I have decided what the tone of my paper on Sky Pilot will focus on. I will base it around the general feeling of “What the h@#$ are we doing in Vietnam???” blended with the topic of the song — soldiers being bolstered in their faith to combat an evil, ultimately for nothing. As mentioned in my last post as I analyzed the song, the last phrase of the last verse detailed the dying soldier’s last thought – “Thou shalt not kill.” For me, that set the whole song off. Very powerful. However, I may divert in another direction – not too long – but long enough to cover the emotions of a soldier to paint a solid picture of this song’s depth and possible meaning.
I came across an interesting fact of how the song had a negative impact. The British government sent Eric Burdon an angry letter in reaction to the bagpipes playing during the segment full of the sounds of war. The bagpipes play “All the Bluebonnets Are Over the Border,” which is a Scottish anti-war song in and of itself. Burdon recorded the song being performed by Royal Scots Dragoon Guards’ pipers during a visit to them. I have yet to find a copy of the letter, so wish me luck on that. I hope to uncover why the government was upset about the pipes’ inclusion – obviously, it was not just because it was an anti-war song, but the pipes were playing one, too. We shall see.
Lastly, I want to interject an analysis of the main theme of this song, how the sky pilot blesses the soldiers and, assumingly, stays behind. I have a feeling that this part of the song does not quite emanate to us. It may more than likely speak so to a soldier who served in Vietnam. One man in particular felt how the song was more anti-chaplain than anti-war, in a sense. Here is what he says:
“As others have noted, a ‘Sky Pilot’ is a chaplain. I was an infantryman in Vietnam but a bit later than when this song came out. I would characterize it as not so much anti-war as anti-chaplain. The lyrics are painting the chaplain as someone who blesses the boys as they stand in line and sends THEM out to fight the war, while he smugly feels good about what he has done for them and then STAYS BEHIND – (He’ll stay behind and he’ll meditate). So, the message is, ‘Don’t worry, Boys. God is on your side and He will protect you – alive or dead… Me? Oh I won’t be going out there with you…’
“ ‘Yeah, thanks, a LOT, Chaplain! Sure, why don’t you just stay there, ‘in the rear, with the gear?’ WE’LL go take care of the war.’
“If our chaplain behaved like that, I’d have resented him, too. But he didn’t. He spent quite a bit of time with us, either up on the Firebase or out on patrol. I’m saying that he WASN’T generally back in Chi [Chu?] Lai, the big base camp by the South China Sea, aka ‘the rear.’ He was out where the war was going on. A big salute to Chaplain Davidson, Americal Division, 196 LIB up in I Corps, 1971.”
His chaplain in particular did go with his troupe and stayed with them quite a bit, which I would very much appreciate. Interesting insight coming from a veteran that adds more depth to this war’s effect on the world’s individuals.
Word count: 585