Cold in Portland…but

Monday, December 9, 2013

On Monday 12/9/13 it is 21 degrees here in Portland……

BUT it is 91 today in Bangkok and 84 in Chiang Rai.

Will be on my way in one week.

Portland – Seattle – 55 min – 
Seattle – Tokyo – 10 hrs 40 min – 
Tokyo – Bangkok – 7 hrs 0 min – 

22 hrs, 19 min gate to gate.

Walkabout: A spontaneous journey through the wilderness of one’s choosing in an effort to satisfy one’s itchy feet, a need to be elsewhere, the craving for the open road, that space over the horizon…yes… something like that… you can’t quite touch it so you have to go find it because it’s you just know it’s there…Or maybe it just feels good to go walking around … 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Why go to The Plain of Jars?

Why should I go to The Plain of Jars in Laos?
Here is the answer:
First, a little background….. 
My father was a saver.  He saved every piece of paperwork he received in his 24 years of service in the USAF.  I have spent many, many hours reading, organizing, filing and putting everything into chronological order.  He never talked about what he was doing in Thailand.  But I found a map and started researching.  And reading.  And asking questions.  Searching Google and Wiki.  I finally figured out what in the hell he was doing over there.
7 June 1966 – Appointed Deputy Staff Office Top Secret Control officer in Osan, Korea.15 June 1966 – Notified via Special Order of reassignment to flying duties in C-47 aircraft.8 August 1966 – Transferred from Osan, Korea to Udorn, Thailand.  Top Secret.
I have spent hundreds of hours on the web searching and have bought and read numerous books on the secret war in Laos.  

Long Tieng, or Lima 98.

If you spend time searching Google or Wiki for these key words: “Dogpatch”, “Moonbeam”, “Alley Cat”, “Airborne Command and Control”, “RC-47D”, “Operation Steel Tiger”, “Operation Barrel Roll”,  “Operation Half Moon”, “Cricket”, “Vang Pao”, “Long Tieng”,  “CIA Laos 1966”,  “Butterflys”, “Ravens”  – you will get an idea of what was going on over Laos in 1966.  

For example, this is an excerpt from Wiki about Operation Barrel Roll :
Barrel Roll was one of the most closely held secrets and one of the most unknown components of the American military commitment in Southeast Asia. Due to the ostensible neutrality of Laos, guaranteed by the Geneva Conference of 1954 and 1962, both the U.S. and North Vietnam strove to maintain the secrecy of their operations and only slowly escalated military actions there. As much as both parties would have liked to have publicized their enemy’s own alleged violation of the accords, both had more to gain by keeping their own roles quiet.” 
I have searched many blogs and user groups and asked many questions.  I received the following response from a Yahoo user group about some of my questions: 

 
      >>Fishbike53, read the following information word for word all the way to the end. You will find some interesting info about C-47’s in 1966.

Ø  > SYNOPSIS: On July 19, 1966, an RC47D aircraft departed Udorn Airfield in
> > Thailand en route to Sam Neua, Laos. The crew aboard the aircraft
> > included Capt. Robert E. Hoskinson, pilot; Maj. Galileo F. Bossio, 1Lt.
> > Vincent A. Chiarello, Capt. Bernard Conklin, 1Lt. Robert J. Di Tommaso,
> > SSgt. James S. Hall, TSgt. John M. Mamiya and TSgt. Herbert E. Smith,
> > crewmen. The aircraft was an unarmed RC47D Command and Control airship
> > (Dogpatch 2).
> > 
> > When the aircraft was 10-20 miles south of Sam Neua, it was attacked by
> > enemy fighters. Radio contact was lost and the families were initially
> > told there was no further word of the plane or crew – that they had all
> > been lost on an operational mission in North Vietnam.
> > 
> > It was later learned, however, that at least one, possibly two
> > parachutes were observed in the air from persons on the ground, and the
> > loss had occurred not in North Vietnam, but at 201200N 1041700E, which
> > is in Laos.
> > 
> > Primary objective of the C-47 in Laos at that point in the war was
> > visual reconnaissance. American forces worked closely with CAS (CIA)
> > primarily to weaken the communist supply link to South Vietnam via the
> > “Ho Chi Minh Trail”. This particular plane, however, was working in
> > support of the CIA’s secret indigenous army which was attempting to
> > prevent a communist takeover in Laos.
> > 
> > The crewmembers on these missions were normally highly trained in
> > electronic surveillance techniques as well as versed in codes and
> > languages. Accordingly, and as “there was no war in Laos”, certain
> > details of the mission, such as the precise location of loss, were
> > originally distorted. Later reports indicate that some of the crew
> > survived the attack on July 29, 1966. According to a March, 1974 list
> > published by the National League of Families of POW/MIAs, Bossio
> > survived the incident and was missing in Laos. One 1971 report states
> > that as many as 5 of the crew were captured. Chiarello and Di Tommaso
> > were identified as survivors by Capt. Adair of Project Dogpatch. U.S.
> > Air Force records still reflect the loss as having occurred in North
> > Vietnam.

> > Related information (edited for grammar) below provided by Keith

> > Rohring:

> > 

> > This RC-47D was ‘bristling’ with electronics – the mission was

> > essentially to fly near the Ho Chi Minh Trail at precise dates and times

> > to pick up Hmong tribes people’s broadcasts of who was on the trail,

> > when, where, and how many. . .

> > 

> > Some team members of the SOG team were land based, operating along the

> > Trail, in Cambodia etc, leaving these gizmo-radios for the Hmong to use

> > to transmit, with a calendar of when they were to send. . . The

> > ‘observer’ status was unofficial, as there were folks who were traveling

> > onboard mission flights to become acclimatized to what was going on –

> > Chiarello and Cooperman were in an intelligence outfit – working at the

> > end of the Udorn runway in a shack at the time.

> > 

> > That’s where they were when the coin flip occurred. . . There are 8

> > names on Panel 09 around line 85 that were onboard that flight –

> > Chiarello was the odd man – the others were assigned to “chairs” as

> > crew, navigators, listeners, and charters of traffic. Of course,

> > everyone on these flights got their ‘flight pay’ – if qualified) –

> > combat pay and tax exemption – normally, C-47 crews based in Thailand

> > would make trips into South Vietnam to get their tax exemption – if


> > based and flying in Thailand alone; there was none of the above, just

> > regular flight pay.

So on July 19,1966, a C-47 flown by Capt. Hoskinson was performing Command and Control activity out of Udorn, Thailand,  and was shot down over Sam Neua, Laos.  On June 15, a month before Capt. Hoskinson’s plane was shot down, my father was notified that he was being sent to Udorn to do the same mission.  On August 10 , 21 days after Hoskinson was shot down, my father was in Udorn and getting into a C47 and headed over the Plain of Jars in Laos to perform a similar mission.

Maj. Johnson
Blog Archive▼  2013 (17)▼  December(17)Ft. Stevens, Ft. Clatsop and Ft. Astoria – testing…The Plaine Des Jarres and “That Map”Please provide a comment about the blog if you loo…Shots, pills, currencyWhy go to The Plain of Jars?Cold in Portland…butI was asked about a map or two for the start of th…4 days to departureIs this a diary or a journal? How do they difer fr…So, the Shared Journal, or my blogThe hand wave, the nod……The WaiAt the Bamboo NestMission AccomplishedLeaving the Bamboo NestA Little DetourBack in Mae Sei►  2014 (159)►  2015 (8)►  2016 (1)

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Maj. Johnson

This is why I am headed to the Plain of Jars.  To travel overland some what he flew over.

Shots, Pills, Currency

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Shots, pills, currency

Picked up the malaria pills (one a day for the next 2 months), diarrhea antibiotics (yikes……enough for 3 bouts) and then received 3 shots.  Shots were free, but pills were $244.00.  Tetanus, hepatitis A&B, typhoid and doubtlessly a few more bacteria, microbes, or whatever the hell you call them now will be immunity supporting travel partners.   
Received a half hour lecture on street food, (yes),  wild places (yes, on the agenda), the importance of drinking bottled water and considerable cautions about mosquitoes….the daytime ones and the nighttime ones, the big ones and the little ones, the urban ones and the hinterland ones.  
Really?
Picked up crisp, clean travel cash after reading that even the smallest cut, tear or stain would render US currency useless or reduce its value.   After the Oaxaca trip in October where $1.00 = approx 12 pesos, I still think about conversion premiums.  There is always a premium for currency conversion.  In Laos $1.00 = 8,000 kip.  $100.00 = over 80,000 kip.  Will need to have a wad of money – tens of thousands of kips…….for even a tuktuk ride…..
Per the phone carrier:  Free texting and $0.20 a minute for cell calls from Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam.  $4.19 a min from Laos.  T
I told my best friend Jerry that I would gladly call him from any where…..and often do…….and will……..from anywhere but Laos. 
The same message is affectionately presented to all followers of this blog.  

Do not call me.  
Send an email to:    fishbike53@yahoo.com.  
But do please keep in touch.  
The internet is ubiquitous. 
Fishbike53walkabout
B

The Plaine Des Jarres and “That Map”

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Plaine Des Jarres and “That Map”

Prepared in Late Dec 2103.  Posted 1/13/14

Below are several photos of a map I found squirreled away in some of my father’s things.

The closeup of the map at the bottom of the page shows an area about 60 to 80 miles NNE of Vientiane, Laos.   L98 is Long Tieng – often described as “The Most Secret Place on Earth”.
I had the map framed and look at it daily.  Considerable research resulted in an understanding of places and numbers on the map. My father never told me much about it or about what he was doing………but with much of the war in SE Asia now declassified and the power of the internet, I think I figured some of it out…….
My father drew the lines, the numbers for the radio beacons, the distances from the beacons, the landing strips (Lima Sites).  All the edges were cut off the map.  It had been folded, refolded, creased, crinkled, crunched and folded again.  It was obvious that it had been used very heavily.  

On the top right corner over the crease in the map you can see “Plaine Des Jarres” or The Plain of Jars.  Much of his flying was over this region in 1966 as a USAF pilot. The war in Laos was a “Secret War”.  U.S. Activity in Laos was classified until the Clinton Administration.  
The CIA was running the entire show in Laos, so it was covert – everything about activity in Laos was covert. Secret.  Dangerous.   Officially, the U.S. was not involved in Laos.  But we were, big time.

Long Tieng, or Lima 98.

The map is full of lines, radians from radio beacons, distances, landing strips, etc.  The Plain of Jars was a major link to the Ho Chi Minh trail and a primary route of transit for equipment, food and soldiers into South Viet Nam.  Depending on the time of the year, (monsoon season) control of much of the region often shifted between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.”
This area that he flew over is a primary destination of my travels. To walk on the Plain of Jars.   My father was not dropping bombs from his plane…but he did in WWII.  That is another story and just might be the next walkabout.

In Laos, he was flying a WWII era C47 outfitted with a payload of first generation radio receiving and relay equipment, communications specialists and a Lao national or two.   They communicated with Hmong ground forces, spotter aircraft (The Ravens), the inbound fighter/bombers, and the CIA in Vientiane, the Lao capital.  The plane was basically an early version of AWACS.   

In less than year after his missions were over, all the work stations were upgraded to a module that fit inside a C130.   

Targets were ID’d by a “Raven” or a “Butterfly” flying a single engine spotter aircraft.  The location was transmitted to the C47 and bombing of the coordinates was approved by Lao nationals in the C47.  Fighter/bombers were called and radioed to the target coordinates.  The target was marked with smoke by the Raven/Butterfly and then bombs were dropped by the fighter/bombers.  Then Ravens flew back over the area and reported damage assessments.
Laos had more tons of bombs dropped on it during the war in SE Asia than all of the bombs dropped by all the planes – German, English, Japanese, American…….during WWII. The countryside is riddled with unexploded ordinance, or UXO’s.  The quantity of UXO’s is unimaginable.  There are still millions of UXO in Laos and hundreds of people are maimed or killed each year.
More about the jars on the Plain of Jars in a future blog.

Here is a little info on UXO’s:
Quick Facts and Figures:

  • Lao PDR is the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history 
  • Approximately 25% of villages in Laos are contaminated with Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) 
  • More than 580,000 bombing missions were conducted over Laos 
  • Over 2 million tons of ordnance were dropped on Laos between 1964 and 1973 
  • Cluster munitions or ‘Bombies’ (as they are known locally) are the most common form of UXO remaining 
  • More than 270 million bombies were dropped onto Laos 
  • Up to 30% failed to detonate 
  • Approximately 80 million unexploded bombies remained in Laos after the war 
  • All 17 provinces of Laos suffer from UXO contamination 
  • Over 20,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO 
  • Over 50,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO accidents in the period 1964 to 2008
  • 41 out of the 46 poorest districts in Laos have UXO contamination

Check out the following link for information about Ravens doing the real dirty work and some great information about Long Tieng:

http://www.airspacemag.com/military-aviation/ravens.html

Per Wiki – regarding L98 (Lima 98)  on the map above: L98 (AKA Lima 98.  Later L98 was renamed L20 Alternate) or Long Tieng – was often described as “The Most Secret Place on Earth”. It was located in a valley at 3,100 feet elevation, high enough to have chilly nights and cold fogs. It was surrounded by mountains and on the northwest side of the runway were karst outcrops several hundred feet high. In the shadow of the Karst outcrops was “Sky” the CIA headquarters in Long Tieng. Jerry Daniels, a CIA officer codenamed “Hog,” is said to have named Sky after his home state of Montana, known as “Big Sky Country.”[7] Long Tieng was protected on three sides by limestone mountains.[8]




“What a place is Long Tieng,” said USAID officer Jim Schill. “Tribal soldiers dressed in military garb standing next to traditionally dressed Hmong, with Thai mercenaries milling about. And the Americans here are mostly CIA operatives with goofy code names like Hog, Mr. Clean, and Junkyard. The town itself is not much. There’s one paved road running through it and tin shacks on either side with eating shops, food stalls, and living quarters.”[9]

During the Secret War, Long Tieng became the largest Hmong settlement in the world.[8] In the words of one author, Long Tieng “became a desultory metropolis, an unpaved, sewerless city of 30,000 where Hmong ran noodle stands, cobbled shoes, tailored clothes, repaired radios, ran military-jeep taxi services, and interpreted for American pilots and relief workers.”[10]

In Their Shadows

Podington and Rattlesden


Both are  north of London and former sites of airfields of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. Both my father and his younger brother piloted 35 missions in B17s, the Flying Fortress – from these airfields over 70 years ago. 

Old control tower at Podington.

The control towers remain – they are now homes. Little else is on public property.  My father was stationed at Podington for several months before and after D Day. He barely made it back to England on his 35th mission. On his first mission a member of his crew, Ed Faucet, was killed.  

 My uncle finished his 35th mission just days before the Germans surrendered.
 He was 20 years old on his first mission.

I wanted to see the airfields and stand in the middle of them. I did. 



Podington is now home to the Santa Pod drag strip.

The control tower at Rattlesden remains – it is now a house.  Little else is on public property.


Rattlesden is now only a small craft and glider field.
  Two of the three runways at both locations have been removed, the material used to pave local roads after the war.

In one day, in England, I walked in the shadows of both my father and my uncle.

Way Up Here


North Western Scotish Highlands.  Nice.  Remote.  Quaint.  Nice drive.


Was it me or the camera that was out of focus?


Left the hostel in Inverness in AM 7/3 and first headed north then west, into the Highlands.  Drove 38 miles on a one lane road, with hundreds of pullouts or laybys.

Found a small B&B on yhe coast with a shared shower and a bathroom just across the hall.  Small room, but all I need and just 39 quid.  Have driven over 1200 miles in the UK since leaving Exeter, on big highways, small hedge row lined lanes and forest lined roadways.  Hundreds of roundabouts.

Much nicer here in northern Scotland.  Open scenery with vistas (not like England where it seemed all views – everywhere – were a private thing).

 
 Met a friendly couple tonight – my first encounter after the brother /sister couple at Stonehenge.  Drank, talked, went to their van for a smoke then back to the bar and some scotch.  Good folk.  Social workers.  Travelers.  Tom had a ponytail.  She gave good hugs.

Scotland

July 2, 2016

Well, it looked like it was going to rain again and I really needed to blow my nose.  I also had quite a bit of trash I wanted to clean out of the car – chip bags, many used kleenex and assorted water and soda bottles -and I needed to take a dump.  But where?


Why not do everything here?
Make a Trump Dump!!!

Stonehenge & Avebury

Copied from:

The World Heritage Site

Welcome to the home page of the Stonehenge & Avebury World Heritage Site (WHS)!
Stonehenge and Avebury were inscribed together on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1986. The Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site was one of the UK’s very first World Heritage Sites.
Find out why we are a World Heritage Site, how to visit us, how we are managed and how you can get involved. Interested in education? Find links to Stonehenge and Avebury materials.

Stonehenge and Avebury gained their place on the World Heritage Site list for their outstanding prehistoric monuments dating back over 5000 years to the Neolithic and Bronze Age. Stonehenge is the most famous and sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world. At Avebury the massive banks and ditches of the henge enclose its largest. Both stone circles lie at the heart of prehistoric landscapes containing numerous impressive and amazingly well-preserved ceremonial monuments.
Tues 6/28

I say: Been sick with a head cold since arriving in Exeter.  Three nights with my friend Robin and his exwife/roommate/partner.  Asked them only one question about their relationship, just to clarify things. 


Went to the coast for dinner, had really good food, beer, though Robin does not drink.   His last alcohol was with me at The Bamboo Nest in Thailand.


We talked about his journey since we last saw each other.  I had a cold.

I also watched Robin do a foraging presentation for a coastal England Women’s Garden Club.

 I was introduced by Robin and asked if I wanted tea or coffee.  I had several little sweets served with my instant coffee.  I had a cold.

The day before he dropped me off on a little old town up in the largest preserved area in lower England.  Had lunch, read a book about the history of the area and the buildings, toured the old church, the working forge and had a beer.  Never walked over 100 yards from where Robin dropped me of at 3:00 till he picked me up at 7:30.  I had a cold.

Stayed in an old hotel 100 yards from the train station where I arrived.  Had a cold.

On Saturday Robin had two foraging walks schudled – one group of 9, a second group with 12.  Then a dinner with 12 people, with a chef using the stuff gathered on a walk.    He charges about $150 a person, per event.

I was sick, so I left town.  Got a car.  Drove up to Stonehenge, stayed in a really nice hostel about 4 miles away. 

 Did not take the Stonehenge tour – organized tours are the only way you can walk near it – and you must stay 100 feet away from the rocks.  4 hours, a yaking tour guide, a bus, for about $35.00

I opted for Avebury.  


Drove up the first night and had a beer, walked one of the inner circles, had dinner, taking along from the hostel Alex from Canada and his older sister.  I was still sick.


Today returned to Avebury,  parked, walked around a huge pile of dirt called Silbury Hill (similar to the Cahokia Mounds east of St.Louis, also a WHS), through fields, in mud, up hills, along roads and down an avenue of big placed rocks.  


Avebury preceded Stonehange and it is much more accessible.  Walked about 4 miles.  Stopped at the bar inside the largest rock ring and had a second stout with a guy I met on my walk.

Drove up to Wellingborough, about 120 miles.  Impossible without my phone’s map app.   Impossible, I repeat.  There were aout 100 roundabouts on the drive – and the correct road off the circle was almost evenly divided between the first, second and third turns off the roundabout.

Now very close to one of the two primary destinations on this trip.  

Will head to Podington tomorrow and see what happens.    Do not have a room, but hope to find one over a pint and some conversation about WWII.