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TideWriters Tales
Where Was I?
By Bill Bryan

     As an occasional contributing writer to Chesapeake Style, my Editor, Jan, asked if I would write a few things about ‘where was I’ when certain revelations took place. I thought about it and decided “Why not?” Editor Jan wanted to know my thoughts and reactions to the beginning of WW II and sorry, Jan, but I was in my mother’s womb when Pearl Harbor occurred. Having been born on the last day of May, 1942 and my only remembrances of WW II was that I didn’t see my father til I was four years old (he was a tail gunner on B-29’s) and my favorite uncles (Charles, who was a tail gunner on B-17’s in the 100th Bomber Group, Eighth Air Force out of Abbott’s Glen, England and Cell, who was in the Navy…ship unknown)…all three survived WW II, but returned to the US of A and two of the three became active alcoholics.

     But I Was around for some other traumatic events in this world of ours and in keeping with Jan’s request, will comply on what, where and when.

     Korea—I was still young for this conflict, but years later I remember some older friends who served there and had their opinions about why we were there, which would be echoed years later about Vietnam.

     Cuban Missile Crises—I Was involved in this….flying P5M Marlin seaplanes out of NOB, Bermuda, being greatly experienced, having been in the Navy for about a year and a half when this occurred. But I did experience aviation patrols and photographed Soviet ships laden with missiles. Three cheers for JFK calling Castro and Nikita Khrushchev’s bluff on this one. In this same time frame was the assassination of JFK. I was still stationed in Bermuda and the day it happened, I thought the world had ended...what would we do now? I was naive enough (young age) not to realize that no matter what happens, the world will go on, but it Was a sad time for a young sailor.

     Vietnam—I spent four tours in Vietnam, again flying P3 Orion (4 engine turbo-prop) Patrol planes from the relatively safe base of Cam Ranh Bay…I say ‘relatively safe in that during the time I was there (1969 to 1971) there were few casualties, but occasionally some hot activities, such as the night we were attacked by ‘satchel chargers’ who blew up our ‘gee-dunk’ shack (snack bar) and destroyed the pop-corn machine (sad)…also one night the ‘satchel chargers’ raided and tossed one into the head and killed a guy sitting on the throne. 

     Another night when they raided, we were attending a USO show and I got to spend the night in a bunker with Ann-Margret (sorry to report…no contact). Another night, I had a few too many Rum toddies and overslept for my patrol flight the next morning and when I did wake up and attempt to go to the flight line for my plane, the marines at the barracks said “Chief, you’re not going anywhere…we’ve been under attack since 0400”. And then there was Hazel….she was the ‘bartender’ in the Chief’s barracks and I had known her for several years…on my last tour there, I asked where Hazel was and was told, “She was killed in a ‘satchel charge’ attack about five months ago”. It was then I found out she was killed delivering a satchel charge…she had been Viet Cong the whole time she worked in the Chief’s barracks. 

     The Gulf War—I had retired from the Navy by this time. Whatever we (the U.S.) did, we did right, but maybe not complete enough as along came the World Trade Center Attack—I will offer an opinion here; this opened a different kind of warfare; there was no military objective in this attack—the people killed here were innocent civilians—other than deranged minds, what could possibly be hoped to gain by this attack? On the day (Sept 11th) that it happened, I was exercising my rights as an American and seven friends and I were playing golf at Kiskiack Golf Course (near Williamsburg). We walked into the clubhouse around 0900 and on TV I saw a video of a plane flying into the World Trade Center. I said, “What is going on here?” and a man in the clubhouse said, “That is the second plane to hit it.” Another man said it looks like a private plane and (with my experience from flying with the Navy), I said, “No sir, that’s an airliner, but I don’t understand the why and how of it.” 

     Obviously, later, I found out. Personally, I only hope and pray that the culprits in this are caught and punished. And a special remembrance should be made to the passengers and crew of the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania (short of whatever the intended target was), who apparently decided to revolt and ‘go down fighting’. This is “heroism” at it’s best.


© 2001 Bill Bryan All Rights Reserved

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