My Brother Gary
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by Darrell Bain
Category: General Nonfiction/People
Description: My younger brother Gary is a charming, humorous, articulate, romantic adventurer and warrior. He's one of those types of men the rest of us admire and fantasize about, wishing we could be more like them. In the olden days, he would have been a Mountain Man or a Knight or perhaps even a Pirate or Buccaneer. In any era, he would always have been one of the first to cross the mountains, the wide rivers or brave the unexplored oceans. Even today, in the late autumn of his life, he's always doing something new and interesting and he always has fun at it. We've had many a laugh together and shed a few tears during our lives. He's always been my best friend and I only wish I had preserved more of our conversations and letters. What you have here only touches the surface of many of the things he's done and places he's been. And for all you fans of my Williard Brothers series, after reading this book you might guess that Gary is the avatar of Jason "Jumpin' Jase" Williard, the middle brother of the three, and the aviator whose almost supernatural flying ability gets them out of many a scrape in their continuing adventures.
eBook Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing/Double Dragon eBooks, 2007 Double Dragon Publishing Inc.
eBookwise Release Date: August 2007
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [105 KB]
Reading time: 68-95 min.
While we were growing up, we sometimes fought occasionally, like two big cats disputing their territory, but once we both left home, he became my best friend. In fact, the last time we had even a mock fight was before he went in the marines and I was home on leave.
I was eighteen or nineteen at the time and Gary was sixteen or seventeen. Gary had found an old pair of boxing gloves and seeing that he had now outgrown me, suggested a little boxing match. An all-out two minute rounds, with Mother and Jim, and our stepfather as timekeepers and referees to be sure we didn't kill each other.
Naturally, I accepted the challenge, but I didn't tell Gary I had been training on the boxing team in Bermuda. Not that I was a very good boxer or ever would be, but I had learned the rudiments of the "Sweet Science", as they called it then, and figured I could take him, even if he was bigger than me now.
We placed on the gloves, backed off and as soon as Jim said "Start!" we went at it hot and heavy. I immediately went into overdrive, using every bit of what little talent I had and exerting every bit of wind and energy that four years of cigarette smoking had left me. I whaled the tar out of him for forty five seconds. By then I felt my muscles weakening and my wind giving out and figuring that Gary probably had enough anyway, so I called out, "Enough!" That was the end of our fight. I was laughing so hard I could hardly get the words out of my mouth, telling Gary and the folks that I had run out of energy and didn't think I could fight any more.
Poor Gary. He probably would have beaten me if the round had gone the full two minutes, even though he was puffing like an old bull by then, himself. In case no one knows, boxing expends a tremendous amount of energy in a very short time.
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We did have a joust of sorts years later. Actually, one before that even. It was back in 1959, when we were both working with Dad, out in California in the fruit orchards. Gary had just graduated from High School and was spending the summer with Dad, doing migrant farm labor and having a last fling before enlisting in the Marines. I took a 30-day leave and joined them. We did have a great time together, but let's get back to the first joust. Gary was strong as a damn bull and was into arm wrestling. He put me down with ease, left and right hand both, just as he had been doing to other strong men on the farm circuit. After he had beaten me, he told me the secret of arm wrestling success. Just before starting, you turn your wrist inward just about a half inch. That gives you a big advantage in leverage right off the mark and if you have some strength to back it up, you can beat just about anyone.
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Arriving back in Chu-Lai a week later, I once again set about winning the war. By this time, I had well over two hundred missions under my belt and Bill and I had flown almost a hundred of those together as a team. Our call sign was "Boomslang" and when we checked in with the FAC (forward air controller), he knew the job was going to get done! Recently transferred to VMFA-115, we both were still flying out of Chu-Lai. He was scheduled to go on R&R to meet his wife in Hawaii in a couple of days so when I found out he was scheduled to fly with me twice the next day I insisted he cancel the flights. He wouldn't hear of it but after a lot of discussion, we compromised. He would fly the first mission in the morning and cancel the evening mission. This was, most unfortunately, a truly bad decision on both our parts. Bill, or "Rhino", as we fondly called him, would not return from the mission.
We launched early in the morning on May 11th as a flight of two, our destination, Laos, another Steel Tiger mission. The target was in the area of Tchepone, a heavily defended part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail . I was carrying a load of Zuni's, or five-inch rockets, for anti-aircraft fire suppression. As we reached the target area the FAC, Call sign Nail 16, designated the enemy position and I rolled in "Hot" (ordnance armed and ready to fire). The delivery method I was using was a 500 knot, 60-degree dive angle run. Bill was calling me fast all the way down, as he read off the altitude, airspeed, and dive angle. Just as the pipper in the gun sight arrived at the target, I let loose the full complement of rockets. I repeated the mantra, pickle, pause, pull, as I had done hundreds time before. A tremendous explosion rocked the big Phantom as I got a heavy load of G's on the airplane in the pull-up phase and started the jinking turn(a high-speed turn to avoid anti-aircraft. The aircraft rolled over to the inverted position and headed for the ground, all controls lost. At 500 plus knots, impact was imminent and I told Bill to eject three times, very quickly I might add! Hearing no response I braced myself and reached for the alternate ejection handle nestled between my legs. With a sharp tug the ejection sequence started and the next few seconds of my life became a blur as my stationary body met with the ferocity of a wind twice that of a force 5 tornado. This was about as traumatic as anything you could imagine. I'll try to slow it down for you. The canopy came off first, then the rockets fired that propelled the seat and I out of the aircraft at an instantaneous 18 G's (one G being the force of gravity). As I left the cockpit, the horrendous windblast ripped off my helmet and oxygen mask. It inflated my MK3C life vest, my left arm got thrown behind my back and snapped it in half between the shoulder and elbow, my pistol that I wore on my right hip was ripped off, and the pockets on my G-suit were torn off. Then from bad to worse, the seat, which is supposed to separate from the pilot as the parachute deploys, malfunctioned and the restraint lanyards tangled on my left leg and broke it and the seat stayed with me all the way down. The parachute deployed and I remember hanging there, and I remember this just as vividly as if it were yesterday, I heard a loud whooshing noise and said to myself, "they are shooting at me already". Then a string of bombs went off underneath me. My wingman had seen the fire from my aircraft impacting the ground, thought it was the target and dropped his bombs. I descended through all the debris and after just a few seconds in the parachute hit the ground like a ton of bricks.
The most amazing part of this is that I never felt any pain. I didn't even know my arm was broken until I tried using it and just the stump would move, not the rest of my arm. I remember every detail of the ejection and events leading up to my rescue. To this day, I don't know how my thinking process remained intact, but it did, and my ability to communicate with the rescuers is what saved me. As OIC (Officer-in-charge) of the Safety and Survival shop in my squadron, I always made it a point to carry two survival radios, which, if I remember correctly were the newer PRC-90s. It was a good thing I did because the first one I tried wouldn't work! I immediately got in contact with the FAC, call sign Nail 16 (OV-10), on my emergency radio to let them know I had survived. No one ever saw a second chute and most opinions concur that I must have taken a 37mm AAA shell in the area of the rear cockpit. I had landed very close to a huge North Vietnamese bunker complex and within 50 meters of some buildings. The word was, they didn't take prisoners in that area! For the next three hours, I would call on everything I had ever learned about survival to make it through the ordeal. The FAC alerted the Jolly Greens and they launched from a base North of DaNang, Quang Tri. The famous A-1 Skyraider, a big recip with ten wing stations that carry an assortment of ordnance including cannons, bombs, rockets, gas and other goodies, escorts the Jolly Green choppers. My wingman, Jim Redmond, was out of ordnance but made dummy passes to keep the bad guys heads down until the FAC got a flight of A-4's to make a couple of drops. In the meantime I had gotten myself oriented, established a clock code for the FAC to reference the drops to and had made a sling for my arm out of parachute cord. I always carried a snub-nosed 38 inside my flight vest and I took it out and laid it on my chest. I seriously doubt that it would have done much good but it sure made me feel better. I could hear hollering , whistling and shooting but never did see any enemy personnel.
Then the A-1's arrived on station. At this point, they assumed control of the rescue and queried me about my personal authenticator codes. This was a system devised to prevent the bad guys from luring in our aircraft on a phony rescue. All pilots had to fill out cards with answers to questions like what is your favorite drink, your favorite football team, etc. Then the cards went to a central location for use by the rescuing entities to verify it was actually the pilot talking. In this case, after answering all the questions correctly, I added, "And besides that, this is the Marine that spent two days with you last week!". The Jollies out of Quang Tri had to divert because of fuel problems. Once alerted, Jolly Green 15 and 28, from the 37th ARRS out of DaNang they promptly headed my way escorted by the DaNang A-1's, the Spads. While flying cover for the choppers one of the Spads took a 37 MM hit in the tail and had to RTB (Return to Base). The word was passed along to the Jollies about a Marine pilot being down that had recently visited with them.
What a sight those A-1's were! They would fly so low I could see them smile when they went by. Every time I heard a noise, I would call out the clock code and the Skyraider would devastate the area with deadly accuracy. On one run they made they didn't notify me prior to the drop and it happened to be one of those bombs that opens and drops a bunch of small bomblets. I must have jumped ten feet high when those things started going off, thinking I was taking fire. I thought my number was up for certain. Some of them had to be within 20-30 foot because debris from the explosions rained down on me like a hailstorm. I very politely asked them to notify me before they dropped any more unannounced ordnance. I think they must have gotten a chuckle out of that but I did get a big "Roger that" from them.
At other times, the situation would become very quiet and I created things to do to stay busy and alert because I was feeling very faint. I even noticed that my beloved Seiko watch was still intact however, it seemed to have lost about four hours on the ejection! I also started gathering every different kind of leaf that was in reach of me and storing them in my survival vest to keep as mementos of my vacation in Laos. I started to pull the parachute and the ejection seat close in towards me so I could analyze why the seat lanyards had tangled on my leg. I reconsidered though and asked the Rescue Commander if I should pull the chute in or leave it out as a marker for visual contact with me. They advised me to leave it in place for easier eye contact with my position. Sweat was pouring from every pore in my body and I was thirsty, very thirsty. I pulled the seat pan close to me and removed the contents of the survival pack looking for water. I found the water in a gray can, but alas, no pull tabs back then! I took out my bright orange survival knife and decided to punch a hole in the top of the can so I could drink. Opening the knife one handed presented a problem though and I tried everything, snagging it on my flight suit, with my teeth, and was about to give up when I realized, hey, this is a switchblade. With a quick flick of the button, the knife was open. I then propped the can up between my legs and with a quick stab, smartly planted the blade squarely in my leg instead of the can. I actually laughed at myself, oh no, I wasn't shook up! .
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It's funny how we both wound up out in the country on farms after traveling the world. I ran a Choose-and-Cut Christmas tree farm for twenty years and my wife Betty and I still live on our remaining acreage, even though I've changed professions again and become a writer. Gary has been on his place for about ten years now. I've told stories about my bumbling farm life in several books, most notable Life on Santa Claus Lane and laughing All The Way. Gary always intended to write a book about his exploits but somehow he's always gotten sidetracked by the very travails he wanted to write about. I doubt if he'll produce a book now, but his website is just about as good. There's some amazing adventure and survival stories on it, usually written as first person accounts.
Copyright © 2007 Darrell Bain.