The Great Banana Tree Massacre and the Proud American

submitted by: Alva Leon Matheson

After the cessation of hostilities, all the FACs in SEA (Rustics and Nails) were congregated at NKP. This was the fall of 1973 and two significant things happened: One...there was a fuel shortage, and Two...there was a problem with OV-10 nose gear, which necessitated their replacement. The result was around 150 FACs and Zotters airplanes... and no gas to fly them.
The result was...predictable...there was a surplus of testosterone... you could feel it in the air...trouble was brewing...big time.
As those of you who have been there will remember, NKP was adorned with a surplus of banana trees...they were everywhere...
At that time in life our Boss was Cinc Nail Howard Pierson (Howie to his friends and Boss or CINC to the rest of us!)
His boss was Charlie Woods...the Wing King. Charlie was, shall we say, tactically disadvantaged. He was an ex-ATC troop with the silly idea that the Nails, Jollys and the Knives (now there is a politically correct crowd!!) should adhere to peace time USAF ideals (I stress the term IDEALS). Routinely he had someone in his office in a brace (including yours truly!!) and the term Woods 15 was substituted for Article 15.
Cinc tried to diffuse the situation...but it was MUCH more of a challenge to control 150 FACs and Zotters in peacetime than when they were performing their jobs in combat (when it still was no walk in the park). They tried giving each of us an additional duty. Hell...there were 150 of was simply impossible...they ran out of jobs before they hit Captain!!
Our daily routine was to go to the club for breakfast, go to the Squadron, drink coffee, read the safety mags, go to TUOC, read the depressing Intel on Cambodia and South Vietnam....and , then... go to the “Beach” and catch rays. The point at which the “Beer Light” was lit depended on the boredom factor...but it was ALLWAYS before the Sun was over the the Philippines!
Oh yeah...the Great Banana Tree Massacre...It started on a quiet night at a Sawadee party in October. The Monthly Sawadee was a tradition started in the 60’s. Every month we gathered at the O’Club, and later at the Nail Hole to Welcome Newbies and to award The Order of the Brass Balls to departing aircrew members.
All wore their Black Party suits...and copious amounts of politically incorrect beverages were consumed...tales were told...legends were created, or confirmed...and a GREAT time was had by all.
Sometime around...too late...a seriously alcoholically impaired Nail went outside to pee. He was rudely assaulted by an arrogant Banana tree. He fell to the ground, and was heard to utter vile oaths about the parentage of said Banana Tree. He went to his room, removed the ceremonial Tai swords (we all had them) from his wall and returned to deal with the Tree in Question!!
Now...Banana trees beg to be cut off at the hilt! They are soft, and they give in easily. Said Nail returned to the area of the Nail Hole where he willfully assaulted the tree in question.
Shortly thereafter the Nail Hole emptied to watch said Nail “attempt” to vanquish his Banana tree. He swung with mighty blows and the tree remained fact sparks flew, and lit the night. It seems that the clump of Banana trees surrounded a green concrete light pole!
We realized the error of his ways...but he could not be deterred. Now, as the Whiskey Overconsumption light was Fully Illuminated, all the Nails went to their rooms, retrieved anything sharp and the Massacre was on!
The swarm of Black clad figures ravaged the base. We straggled back to the Nail Hole, dragging some of our victims, life was good...the Testosterone High Level Warning Light was dimmed! first light there were that NO...banana trees remaining that had not been KBN (Killed by Nails) or WBN(Wounded by Nails).
The Nails were impressed, the base was amused by our sophomoric behavior...however, comma, the Wing King was not. There was no plausible denial, the Apes (Air Police) had seen it all and had chosen to remain in the shadows.... good idea...150 very happy Nails WITH sharp implements should be avoided.
Cinc Nail was summoned to the throne room (big surprise eh what!) and was advised that there had better be a pile of Woods 15’s on the Wing King’s desk by sunset. Cinc demurred...but suggested that the Nails might re-forest the base. And thus it came to pass that the base was replanted... just in time for the next great adventure!
It really is a good thing that Nails were good gardeners...we really needed those Banana trees a couple of months later. It seems that there was an A1-H at NKP that was the Base display bird. First it was across the street from the TUOC (Intel) and then it was moved to across the street by the main gate for all to see. She was grand. All done up in War Paint with a full weapons load. Every guy I knew had his picture taken with that bird. We respected her proud heritage! Her name was “The Proud American”.
Then, one morning on the way to the Squadron, some bright lad noted that all the massive load of bombs, RX, CBU, and nape, had been removed from the “Proud American.”
She was NAKED!! Winchester even!!
The word leaked out that the Wing Commander had decided that it was not appropriate to have that Aircraft with all its war load on display as it was not politically correct now that “Peace” had broken out!! Or maybe they were just repainting her load...we liked the first version best!
That night, mutterings were heard in the Nail Hole, the Jolly Out House Inn, and the home of the Knives (they were so secret that they didn’t have a Hooch Bar that was named!). In the dark of night furtive figures could be seen...the whissh of swords cutting through immature banana trees could be heard...loud whispers were shushed. The Nails were afoot!
The sun rose the next morning and there she was, The Proud American, loaded wall to wall with high drags...well...if the truth be told... she was loaded wall to wall with HIGH DRAG BANANA TREES!!
The Wing King...was...apoplectic!! Gee... were we disturbed that he was apoplectic...
Cinc Nail was summoned, yet again...he might as well have pitched his tent in the Wing Kings Office...
No one claimed credit...but everyone knew... the Nails...
The “Proud American” was redressed by the munitions returned to normal...for a NKP in 73.
The Banana trees flourished...until the next time.