submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

I became a Tilly FAC, Based at Binh Thuy, in February 1971. Our AO was in the lower and southwestern part of Cambodia and covered about 1/6th of the Country. We were a long way from home on most of our missions. We had 75 assigned to our FOL along with four Cambodians who rotated monthly. There were 35 pilots, 28 of whom were lieutenants. Many of them were flying night missions with just 500-800 hours of total flying time. I was really proud of them. I remember when I had that much time, I knew nothing.
One particular day in April or May of 1971 while at Binh Thuy, I was called by my Squadron Commander at Bien Hoa and told that I should be at a briefing taking place the next day at 7th AF Headquarters in Saigon. I told him that that would work out fine as I was flying an early mission and would recover at Tan Son Nhut. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss an Arclight strike along Highway 4 running through the Elephant Mountains southwest of Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The strike was intended to destroy Khmer Rouge positions which someone had identified along the Highway. Except for the NCOs running the viewgraphs, I, a major, was probably the lowest ranking guy there. There were generals and colonels galore from the US, Vietnamese, and Cambodian Armed Forces. Several of them had given presentations about how important the strike was. A Cambodian general by the name of Fernandez, who was all of five feet two inch- es tall, was chief among them. Unfortunately, it became clearer and clearer to me, as the briefing progressed, that they had the targets mislocated. With little trepidation, I finally spoke up. A USAF General asked me how I could be so certain. I told him I was Tilly 01, and that I had been there as recently as two hours ago. That immediately got everyone’s attention, particularly the attention of the Cambodian delegation. The General decided to take a recess and asked me to come forward to identify on the charts just where the Khmer positions were. When I got to the front of the room, I was surrounded by the Cambodians, including General Fernandez. In a very emotional display, they embraced me, shook my hand, and patted me on the back; all the while making comments which were so complimentary as to be embarrassing. My pride, particularly in the presence of all those senior US officers, was intense. When things settled down, we got the positions identified. The briefing concluded, and I flew back to Binh Thuy.
We had a briefing every evening at 1700 for all pilots and Intelligence Staff. At the meeting that day, I did my best to describe my reception by the Cambodians. I can’t remember what I said but I am sure that just as now, and anytime I have ever told this story, I was unable to deliver it without tears. As FACs, we were not always able to experience, first hand, how people felt about what we did for them. I’m glad I had this moment and was able to pass it on to my troops. It was an experience I will never forget.