By Jim Morris
Sometime in 1975 I read a piece in the local paper that some guy in Boulder CO had started a trade journal for mercenaries. That struck me as one of the nuttier ideas I had ever encountered, but on the other hand they might be interested in Vietnam stuff that I hadn’t been able to sell anywhere. Before my last Vietnam tour I had sold a couple of military pieces to Esquire, but times had changed and to achieve publication about Vietnam in a mainstream publication in 1975 it had to be subtitled mea culpa.
So, I called this guy, whose name, as it turned out, was LTC Bob Brown, and who it also turned out had been a captain in the 5th SFGA in Vietnam. When I told him I had a cardboard box full of stuff I had written about SF in Vietnam, he said he was going to reserve summer camp and he’d swing by and look at it. Why not? It was only 500 miles out of his way.He stayed for dinner. My lady at the time was nonplussed when he ate his salad with his hands. He took my cardboard box back to Boulder and promptly lost it. I had no carbons.
In the next few years I made four trips to Boulder for other reasons, but every time I tossed the SOF offices, and never found my box. Then, more than four years later, in Fayetteville AR, I got a postcard from Bob Poos, the new editor, a former Korean War Marine and AP bureau chief, accepting my article. I had no idea which article, but it was Operation Dumbo Drop, and SOF paid me $500 for it. Eventually they bought the whole box. The article was adapted from a term paper I had done in grad school on the three best stories I had covered as 5th Group Information Officer. It had taken me about two hours to write, and I thought $250 an hour was pretty good pay. Eventually it was made into a Disney movie, and I made about a quarter of a million for it. Not bad for two hours work, but then again it’s about seventy percent of all the money I’ve made in a fifty year career as a military journalist.
Next time I heard from SOF they wanted me to go to Beirut. I did, and wrote them a three-part series that was well received. So I moved to Boulder and started working for them full time. That’s when I got to know Bob. Every individual is unique, but Bob is more unique than most. I love the guy, but I think of him as the world’s oldest seventh grader. He has that boundless enthusiasm, and a knife in the teeth “Charge!” instinct that tends to put him in situations that most people would prefer to avoid, like sitting in an ambush position in the middle of the night in Rhodesia, or hosing down a Soviet camp in Afghanistan with a Dashika. During the time I knew him he made three trips to Afghanistan, getting in firefights with the Soviets every time. At one point he mounted his own insurgency in Laos.