Rumor Has It…………..

Years ago while in Air Force basic training at Amarillo Air Force base in Amarillo, Texas one of the classroom subjects we were tasked with mastering was titled “Rumors and Propaganda”. The instructors infused us with a sense of conspiracy; identifying the many different forces tasked with converting recruits fresh out of basic training into the wild world of international espionage.

Apparently they were everywhere!

“They’ll come at you from all angles” we were told. Insidious photos of men, looking not coincidentally like Russian and Chinese heavies, were depicted sneaking around and staring at us, just waiting for the chance to find out how we got those hospital corners on our beds so crisp, or possibly how we peeled fifty pounds of onions and one hundred pounds of potatoes in a single eight hour shift. (We could offer little else at this point in our Air Force career) These were secrets, apparently, that desperate commies would go to any lengths to obtain, in order to achieve world domination.

Strangely, after two months in Air Force Tech school in Denver, Colorado, where we mastered the art of drinking 3.2 Coors beer followed by one year of permanent duty at Grand Forks, Air Force Base North Dakota, where we mastered the art of drinking Grain Belt and Schmidt beer, not one damn alien; foreign, or extraterrestrial approached us for any of the top secret information we were burdened with. (So far as I know) Moreover during thirteen months in Vietnam, I am disappointed to say, though they did their best to kill us, not one Viet Cong guerrilla or one North Vietnamese regular attempted to torture anyone in my unit in order to squeeze all of the sensitive information out of our heads.

And then, to rub salt in the wound, after eighteen months at a desk job shuffling paperwork at March Air Force Base in Riverside, California; not once was I abducted to turn over information on even one stinking little document, or even to find out how many beers I spilled at my part time job as a bartender at the local Shakey’s Pizza Parlor. I was quite put out!

 

The War rages on

Fast forward to the 21st century and the age of the internet. Nothing spreads as fast as an internet rumor; and an internet rumor never goes away, always out there in cyberspace reappearing like an apparition ready to pounce on an unsuspecting audience.  Today’s internet includes many websites, Facebook groups, and pundit articles regarding the war in Vietnam; which also seemingly will never go away.

Probably because of its length and controversial nature; the Vietnam War is fought and refought every day in cyberspace. Every battle, event, and supporting character is scrutinized, analyzed and argued about, day in and day out. And of course; there are the many rumors about the war, which pop up like clockwork on each internet Vietnam War venue on a regular basis; often several times a week.

 

More critter problems

Oh no!!

Several of these dyed in the wool rumors involve the wildlife we confronted in Vietnam. (Reference my earlier blog story “The Critters of Vietnam”) One of the worst offenders and one that always irritates the daylights out of me is the “giant centipede” story. A picture of a giant photo shopped centipede makes the rounds at least once a day on some of these websites. The creature appears to be at least 30 inches long having the diameter of a baseball bat. No amount of proof that no such critter exists will stamp this one out. I, among others, have sited articles reporting that the largest centipede in the world is from South America and is about 17 inches long, maximum. A Vietnamese centipede reaches about 12 inches long, but nothing like the monster posted in the picture making the rounds week in and week out. No matter; if there’s a picture of it must be real; Tsk tsk to you non-believers.

Monkey business

Another mythical creature which appears regularly on these sites are the supposed “rock apes” of Vietnam. Now Vietnam does have vast troops of monkeys which could be a real pain in the backside, however these rock apes appear to be anywhere from the size of a human being to that of an orangutan. Some of the stories claim that the Viet Cong recruited them and trained them to attack American troops who often found themselves surrounded by the ghost like creatures who would then stone them or steal their weapons. Other stories had them positioned in the trees where they would urinate on the American GI’s as they passed, irritating them and causing their M-16’s to corrode. (Perhaps the reason pith helmets were invented?)

 

Mysterious Island

A story every GI who served in Southeast Asia has surely heard, relates to an extremely viral form of venereal disease known as “The Black S”. Supposedly there was no cure for it and once you acquired this malady, you were doomed, with no hope. Upon diagnosis you would be shipped off to a mysterious island where you would live out your days with others who had contracted the deadly disease. Your family would be told you were killed in action and that your body could not be found. Some of us referred to this as “Gilligan’s Island.” (Others as B.S. Island)

 

Covert Ops

Trained killer!

There is no arguing that the U.S. employed Special and Covert Ops during the Vietnam War. Many of these were CIA, some were Tiger Force, others Mike Force along with some I’m not familiar with. And while they did their cloak and dagger stuff very well, for obvious reasons their numbers were limited. However if you visit many of the Veteran’s website or Facebook groups there seem to be an inordinate number of members who were “Special Ops” back in the day.

They usually begin their saga by stating that the missions they carried out were top secret and they are not allowed to divulge any information under the threat of imprisonment and possibly torture we assume. (Apparently with the exception of the sordid details they are now revealing) Some members bite on this baloney hook line and sinker, but most of us have heard it all before and respond with a distinctive YAWN. Once a few tough questions are tossed out, the member usually fades away to internet obscurity until he develops another moniker so he can retell his dashing deeds once more. I always thought it would be fun to collect all of these stories and put together a book on the topic. We could call it “Barney Fife Goes to Nam”; or how about “What I Pretend I Did in the War”. I believe such a book would go right to the top of the charts.

Tell us about your favorite rumor from the Nam; or any other part of the known world for that matter!

 

Just no!

Edit! Since I penned this story, several readers have reminded me about the “Mr. Rogers hoax”. I had completely forgot about that one. Every now and then a story pops up claiming that Mr. Rogers was either a Navy Seal or Marine sniper in the Vietnam War. Of course the truth is the only action Mr. Rogers saw was keeping Mrs McFeely from harming Mr McFeely when she caught him eyeing up Lady Aberlin.

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About the Author

Joe Campolo Jr.

Joe Campolo Jr.

Joe Campolo, Jr. is an award winning author, poet and public speaker. A Vietnam War Veteran, Joe writes and speaks about the war, and is a Veteran's advocate. Some of Joe's stories are gripping, some humorous. Joe also writes about other experiences, many of which are also humorous. Joe enjoys fishing, traveling, writing and spending time with his family. Joe loves to hear from his readers, please send him a note on this page or the contact page! (and order one of Joe's popular books from the link on his author page)

Comments

  1. I also did basic at Amarillo AFB , I arrived Dec 13th 1966 and was there until July 1967 When I finished basic and Tech school my career field was 43250 jet engine mechanic. Like so many unexplainable things that happen in the AF I never was assigned to any organization that had the aircraft that had the jet engine I was trained on. I went directly from training on J75 & J 79 engines to a C130 outfit the c130 used only T56 turbo prop engines. My next assignment after returning from 18 months in Okinawa and Vietnam (TDY) assignments was to a ATC pilot training base Laredo AFB where we had only T37 & T38 aircraft nothing with the engines I was trained on or the engines I had spent the previous 18 months working on. After only 4 months back in the states I received orders to attend training on the B 66 bomber aircraft which did have J79 engines. For the training I was sent to Shaw AFB in South Carolina for 30 days before shipping out to TanSon Nhut AB in Vietnam. I arrived in Saigon and was assigned to an Aircfaft Maintenance outfit that handled all the C 141 aircraft the landed in Saigon unfortunately there was no spot for a 43250 according to PACAF , but that made no difference to anyone at my new assigned outfit the 374th field Maintaince squadron they just used me to do the same duty as the rest of there assigned personal, I spent most all my time as a aircraft ground crew. Parking, fueling, guarding, working with aircraft crew chiefs. As it turns out anytime I did have a jet engine to work on it was on a plane that had a high target value which meant that it Had limited ground time in Saigon to less the 4 hours. We were always told that it would take about four hours for the Vietcong to get in position to mortar the base if they could get a high profile target like a C141 or C136 , Many of these high profile large aircraft were flown by AF reserve units from the states and where flown by flight crews that were( let’s say) high profile lifers that were keeping there flight status active and flying into full retirement with benefits and or a high profile desk job in a safe place in the states. By the time I got to Vietnam most all the actual fighter pilots and chopper pilots were young 1st, & 2nd Lueitenents and Captains or In the case of the choppers Warrent Officers. The point is as you know S.A F. U. Was just about the way everything happened over there.

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