‘Air America’ and what the movie got right

When I was in Vietnam in the 1st Infantry Division, we were spread out in three different locations and we moved around a lot.

Therefore, my combat support work was to refuel helicopters, I flew a lot to different places, mainly places where the French had rubber plantations, because the big plantations had small airstrips.

Once I was in a remote place, now that time has erased my memory, I can’t remember where or what I was doing there. But here was this little transport plane loading Vietnamese onto the plane, maybe 15 or 20. The plane was marked Air America. At the time, I had never heard of it.

Both pilots were Americans dressed in civilian clothes. I went to them to ask who they were and what they were doing, all I got were smart answers – period. Later I found out that Air America was the CIA.

In fact, there was a movie, Mel Gibson, about Air America and in the movie, the pilots were smart guys too, just like what I had encountered.

The movie was exactly right about the depiction of the pilots. Just like the CIA, the operation was clandestine and I never knew what, why or where.

Roger Gregory is a Vietnam veteran and business owner in Priest River.

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