Above and Beyond: My Enemy, My Friend
Dan Cherry and Hong My met in the skies over North Vietnam in 1972, then again 36 years later.
- By Dan Cherry
- Air & Space magazine, May 2009
(Page 3 of 3)
Hong My then invited me to his home in Hanoi. I had already planned to fly to Hanoi the next day, so he changed his airline reservation to fly with me. With my former adversary by my side, we flew over the same countryside where I had flown so many combat missions.
After I checked into my hotel we walked to Hong My's home through the streets of Hanoi, passing the beautiful old French Opera House and dodging motor scooters. I was introduced to his son, Quan, his wife, Giang, and grandson, Duc, who was celebrating his first birthday. Hong My was holding Duc, and as I came close, the little boy reached out to me. And then, Hong My placed Duc in my arms. I couldn't help thinking that had things gone differently in the sky that day 36 years ago, Duc wouldn't have been here for me to hold.
After a wonderful Vietnamese dinner, Hong My offered to take me back to the hotel on his motor scooter. (Everyone in Vietnam has a scooter.) We zipped through the streets of Hanoi, the MiG pilot and the F-4 pilot, laughing, dodging traffic, and having a grand old time.
The next day, Hong My was my tour guide. We went to every museum, war memorial, and tourist attraction, including the "Hanoi Hilton." Hoa Lo Prison, now a museum, was built by the French at the turn of the century, when Vietnam was a French colony. Most of the exhibits are about the French imprisoning Vietnamese citizens who had fought for independence, but a few showed American POWs during their incarcerations.
Usually gregarious and outgoing, Hong My turned quiet and somber. As I studied photographs of American POWs, he whispered, "Did you have friends in here?" I pointed to a picture of Colonel John Flynn. "He is my friend." Hong My lowered his eyes and shook his head.
As we emerged, I was overwhelmed with sorrow. Hong My put his arm consolingly around my shoulder and patted me on the back. On the street in front of the infamous POW jail, my enemy had become a true friend.
Dan Cherry served with the U.S. Air Force for 29 years, during which he commanded the Eighth Tactical Fighter Wing and the Thunderbirds, and flew 295 combat missions during the Vietnam War. He retired with the rank of brigadier general. To purchase his just-published book, send a check for $25 to Aviation Heritage Park, My Enemy My Friend, P.O. Box 1526, Bowling Green, KY 42102-1526. Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on April 27.