What the Captain Means

Preface provided by Vietnam Veteran Lee Dixon:

A few months ago I tried to sign on here just as a fight broke out in the bar. Well, years ago my dad walked into a bar as a fight was going on and caught a beer bottle in the teeth. The only good thing to come of that was, after he got his false teeth, he took one drag on a cigarette, it tasted like rubber, and he never smoked again.

I decided to lay low until things blew over. For a while I thought I was the reason that people were leaving; now I guess it's was just the metamorphosis of life.

Anyhow, when I was posting before, I mentioned a famous interview called, "What the Captain Means." I used to have it on tape along with some other memories of the war; but over the years, I loaned it to someone and never got it back. Some of the other things I had on the tape were "Detroit Flight" where the F-105 leaves his flight and goes after MIGs (I've heard that was fabricated, but I don't know); the mission where General Worley is flying an RF-4C, gets hit, and is killed; and Bernie Fisher, when he successfully landed his A1E and picked up someone at a runway that was being overrun.

I was at the Library of Congress doing research on the folklore of the coal miners of the Northeast of England (why am I smiling?) and ran across the reference to "Singing the Vietnam Blues--Songs of the Air Force in Southeast Asia" by Joseph F. Tuso. This book has the words to several of the songs on the In- Country tape/CD. The book is published by Texas A&M Press and you can order direct if you desire. The words to "What the Captain Means" was in the book so here they are:


Correspondent: Captain, what is your opinion of the F-4C Phantom?

Captain: It's so fuckin' maneuverable you can fly up your own ass with it.

PAO: What the Captain means is that he has found the F-4C Phantom highly maneuverable at all altitudes, and he considers it an excellent aircraft for all missions assigned.

Correspondent: I suppose, Captain, that you've flown a certain number of missions over North Vietnam. What do you think of the SAMs used by the North Vietnamese?

Captain: Why, those bastands couldn't hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle. We fake the shit out of them. There's no sweat.

PAO: What the Captain means is that the surface-to-air missiles around Hanoi pose a serious problem to our air operations and that the pilots have a healthy respect for them.

Correspondent: I suppose, Captain, that you've flown missions to the South. What kind of ordnance do you use, and what kind of targets do you hit?

Captain: Well, I'll tell you, mostly we aim at kicking the shit out of Vietnamese villages; and my favorite ordnance is napalm. Man, that stuff sucks the air out of their friggin' lungs and makes a sonovabitchin' fire.

PAO: What the Captain means is that air strikes in South Vietnam are often against Viet Cong structures and all operations are always under the positive control of forward air controllers, or FACs. The ordnance employed is conventional 500- and 750-pound bombs and 20-mm cannon fire.

Correspondent: I suppose you spent a R & R in Hong Kong. What were your impressions of the Oriental girls?

Captain: Yeah, I went to Hong Kong. As for those Oriental broads, well, I don't care which way the runway runs, east or west, north or south--a piece of ass is a piece of ass.

PAO: What the Captain means is that he found the delicately featured Oriental girls fascinating, and he was very impressed with their fine manners and thinks their naivete' is most charming.

Correspondent: Tell me, Captain, have you flown any missions other than over North and South Vietnam?

Captain: You bet your sweet ass I've flown other missions. We get scheduled nearly every day on the trail in Laos where those fuckers over there throw everything at you but the friggin' kitchen sink. Even the goddamn kids got slingshsots.

PAO: What the Captain means is that he has occasionally been scheduled to fly missions in the extreme western DMZ, and he has a healthy respect for the flak in that area.

Correspondent: I understand that no one in your fighter wing has got a MIG yet. What seems to be the problem?

Captain: Why you screwhead, if you knew anything about what you're talking about--the problem is MIGs. If we'd get scheduled by those peckerheads at Seventh for those missions in MIG valley, you can bet your ass we'd get some of those mothers. Those glory hounds at Ubon get all those missions, while we settle for fightin' the friggin' war. Those mothers at Ubon are sitting on their fat asses killing MIGs, and we get stuck with bombing the goddamned cabbage patches.

PAO: What the Captain means is that each element in the Seventh Air Force is responsible for doing its assigned job in the air war. Some units are assigned the job of neutralizing enemy air strength by hunting out MIGs and other elements are assigned bombing missions and interdiction of enemy supply routes.

Correspondent: Of all the targets you've hit in Vietnam, which one was the most satisfying?

Captain: Well, shit, it was when we were scheduled for that suspected VC vegetable garden. I dropped napalm in the middle of the fuckin' cabbage, and my wingman splashed it real good with six of those 750-pound mothers and spread the fire all the way to the friggin' beets and carrots.

PAO: What the Captain means is that the great variety of tactical targets available throughout Vietnam makes the F-4C the perfect aircraft to provide flexible response.

Correspondent: What do you consider the most difficult target you've stuck in North Vietnam?

Captain: The friggin' bridges. I must have dropped 40 tons of bombs on those swayin' bamboo mothers, and I ain't hit one of the bastards yet.

PAO: What the Captain means is that interdicting bridges along enemy supply routes is very important and that bridges present quite a difficult target. The best way to accomplish this task is to crater the approaches to the bridge.

Correspondent: I noticed, in touring the base, that you have aluminum matting on the taxiways. Would you care to comment on its effectiveness and usefulness in Vietnam?

Captain: You're fuckin' right. I'd like to make a comment. Most of us pilots are well hung, but shit, you don't know what hung is until you get hung up on one of the friggin' bumps on that goddamn stuff.

PAO: What the Captain means is that the aluminum matting is quite satisfactory as a temporary expedient but requires some finesse in taxiing and braking the aircraft.

Correspondent: Did you have an opportunity to meet your wife on leave in Honolulu, and did you enjoy the visit with her?

Captain: Yeah, I met my wife in Honolulu, but I forgot to check the calendar, so the whole five days were friggin' vell combat- proof--a completely dry run.

PAO: What the Captain means is that it was wonderful to get together with his wife and learn firsthand about the family and how things were at home.

Correspondent: Thank you for your time, Captain.

Captain: Screw you--why don't you bastards print the real story, instead of all that crap?

PAO: What the Captain means is that he enjoyed this opportunity to discuss his tour with you.

Correspondent: One final question. Could you reduce your impression of the war into a simple phrase or statement, Captain?

Captain: You bet your ass I can. It's a fucked up war.

PAO: What the Captain means is . . . it's a FUCKED UP WAR.