More Wild Weasel. Fighter pilots have numerous silly ways of entertaining themselves when off duty, especially in a war zone. Many of these activities occurred in the stag bar of the offcers’ club. One tradition in the stag bar is that one does not wear a hat in the bar. There is always a bell over the bar, with a rope dangling from the clapper. If someone enters the bar with his hat on, the person closest to the bell rings the bell, and the unfortunate hat bearer then must buy a round of drinks for everyone in the bar!
Whenever someone completed his 100 missions alive, he would walk into the bar with his hat on and keep it on until he tired of buying drinks for everyone in the bar! Sam and I were happy to continue that tradition when we completed our tour, even though Sam was a non-alcohol drinking Morman.
At Takhli, someone started the practice of rolling for drinks, but this was not your usual dice game. “Rolling for drinks” there was different. Here, the participants lined up facing the bar from about four paces back. When the bartender called, “go,” all participants completed a forward roll toward the bar bringing their boots down on the bar rail. The owner of the last boot hitting the rail must buy a round for all the participants!
There was always liar’s dice. In this game the loser again bought the drinks.
Another practice was that of removing an offending officer’s “gooney bird survival kit.” The “kit” was the survival knife pocket sewn on the inner thigh of the flight suits. Since fighter pilots wore “g” suits with their own knife pocket over the flight suit, the knife pocket on the flight suit was never used. Any time a crew member came into the stag bar with the survival knife pocket intact on his flight suit, the first person to see him shouted, “gooney bird survival kit!” All others in the room grabbed the man with his “kit” still intact and held him until someone grabbed the knife pocket and physically tore the pocket off! This was expected, and the guy losing his “survival kit” usually laughed with the rest of them.
One exception turned out to be Major Dale Latham of our squadron. Dale had completed nearly 90 missions, I think, and considered his “gooney bird survival kit” a good luck charm that had gotten him safely this far through his combat tour. When somebody noticed his “kit,” we all grabbed Dale and tore his “kit” pocket off. He was really ticked off, because he knew he was going to be shot down before his “100!” I felt bad for Dale, but I was relieved when he did complete his 100th mission!
Another initiation rite was the “over the shoulder bombing” test. One of the F-105 tactics for employing a nuclear weapon was the over the shoulder maneuver, where the pilot screamed toward his target at low level, and then pulled up at a 45-degree angle climb, released the bomb, and then completed a vertical loop and swooped down to low level and exited the target area in the opposite direction from whence he had come. In the bar version, a newcomer to the unit was challenged to demonstrate his prowess at over the shoulder bombing. If he agreed, an empty glass was placed on the floor behind the new guy. The victim was given an ice cube which he put into his mouth. Two “helpers” then held him by the waist, allowing him to bend over backward until he was poised upside down over the empty glass with the ice cube in his mouth and told to “bomb” the glass (drop the ice cube). While the victim was upside down, concentrating on trying to spit the ice cube into the glass, a third “helper” poured a glass of beer down the victim’s now upside down pants leg!
While these, and other odd practices probably seem silly to those who have never been there, at the time, they seemed like fun things to do. They also helped relieve the tension.