Running through the Jungle
My once-prized 1963 Stingray no longer has the appeal. Survival is all that matters!
January 1968 - I park the Stingray in my parent’s garage. That same day I step onto an airplane on the way to Viet Nam. I take with me an album of my racing photos. The aircraft lands in Saigon on the opening day of the Tet Offensive. I run off the plane with the entire plane’s passengers and crew as rockets and mortars explode around us on the taxi way. Welcome to the jungle! Except, the jungle is also now in the big city. "Paris of the Orient my ass!"
I frequently show my racing album to other soldiers as they talk of home and girls back home. I talk and day dream about auto racing.
My past thrills and excitement of racing and going fast are eventually replaced by immediate life and death hunting and being hunted. The days and nights become blurred. If there is no action in my area, I volunteer for missions to keep the adrenalin pumping. I study martial arts religiously. I become an expert at weapons, small arms and stealth, new and ancient. My mind and body tingle with electrical energy. I now sleep with one eye open. I have my twentieth birthday in a land far away from my family and loved ones.
Dave unwinding after rescue with team members Pleiku Viet Nam 1969
Photo from Dave Lambdin Collection
1969 - Pleiku, Viet Nam air base. A major prolonged "Tet" attack by the North Vietnam Army on our position destroys my hooch living area. A direct hit from a Russian-made 122 mm rocket blows and burns my racing photo album to cinders. Suicide "sapper" bombers run amongst us and our aircraft, blowing all around them into unrecognizable pieces. After that, the insane world around me becomes a blur. Survival is all that matters. Elimination of all threats is at arm’s length.
1969 Pleiku VN AFB "Puff the Magic Dragon" raining Red Death on our attackers
Photo from David Lambdin Collection
I am returned to the USA via Air Force Medivac aircraft. My injuries hospitalize me for six months and leave me scarred for life.
1970 - Returning home, my once-prized 1963 Stingray now no longer has the appeal or rush it once gave me. Things that matter in life have been severely altered. I sell the Corvette and buy a fuel-efficient Chevrolet Corvair. I become a reclusive surfer, fisherman and martial arts practitioner living on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai.
1985 - Years later, my love for old cars and racing begins to surface. I once again watch NASCAR, Lemans, Sebring, and any other Grand Prix races on TV and keep up with Car and hot rod magazines. I begin to regret selling my 1963 race car. I have come to the conclusion this was one of the biggest (of many) mistakes I made in life.