Vietnam air war

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Senior Airman
Aug 11, 2006
New Zealand
Hi guys!

Just to let you know, I've started writing a fictional story about the air war in Vietnam, which follows "VMF-902", a US Navy F-4 Phantom squadron, onboard
the U.S.S. Rislington, CV-96, during 1969-73. I know what air combat in
Vietnam was like, thanks to "Vietnam Air Warfare" by Robert F. Dorr and Chris
Bishop, but I'm stuck on potraying Cdr. "Nicky" Merchant's time as a POW. I'd appreciate any help. Hope I don't offend any of you guys by asking this type of question.


Thanks Les. Also, how rare was it for an American pilot to escape from a POW
Camp in Vietnam? "Nicky" escaped from his camp in 1968, after being downed in '66, and he got the Medal of Honor (can it happen? getting your country's highest award for bravery by escaping?) and, soon afterwards, started having
flash-backs. As I said in my first post, hope I'm not offending you guys.


Hi again Les!

Wonder if it would work if I turned into a kind of diary, "Nicky" writing down all
the things that happen to him - from getting shot down in '66 (I'll change him to a Lieutenant), to being released at the war's end by American troops?


Getting shot down and getting on the ground in one piece was no picnic and more than likely didn't happen. Although you may have seen films and photos of POWS walking on their own after an egress, more than likely they had neck and spine injuries. In the F-4 you had these leg harnesses that go around your thighs and shins, they bring your legs in when you eject. I worked with a guy who was shot down over Vietnam and his survival kit (under the seat) came dislodged pulled on this harness and almost severed his leg. He was rescued, his WSO spent 4 years as a POW.
Thanks FBJ!

I'm trying to make my fictional account from Lt. Merchant's point-of-view as realistic as possible, so thanks for the help, and I think I'll have him be recipient of the Silver Star for his work of improving the food, etc, etc of his prisoners during his time in "Tai Son Prison" (the fictional POW camp).

I'm just going to chip in some thoughts and you decide if any of them are worthy of consideration:

Injuries on ejection / landing

Pilot / crew being killed immediately by locals (ie not VC/NVA) - many instances in WW2

Beatings / removal of boots by NVA/VC as 'payback'

Physical / intimate examintion to satisfy curiousity of locals

Propaganda filming / photographing of captured - usually with female VC captor to stress the un-invincibility of the 'aggressor'

Severe culture shock of local concepts of hygiene / food

Mutual respect / even friendship between captors and captured developing over time (stockholm syndrome)

Being on the receiving end of air strike / free fire zone policy showing the war from the other side..

While in Laos recently I read a book by Le Ly Hayslip - When Heaven and Earth Changed Places
VG: Artist Biography: Hayslip, Le Ly

It's, honestly, one of the best books I've ever read on the Vietnam conflict and does explain the average vietnamese peasant's view of the war, the aggressors and clash of the ancient and the modern that confused so many on both sides.

If you haven't read it I'd recommend it anyway but it may help you with the 'other side' of your story.

Best of luck

Agreed Joe, great book....
I think I'll have him be recipient of the Silver Star for his work of improving the food, etc, etc of fellow prisoners
Dont like that idea.... If ideas are what ur looking for, make him a Lt. Commander flying F-4's... He smokes 2 Migs over Hanoi, but gets a SAM for his victories instead of champagne....

His WSO gets killed by locals, he gets hit with shrapnel from the SAM, and the POW story can commence.... He gets a couple awards, ie. Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart for his brilliant performance.....

While in captivity, maybe try going for the forming a POW resistance thing... He leads it, gets special torture routines because of his stubbornness and known leadership.... His leg goes bad and the NVA use it against him, trying to break his resolve in the resistance gimmick.... They cut off his leg and still he defies them....

That kind of hardness in the face of the enemy, as well as his devotion to The Code and his fellow service members could get him the Navy Cross upon rescue/release.....

Hmmmm, think Im gonna write a book................
Thanks Les!

I really like that idea! I'll use it for "Merchant" in fact.

Thanks again.

Well Les I better start writing, and thanks for your all the help. And a final thought, how do I write citations, because at the end of "Merchant" (that is it's name now) I'm writing up his citations for the Distinguished Flying Cross, a Silver Star, a Purple Heart, Navy Cross (for service rendered during time as a POW and for upholding The Code) and promotion to Captain.

Thanks heaps!

Hi all!

I am halfway through chapter one "Duel" (because Merchant's F-4B's call sign is DUEL), about when he scores his fourth and fifth MiG kills, then he becomes a POW, at Camp 736, northeast of Hanoi. Any way, can you lot can help me out with writing citations for a Distinguished Flying Cross, a
Silver Star, the Purple Heart and the Navy Cross for him?


Do a google search for medal citations. There are several on the web, mostly for MOH recipients, but there are others that give you an example of the verbage used for medal citations.

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