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"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 times." (Audio Interview, 39:33)

   Dan E. Williams
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War: Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Branch: Air Force
Unit: 40th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron
Service Location: Tacoma, Washington; Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand; Ogden, Utah
Rank: Captain
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Anticipating he would be drafted, Dan Williams enlisted in the Air Force on New Year's Day 1967. He wanted to become an officer and, if shipped to Vietnam, to stay off the ground. He did serve in the war in two segments. For one year, he flew C-141 transports, whose cargo might be coffins on their way back to the States or wounded GIs on their way to hospitals in Japan. After one year, he was re-assigned to train on rescue helicopters nicknamed the Jolly Green Giants. He was based near Udon, Thailand, working long hours, rarely getting into town. Williams drew immense satisfaction from the relief on the faces of downed crews he picked up.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (8 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (62 min.)
»Transcript
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 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (8 items)
As college graduate, preferring to be an officer over an enlisted man; testing with Navy and Air Force for flight school; had never thought of flying before; wanting to get as much out of his military experience as he could; being a ground pounder with a rifle in his hand didn't appeal; passing physical for Air Force; never hearing from Navy; in face of being drafted imminently, enlisting in the Air Force. (04:40) Basic training was rude awakening; stripping you of your individuality; vividly remembering his drill instructor; he and three other college grads looked up to by other recruits; organizing "a little G.I party," a forced shower for one recruit who had refused to take showers for the first three weeks of training. (06:05) Attending Officer Training School; avoiding the haircut; to Flight School near Phoenix, AZ; assignments depending on class ranking; aiming for cargo planes, thinking ahead to a civilian job; his rank granting his wish, barely; Vietnam experience in two sections; flying C-141s out of McChord Air Force Base, WA; usually to Southeast Asia; carrying aircraft parts over; coming back, load was typically coffins with casualties; remembering his first Christmas away from his family, in 1967; flying that day out of Philippines into Cam Ranh Bay, picking up wounded men to go to Japan. (07:26)
After a year of flying C-141s, getting re-assigned to fly helicopters; training at a survival school, simulating what it would be like to be a POW; lerning evasive tactics to avoid capture; to helicopter schools in Wichita, TX and at Eglin Air Force Base, FL; jungle survival school in Philippines; spending the night in a bamboo thicket with rats. (06:32) Arriving in Thailand to happy reception from those who were leaving; big parties for departing servicemen; Williams unhappy at first about being there; everyone nice to Jolly Green pilots; never having to buy a drink; there one month when they lost a Jolly Green and its crew, the only one lost in his year tour of duty; when in Washington, DC, he visits Vietnam Memorial and pays his respects to the crew; dangerous job but also very rewarding. (05:51) Did not get off the basic much; eating most meals at officers club, which served American food; friendly locals; military's beneficial economic impact on community; delightful place to live; how the Jolly Greens got their nickname; playing pranks with footprint stencils and green spray paint, the signature of the Jolly Green crews. (05:38)
Given a medallion for good luck by a Buddhist monk; thinking his housemaids had paid (04:37) Happy to be leaving Thailand but a little sad, too; spent two years afterwards instructing helicopter pilots at Hill Air Force Base, UT before leaving the service after 6 years. (00:56) 
  
 

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  October 26, 2011
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