Joe Scheimer, retired U.S. Air Force pilot, volunteered for Forward Air Control (FAC) assignment in Laos, currently living in the Sacramento area.
Note: To listen to a specific clip, move the slider on the video to the designated clip time listed below.
00:00 – Introduction
00:44 – Clip 1
Joe describes how he volunteered to be a pilot and wanted to fight in the Vietnam War. He wanted to be a fighter pilot but became a Forward Air Controller (FAC) in an 02 aircraft and went to Vietnam in October of 1970. He felt that Vietnam was too regulated with rules for pilots and he became disgruntled. He took advantage of an opportunity to join a special program (Steve Canyon). He was given a cover story and started working in Laos for the U.S. Embassy.
02:38 – Clip 2
Explains that the pilots had to give up their US Air Force Uniforms and ID because they were now working for the Embassy and State Department because Laos was officially neutral in the Vietnam War.
03:15 – Clip 3
Talks about how he replaced a pilot who was shot down over Pakse. Most of his missions were over the Bolaven Plateau with five other pilots. The focus of the mission was to cut off the supply lines on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
04:12 – Clip 4
Discusses a typical day. He had his own plane and Laotian co-pilot. They would fly up to the plateau to see if there were any new tracks that indicated new supplies. If they found supplies he would call in fighters or T28’s flown by Laotians who he described as “deadly accurate” and “awesome.”
06:24 – Clip 5
Explains that Pakse was a town on top of the Bolaven Plateau under the control of the North Vietnamese. Jim Lewis, a Green Beret (U.S. Army Special Forces) who was a battalion commander of a group of Thai soldiers, took back of control Pakse. Joe talks about landing his Bird Dog (Cessna O-1C spotter planes) on a dirt road near the town so that he could take a tour.
08:09 – Clip 6
Briefly discusses how the Ravens and Air America pilots didn’t usually interact – but they were closely bonded with their Backseater (Robin). Joe’s Backseater, Ponte, saved fellow pilot Lloyd Duncan’s life when he was shot down.
08:57 – Clip 7
Talks about his Backseater, Ponte, who he describes as a “great guy” who was always ready to fly.
09:23 – Clip 8
Explains that he was not allowed to tell anyone where he was and that Nixon and Kissinger denied the U.S. was in Laos. He further explains he was not in a U.S. military uniform but he was still paid by the Department of Justice and that his family did not know where he was.
09:57 – Clip 9
Responds to a question about mail – that mail was delivered and they were supplied through the Embassy, but they knew not to tell their families where they were.
10:59 – Clip 10
Describes how he had to bomb a small village, which he did not like to do, but there was a large amount of supplies being hidden there.
12:31 – Clip 11
Briefly discusses Laotian involvement in the war under General Vang Pao and how, after the war, Vang Pao and a small number of people were evacuated to the United States, but most of the people were placed in camps in Thailand, and it took many years for them to be evacuated to the United States.
14:13 – Clip 12
Talks about the “greatest generation” (World War II) and how they were supported by the United States but that the soldiers who returned from Vietnam were not supported and were treated badly for fighting in the Vietnam War.
16:06 – Clip 13
Explains that while in Laos they were allowed to go wherever they wanted. He tells the story of how he went to Tokyo to get a motorcycle, which he had taken apart, mailed to Thailand and re-welded together. Recalls riding – and racing – the motorcycle.
18:32 – Clip 14
Discusses the Special Operations he involved in and wishes that the U.S. would have done more about the situation in Laos.
19:01 – Credits
The below photos were provided to us by Joe Scheimer
We are very grateful to Joe for providing us with slides from fellow Raven, Craig Morrison’s collection (Craig passed away on April 21, 1995) to scan and include in our project.