Time of Remembrance – Gene Hamner
Interview with Gene Hamner as part of the Secret War Oral History Project.
00:00 – Introduction
00:44 – Clip 1: Gene recalls how he became involved in the Secret War, starting with his enlisting in Air Force’s flight training and actually requesting a FAC (Forward Air Controller) assignment.
02:29 – Clip 2: Tells of a major coming to his training program and telling the trainees about another possible assignment: the top secret Steve Canyon program
04:34 – Clip 3: Recounts that, at end of his training program, a major joined them and went out on a flight with the trainees over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
05:27 – Clip 4: Talks about getting a call three months later to join the Ravens. He reported to a Special Operations Wing.
06:17 – Clip 5: His background as a former smoke jumper for the U.S. Forest Service, skilled in reading topographic maps and spotting fires from a plane – exactly the skills needed for a Raven.
07:15 – Clip 6: Recalls heading to Vientiane, where you mingled with “French communist photographers,” Pathet Lao, and more, which was a surprise to him.
08:03 – Clip 7: Describes being assigned to Luong Prabang (LP), the ancient royal capital, near his “working area” of the Plain of Jars.
09:51 – Clip 8: Explains term “sheep-dipped,” a term for pilots who vanished from their former lives upon becoming Ravens, who now worked for the U.S. Embassy.
10:39 – Clip 9: Talks about the common occurrence of Ravens being shot down.
12:37 – Comments on reliable resources often being acquaintances not officers. It was a “very personal war.”
13:34 – Clip 11: Reflects on dedication and talent of FACs.
14:01 – Clip 12: Describes certain flight situations
18:24 – Clip 13: Elaborates on the role of TIC(Troops in Contact) and on a typical air strike.
19:33 – Clip 14: Recalls when an air strike went from smooth to bad when Mustang Blue was shot and had to bail. Describes Laotian helicopter pilot who flew up the Nam Ou River and, through all the crowd fire, rescues Mustang Blue.
22:44 – Clip 15: Describes beauty of Laos and his return trip in 2002.
23:24 – Clip 16: Discusses pluses and minuses in fighting in a “secret war,” starting with fact that 3 U.S. presidents had denied our involvement in Laos, yet we dropped more bombs in Laos than we dropped on Germany during WWII.
26:58 – Clip 17: Explains the messiness of how the Hmong were drawn into the conflict, stemming from their involvement with the French during their colonial past.
30:00 – Clip 18: Ends with his identifying information and secret war assignments.
31:10 – Credits