“A VIET NAM AVIATOR’S ODYSSEY”
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I can think of no more profane example of man’s endeavors than war, whatever its form or purpose. Many songs in this album contain profane and graphic language. We sang these songs mostly as you hear them, and they reflect the many moods of the aircrews during those difficult and trying times. Some have been edited for extremely objectionable and offensive content, where it does not alter the theme of a particular song. Several songs are not specifically dedicated to the aviation theme of this album, but reflect an overall view to my specific circumstances or to all of the men and women who served in the Viet Nam War. In some cases these songs are reflections of aviators’ previous wartime experiences, and one is an indictment of all war.
We sang these songs to ease our feelings of frustration, for entertainment in a hostile environment, and perhaps even to summon the courage to fly another day. They were sung with great abandon at times, and great feeling at others. They are a combination of humor, sadness, and irreverence for the times and places. Many are parodies of familiar tunes written by anonymous servicemen, inspired by their sad and/or humorous predicaments on the spur of the moment.
In recent years, several of the men I had the privilege to fly with, have urged me to record a sample of these musical oddities. I decided to start with songs we sang in flight training, through two tours in Viet Nam, in between tours, and up to the present day. This was a tall order, and twenty songs cannot begin to fill it. However, a CD can only hold so many, so that is why I arrived at this particular mix of songs.
Tustin, CA 1996
|1||"I Don't Want To Join The Navy"
This was one of the first songs I learned after arriving at the U.S. Naval Air Training Command, NAS Pensacola, FL in JAN 64.
|2|| "Gory, Gory, What A Hell Of A Way To Die"
Another song from Pensacola Flight Training days, the ever present danger to those not vigilant is evident.
|3||"I Can't Help But Wonder (Where I'm Bound)"
This was the thought on every future Naval Aviator's mind. The answer for most was Viet Nam.
|4||"Old Da Nang"
Da Nang, RVN was my first sight of Viet Nam. This song expresses the popular feeling of Marine and Air Force aircrews in that area of operations.
|5|| "The Men Of MAG-16"
This parody was a favorite of Marine helicopter aircrews stationed in northern I CORPS, from Marble Mountain to the DMZ.
My first duty station in Viet Nam was Hue Phu Bai, with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron-161 (HMM-161). The only jukebox was in the Enlisted Club next door. Toward the end of an evening the plaintive strains of this song were heard and sung by many as the "cannon cockers" (artillery) fired their rounds into the distant hills and jungle.
|7|| "Bless'Em All"
This song has been around since at least WWII, with versions for each Service. I wrote the words to fit Hue Phu Bai.
|8|| "The Robin or The HMM-161 Serenade"
I have no idea where this song came from. John App had the words on a card in his wallet, and it fast became our raunchy serenade.
|9|| "I Hate This Place"
This was a very popular song with everyone serving in and around Da Nang. It is a combination Marine and Air Force version. We even had "rules of engagement" as to when, and after how long in country you were allowed to utter this phrase in the company of your outfit.
|10||10 "Put Your Beeper On The Air"
I first heard this song at the Air Force Da Nang Officer's Open Mess (DOOM Club) from an F-4C squadron. They would return about mid-evening from MIG hunting over North Viet Nam, gather around an old piano, and sing like men possessed.
|11|| "There Are No Chopper Pilots Down In Hell"
I re-worded this well known "fighter pilot" song to fit our immediate situation as Marine helicopter pilots.
|12||"Limericks or In Rescue They Do It For Medals"
No song fest of this type would be complete without a round of limericks. This is primarily an Air Force version with some Marine verses included.
|13|| "Itazuke Tower"
Some songs we sang were from previous wars, and deserved to remain unchanged. This song and the next are my two favorite aviation songs. Maybe it's because they're based on traditional country tunes and great airplanes.
|14||"Old Number Nine"
A song of the ubiquitous Marine F-4U driver, it too is of Korean War vintage. The F-4U Corsair and the P-51 Mustang were two of the greatest piston-engine planes ever built. We wish we could have flown them.
I first learned this song while attending USAF C-130 pilot training at Sewart AFB, Smyrna TN in AUG 68. It was probably the most popular air wing song in Southeast Asia at the time. Any Western music fan may recognize the tune of "The Strawberry Roan." Toby Hughes was an Air Force F-4C driver with 200 plus missions over Viet Nam and other areas.
|16|| "Moshi Moshi"
Upon returning to the Far East in AUG 69, I was based at MCAS Futema, Okinawa. From there we flew KC-130Fs to Da Nang for a six day deployment about twice a month. This song is a combination of the Japanese title song and a ditty that probably originated at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan during the Korean War.
|17|| "The Poor Copilot"
I'm sure that most multi-engine drivers can relate to this tune. Enough said?
|18|| "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye"
The songs from here on are more serious in nature. I first heard this arrangement in 1960/61 while attending the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM. I learned it immediately and have sung it ever since. It probably originated in Ireland during the 1800s. The words say all that need be said about war.
| "Drive On"
Johnny Cash wrote this after he and his wife June returned from a USO tour in Viet Nam. A song about the situation in which many of us find ourselves today.
|20||"Touch A Name On The Wall"
I first heard this song on the 10 NOV 93 Marine Corps birthday. Laurie Canaan, who played the fiddle and sang harmony on that occasion, graciously agreed to do so for this album.