Wrote Basel in his book: “I walk the streets and still grieve for them, and for those that did return, for all the others and for myself…. What was it all about? This magnificently orchestrated event that accomplished nothing. Casualties of this monstrous charade, we ask, For What?”
For others, the combat habit acquired in Thuds proved impossible to kick. No one was required to return to the unfriendly skies of Southeast Asia, but many did. Karl Richter flew his 100 missions out of Korat, then signed up for 100 more. Near the end of the second tour, he was killed on a run into PAK I. Several years after their first 100 missions, Rasimus, Cooper, and Guild also came back for another 100, this time in F-4 Phantoms.
Some returnees might have hoped to finish the thwarted work of Rolling Thunder. But most seem to have been drawn back to the metaphorical Balaclava by memories of the adrenaline rush, the camaraderie, the exhausting, exhilarating life spent on the edge, doing work only the brave can do.
At the same time, the Thud pilots understood that they risked everything to achieve results that were often questionable. It reminded Rasimus, who grew up in Chicago, of stealing hubcaps.
Long-time contributor Carl Posey writes from Alexandria, Virginia.