This story concerns an incident that took place in 1965 in the Mekong River Delta of the Republic of South Viet Nam. While stationed at Soc Trang, RVN with A Company 101st Aviation Battalion, I was a witness to this incident along with several hundred other pilots and crews that happened to be flying missions and monitoring the Paddy Control UHF frequency. Paddy Control was the radar flight following service that we all used in IV Corps. If you are familiar with the use of code names and phrases which were used in much of our communications with any of the communication stations and other aircraft, to confuse the enemy in the event that they might be monitoring our comm frequencies, many of these were contained in a little book that we all carried which was called the SOI (Standard Operating Instructions), while some were simply briefed to the crews for specific missions and flights. In any event, there were certain code words that we used when communicating via radio with other stations. Among them were “popeye”, which meant we in IFR conditions, another was “homeplate” which meant your home airfield. There were also code names and phrases for the Cambodian Border, the coastline, etc.
While we were at Soc Trang we saw new aviation units arrive in the theater and start flying missions. After A/101 arrived at Soc Trang, an O-1 Birddog Company and a Caribou Company arrived and were also stationed at Soc Trang (That was before the Air Force Pukes got nervous and took the larger fixed wing aircraft away from the Army). As these newer units started flying missions, they gradually became accustomed to the mode and area of operation. The Caribou Company had the Call Sign of “Rough Riders”.
As we were going about our missions one day, the following was heard over the Paddy Control frequency: Rough Rider, this Paddy Control, you have Stormy Weather at 12 o’clock and 15 miles. To which Rough Rider responds with; Paddy Control Rough Rider, say again please? Rough Rider, Paddy, I say again, you have Stormy Weather at 12 o’clock for 15 miles. Paddy Control, Rough Rider, negative on the weather, we have clear flight conditions, over. Paddy Control responds with; Rough Rider, recommend that you make a 180-degree turn, Stormy Weather now at 12 o’clock for 10 miles. Rough Rider responds with; Paddy Control, Rough Rider, there is no weather in sight, we are VFR! Paddy Control again advises an immediate 180-degree turn, saying Stormy Weather now at 12 o’clock at 5 miles! Again Rough Rider responds with; Paddy, I say again there is no weather in sight, we are in VFR conditions! At this point, Paddy Control advises Rough Rider that he was about to enter Cambodian Airspace and ordered an immediate 180-degree turn, to which Rough Rider responds with a very meek roger, with no other comment. As you can tell by this conversation that “Stormy Weather” was code for the Cambodian Border, and that Rough Rider either didn’t have an SOI, or didn’t read it, or was unbriefed on this particular mission. Of course, all the other crews on Paddy’s frequency thought that this was quite funny and it was the topic of conversation and ridicule for some weeks in the “O” Club, much to the embarrassment of the Rough Riders.
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