One in a million. That phrase comes to mind thinking about those two items re-united in my collection.
This phrase “one in a million” reminds me of a TV show I saw about 25 years ago, in England, when they broadcasted a report about an Australian Nam Vet who returned to Vietnam where he had fought and happened to find one of his missing dog tag. A lost dog tag and a part of his life he clearly remembered.
Those two items arrived in my collection separately. The cap was found first, 11 years ago. I was very glad to add it to my 1st SOS collection. Those are virtually impossible to get. I am a great fan of the Skyraider, the 1st SOS, and Nakhon Phanom. It is a beauty, local made, with the Hobo character on the back. I was delighted. Further researches brought more.
Last year, I saw the suit on a Facebook group. It is in pristine condition, with a spectacular 1st Special Operations Squadron patch on the front. Local embroideries are typical of the tailor shops that were available at the exit gate, just across the road during the war. The name rang a bell. And for a good reason since I had written about the man several months before.
On 30 September 1971, 46 years ago, the original owner of the cap (Capt. Halton R. “Ramsey” Vincent) and the original owner of the suit (1st Lt. George W. Kamenicky) took off from Nakhon Phanom RTAFB, a few miles from the Laotian border. Their Skyraider (A-1E S/N #52-135187) was heavily laden with bombs, as they were heading for the Plain of Jars.
For those you flew from that place dubbed “the End of the World,” the landscape was ravishing. Beautiful lights, rice paddies, the quiet city of Nakhon Phanom, the powerful River Mekong and on the other bank the intense green of the jungle and karst mountains just pass the small town of Thakhek. At the end of the journey, the infamous Plain of Jars, a plateau equally beautiful with pine trees, antic jars left by a civilization vanished long ago in Xieng Khouang Province. Yet a highly disputed territory where the North Vietnamese, the Pathet Lao on one side, and the Royal Laotian Army (including the Hmong) and the US Air Force on the other side were fighting day after day, season after season to control that area.
Lt. Kamenicky was near the end of his tour, about to come back to the USA. He had almost spent a year at NKP. Since he had experience, he had been chosen to advise Capt. Vincent who was a new comer. This mission on the Plain of Jars was his first mission. And would be the last of the crew. As they reached the PDJ, the Skyraider started a 20-degree dive on a target at the southeastern edge of the area and took hit by small arms fire. The A-1E crashed before either of the crew could eject.
As collectors, we all have favorite items. Like I said, it was very unlikely that the cap and the suit would be together again. One in a million.
This cap and this suit are among those special items I am much honored to keep. Special items about that long war, special items about the Skyraider community, and special items about two men who took part into History. And also special since I have had the opportunity to fly to and from NKP on several occasions, and travelled to the Plain of Jars twice. May they rest in peace.