15 February, 2016

Profile 117: FINISHED - "The Rose Garden" F-4

Amusing anecdote time!

Have a look at the F-4 above; it's a B-model that flew close-air-support for the Marines during the Vietnam War.

A few of the details are worth noting—for one, it's a VMFA-115 plane. The stylized "silver eagle" on the tail illustrates just one of the squadron's unusually diverse variations in markings. For two, the nose is a tri-color, incorporating the black anti-glare panel, white underbelly and gray sides (usually it's all-white or all-black).

But, the third detail is hard to read and I'm not referring to the blurred-out the name of the crew. For now, the pilot's name and record will remain incognito. Instead, see if you can read the last-line of copy. I'll spare you the squinting: it reads, "The Rose Garden, Nam Phong, Thailand, 1972-1973."
Though I'd heard of Nam Phong, I'd never heard of any place in SEA with such a lovely name.

“What’s that about?” I asked the pilot.

“Ever hear of Lynn Anderson’s song, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden?”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Truthfully, I was all-to-familiar with the song. The only thing I loath more than "Country" is the phenomena called Earworm. Growing up in the Dakotas, and being that Lynn Anderson was a native daughter, I'd been infected at birth.

"You've got to hear it!" he exclaimed. Whoosh! In the glory of the internet, I got an email; he gifted me the Earworm song.

And now, I gift it to you.

Great. Just great. It'll take me three more weeks to clean the thing out of my head. But in this case, that's part of the point. While the Air Force had, "Hot and cold running girls and beer" at their bases, the Marines had something more "earthy."

He also sent a picture.
From the VMFA-115 "Cruise Book."  I am sure the photographers are known to someone
and if you know who, I'd love to give credit.
“That was your base?! It sure doesn't look like any of the bases I'd seen before!”

Bear in mind, of the little I know about the aerial portion of the Vietnam War, 70% of it has to do with Air Force (as opposed to Navy, Marine, Army or NVAF ops).

“Yeah. We had tents and C-rats*. The Air Force guys in Udorn** had air conditioning and nice restaurants."

In a pathetic effort to relate, I tried to find common ground.  "It looks like a lousy Boy Scout camp."

"Naw. It's a Marine thing; more bang for the buck. You know the old adage, ''we never promised you a rose garden!" 

It must be a "Marine Thing" as they made it part of their recruiting efforts, too.

You know, the Air Force guys have probably long- forgot their cold beer and cool dorms but to the Marines who flew from the grime-crusted, bug filled and mildew-scented tents of their “Rose Garden” base, the humble circumstances are a proud memory. 

From photographer and Rose Garden alumnus,  Robert D. Young.
He let me know that at one time, he had many more photos of the place but the heat and humidity got to them.  Thankfully, he didn't let the discouragement get to him; he's still taking pictures.
*About those "C-rats."  The photo below is from a Marine airman circa 1967.  Based on what I've learned from other Marines, I'd guess they hadn't changed in 1972.

Photo Paul Mashburn, via Wikipedia

**Udorn was a well-used USAF base during the war.  Click here.