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War Stories

Whacky The Barmaid - 1970

Wayne Hooper, Tom "Sam" Dooling and Eric Brethen


Wayne Hooper: "Ahh, Hoopney from Miami"

Whacky was the barmaid up in Tay Ninh. Being an FNG, I was flying front seat for Sam Dooling and we had some down time there so off to the bar we go.

The small bar wasn't crowded, maybe a half a dozen or better guys were in the bar drinking at the time. Sam and I take a seat at the bar and he introduced me to Whacky, a small girl with a big smile saying, "this is Hooper from Miami" and she comes back with "ahh Hoopney from Miami" while the laughter spread thru the bar.

For some the name stuck. After Sam and I had downed a few drinks, Whacky quickly ducked down behind the bar disappearing listening for incoming rounds. We do remember Tay Ninh's nickname don't we? "Rocket City".

When she reappeared the laughter started; as she was well known for causing. I think it was the "Goat" (Brethen) that I heard say "Whacky Loves Rockets" which evolved into "Whacky Woves Wockets".


Tom Dooling: We took her up in an LOH

For virtually 3 or 4 months in middle-to-late 1969, I was one of two night-qualified gun team leaders (CPT Bill Malinovsky the Gun Plt Leader was the other). D Troop had first-up gun missions for both Cu Chi and Tay Ninh every night, so Bill and I would switch back and forth. Every other day I was at Tay Ninh flying VR missions during the day and doing gun team standby overnight. There were generally two Scout Teams assigned to Tay Ninh – Loach and Cobra – and at the end of the day, the Loaches went back to Cu Chi and the Cobras became the night first up gun team.

Since we didn’t really have a “home” at Tay Ninh, we ended up spending our days in the “O” Club located conveniently between the TOC and the ready pad, about 100 meters from the TOC. It was air conditioned and quiet, and the Scout enlisted crews were welcome, so it wasn’t a bad deal. We did spend a lot of time flying, but we also spent a lot of time at the club.

The bartender at the club was a young Vietnamese lady named Whacky (I’m pretty sure that wasn’t her real name 😁 - never did learn her real name) and she was a very fun person to hang with – she kept us amused much of the time. She spoke very good English, and like most Vietnamese women, she was very small and slender. Had a very classic Vietnamese face. She lived in the town outside of the base and as far as I could tell, she worked seven days a week, from morning until the bar closed at 10 PM. She was also the person who gave Wayne Hooper his official D Troop nickname – ‘Hoopney’.

One day we were having a pretty slow day and Eric Brethen was my Loach pilot on the team. Whacky was teasing us about how she needed to learn more about our helicopters so she could report to her VC boyfriend. Eric and I (always up for fun and games) decided to call her bluff – we took her out to the ready pad and gave her a tour of the Loach. The teasing continued at the pad, and Whacky said she had never flown, so being the chivalrous guys that we were, we literally pick her up and strapped her into the front left seat of the Loach. I retrieved my helmet from the Cobra and took the Crew Chief position (this aircraft had the minigun on a swivel installed at the CE position) and off we went on a “test flight” – at least that’s what we told the TOC.

We went West over to the river area just a couple of klicks from the base and flew up the river for a couple of miles. For the first part of the ride, Whacky was a little freaked out, but she finally settled down and started enjoying it. We showed her the village where she lived and the jungle and river to the West.

Wanting Whacky to have the full experience, I test fired the minigun into the river for a short burst. Unfortunately, that pretty much did it for Whacky – she was not having fun anymore so we took her back. She settled down once we got her back to the “O” Club, but was not really happy with us for the next couple of hours. She finally loosened up and started joking with us, and Eric and I became two of her favorite customers after that.

During the days, the “O” Club was virtually deserted and we had it to ourselves. But in the evening, it would fill up with a pretty good crowd of officers – everything from 2LTs to LTCs. I remember one evening when WO1 Ken “Strange” Strand (my wingman for the night) had returned from the dusk patrol around the base, and he and his pilot marched very briskly into the crowded bar, slamming the main door open, and in his best command voice (and he had a pretty good one) shouted out “ATTENTION”, bringing everyone (except the Warrant Officers) immediately to their feet and position of attention. You could have heard a pin drop – at least until Strand shouted out “Carry On” to the group. He strode up to the bar and ordered a (soft) drink for himself and his pilot.

The flight crews had a pretty good laugh – not so much the RLOs in the bar – kept shooting daggers with their eyes toward the unruly flight crews over in our corner – mostly aimed at Strand.

As the “O” Club was our home away from home, during the evenings we hung out there until closing time and then went to our rather austere sleeping arrangements (empty hootch with cots next to the artillery compound – very restful, especially when the 8 inch howitzer was firing over the top of the hootch in the middle of the nights). Each blast from the gun would literally raise the sheet metal roof and rain a cloud of dust on us. If there were rats running in the rafters (a common occurrence), likely as not, the blast from the gun would knock some of them off the rafters and if you were lucky, they would not land on your bed.



Eric Brethen: “Baby San you beaucoup dap.."

God I miss those days, Whacky was a great ambassador for the Vietnamese people in my world. So was Mama San who took care of my hootch and laundry. She would pinch my cheek and smile with her gold capped teeth and say “Baby San you beaucoup dap, very handsome.” For a frequently homesick guy of 19 to 21 it was like being home.

I have always worried about what happened to the people who I came in personal contact with who humanized the Vietnamese people for me. Whacky often joked about being VC and who knows? She was also a personality that brought a lot of fun to a bunch of guys in a rather hazardous line of work.