Inspired by the experiences of Ron Toler

"Making Spirits Bright"

Holly S. Rauch
20″ x 24″ • Acrylics on canvas

Artist Statement

Last year, my story was about a soldier who wasn’t happy that a helicopter pilot played holiday music overhead, while the soldiers below were trying to put the holidays – and thoughts of being without loved ones – out of their minds. This year my story was told from the perspective of one of the pilots, who was excited to provide a little holiday joy to the troops below and in return, the soldiers lit up the sky with appreciation.
Facebook: HeartisanLove

Christmas Eve 1971

by Ron Toler

The O2-B was a twin engine Cessna, our particular version had 6 speakers on the side and 1800 pounds of radio gear inside. Our mission was PsyWar, to fly at 1500 feet and play taped messages in Vietnamese encouraging the enemy to come over to our side.
Christmas eve 1971 we had a different mission. In preparation, several members of the squadron spent the day creating new messages. I had volunteered to fly that night, so as dusk approached, the loadmaster and I checked the aircraft, loaded our new messages and prepared for our special mission.
A 24 hour cease fire was in place, so we were the only aircraft flying that evening and had plenty of freedom in our movements. When we took off after dark, our first stop was the Army base at Marble Mountain. Since we were in contact with the tower, we enlisted his help in optimizing the mission. We started at our standard 1500 feet and asked how it sounded. He said it was okay but could be better if we were lower. So we dropped to 1000 feet, he said better but would probably be better lower. So we dropped to 500 feet and he said it sounded great. We stayed at 500 feet and played Christmas carols for the troops at Marble Mountain and Da Nang Air Base. Then on to the hospital ship in the harbor, then on to the Army bases northwest and west of Da Nang where we had seen the Bob Hope show only days before.
While we were flying, the troops on the ground showed their support and appreciation by lighting the sky around us with flares and tracers giving us a festive light show before we all returned to our day to day missions.