One day a year or more before I had arrived at the “war effort” 7AFDITD had suddenly been required to provide a report comparing bridges destroyed and damaged by Navy aircraft to bridges destroyed and damaged by USAF aircraft. It was supposed to have been a onetime report.
Apparently once that sort of report had been produced it never went away. Ad hoc only meant, “starting point” in the Air Intelligence business. I had learned of this report after I had been in Saigon for a number of months. It had turned out that the toad-like Captain who sat at a desk immediately to my right had been responsible for creating this report each week. This Captain was an Academy graduate and the son of a General so he was thought very highly of. He was building his career on the Weekly Bridges Destroyed and Damaged Report. The very inter-service nature of the thing fairly reeked of significance all the way up the chain of command. Captain Toad – his real name was Bill - disappeared for the better part of the week each week in its preparation. None of us knew his source for the information, but as long as the report appeared each week no one in authority had cared.
I certainly hadn't cared.
But I should have.
I should have cared because Captain Toad, like everyone in Vietnam, had a DEROS. And his DEROS ultimately came. And he ultimately went away. And I didn’t –go away. And suddenly I was in charge of the Weekly Bridges Destroyed and Damaged Report. Apparently I was thought to have a future in the Air Force since I was replacing the well thought of Captain Toad.
No matter how hard I tried no one ever believed some of the things I said about that possibility – the chances of my having a career in the Air Force. They all just thought that I had a wry sense of humor.
I had gotten the good news on a Wednesday. The report was due on Saturday. “Who,” I asked, “supplies us this information?”
That information turned out to be classified in its own right.
I had nearly given up the quest, and was preparing myself for a general court martial for incompetence in the face of the enemy when I found a source who knew a source who knew THE SOURCE. THE SOURCE resided in the two-story air-conditioned 7AF HQ building that our hootch-with-a-fan crouched next to.
His name was Goldhammer.
I, of course, assumed this to be a code name since the nature of the information was of such high level interest.
It turned out the guy’s name really was Goldhammer.
And he was a really nice guy. Even being a major didn’t cause him to be an asshole.
He was one of those people who are just quietly competent without trying to make you feel bad about their competence in the face of your own obvious lack of competence. It took about ten minutes to get the information from him. Another hour and the report was being typed for distribution just as if Captain Toad were still in the “war effort”. I couldn’t help but wonder what he had been doing with the rest of his weeks after the seventy minutes necessary for gathering and preparing the Weekly Bridges Destroyed and Damaged Report had been expended. My initial plan to live for a year at the Officers’ Club had begun to have an aura of plausibility and I wondered if The Toad had also seen the utility of such an arrangement.
That possibility raised him significantly in my estimation.
But the good feeling surrounding my discovery of Goldhammer was short lived. Like Toad before him, he also had an imminent DEROS. For reasons I was initially unable to divine, he couldn’t tell me how he got the information he provided me.
Instead he told me a little story.
He had been on a brief Rest and Recreation-like assignment to Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu. The assignment was just that – an assignment. He was sent because of his position in 7AF (Saigon) intelligence. There was some sort of high level Air Force and Navy intelligence coordination necessary, and Goldhammer got to go and do it. The assignment was R&R-like because it was at Hickam in Honolulu. Somewhere during his coordinating he attended a briefing of Air Force only personnel, one of whom was a four star General. During the briefing the General had made the musing comment “I wonder how many of those bridges were destroyed by Navy aircraft?”
To understand what happened next – immediately after the General’s question – I need to indulge in a brief theological treatise.
The following is a brief explanation of the Triune God of Christianity. God the Father, the omni Being (omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, etc.) is, always has been, and always will be. As the ultimately intelligent of beings, self-awareness, is, always has been, and always will be one of His characteristics. That self-awareness, emanating as it does from an omni- being (-scient et al) is a separate being, and, of necessity, co-exists, has co-existed and will co-exist with its source. That co-existing being due to its source must of necessity be co-equal and therefore also be omni-. As these two beings have perceived, do perceive and will perceive one another over all time, pre-time and post-time, they have perceived, do perceive and will perceive perfection (one of the heretofore unlisted omnis). That perception of each other also is, was and will be a being co-equal … and so on.
That construct had been a mainstay for discussion on slow days in Religion class during my four years in high school. I hadn’t expected any application of it in my real life unless someone on a quiz show had ever asked me to explain the triune god.
But at that moment in Saigon, evident in Goldhammer’s story was a practical real world application.
Four star generals are omni beings. All they need to do is to conceive of something and of necessity it becomes fact. And once having become fact those recently conceived things were, always had been and always would be. Utility had no part in what occurred in the “war effort”. It all had to do with the omni emanations from all the omni four starred beings.
Even the number of three star generals, two star generals, one star generals, full colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors, captains, first and second lieutenants and untold hoards of enlisted men could be traced directly to this prime source: four star generals.
Even the number and nature of the infinite number and variety of reports, all apparently with no meaning, could be traced to this prime source.
Eisenhower and Bradley, at that moment, assumed a level of status enveloped in blinding light. They had been, after all, five star generals.
It was a beautifully symmetrical system once one had perceived it.
And that was the story of the Bridges Destroyed and Damaged by Navy Aircraft Report.
Goldhammer had been present at its creation and had been assigned responsibility for its continued existence. Its existence through all previous time was assumed and accepted as implicit due to its source.
That source had been an omni. That source had been a four star general.
Goldhammer really didn’t have a source for the information.
A source really hadn’t been needed.
So I continued with the report. Each week I went away from my 7AFDITD fellows and disappeared for several hours. Then I came back and began the production of the weekly Bridges Destroyed and Damaged by Navy Aircraft Report. When they asked me from whom I got the information I said, “That information is still highly classified, as it was when I assumed responsibility for this crucial report.”
I was somewhat concerned about my ability to explain my presence in the bar at the Officers’ Club during those hours that I devoted to gathering the data for the weekly Bridges Destroyed and Damaged by Navy Aircraft Report.
But I was sure that I could if I ever had to.
And I never had to.