I Have Flown Into the Jaws Of The Cat Of Death

The Doom Pussy emblem had its origin early in the Vietnam War.
The designer of the meaningful patch tells how it began and what it means.
    

Bob Galbreath

I designed the original patch [left]. The original plan was for the patch to say "Into the Mouth of the Cat of Doom" in English. Then one night at the bar in the compound at Bien Hoa between rounds of "Diesel and Juice" a group of us including Smash Chandler, Art Jepson and some others started talking about maybe the motto should be in Latin because it would be more "classy"**. Then someone - my recollection is that it was Art [Jeppson] but perhaps it was someone else -- had the idea that it should be in Vietnamese. So some time passed while I was looking for someone to translate the words when the ramp explosion at Bien Hoa took place on 16 May 65. (I was the nav in the last plane to taxi off the ramp and was sitting at run-up when the explosion started.)

2/5/14 Comment: I was interested in the article about the DOOM patch. Here is the original story about DOOM. This acronym stood for the Danang Officers Open Mess. One of our members got a porcelain mug from his wife. It was a poor likeness of a cats head. As all will know, pussy was on our minds for an obvious reason and the members wife intended the mug as something of a reminder to her husband. The mug was placed up over the bar. Later long after I left, a female writer wrote a book about it.  I was Chief of STA/EVAL.

November 1, 1964
Two days before the U.S. presidential election, Vietcong mortars shell Bien Hoa Air Base near Saigon. Four Americans are killed, 76 wounded. Five B-57 bombers are destroyed from the ensuing explosions. Fifteen were damaged. Whether or not the mortars caused the explosions or faulty bomb fuses, as some have suggested. the result was devastating to the B-57 force. It led to the relocation of the force to other bases and finally the installation of revetments at Phan Rang.

Art was killed in the explosion and that prompted me to move ahead with the patch because he had been so enthusiastic about it. We were living in the Dust Off barracks at Tan Son Nhut after evacuating from Bien Hoa and, in desperation, I ended up asking one of the laundry girls thereto translate the words. She translated it as "Trong Mieng Cua Con Men Cua Tham Phan." I took the design to the tailor shop in Saigon called Cheap Charlie's and ordered about fifty patches.

Months later, in November or perhaps December, after we had permanently moved to Danang, some crews were on the way to the flight line one day in the bread truck [a van-type vehicle used for crew transport] and we were discussing the need for a new order of patches. A VNAF [Vietnamese Air Force] pilot, Capt Lan, whom I had flown with during his B57 training at Clark, was with us and he told us that he didn't think the patch said what we thought it said. That evening at the club (the DOOM club of course) I discussed it with Lan. He said that he felt that "tham phan" really meant "destiny" and that doom would probably be "dinh mang”. Although he said that the concepts of Doom and Destiny were complex in Vietnamese culture and that it was open to interpretation.

I remember thinking at the time that "destiny" was not really what we had in mind when we conceived the emblem so the next order for patches which went out a few days later, included "dinh mang" in place of "than phan" and the rest is history as they say. It would be interesting to have the motto professionally translated and find out who was right; the captain or the laundry girl.

My only quibble with the translation you have on the web site, "I have flown into the jaws of the Cat of Death and returned", is with the words "and returned;" While it is true that a guy who didn't return wouldn't have a need for a patch, it was really him and the possibility, of ourselves being him that was on our minds when we conceived the patch. I guess philosophically the point is, going up there was enough; you didn't have to return to earn the patch.

Incidentally, as you probably know, the patch was copied over and over for the rest of the war by lots of people who had no connection with the original North Vietnam at night mission or any idea what “Canberra Night Fighter” was. Somewhere along the line a strip saying, “The Doom Pussy”, was added to the bottom of the patch. This was never a part of the original design.

**Speaking of “classy”, the first draft of the design showed a Canberra disappearing into the darkness of a saber-toothed, human vagina! However, we decided that as lax as uniform standards were at the time, the colonels probably wouldn’t let us wear a patch like that. So the “pussy” was changed to a cat.

Bob Galbreath

Editor’s note: I do know of some civilian females who were unfortunately given the patch as “souvenirs”. No doubt there was others who received it undeservedly. As for the rest of us who DO know the Canberra story and flew its night missions in “another country” against triple A fire and in memory of those comrades who did not return, there is a special feeling towards the emblem - whatever its interpretation. I have changed the motto where it appears on this web site and thank Bob for his correction.>

MW

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Original

Recently I have had some inquiries from patch collectors about the original Doom Pussy patch. So I finally had a photographer friend photograph some original patches. The first batch of 50 patches was made in June 1965. These had the "original" motto.There were 100 in the second batch which had the "corrected" motto and were made circa November 65. There were only 150 patches made in Saigon from the original art work. All DP patches made after Dec 65 were copied from one of the originals or copied from copies. If you have a patch with the motto ending in "DINH MANG," and you got it before Nov 65, then you have one of the original 50 patches made.

1968

 

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