This eFLYER was developed in HTML for viewing with Microsoft Internet Explorer while connected to the Internet: View Online.
To ensure delivery to your inbox, please add to your address book or list of approved senders.
Barnstormers Logo

ISSUE 122 - June 2010
Over 8,000 Total Ads Listed
1,000+ NEW Ads Per Week

  Home     Browse All Classifieds     eFLYERs     Events     Testimonials     Post Ad     Search Ads  
BARNSTORMERS eFLYER... a collective effort of the aviation community.
YOUR photos, videos, comments, reports, stories, and more...
Click to Subscribe

By David Rose, Contributing Editor
San Diego, California

Events, which at the time seem so removed from our lives, will sometimes lead us to our most memorable encounters.

Such an event in my life occurred over North Vietnam early in 1965. Two North Vietnamese MIG fighters attacked a pair of returning F-105 Fighter Bombers. The incident caused a flurry in Washington as it highlighted increased involvement on the part of the North Vietnam Air Force in the air war.
The immediate reaction was to deploy air superiority fighters to provide top cover for the daily fighter bomber raids being conducted over North Vietnam.
First choice? F-104’s.
(Painting above by Don Feight at

At the time the Air Force operated roughly 300 F-104A’s and F-104C’s with the A’s being dedicated to Air Defense Command (ADC) as interceptors and the C’s being operated by the Tactical Air Command (TAC) in an air superiority and close air support role. The F-104C’s were stationed at George AFB in California and split into three squadrons which rotated as the Alpha Squadron, or immediate response unit, and my squadron, the 476th, which just happened to be Alpha Squadron at the time, was deployed to the DaNang Royal Vietnam Air Force Base 400 miles North of Saigon. Virtually days after the MIG activity which prompted the move, we found ourselves living in tents at the edge of DaNang’s single runway and flying two, four hour flights a day over North Vietnam keeping the MIG’s at bay.
DaNang would eventually become a sprawling base serving every type of fighting aircraft operating in the northern sectors, but very early in 1965 there was little activity there. The daily weather recy (weather reconnaissance flight) over North Vietnam was flown out of DaNang and there were close air support missions being flown by F-100’s stationed there. The base was also used as an emergency recovery field for strike aircraft returning from missions in the North but that was about the extent of DaNang’s daily activity. (Photo above: China Beach)

DaNang’s saving graces? Two things. One, we could go in to the seaside town of DaNang with it’s incredible miles of “China” beach and where a great floating French restaurant was still being operated by a pair of French ladies whom we assumed to be left over from the French Indochina war (Unfortunately, the restaurant, heavily frequented by the Americans, disappeared late one May night in a huge explosion which we all attributed to the Cong sending a message to the locals.)

DaNang’s second saving grace? The DaNang Officers Open Mess. The DOOM Club. There we could go day or night to find really good food and perhaps as importantly, a great bar where drinks were a quarter, except during happy hour when they were free. The cafeteria style dinning area had two inch thick Australian steaks laid out for us which we would take out on the patio and grill to perfection. After dinner, what was there to do but retire to the bar and drink for a while. The place closed down at midnight, leaving an early morning wake up for the first mission still at least a few hours away.

It was in the club one night that this sequence of events would bring me to one of my most memorable moments. The events of that evening are still with me and I recall that Ray Holt, Tom Delashaw, Harry Martinez, pilots from my squadron, and I had eaten dinner together and then proceeded to the bar. We shook the dice for who was to pay the dollar for four drinks, and having lost, I was the last to leave the bar. As I approach the crap table to which the others had migrated, I saw our squadron commander seated at a table with a woman.

Due to the fact DaNang was so far North, and that the DOOM Club had great food and free drinks, it often looked like the Star Wars bar, frequented by all manner of combatants from the surrounding areas. You found Marines from the chopper outfit across the base there, Special Forces types and MAG (Military Assistance Group) guys who flew with the Vietnamese. Even mercenary looking guys who fought with the Montagnard tribesmen would come down from the mountains for a good meal and a drink. With so diverse a bunch always present you expected the unusual, so I can be forgiven for not recognizing her at first.
She sat there in fatigues wearing the rank of Colonel on her lapels and a green beret over her disheveled hair. It wasn’t until my squadron commander asked if I’d like to sit down with he and Martha Raye that I recognized her, wide eyed, her grin spread all the way across her face and her hand outstretched to greet me.

Now in 1948 my Dad had been the first person on the block to buy a television set. That little twelve inch black and white screen opened my life up to ‘Lucky Pup with Foodini the magician’, Burr Tillstrom’s ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie, and ‘The Texaco Star Theater’ with Uncle Milty, who often had Miss Raye on as a guest singer/comedian and where I saw her for the first time. And here she was, only one of 5559 USO performances who eventually volunteered to come to South East Asia in support of the troops.

But Miss Raye was special among so many. She had been doing this for the troops since North Africa in the early 40's. She had made untold numbers of trips to war zones the world over. Where ever our troops were, she was there. And not just entertaining, but joining in the life of the troops and helping whenever and where ever she thought she would be a help. Tending the wounded, nursing casualties, changing dressings, loading medivac choppers, even washing cloths and cooking. Whatever and where ever, she was in there helping

There are countless stories of her up at the front lines, in harms way and refusing to leave when she thought she could help. She wore a Colonels uniform with the Special Forces green beret. She actually did hold some rank in the reserves, but it didn't matter, I suppose she should have worn five stars; she was so much larger than life you expected supreme rank.

I won't forget my chance to spend a little time with her. She was so engaging and personable; so outgoing and genuine; so funny and irreverent. I can't relate the conversation which followed; just that she was one of the most remarkable persons. She had given, and continued to give of herself in so many ways all her life. “Col. Maggie”, as the men of the Special Forces christened her when giving her their Green Beret, would return to Vietnam many times after that visit. She kept returning there for nine years and once spent six months 'in country'. She was seen in more "A" camps and jungle outposts than any general and boosted the moral of more troops in isolated areas than all the other entertainers combined. "At the front" she would say when refused access by well meaning officials "is where they need me the most". They would always relent and Miss Raye, dropping in by helicopter would get to visit even the secret SOG "Studies and Observations Group" Special Forces Recon Team bases. The Special Forces tell how once, when the unit she was with came 'under fire', she went into nurse mode helping the medical team and comforting the wounded.
They affectionately nicknamed her the "Meanest Mother in the Valley". “Col. Maggie”. She was an honorary member of the Special Forces from whom she received her Green Beret. There’s even a Special Forces Association Chapter (XXVII) named for her. The title of Lieutenant Colonel came from President Johnson himself. For fifty years our sons and fathers, mothers and daughters have delighted in the lift this woman gave them.
“Colonel Maggie” isn’t with us anymore or she would be in Iraq, or Afghanistan, or where ever our troops are in harms way and needing a lift. Martha Raye received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 and in honor of her service to the military a special exception was made allowing her to be buried in the military cemetery at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, among the military she so loved and served.
You'll find her on veterans web sites everywhere. Reward yourself and honor a gallant lady by visiting some of them and reading her full story.
By David Rose, Contributing Editor

Return to eFLYER

Visit - post an ad to be viewed by over 700,000 visitors per month.
Over 14 years bringing more online buyers and sellers together than any other aviation marketplace.
Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved.
UNSUBSCRIBE INSTRUCTIONS: If you no longer wish to receive this eFLYER, unsubscribe here or mail a written request to the attention of: eFLYER Editor BARNSTORMERS, INC. 312 West Fourth Street, Carson City, NV 89703. NOTE: If you registered for one or more hangar accounts on, you must opt out of all of them so the eFLYER mailings will be fully discontinued.