ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force
David Skilling was an Air Force pilot in Vietnam from the spring of 1968 to the spring of 1969.
I always wanted to fly since a young age and decided the Air Force was the way to do that. I was actually aiming for the airlines but once I got involved with Air Force service I was convinced to stay in for a full career.
He was part of a group of pilots who volunteered as a Forward Air Controller, a reconnaissance job that involved flying low to look for trucks and other supplies headed for South Vietnam.
The job was hazardous and resulted in a 30 percent casualty rate. It could also be frustrating.
It was a cat-and-mouse game trying to throttle the flow of supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. Now the trail was not one road of course. It was a labyrinth of roads and they were able to build new ones and change their routes and we were never fully successful in throttling their supplies.
He says after returning home the war was no longer the topic of discussion.
My wife and I made trips throughout the States, visiting our family before we were reassigned to a base in Arizona….I did not experience any backlash from having been in Vietnam. Of course people were getting tired of Vietnam by then.
In 2016 Skilling and 10 other pilots took part in a trip to Vietnam to meet their former adversaries.
Neither our pilots nor the Vietnamese pilots demonstrated any remaining animosity once we met each other, and there were many toasts to the growing friendship between our countries.