‘Whiskey Jack’ could tell a good story

When Lisa Shipman happened into the Veterans Administration Office in Roswell last week, she noted a photo of a handsome man and inquired.

The identity of the man, she was told, was not known. Someone had discovered the picture, along with a folded flag in a presentation case, in a recently deceased woman’s home and brought it to the VA in hopes workers there could locate family.

Shipman volunteered for the job. She posted the photo on Facebook and enlisted the help of military connections.

She soon discovered the man in the photo was a highly decorated Vietnam-era pilot named Jack Hull, who grew up in Clovis.

That would be code name “Whiskey Jack” for those who love a good story.

“My dad was the quintessential fighter pilot,” said Smoot Hull, Jack’s son. “He liked whiskey. He lived hard. He smoked three packs of unfiltered Camels every day. And he was a storyteller. He could entertain.”

One of the most exciting stories Smoot heard his father tell occurred during Jack Hull’s 479th mission, when he was shot down over North Vietnam in 1969.

He was trapped overnight near the top of a 125-foot tree. His navigator died beside him as they waited for help.

“My father had a radio, and he was sending out signals where they were located,” Smoot Hull recalled.

At first light, American forces arrived, along with the Viet Cong.

A soldier was lowered into the tree to help free Hull as the enemy opened fire.

“My father said he could hear the pings of the bullets coming off the helicopter.”

Hull and his rescuer both had M-16 rifles and were firing in the general direction of those who were shooting at them.

“It was amazing he lived through it,” Smoot Hull said.

By the time his 26-year career ended, Lt. Col. Hull had received a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars, The Air Medal, Vietnamese Medal of Honor, nine Oak Leaf Clusters and numerous citations for bravery.

Smoot Hull was able to experience some of his father’s heroics first hand, through a reel-to-reel tape recording from one of the missions.

“You could hear his voice and the other pilots over the radio as they went into battle,” Smoot Hull said.

“He’d explain what was happening and explain the codes they were using in case the enemy was listening.”

Jack Hull died Aug. 30, 1993, at age 65, in Roswell, where he also graduated from New Mexico Military Institute in 1950.

Smoot Hull, 54, who lives near Houston, said his three children were all born after their grandfather’s death, but he often tells them his stories and is eager to retrieve the memorabilia in Roswell.

“I think it’s important for them to know their heritage,” he said. “It’s important to know where you came from.”

Jack Hull came from Clovis, where his father of the same name was the editor of the newspaper.

Hull Street in west Clovis is named in the family’s honor.

Smoot Hull confessed during a telephone interview on Monday that he has a couple of Hull Street signs, stolen in the late 1970s by a family friend.

“I can neither confirm nor deny that story,” said Brett Johnson, who still lives in Clovis.

“But everyone involved thought Smoot was entitled (to the signs).

“His dad was a real badass.”

David Stevens is editor for Clovis Media Inc. Contact him at:
dstevens@cnjonline.com