Class Of 1964 USAF Academy

It 's A Small World

by Leroy Stutz

It’s a small world and I guess if you are in the Air Force it gets even smaller.

Thought I might pass along a few personal encounters that happened almost fifty years ago. Some of you may enjoy them.

It was 31 July 1966. Our squadron the 9th TRS, had deployed to Udorn RTAB, Thailand, arriving on the 30th. That morning the Ops officer from the 12th TRS was going to give us a briefing on combat ops flying from Udorn. As I walked in I saw that the briefing officer was someone I had known. It was Major William (Dave) Burroughs who had been one of my 4th Class English instructors. I went up, introduced myself and shook hands with him. He said at the time he remembered me. After the briefing he left to fly a combat mission (I think his 96th) and didn’t return.

Some months later, Feb of 1967, I was laying on my wooden bunk, feeling sorry for myself in cell #3 of the Star Dust (a part of the camp we called Little Vegas) having recently moved from the Zoo and before that from New Guy Village. I heard the keys rattle in the hallway outside my door and immediately thought oh god please, I don’t think I can handle it another time. Why don’t they get someone else?

My next thought was don’t think that way if they have you out there they can’t be working on someone else. The door opened and this tall guy, thin as hell, walked in. He put his bedroll down, stuck out his hand and said Dave Burroughs. His next words were, "I remember you, good student but didn’t always go along with the program. "

It came flooding back to me, we were to read a short story and then write a paper on what the author was trying to get across and why he had written it. The author was one of the very best at describing scenes with words. You were supposed to be able to almost see what he was writing about. I had gone to the library and done some research on the author. I found that he had been successful for a short while and then his writing didn’t sell and he was thinking of giving up writing. My paper was some sort of BS about how he had written this story in an effort to make money so he could contine his dream of writing a novel.

I also remembered what Burroughs had written on my paper when it was handed back.

Good story, well written, not the party line C+.

I got two more cellmates that night, both AF Lts. We only had the privilege of rooming with Major Burroughs for a few months but he was one of the best. He taught us a new word each day, gave us the meaning and how to use it. He also knew all of Shakespeare’s plays and would entertain us each evening with another act from one of the plays.

A few months later, I had now been moved to cell 8 in the Star Dust with new cellmates. The V had a propagada movie for us one evening. It was quite an undertaking, they would put posts in the ground, run ropes from post to post, gather our blankets and lay them over the ropes. Then each cell of POWs was taken out to a square with blankets on each side.

The idea was you were not supposed to see, talk or even know there were POWs on the other side of the blanket. A short time after my cell was seated a group of four were put right in front of us. I recognized three of the four from peeking through cracks, etc. But as they were standing right before sitting down I thought, boy I should know that guy (they had just got a new cellmate).

After they sat down I stuck my foot under the blanket and tapped on the butt of one of the guys. I tapped, using the POW tap code, who is your new roommate, did he teach at the AFA? He tapped back on my foot with his hand saying, his name is Ben Pollard and he taught aero at AFA.

I than tapped to him, tell him it’s his fault that I’m here. The guy tapped, what do you mean? I tapped back, tell him if he had given me the grade I deserved my junior year they would have kicked me out and I wouldn’t be here. He whispered what I had said to Ben and he turned around to look at me. That got him a rap on the side of his head.

Years later in 1971 I lived in one of the large cells in Camp Unity with Ben and about 45 others. While there Ben taught an aero course that I attended. It went for about an hour each night for about a month. He taught the course using only a piece of a brick as chalk and the concrete floor for a blackboard. At the end of the course I went up to him and said, I now understand how an airplane can stay in the air.

When I was a cadet all I wanted was to be able to pass the next test in your course, now I understand it. He and I were both on the Commandant’s staff at AFA after our return in 1973.

Over the years in NVN I had the privilege of living with or next door to some really great troops-they included.

Ron Bliss
Tom Browning
Guy Gruters
Kevin McManus
Tom McNish
Ed Mechenbier
Marty Neuens
Jim Shively-my BCT roommate
Don Spoon
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