Support Troops – Bill Monger
By Mike Kent
The Vietnam War touched Bill Monger’s life nearly every day in 1968. Though he was hundreds of miles from the war zone, his bed would rattle when fighter jets took off and landed from the flight line. He would make a mad dash to help fix the battle-scarred jets when they returned from combat. He would count the flight formations that took off in groups of four and pray they didn’t return as a group of three. He didn’t want to think that one of these pilots was shot down on the mission.
Monger chronicles his life supporting the pilots in a recently published book, Support Troops: Behind The Scenes Of The Air War In Vietnam.
This book recognizes that for every soldier on the front edge of the combat spear, there are thousands of people that support the combatants. “One of the motivations in writing this book was to honor those who served during the Vietnam War,” says Monger. “Especially those who served in non-combat roles. I want to emphasize that just because you never got shot at doesn’t mean you didn’t serve honorably, with pride.”
Monger’s service in support of the War effort started just before Christmas in 1967. He left his new wife and headed halfway around the globe to Takhli, Thailand. He would be gone for nearly a year. There he worked on a wide array of equipment on F-105 fighter jets. It was his job to make sure the equipment was working properly and, if not, swap out the broken parts.
He and other crew members slipped into a life that almost became mundane. They worked regular hours and had luxuries such as regular meals, time off, and even a base swimming pool. Yet, they worked through blistering heat and kept working through the monsoon season. He says the crews developed a camaraderie that was nearly impossible to duplicate anywhere other than in support of a war effort. Monger says they never lost focus on the importance of supporting the pilots on their missions. “I tried to imagine these guys taking off every day,” says Monger. “They were going 600 miles every day into targets with some of the most heavily guarded real estate in the world. They would have about 30-minutes of adrenaline rush (during the bombing run.) It’s tough for someone who’s never done it to comprehend it.”
The year Monger joined the war effort included one of the most momentous periods in US history. During that time, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were killed. The Detroit riots erupted, and chaos surrounded the Democratic National Convention. In Thailand, he was buffered from the tumultuous period and the growing outcry against the war. “When I got back, my wife and family told me what it was really like in that year I was gone,” says Monger. “It was hard to comprehend.”
With the war now 50-years into his rearview mirror, Monger views the war as a complete mistake. “The war was an absolute blunder. It served no purpose. 58,000 American lives were lost for no good reason.”
Yet Monger remains proud of the effort he gave along with others who served in supporting roles. “It was not a mistake in any way, shape, or form,” Monger speaks with pride about his enlistment in the Air Force. “The specific action I was involved in was a mistake. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t fully committed to doing my job. I was very proud of it and don’t regret it in any way.”
To purchase his book, click here –> Support the Troops