The Joker!

by: Kenneth Taylor
US Army paratrooper
Vietnam, 1966
© 2000


In July 1966, I found myself in a place called Tuy Hoa on a wonderful white sand beach waiting for soldiers from my newly assigned unit to return from the field.  All the months of training to qualify as a US Army paratrooper lead to my arrival with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam.  I was proud to be among the best soldiers in the world but uncertain about what the
future held.

To add to my anxiety a rumor started going around about a helicopter pilot ending his tour and was returning to "The World".  A pilot called "The Joker" was so effective that the soldiers felt more at risk after his departure.  As time past, I too survived my tour of duty and returned home to college and back to working for the military.  It is the only place I could feel comfortable.

During hunting season one year, I spent a lot of time in the woods with no luck at harvesting a deer.  The husband of one of the employees I worked with invited me to hunt on his ranch.  Here in Texas the ranchers charge money to hunt on their land and I
didn't know if I could afford it.  I was told that I could expect a good price (turned out to be free).  As we sat in the deer stand he asked about my military experience and I told him the unit I was with in Vietnam.  To my surprise, he said he had been in the 101st too.  He flew Cobra helicopters. His call sign was "The Joker".

I found myself sitting next to one of the brave-special people who go about their normal lives without anyone knowing who they are.  It's hard to appreciate a person who has been shot down five times in the same day, and just gets another helicopter.  I asked why there was such a stink when he left.  His commander wanted him to fly one more mission.   That mission was the night before he had to be on a flight home. The only way they could get him to his flight on time was to fly him to the air base in an F4 Phantom Jet fighter.

Kenneth B. Taylor
Fort Hood, Texas

Report a Broken Link / Photo (tell me where!), or eMail a Comment
© 1995-2023. All Rights Reserved.