National Geographic : 1967 Jul
In a wonder world of giant plants, boys near Betong foil a drizzle with alocasia-leaf umbrellas. Monsoon! Rain vying with sunshine gives an impressionistic blur to a roadside restaurant near Betong, southernmost city of the kingdom. Diners wait for the torrent to slacken; sarong-clad cook watches for customers. Near the bunched bananas, a sign written in Thai advertises Ovaltine. Inexorable as the ebb and flow of the tides, the northeast monsoon brings storm clouds in dark waves across the Thai panhandle from November through February, loosing downpours that trigger devastating floods. Then the winds swing, and from May through September the southwest mon soon pelts the tangled forests. Often drenched on his travels, the author discovered that in 20 min utes the tropical sun would completely dry him. On the airbase I saw a bronze plaque, with two enameled flags. At left were the red, white, and blue stripes of Thailand (page 83). At right, the Stars and Stripes. The inscription said that on August 10, 1966, the Prime Minister, Field Marshal Thanom Kittikachorn, acting in his capacity as Minister of Defense, had dedicated U Taphao airfield "as a symbol of cooperation for peace and mutual security." Thailand and the U. S. were partners in SEATO, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organiza tion. The base was Thai. So were the guards at the gate. Inside, most of the planes and men 112 were American. The Thai were hosts, the Americans guests. On that understanding, six large bases operated in Thailand, and several smaller ones. U Taphao was host to jet tank ers. Boeing B-52 bombers would come soon.* Gift From Crown Prince: Good Grades In Bangkok, the sun rose brilliantly on the 39th birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, also known as King Rama IX. I hurried to the ceremonial parade of the Royal Guards on the Royal Plaza. His Majesty carried a golden baton *The first B-52 jets arrived on April 10, 1967.