Pat Hatch's PhotoJournal A blog about photography & other musings…

Fire in Flight – Page 11.

As the fire crews arrived at the scene, we were taken to a Mash-style field hospital where we were promptly given a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label scotch and some glasses with orders to drink up.  The medics told us we were in shock; we didn't realize it at the time, but we probably were.  Not long after, an Army major drives up in a topless Jeep and orders me in.  We drive over to a tent and inside I encountered what I presume was the base commander.  He started on a rant about the mess I had made on his runway, the damage I had done to his howitzer, and so on, and it's so bizarre that I can't tell whether he's kidding or not.  I kind of thought he was, so I'm giving him back a little self-deprecating humor, but this just seemed to set him off.  After a while, kidding or not, I decided I had had enough--I kind of lost it.  I told him I didn't give a damn about his runway and he could take his howitzer and shove it where the sun don't shine (you get the idea).  Furthermore, I said I had a crew that had just survived an impossible in-flight fire and I didn't feel like listening to his b.s. anymore.  And please take me back to my crew.  At that, he gave me a little smile like he'd been kidding all along, and said, "Nice job, lieutenant, well done!"  As the major is driving me back, he tells me that he thought I had handled that pretty well.  I thought so.

We were told that a Caribou had been dispatched to take us back to Tan Son Nhut.  See below for a picture of a Caribou.  All I remember about that flight was that it was very loud and very long.

Fig. 18 - Caribou at An Khe.  Photo by Jon Alexander.

Fig. 17 - Caribou at An Khe. Photo by Jon Alexander.

We are ushered into ALCC at Tan Son Nhut for an intelligence debriefing.  By this time, our squadron commander, Colonel Clayton Balch, had been in touch with Britt on some kind of land line from CCK.  Among other things, he wanted us to type out a detailed crew report of the incident.  We were to borrow a typewriter and make several copies of our report.  This was to be done before the million questions routine started.  Here is the actual report as we typed it out that day.

Below is the photo taken of the crew in Saigon on 25 June 1968.  By this time, it had been a long day and it showed!

Fig. 19 - Homey 302 at debriefing in Tan Son Nhut.

Fig. 18 - Homey 302 crew at debriefing in Tan Son Nhut.

Left to right, Fletcher "Pat" Hatch (AC), Joe Basilisco (FE), Britt Blaser (CP), Jon Alexander (NAV), Jerry Willard (LM).  The two gentlemen standing in the rear are identified by a notation in pencil on the back of this official USAF photograph as Maj. Houston (on the left with the stethoscope) and Capt. Sorkin.

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