., but I go by the Vietnam Memorial, and I look up the names of that crew that went down that day after I'd been there just one month, went down that day in North Vietnam. Most of our missions though, had much better endings than that one. We picked up -- we picked up many fighter pilots who were all in the, either the Army -- excuse me, the Air Force or the Navy. We picked up a few Army helicopter pilots and every time we did, we come back, we landed at the Air Force base, which ever one was closest at that time. It was a joyous occasion. It was a cause for celebration, and made the job a very, very, gratifying job. Being a Jolly Green rescue pilot was a very dangerous job. But, it was also a very gratifying job to know that you had just saved somebody's life, and we did it many, many, many times.

Derrick Williams:

You said you were based in Thailand. How was the social and cultural scene at your camp, and in the city and country you were living in?

Dan Williams:

Well, Thailand was a beautiful place. You know, we didn't really get off the base all that much. Most of our time was spent at the base most of -- most of my meals I was at the officer's club which -- and food was very Americanized, I mean, spaghetti and meatball sauce and garlic bread was what I remembered mostly. It was nothing -- fried chicken, just like you would eat here back in the States. On the occasions that I would get off the base and go into Udon Thani, I think that means the town of Udorn, most of the restaurants were like you would find here -- oriental in nature, where you ate rice and different kinds of stir fried vegetables. You know Thailand was definitely a Third World country. The streets were mostly dirt -- very few paved roads. A few, but very few. They did have a few taxis, but most of them were the three-wheeled bicycle rickshaw type of a taxi system. The people were very friendly to us. They thought, I'm sure, that the Americans were there to help their country. We had a terrific -- you know the the military had the terrific economic impact to those cities where the bases were, and I'm sure they believed that we were there trying to keep Communism from coming into their countries. So, the people were very friendly and it was -- it was a delightful place to live, delightful place to work. The only time that it wasn't that way was when we would take off on our missions and end up flying into Vietnam. Now back in the -- I guess it was in the '60s, some food company had a Jolly Green Giant in their advertisements on TV and he was always a big, friendly looking fellow feeding the masses. And when guys saw our helicopter over the ridge to come pick them up, they felt like -- and it sure is nice to see that green helicopter - makes me feel pretty jolly and somehow we got the nickname of Jolly Green Giants. Well a Jolly Green giant, of course, leaves footprints just about everywhere he goes. And so, we had some footprint stencils -- foot print stencils made up of all different sizes. And just depending on where you wanted to make your presence known, whether it was on the door of your room -- you might use a big footprint stencil, or on the sidewalk - a smaller footprint stencil, to show that the Jolly Greens had been here. Well, often times on whatever it was -- party night, a Friday night, or especially after a pickup, there would be a party at the officer's club that night and sometimes -- some time during the evening, probably later on in the evening when, oh folks were feeling pretty good and feeling very little pain, we'd pull out our stencils and cans of green spray paint. And we would take those stencils and we'd probably start -- especially we would start with the guy we had just picked up -- the guy we had just rescued. And we would probably end up with his commanding officer, or our commanding officer, or whoever else happened to be in the way and we would make sure that they had been stenciled with our signature foot prints on their behinds -- on their bare behinds and to most people, they were mighty proud of that stencilled behind of theirs once we got done with them. Another prank, you might say -- what I just described about the stencilled behinds that was -- that was kind of a tradition, but a prank that I was involved in is when I first got to Udorn, we called it our hooches, which were our barracks over they called them our hooches. And right in the middle of our hooch was a small, kind of central gathering or party room, if you will. And on the wall of our hooch, there were three flags. Now, when generals would come over to visit to see how the war was going, they would always ride in their cars and on the fenders of the cars, they would have flags waving denoting the rank of the person in the car. Well, somehow some of these flags had come up missing from some of these cars that drove around the base, and on the wall of our hooch were three flags. There was a 1-star general's flag, a 2-star general's flag, then there was a space, then there was a 4-star general's flag. All these had been stolen, I guess you might say, from these cars that these generals rode in. And it was pointed out to me when I first got there that there's a space there on the wall. Looks like we need a 3-star general's flag. Well, several months went by and low and behold a 3-star general was on the base. And you know, everybody knew about it, who was coming and what they were looking at. And at lunch time, of course, they were all in the officer's club eating and there were a couple, maybe about three of us I think, were involved in this -- this little caper. A couple of the guys -- of my buddies were kind of making a scene trying to draw attention out in front of the club and I don't recall what they were doing, because my job was to walk by the car of this 3-star general, and somehow take this flag off of the fender and abscond with it. Well I did. They did. They made their -- pulled off their diversionary tactics, and I walked by the car and I remember the stick that was holding the car was still wet with blue paint, which I think I got all over my hands, but I did get the flag and I stuck it up under my jungle fatigues and made off with it -- walked away very innocently, like I hadn't even been around there, and went and proceeded to pin that flag where it belonged, in between the 2 and 4-star flags in our hooch. Well, you know what's important, right? It wasn't so much of how the war was going. It was a protocol and "who the hell took my flag," all of a sudden was one of the first things that was flying all over the base. Now our squadron commander was very -- was very smart, and quickly he put together, "What? A three-star general's flag is missing? I bet I know where it is." So he immediately got in his Jeep and drove over to our hooch. But before he got there, I got a phone call from one of my friends who was over -- just outside his office, and I heard what was going on. He called me and he says, "Danny Boy, get that flag out of there. They're coming to get it." So I -- I quickly went and took the flag off the wall, put it in my -- in my room, and hid it so even on very close inspection no one could find it. And when my squadron commander walked into the hooch that afternoon, there was only three flags on the wall. It was kind of funny that we had a bunch of maids. I think there was like a maid for every four guys. And so we had like six or eight maids, and so they were all in the hooch that afternoon when my squadron commander walked in there. They were all doing laundry or something like that. And they had seen me put up the flag. They had patted me on the back says, "Nice job, Captain Dan." And then they saw me come in and take the flag down and run out with it real quick. And then they saw the squadron commander come in and he kind of looked around with his hands on his hips and those maids of ours, they didn't utter a word. They were just as busy as they could be ironing our uniforms and polishing our shoes. And so that flag -- that 3-star general's flag remained in my room, in my dresser for about four months. And then, it was something like that -- four months later when our squadron commander was on his way home. We were having his sawatdee party. The next day he was getting on an airplane and leaving the war zone. And at his sawatdee party, we presented him with that 3-star flag. And he says, "I knew you guys had it. Let me show you what we're going to do with this flag." And he went and pinned it on the wall. And the last I ever saw of it, it was on the wall between the 2 and the 4-star flag.

Derrick Williams:

Sounds like you got pretty lucky there that you weren't caught for that. You know you probably would have been reprimanded or something like that.

Dan Williams:

I doubt it.

Derrick Williams:

But, do you have any items for good look that you had while you were over there?

Dan Williams:

You know, that's -- that's interesting. You know the -- the principle religion in Thailand is Buddhism. And all of our maids that we had were, of course, Buddhists. And you know, my maid -- well there were a couple of maids that kind of took me under their wing. They invited me to their house a couple of times. They cooked you know, regular homemade -- their homemade food for me, which was, you know rice and mostly vegetables, and maybe a fish or two. And I remember one time when I was at their house, I rode a water buffalo. They were very concerned for my safety. When I went out on missions they would worry about me. So they wanted to do what they could to wish me good luck. So, they took me to one of their Buddhist temples a couple different times. And this one time I remember I was with them in this -- it was a very small temple. In fact, it was more like a cave instead of what we would today think of as temples. And this Buddhist monk was in there kneeling -- not kneeling -- sitting,I guess, in the lotus position. There was incense burning every where. Of course, everybody had their shoes off, and he was putting blessings on different people. Most of the people there was Thai. In fact, I think I was the only none Thai in the place. Everything -- the only language that was being spoken, of course, was Thai so I didn't know what was going on. But when my turn came, as it turns outs, my housemaids, they motioned me, they pushed me forward before this monk, and I was on my knees, and I had my head bowed and this monk, I would guess, it was all in Thai remember, so I don't know exactly what he said, but I would guess he blessed me to keep me out of harm's way. And he put a medallion, you might say, of a Buddha on a gold chain around my neck. Now I'm sure, I didn't know this at the time, but I'm sure my housemaids had paid for this gold chain and this medallion. It held a symbol of the Buddhist monk on it and every time I went into combat, every time I flew a mission, I had this chain with this medallion around my neck. As the story goes, when Buddha looks down on you favorably when you're in battle, and when the enemy is ready to shoot at you, and is trying to shoot at you, Buddha will make their trigger finger so short that it does not reach the trigger. And you know what, it worked because whoever was shooting at me never got me. Their trigger fingers obviously were too short to reach the trigger thanks to that Buddhist monk. In fact, there was another necklace made out of parachute cord that he put on my neck that day and I went -- from that day forward I wore those two -- the parachute cord necklace and the gold chained necklace with the Buddhist medallion. I wore them every single time I flew, and to this day I still have them -- I don't wear them today, but to this day I still have both of those good luck charms.

Derrick Williams:

Do you recall when your service ended and what you did afterwards?

Dan Williams:

Well, I remember that when my year was up in Thailand, I had a -- just like everybody else that left, I had a big sawatdee party and I left Thailand with actually -- I was happy and I was sad. I had tears in my eyes, but I was happy to be coming home in one piece. I had leis around my neck and excited that I was -- that my tour was over. For the next two years I instructed helicopter rescue pilots at Hill Air Force Base in -- just south of Ogden, Utah. And that's where I was when I got out of the service after six years and three months and fourteen days, but who was counting? And shortly after that, I got a job with Eastern Air Lines and I flew with them for a number of years. I do thank the Air Force, the military for the experiences that I had, for the flight time that I got. I'm sure without that I would not have been able to pursue my job in civilian commercial aviation.

Dan Williams:

So how do you feel about the military now?

Derrick Williams:

You know, I have the greatest respect for our armed forces, for the men and women who serve -- who have and who currently do. You know, today with -- with all the talk of going to war in Iraq. If you notice -- if you listen to our Congressmen and to our cabin leaders who have been to war, they are the ones that are the most cautious, that are probably seen as more antiwar than those who have never been to war. Those who have never been to war seem very eager to take on Iraq and let the chips fall where they may. But those who have been to war realize how truly bad physically and mentally to those who are fighting, war can be.

Derrick Williams:

Great. Thank you very much, Dad. If I have any other questions at any time in the future, can I contact you about that?

Dan Williams:

Absolutely. No problem.

Derrick Williams:

All right. Great. That was Captain Dan Williams born July 23, 1944. He served in the Air Force six years from 1967 to 1973 and he was in the Vietnam War. (End of recorded statement.)

 
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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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