As I explained in Hell on Earth, a love story, my first writing job after my caseworker got me back on track was writing for HAWK magazine after being assigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade. But I really wasn’t a writer at that point and I definitely wasn’t a photographer.
About a month after being assigned to the 1st Aviation Brigade I was given my first assignment. My order were very simple: Fly to Pleiku, home to the Flying Dragons of the 52nd Combat Aviation Battalion, use up the two rolls of film I had been given, and come back with a story.
Oh yeah. And don’t come back with any standard helicopter pictures, whatever that meant.
What could possibly be standard about any picture I took on my first helicopter flight—one which was not being conducted a few hundred feet over some famous harbor or amusement attraction but rather at several thousand feet above rice paddies
from which an occasional flash could be seen that would quickly be attended to by one of the two gunners accompanying me.
I didn’t know what my
bosses were talking
about until I got back
to learn that most of
my pictures were one
variations or another
The 52nd CAB was involved in much of the heavy fighting in the area but was also engaged in a lot of humanitarian works, as were most of the units serving in Vietnam.
The story I put together wasn’t too bad for a first ever effort but the pictures were hopeless and magazines, especially military magazines, are very dependent on pictures.
I couldn’t fly back just to take more pictures so I was in a real quandary until the Brigade historian came to my rescue. He was an artist, a very good one, and was assigned to record as much of the brigade’s activities as possible through his paintings.
I went to him, explained my dilemma, and he went to work. Before long—actually a much shorter time than the three days it took me to take several dozen pictures of treetops—he brought me the finished product, the concept of which actually gave me the title for the story.
It was two dragons—one the good flying dragon that performed good deeds for the Montagnard people living in and around Pleiku and the other the bad flying dragon that made life miserable for the enemy that surrounded the people of Pleiku.
Several years ago I located the website for the 1st Aviation Brigade and recently learned that the artist/historian who came to my rescue is registered with it. I'm excited about being able to send him this particular blog post.