John Glimis Pappas
West Point, 1966
Be Thou At Peace
Posted by Francis Doherty on March 16, 2015:
I arrived in Vietnam before John did, but didn't get to the 219th until early November of 1969, and met John and George Savani around this time. It was around now that John took an active part in the construction of a craps table in the "Doghouse". And he always won! From mid-November until late December I worked for a Special Forces black ops mission into Cambodia. In January I was moved to Kontum, where I met Chuck Slimowicz. I was assigned to Slim's platoon and worked for the Special Forces black ops mission into Both Cambodia and Laos. I did that until August, 1970. Arlie Deaton had me come back to Holloway for my last month in country, and assigned me to John's platoon. I went back to flying the Special Forces mission into Cambodia. One early morning John asked me to fly a two-ship mission with him. "We might get lucky". We found a very large part of an NVA battalion in the open. John was an absolute dervish, a whirlwind. Between the two of us we worked flights of two fighters all day. He got helicopter gunships on station and we worked the C-model Hueys in between sets of fighters. What stood out in my mind was the amazing metamorphosis of a cherubic, gentle looking guy into Wyatt Earp. In the chaos of the running firefight the CO of the helicopter unit appeared on scene and attempted to take over John's show. John was zipping around at about 100' above the ground and I was covering him at about 500'. The CO of the helicopter gunship outfit somehow got down around our altitude and we each almost ran into him. Next thing I hear is John yelling at the CO, probably a Lieutenant Colonel, telling him to get his f---ing ass out of the way. I was sure that when we got back to Holloway we would be doing a rug dance in front of Deaton's desk for that. Nothing was ever said. A few days later we were told that we were being put in for Silver Stars, but as far as I know the medals never materialized.
That night over more than a few shots of scotch I tried to put the day's events in perspective. Richie Kane and I sat up for a long time, but I wasn't any clearer on what happened to me, and the scotch fog didn't help. A few days later John asked me to go back out again to see if we could "get lucky again". And we did. All over again. This time about a reinforced company, in the open, and the same melee ensued. Except that the CO's helicopter never got anywhere near us. This time we were put up for DFC's but they never showed up either. It then occurred to me that your husband was a "bullet-magnet". Years later he called my house. My daughter answered and spoke to John. She told him that I wasn't home; I was flying a trip. He said to her, appropos of nothing, that "your father was a real gunslinger". She met me at the front door several days later and confronted me with the gunslinger label. I looked at her in disbelief. John Pappas called me a gunslinger? Look who's talking!
When Ken Griffey Jr. played for the Mariners there was a bullseye painted on the second deck railing in left field, and on the bullseye it said "Hit It Here, Junior". I swear to you that the first time I saw that sign I thought "Pappas should have had that painted on the side of his airplane".
As in anything there are high and low points. My year in Vietnam had it's share of low points; places and events to which I seldom go. But the high points, the times and events and people that made me smile are often revisited. Your husband brought a smile to my face and to my heart. I am so much a better man for having known him. John, like Arlie, brings out the best in those of us who were lucky to have been touched by him.
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