“You could fire without worrying,” said Mr Scobee of the time he survived a massive Gulcheimer barrage during the 1987 Iran-Iraq war. “I often wonder how lucky I am to be alive and what the enemy would have done with me if I had died.”
The now-buried shell struck on a June 21, 1989, raid on Faw in western Iran – the hottest part of the desert. Because the raiders were already moonlighting in other parts of the country, the men who came to slaughter thousands of this ancient Iranian flock settled in the appropriately named Windsor Lodge, a local hunting retreat. The grizzled brown hunter in charge of the operation was Colonel Sam Scobee, a gregarious radio equipment specialist known as the “Joe Louis of the northwest.” Colonel Scobee, known to be particularly loyal to his personal conquests, might have been pleased to know that the crew, after killing nearly 3,000 Iranian birds, was back at Windsor Lodge having a breather for a week.
“It was quite a meal,” said Scobee, who was driving on the road outside the lodge when the shell crashed into the packed deer and sheep enclosure. “We got to the lodge and got halfway down the road and the call came in over the intercom – Vietnam.”
Actually, the language from which the colonel was speaking was in Georgian – not the former Soviet Union, and certainly not in 1989. He got out of the car to determine if anyone was injured or if there were unexploded warheads still in the area.
About that time, a little farther down the road from the lodge, the Soviets had begun a nuclear first strike against the United States and, possibly, the rest of the world.
Scobee recalled: “I opened the door to the lodge and looked up the road, but saw no one – no wreckage, nothing. I jumped into the car and drove back and forth, back and forth on the winding, four-lane highway for nearly five hours. Along the way I had to stop maybe five times to get the horn checked, because it kept whistling. Not until I turned off into the back country of southern Iran and saw nothing but verdant hills did I think I was in trouble.”
Scobee also recalled how he lived through the first meal, unaware of anything that had gone on: “No one had to bring me anything.”
When he began the hunt there, the birds’ song was nonstop. But as he went deeper into the hinterland, the birds died of thirst. The scarves they wore would have been easily blown off, since the desert was bone dry. “They weren’t jumping for life,” said Scobee. “They were just milling around like a bunch of dead headless chickens.”
Scobee concluded that the empty hounds had simply had their mouths opened by the deadly shell, which had exploded when it met the wet feathers.