Anthony W. Pahl

HISTORY REPORT

A fellow member of the Yahoo Club, “The Veteran,” received the following request by email and subsequently posted it to the club with a request to assist if possible. I took up the challenge and decided to keep a record of it. From this and other similar requests, Larry Stimeling from Morton, Illinois, founded the Yahoo Club “Nam Vets’ Answer Questions

Subject: Questions for a Student History Report

Hello, I am doing a report on Vietnam and I was wondering if you would please answer the following questions and send the answers to XXXXXX@hotmail.com

  1. Who are you?
  2. When were you in Vietnam?
  3. What job did you do when you were in Vietnam?
  4. Where were you stationed?
  5. What experience left the strongest impression on you?
  6. Was there anything that you enjoyed while you were in Vietnam?
  7. What feelings did you have about the Vietnamese people while you were in Vietnam?
  8. How did you feel about the war before you went?
  9. Did these feelings change after you returned?
  10. How do you feel about the war now?

The following are my responses:

The Veteran, a Yahoo Club to which I belong, had your email posted with a request from one of the members to assist you if possible. I have taken up that challenge and will do my best to provide you with accurate answers.

  1. I am an Australian, 50 years old, married with 2 adult daughters and 1 grandson. My name is Anthony W. Pahl. I live in Melbourne, the Capital City of the state of Victoria in Australia.
  2. My tour of duty was 4 June 1969 to 5 June 1970 inclusive – 1 year and 1 day (but I wasn’t counting).
  3. For the first 6 weeks, I was an Airfield Defence Guard, guarding and patrolling the perimeter of the airfield. I applied for, and was accepted to the position of helicopter gunner with Number 9 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, subsequently flying over 600 hours.
  4. I was stationed in Vung Tau with the RAAF but we flew out of Nui Dat which was the location of the Australian Task Force Headquarters. We spent our days flying out of Nui Dat but returned to Vung Tau every night. (Emergency night flights such as medevacs were made from Vung Tau)
  5. I cannot describe one at this time – there were so many and my health is such that trying to do so would be seriously detrimental. My IWVPA index includes many graphic poems and stories from which you could choose. Perhaps the poem that describes the most vivid memory is titled “Bill”.
  6. YES – the comradeship, the sense of worth and the feeling of doing something worthwhile. In a less ethereal sense, I loved seeing the country from the air – it was the most vivid green I have ever seen, and when it rained nearly every afternoon at 1600 hours – there was an unimaginable sense of freshness that lingered for some minutes. It seemed to wash away the horror of reality for a brief time.
  7. I found that I developed a sense of ambivalence towards them. I mean that I mistrusted them all and took that for granted and completely normal. To do otherwise was to open a mental crack which may have lead to death; my mates, mine or theirs.
  8. Please read “An Ode for ‘Mother’” that was my first poem written in 1988, and the first several verses tell better than I could attempt to do now, what my feelings were.
  9. They certainly did – but not immediately (can you imagine the consequences that changing my opinion would have had on me in regards to the people I killed and saw killed). The greatest immediate effect was caused at the hands of my fellow countrymen who accused, abused, confused and then refused to acknowledge my patriotism, honour and sacrifice. The medium term effect was to deny (by not telling anyone, even myself) of my involvement. The long term effect is still being experienced – that of what is termed by Psychiatrists as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – and if you want some idea of what that is, read my poem, “Papa Tango Sierra Delta”. It has caused me to spend an aggregate of more than 4 years out of the last 7 years in psychiatric hospitals. Read my work and judge if I’m mad or just plain human.
  10. I prefer for it to have never happened, but since it did – I am PROUD of my participation. I can look in the mirror every morning as I shave and say – you did good mate! History will, in my opinion, prove that our sacrifice was worthwhile – but that cannot happen while there are any Vietnam Veterans (from either side) still alive: complete acknowledgement would open the door for too much political and cultural backlash throughout the world. But that is my opinion, and I am biased. After all – I am a Vietnam Veteran.

Hopefully, the foregoing will assist you in your report. I would be interested to have the opportunity of reading it after you have finished.
All the best

Author’s Note: Some of the personal information provided has been overtaken by time and circumstance, but the responses regarding Vietnam and my service remain as valid today as when they were written.

Anthony W. Pahl
June 21, 2009