Crispy Critters
Mike Essig

My first posting in the USAF was at an air base in North Carolina, where they had in residence a squadron of F-4e “Phantom” fighter-bombers that had a long history in the Vietnam war.

We were the guys who gathered up the gun-camera cartridges when they returned from training runs, and processed the color film inside.

One of the features of working there was access to one of the most extensive collections of Vietnam war bomb-run film collections in the country; thousands of individual cans of 16mm color film, from cameras in the planes that had been aimed downwards both forward and aft during their actual bomb runs.

We had a small “review room” for the pilots when they wanted to watch their runs to help write their after-action reports. When we had the time, we were permitted to check out and view films from the archives.

There was no dramatic Hollywood musical score; no sound at all. That didn’t affect at all the surreal slow-motion calamity being portrayed in each short scene. What is shown today on the History channel is seriously the “G”-rated version…

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