In this episode of the Vietnam Veteran News Podcast a Vietnam War Era veteran who never set foot on the “Olde Sod” of that exotic land will be featured. Wayne Wagner of Ford County, Illinois served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War. His place of duty was on Easter Island, another exotic location. His story of service to his country was featured in a story in The News-Gazette of Champaign, Illinois titled: Those Who Served: War duty no holiday on Easter Island that was submitted by Paul Wood.
In the story, Wood, tells about how Wagner, now 71, avoided being drafted into the Army by immediately joining the Air Force. The Air Force assigned him to communications duties and after short stints of duty at Travis AFB and Panama he was sent to Easter Island to perform top secret communications duties.
Easter Island is a possession of Chile and it lies in the Pacific Ocean 2,000 miles from its ruler’s coastline. Wagner was one of the first to arrive at the new duty station that had few facilities for the Airmen. Due to the fact the US presence at the island during the Vietnam War caused concern for the Chilean Government the Air Force personnel on the island were not allowed to wear uniforms. Their mission on the lonely island was to provide communication links between the Pentagon and forces fighting in Vietnam.
Life on the lonely island was primitive for the airmen. There were two distinguishing factors about Easter Island, one is that it is near the Pitcairn Islands where the mutineers of the HMS Bounty settled to hide from the British Admiralty. The other unusual thing about Easter Island is the 900 large stone statues that dot the island. Some speculate they were brought there by aliens but we will probably never know. In the 1500s, Spanish missionaries destroyed all traces of the native culture including the Rongo-Rongo tablets, which contained a record of the lost language of the Rapa Nui. So few of these tablets remain that no one has been able to decipher them.
Wagner finished his hitch in the Air Force and went home to Ford County where he has worked as a productive member of his community. Today among other things he serves on a national post in the American Legion.
Thank you Wayne Wagner for your service to your country.