In 1854 England committed one of the worst military blunders in its history in the Crimean War. The ill-fated cavalry charge was memorialized by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his classic poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. I beg Lord T’s pardon this Memorial Weekend as I lean on his poetic genius to honor four F-100 pilots, representative of all the fighter pilots who did not come home from America’s ill-fated Vietnam venture, no less noble than the riders of the Light Brigade.  

Every day, every day, 
Every day airborne.
All o’er the valley of Death
   Flew F-100’s.
“Scramble the Huns!
Go save the grunts!” they said.
Into the valley of Death
  Flew the one-hundreds.

Was there a jock dismayed?
Sure, but feared not the fray.
Politicos blundered.
Theirs not to make reply, 
Theirs not to reason why, 
Theirs but to do or die. 
Into the valley of Death, 
   Flew the one-hundreds.

Guns to the right of them,
Guns to the left of them,
Guns in front of them,
Some with deadly effect.
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they flew and well, 
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Flew the one-hundreds.

Brought all their weapons to bear,
Flashed as they turned in the air.
Savaged the enemy there, 
While all the world wondered.
Viet Cong and allies
Reeled from the Sabres’ blows—
   Shattered and sundered.

Then they flew home, but not
Not all one-hundreds,
All that were left of them.
Lance, Larry, Lynn, Vince et al,
They that had fought so well,
Flew into the jaws of Death
   And into eternity. 

When can their glory fade?
O the brave fight they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honor their God-given grit,
Honor their virtue, so fit—
   Noble one-hundreds.

[Painting by my friend, Marine fighter pilot Ed “Mofak” Cathcart (Mofakdotcom) of F-100’s over Mu Gia Pass, the northern terminus of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, “The Deadliest Airspace in the History of Modern Air War” (YouTube). I’m responsible for some of those bomb craters, as are Vince and Larry, MIA, presumed KIA, awaiting Jesus’s return 75-100 miles south on The Trail from here.]

See also:

Still the Noblest Calling

The Wall Street Journal

May 24, 1996

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