John (Amos the Famous) Parker
By the time the 9th had been at Tahkli for several months, things started to get a bit civilized. A Thai restaurant had opened near squadron operations ($ .75 for a huge platter of either pork, chicken or shrimp fried rice), hot running water for showers in the crew quarters, jungle boots and survival knives issued to air crews, and a spit and polish by the book Assistant Base Commander (Major type) and that ultimate status symbol for the Squadron Commanders, a brand new used Air Force Blue pick up truck. No longer was Lt/Col Tuck stuck with a rat eaten Thai baht bus for his personnel transportation. Of course everyone in the squadron had a chance to drive it, if Friar said O.K. and didn't need it. All the squadron commanders in both Wings, the 49th and the 366th got trucks, and about this stage of the war the 366th starting getting MIGs as well. No sooner would a crew get a MIG than a large red star with the MIG type in white in the center, would appear on the front left fender of the squadron commanders pick up truck. As I mentioned, the 49th did mostly dumb bombing with a few experts in smart bombing, but no MIG Cap and virtually no chance at a MIG.
The red stars on the 366th pickup trucks began to eat a bit on Friar and one day he drew me aside. "Amos" he said "We've been doing a lot of damn good work, we've hit the North West railroad, the barracks at Yen Bai, Yen Bai itself, POL dumps, anti aircraft sites and supply dumps near Hanoi. I want you to get some BDA (Bomb damage assessment) painted on the front left fender of my truck!" I guess I was never the blind follower, and complained to Friar "Damn sir, I'm busy enough now without screwing around with that sort of crap." Friars reply was short and sweet, "DO IT!" "Yes sir!"
Enter Sgt. Ken Fish. Ken was a squadron orderly room clerk and general go-for. He was bright, eager, always with a smile and would do virtually anything he was asked to do. I explained the problem to Ken and he suggested stencils. Since we had no artists in the squadron, it sounded good to me. A couple of days later Sgt. Fish showed up with the stencils and he and I proceeded to paint the stenciled BDA onto Friars truck with white spray paint. Boy did Col Tuck ever shine. He really had a mile wide grin every time he looked at his truck, or someone mentioned the BDA painted thereon.
Naturally the Bean Counters and REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother F-----s) also started to come out of their holes as the base became civilized. About a week after Friar Tuck had his BDA painted on his blue pick up, he called me over to one side. "Amos, I found this note on my pick up this morning." and handed me the note. "You have unauthorized art work on the front left fender of this pickup truck. You will remove it immediately and report to me at 1700 hrs today." The note was signed Major A------, Vice Base Commander. Friar said "You'll have to remove it Amos." I was angry but got Sgt. Fish and together we scoured the BDA off of the truck. I was so damned pissed I didn't talk to Friar for several days. Finally I asked him what the Vice Base CO had to say. Friar said "I didn't go to see him, instead I put the Majors note on the windshield of that blue pick up with two red stars marked 21. I hope the squadron commander that owned that truck had something nice to say to the vice"