14 December, 2013

Profile 83 - UPDATE: The MiGs of the North; "5018" as flown by Nguyen Hong My

Imagine a penny.

I know what probably came to mind—coppery, somewhat dingy and Abraham Lincoln’s profile.   And it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the 40-some percent of readers that come from elsewhere in the globe, imagined the same thing.  The American penny is ubiquitous.

But what of the back?  How many of us imagined that side?  Probably a smaller number.  And of those that imagined both sides of the penny at the same time? Minuscule, I bet. Yeah, yeah, the “History is like a coin because it has two-sides” phrase was minted long ago.  But that doesn’t mean it’s no less true.

Alright, pause for a moment and have a look at the MiG above.

The picture shows my progress-shot of a MiG-21 fighter that Hong My flew during the 1972 air war over Viet Nam.   Hong My was put into the spotlight a few years ago when General Dan Cherry wrote a pretty-cool book about how he shot Hong My down and later on, met him and became friends.  The book is called, “My Enemy, My Friend.”  Read it.  It’s good for you.  However…

One more time...I need to digress again.

So, Dan, upon learning of my trip to Viet Nam, suggested that I meet Hong My and helped get us introduced.  It was a supremely cool experience save for the vast language barrier.  Hong My knew about five times more English than I knew Vietnamese (I know how to say 'Hello,' 'Shrimp' and 'Beer'). In other words, the conversation quickly degenerated into my ridiculous attempts at pantomime and Hong My’s gracious patience. 

I felt utterly foolish and feared that I was wasting Dan’s endorsement and Hong My’s time. But toward the end of our “conversation,” I asked the question, somewhat absentmindedly, “You? Shoot down? Any of…us?”  I pointed at my heart.

Momentary silence...

His eyebrows raised, then lowered.  Then, in a quick gesture, he flicked his finger across his chest and stated firmly but quietly, “Yes.”

Boom. I understood.   And with the kind of clarity that transcends all language, all emotion, all logic.  I was sitting next to a real, bona fide, in-the-flesh, enemy.  Granted, an ex-enemy, but the first one at that I ever met who had not only fired at America in anger but had been victorious at it, too.

And I was in his town.  His country.  And I had just agreed to draw his MiG.  Not the one that Dan shot down, but the one that he used to shoot down Bob Mock and John Stiles, January 20, 1972.  In other words, “US.”

Ah yes.  The other side of the penny.

Have another look at the MiG.  We’ll see how far we can push this “My Enemy, My Friend” stuff in the next post.

And, I’d like to introduce you to John Stiles' RF-4, the airplane that wound up in  Hong My's missile-lock.

Stand by—Stiles is preparing to give his perspective on the matter...