Monday, May 25, 2015

V 5 N. 43 Interval Training in Hanoi

Yesterday we posted a list of men and women athletes who perished during wartime.  Some were in the service of their respective countries, some were innocent civilians, some were victims of ethnic cleansing.  This morning I received this piece by Jon Epperson, one of our regular readers commemorating men from the US Air Force Academy who were interned in North Viet Nam during our long conflict with that Southeast Asian nation.  Jon reminds us of the things that happen when people are imprisoned by their enemies.  Rarely do good things happen once a person becomes a prisoner of war.  The eye for an eye mentality of the human condition takes over, and the one who may have inflicted the suffering now becomes the victim.  It's something the powers that be forget to remind us of when they ask their citizens to go somewhere to fight for what is deemed right.  As you read through the article, you will see the track and field connection.

Today I also remember a friend, Dr. Giovanni Balletto,  who was interned as a civilian for 6 years by the British in WWII in Kenya.   He was a skilled mountain climber, and while in prison at the base of Mt. Kenya, he and two other alpinists scrounged food and made climbing gear, broke out of the prison and climbed Mt. Kenya and raised an Italian flag on one of its peaks.  Then having nowhere to go from there they broke back into their camp and turned themselves in.  It made one of their six years more memorable than the others, I'm sure.  That story can be read in the book  No Picnic on Mt. Kenya by Benuzzi.
Phil Neisler and George Brose
Pneumonia Downs, Norman, OK running repeat 220's

Jon's piece also reminds me of one of my teammates at the U. of Oklahoma,  David Phillip Neisler, from Ft. Smith, Arkansas who died on his first SE Asia mission with the Navy as an aircraft carrier pilot.  According to records, the catapault bridle on his plane separated prematurely as he was taking off and the Phantom F4D went into the ocean off Viet Nam.    Phil was trapped in the cockpit. The other crew member managed to eject and was rescued.    I remember seeing Phil on ROTC Tuesdays wearing his class A's on his way to drill.  A really handsome guy, and in my 20 years old naivete not realizing that uniform had already sealed his fate.

David Phillip Neisler

So here is Jon Epperson's salute to those men who served, survived, and to those who died.

Richard Mach (Western Michigan University ) sent this in after reading the above postings.

Geo -

Wrote this tiny piece for the celebration a year ago last October around the 50th anniversary of the back to back Div I team championships Western won in cross country.  The center piece is John Fer.  May have sent this to you earlier, but don't believe so.  He transferred from USC after at least 2 years there I recall and started all over again in the rigorous program @ the Academy so this guy was, like the Aussies often were who were coming over to compete in our nation's colleges, a few years older which did give them -- and him -- some advantage.  After the fall races, John won the NCAA 10,000 m race outright the following spring.
Here's what I prepared.


During this period in American history, we, as a country, were enmeshed in a far off war that soon enough invaded our living rooms every night on the news.  As athletes who competed against the service academies — all three - but especially the AFA, with which we traded venues each year in cross country and they were invited to the WMU indoor Relays in late winter, our trajectories intersected those of athletes who were going to go on to war after graduation.   One story especially is telling about the times then.  In 1962, Reid, Hancock, Bashaw, Green, Tom Martin myself and another flew into Denver the night before and spent a restless night at 6900 ft elevation @ the academy — our bone marrow trying desperately, on very short notice, to make much more hemoglobin.   The next morning coach warned us about the plebes, who were clustered at the start/finish line found @ midst of what proved to be a most daunting figure 8 four mile course, as to their not so polite inquires if we’d like an oxygen tank.  

At the gun, there on the Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Course nearly 7 grand above sea level, the race went downhill for the first mile running in the foothills away from the front range of the Rockies.  At the mile I was 7th or 8th in 4:2The leader was about 4:18, a then 25 yr old cadet named John Fer, who was the following spring to win the NCAA 10 K championship.  We circumnavigated the bottom of the “Eight” and proceeded uphill almost immediately along a tightly winding path about  250 m long through a forest of scrub pine. Upon exiting, Fer was gone.  Out of sight.  Never saw him again.  At the middle of the figure eight, the halfway point, a plebe -- seeing that I was — by then — nearly green — asked if I’d like a peanut butter sandwich.   Then it was another lung busting mile uphill toward the front range before the top of the eight and then that last mile downhill -- quads burning -- to the finish.   At the finish, Air Force’s #2 guy was 9th.  Score:  20 to 43. Next time I saw John Fer was 11 yrs later on television getting off a plane of POWs @ Clark Air Base  shot down over N. Vietnam 6 years earlier. And still a stanch defender of our country.   And of John McCain, his cell mate at the Hanoi Hilton

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V 9 N. 20 A New Record in the Women's Mile and a Book Review

I hope you were able to watch Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands set a new World Record in the women's mile in Monaco this past Friday.  ...