Anthony W. Pahl

The Thousand-Yard Eyes

THE THOUSAND-YARD EYES

Dear Toe-Knee,

Someone asked the history of that photo – if it was you or a friend, who took the photo etc, could you fill me in? I sent it to a couple of friends of mine and they were stunned by it and wondered. Hope you had a peaceful sleep.

Love
Chris

Dear Christina,

You asked about the 1,000-yard eyes.

While I was attached to the Army soon after arrival in Vietnam in 1969, we went out on an ambush patrol – June 1969. We left base around midday and were to stay out overnight in ambush and return the next day – all being well. For a lot of us, it was our first combat patrol as the unit was No I ARU (No 1 Australian Reinforcement Unit), a unit made up of new arrivals in country who were becoming acclimated to the heat and humidity, as well as the reality of the war.

Nothing happened at all during the night.

Except fear and the terror associated with all and every jungle sound. The lights from the fireflies danced like torches of a hundred people and despite the intellectual realization that the enemy were not likely to be carrying torches, our imagination told us that is exactly what it was. At about 0600 the next morning (ten years later), we broke and obscured the ambush site in preparation to return to base at Nui Dat. In the jungle humidity we were shivering and freezing. We saw shadows of the enemy where there were no enemy; we saw signs of movement through the killing zone where there were no signs; we saw out-of-place indications on the track where booby traps were placed, but there were no indications. We were tired and scared.

The relief at reaching Nui Dat was palpable; some of us even cried – some of us were 18 years young – I was 19 years old.

One young “ground pounder” who I had befriended, even though he was Army and I was Air Force, was 6 months younger than me and regarded me as his big brother. I had my first ever cigarette with him the day after that patrol – he was no longer 18 and I sure as hell was no longer 19. We were old, yet not old – young, yet not young. Ageless. His face was in the shadow of his Aussie Bush hat and a banana tree and his eyes are what I saw. I took his photo.

I have since cropped and enhanced the photo – but have never altered the eyes. The young bloke (I seem to recall his nick-name was “Macka”) is now deceased – apparently having been killed in a single car accident 17 days after his return to Australia. I saw him the day he left Vietnam – he was already dead.

That is the story of the photo – I have never fully told it before.

Hi Tony:

I can’t say how much I appreciate your sharing this story of Macka’s “eyes” with me. Old young men – what a contradiction and I hear that part so often. My dad came back and his eyes often looked like Macka’s especially when startled… he was in China, though. Often did not see another American or Englishman for weeks at a time… said he had times when he felt like he was going nuts – they say the eyes are the windows to the Soul. It appears to be so true. Thank you for trusting me with the story… I will take care of it.

Love,
Christina

Dear Chris

WOW!!! Thanks Chris, that was such a moving story – Tony drew me right in to their experiences… if you can pass along my regards, and thank him for me, I would appreciate it. I really did want to know the story behind that amazing photograph! Having heard the background now, it is even more chilling.

Thanks for asking Tony again, Chris

Love you,
Vicki

Hi Toe Knee

Doug, from my list, Safe Haven, is travelling the country, trying to do a documentary on Veterans – getting their stories. He asks here if he can use the 1000 yard Stare as part of the documentary – told him I would ask – I’ve known him for about 3 years on the net… intense and rather a loner – I suspect the “documentary” is a way of trying to heal some things for him.

Just let me know.
Chris

From Doug – about the Eyes photo for his class, that you said he could use… very intense fellow…

Chris

Wow, what email.

A loner and intense; nailed that down. I do think my goal, besides having fun, is to tape vets for other vets to see, maybe their families too. The heartache is in the cutting. A woman I correspond with, now that I have written her again, asks if I do anything in my life that is not Vietnam or war related. She is very supportive, and kind. I guess I’ve got to come out of the darkness if I am going to not be alone.

Tony, thanks, man: I will do my best.

Doug