How Not to Meet a General
April 19, 2011
After finishing my tour of duty in Vietnam, I
transferred directly to Clark AFB in the Philippine
Islands, where I remained for a month or so before
taking a hop, Space Available, back to the States on
leave. On the return trip to Clark, I got hung up in
Japan, getting bumped repeatedly. It seems there was
an extraordinary run of married officers hauling
their families around SEA. Of course, they needed
the seat more than I did, RHIP and all that, plus me
being a single, raggedy-assed GI.|
when I saw I wasn't going to make it back to Clark
on time, I checked in with the Security Police at
the terminal, showed them my orders, and requested
that they tell my squadron where I was and let them
know that I'd probably be delayed. They said that
they'd take care of it, and gave me a slip showing
that I had reported to them.
I spent about
another week reporting to the terminal, getting
bumped, and heading back into town to enjoy the
night life again. I even found a great soul food
restaurant – greens, grits, and all. Not that I like
grits, but that's another story. Anyway, I finally
got a flight back to Clark and strolled into the
barracks, nearly flat broke but content as hell. I
was told to report to the commander yesterday.
Apparently, they had people staking out my room to
alert them if and when I showed up.
on over to the Orderly House and reported in as
directed, only to have the Old Man demand to know
where the hell I'd been. That sort of surprised me,
since I figured the Security Police in Japan had
advised the squadron where I was. Besides, somebody
lower down the ladder usually took care of errant
Unbeknown to me, the SPs in Japan had
not contacted my squadron. When I didn't report back
from leave on time, the squadron called my house to
find out where I was. I guess they figured that,
once I finally got back to the States, I'd said to
hell with SEA and decided to stay home and join
Jody. When 5th Tac called my house looking for me,
my mother, quite naturally, became concerned because
she knew that I'd left in ample time to get back to
Clark before my leave was up (IF I had taken a
commercial flight). She didn't know anything about
the uncertainties of ‘Space A'.
she did know was General Benjamin O. Davis' family,
and she called them to find out if the good general
could be prevailed upon to help her locate her
mysteriously vanished son. Since my luck was running
that way, of course the general was happy to oblige.
It was my further good fortune that General Davis
was then commanding 13th Air Force, which was
headquartered, naturally, on Clark Air Force Base.
He called over to my squadron and inquired as to my
whereabouts, thereby stirring up quite a bit more
interest on their part in locating me ASAP.
Of course I was in Japan boozing it up, blissfully
unaware that, not only was General Davis on the
lovely island of Luzon, he was taking a personal
interest in my activities. So, when I finally showed
up on Clark, cheerfully worn out and sated, I found
that the squadron brass was more than a little
concerned about me. The first thing out of the CO's
mouth was, “Where the hell have you been? General
Davis has been calling here looking for you.” This
surprised me no end, since up until then, I'd had no
idea General Davis was even aware of my existence.
I told the Old Man where I'd been and showed him
the slip the SPs at the air terminal in Japan had
given me to prove that I had made an effort to
notify the squadron of my situation. The date showed
that I had arrived in Japan four days before my
leave was up. He took the slip and kept it, telling
me that I could go back to the barracks and to be
sure and call home: Mother Dear was worried. I heard
nothing more about the matter from the squadron. I
suppose that was due to the General's interest in my
Having discovered my mother's part
in this little drama, I immediately phoned home and
told her that I was fine and to check with the Red
Cross if I ever disappeared again, not start bugging
generals. General Davis, in particular, was not the
type to view AWOL airmen with any degree of favor.
Her reply was, “Well, he found you, didn't he?”
I didn't bother to explain that nobody had found
me; I'd managed to eventually wend my weary way back
home all by my lonesome. Meanwhile, my commander had
called Gen. Davis' office to tell him that the
prodigal had finally returned, hung-over, but
One benefit from the whole flap was
that the brass thought that the general and I were
personal friends, not knowing that I had never so
much as laid eyes on him in the flesh. Naturally, I
made no effort to disabuse them of that notion.
Some months later, I did have the privilege of
meeting General Davis when he inspected the shop on
Lily Hill, where I was NCOIC at the time. He made no
mention of my extended leave, but he did ask some
pretty sharp questions about the equipment.
Fortunately, I was long recovered from my hangover,
because somebody had given him a very comprehensive
briefing on the radar gear.
All in all, it
was a felicitous ending to a well-deserved leave.
Thurman P. Woodfork
Thurman P. Woodfork (Woody) spent his
Air Force career as a radar repairman in places as disparate as
Biloxi, Mississippi; Cut Bank, Montana; Tin City, Alaska; Rosas,
Spain and Tay Ninh, Vietnam. In Vietnam, he was assigned to
Detachment 7 of the 619th Tactical Control Squadron, a Forward Air
Command Post located on Trai Trang Sup. Trang Sup was an Army
Special Forces camp situated about fifty miles northwest of Saigon
in Tay Ninh province, close to the Cambodian border.
After Vietnam, Woody remained in the Air Force for nine more years.
Thurman P. Woodfork's site for more information
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