Jolly Green Feet Tattoo

It must be remembered there is nothing-absolutely nothing-more rewarding than being a Pararescuemen, wherein one is tasked with the preservation of life at all costs, even to the extent of commanding huge air armadas and mighty land forces to deliver accurate and deadly fire support: personally decimating enemy forces at close quarters in pursuit of preserving that life; garnering heroic and valorous awards more highly rated than those received by USAF’s golden boys, the “speartip of the spear,” its pilots.
Yes, it is good being a PJ.
Such was the setting in 1971 in Southeast Asia when the tradition of tattooing Jolly Green Giant footprints on PJ glutei maximi was established. It was a time of heroic missions, good kills, and the most assured realization that it is, indeed, hard to be humble when one is Pararescue.
It all began one rainy monsoon morning when Technical Sergeant Wayne Fisk had just completed a forty-eight hour combat alert tour at NKP RTAFB, Thailand. In those days, the 40th ARRS was fragged to provide- in addition to its standard wartime commitment-continuous around-the-clock ground alert in the event a DOD resource was downed in enemy territory and needed rescue/recovery. Specific emphasis was placed upon missions in Laos and Cambodia.
Such alert tours were not without excitement and rewards; too bad this could not be said about the one Fisk had just finished. The only excitement he had faced during the previous two days was the prospect and anticipation of going “downtown.”
Staff Sergeant Chuck Morrow, who at 1000 hours, was just returning from the Nakorn Phanom (NKP) vill’. His stagger and played-out facial expression told anyone foolish enough to ask that he had had a good time, damn good. Morrow found Fisk in the “Jolly/Dusty Hootch Bar,” downing a few prior to heading for the vill’, not that one needed to be bombed in order to enjoy the finer aspects of the place; but it helped.
Fisk was short at this time, and had been contemplating some sort of personal souvenir for posterity for him combat tours, then numbering four. Morrow joined Fisk and liked what he was hearing. Through the haze of his already-besotted state of mind, and five continuous combat tours to his score, coupled with Fisk’s likewise rapidly decreasing sobriety, the two mandated such a souvenir must be long lasting, elitist, and depictive of valor-if not for the acquiring of it, then at least for its symbolism. After much deliberation, accentuated by a number of previously told and retold war stories, they decided: what could be more fitting than the highly revered and prestigious symbol of combat rescue, the Jolly Green Giant footprint?! Yes! Tattooed Jolly Green footprints.

green feet tattoo


The concept was born. But where were they to be affixed? Somewhere unusual, somewhere to gain attention-to command awe-when displayed. All standard-and perhaps some not-too-standard-locations were quickly ruled out, except the cheeks of the butt. There! Plant them there! A rough sketch was drawn, more booze flowed, and it was off to the Main Gate that the two sloshed, slipped, and slid, a righteous duo bent upon a holy mission.
But wait: being the medical experts that they were, they temporarily diverted to the PJ Section to procure a tube of Bacitracin-Neomycin ointment, some Lidocaine, and a number of 4x4s: one cannot be too careful when it comes to the refinements of hygienic techniques, especially in a land ridden with hepatitis. By the time they reach NKP vill’, and Jimmy Wong’s tattoo parlor (located in a dingy bungalow near the misnomered “Swiss Chalet Restaurant”, they were well on their way to total inebriation.
Jimmy was just completing the finishing touches on another customer when they arrived, and the two sat down to observe-which they should not have done, for their confidence about escaping with anything other than tender butts was greatly shaken. As they watched, Jimmy, perspiring mightily in the heavy, humid monsoon air, wiped away the blood, sweat, and tattoo ink from the chest of the customer he was working on with a filthy rag, then nonchalantly wiped on him own sweaty brow. This process was repeated time and again throughout the period of waiting, accentuated by occasional fallings of the rag onto the dirt-strewn floor. Raised eyebrows of concern passed between Wayne and Chuck. Obviously, they were not drunk enough to appreciate that which was transpiring before them. It was out the door to the curbside booze vendor for a tall bottle of Mekong Whiskey to remedy that shortcoming.
Back inside, Pararescue etiquette was expressed as to who was to go first. Wayne, acquiescing to cumulative combat tenure, offered Chuck the honor. Chuck, not so drunk that he could not relive visions of Jimmy’s hygienic procedures, insisted that since it was the former’s idea to begin with, Wayne should assume the prone position. He did, and the birth of the first Pararescue Jolly Green footprint tattoo began to take shape. But it was not without interruption, for when Jimmy, who obviously used his needle in a side business chipping paint from samlors, touched them to Fisk’s sensitive behind, a roar of surprise, pain, an anger bellowed from the room an assailed the peaceful vill’ beyond. Morrow, too, roared but with sadistic delight and ridicule of one grown impervious to sights, pain, and suffering.
By this time, Fisk was seriously sedating himself with straight-up chugs from the Mekong bottle. Even the laughing Jimmy Wong joined in, downing a significant amount of the stuff, much to the chagrin of both PJ’s; Enter upon the scene, then-and Fisk’s butt-the bottle of Lidocaine of which the contents were liberally dabbed in the belief the multi-penetrations of the needles would serve in the same manner as sub-Q injections. It was the wrong assumption.

green feet tattoo pararescue


Soon the Mekong was empty, and Chuck sent out for another one. It took numerous starts and stops, each accented by profanities and curses upon Jimmy’s side business, but by the time that bottle was likewise finished, so, too, were first Fisk’s, then Morrow’s tattoos, the latter confirming Fisk’s accusation of Jimmy’s utilization of the needle for other-than-tattooing usage. Nonetheless, The Great Quest had been fulfilled; two bright sets of green footprints, coronated by tortured pink skin on pale butts. Each man administered the other a Bacitracin-Neomycin impregnated 4×4, and out into the vill’ they went, possessing what they felt were perhaps the greatest symbols of warriorhood and manliness ever beheld.
And they shared the sources of their pride with everyone they met, usually at the slightest provocation or display of interest. Into every bar and dive they went, thrilling perhaps themselves more than others, but undeniably having a marvelous time. Back at the squadron, they became the envy of the rest of the PJ team, flight engineers, and pilots, who likewise rushed out to procure theirs. The aberrant had become the craze.
As the weeks sped by, the 40th ARRs’ sister helicopter squadron, a TAC unit, feeling as though it was being outdone and suffering an acute lack of attention-especially at hootch bar parties and NCO an Officer Clubs bashes where normally club managers became quite upset at the sight of a line of bare-assed GIs flashing the moon soon acquired their own squadron’s logo on their rear ends. Other squadrons joined in, and it soon came to be that nobody on NKP RTAFB was afraid to flaunt his butt in public. Jimmy Wong’s business flourished, and he soon purchased additional instruments to refinish even more samlors.
Thusly, the custom began. From a humble, inebriated backroom beginning, the Pararescue procurement and flaunting of Jolly Green Giant footprints has spread throughout the world, shocking and delighting many who have become the objects of-and sometime unwilling sufferers bearing the brunt of Рmoon flashes. In some circles it is considered a serious breech of etiquette not to display these historic symbols of pride, valor, and commitment. Today, new generations of PJs have proudly carried them into battles, from the humid jungles of the UN presence in Somalia, they have left their impressions upon all who have witnessed.
Now, who said an idle Pararescue mind is a horrible thing?


Soon the Mekong was empty, and Chuck sent out for another one. It took numerous starts and stops, each accented by profanities and curses upon Jimmy’s side business, but by the time that bottle was likewise finished, so, too, were first Fisk’s, then Morrow’s tattoos, the latter confirming Fisk’s accusation of Jimmy’s utilization of the needle for other-than-tattooing usage. Nonetheless, The Great Quest had been fulfilled; two bright sets of green footprints, coronated by tortured pink skin on pale butts. Each man administered the other a Bacitracin-Neomycin impregnated 4×4, and out into the vill’ they went, possessing what they felt were perhaps the greatest symbols of warriorhood and manliness ever beheld.
And they shared the sources of their pride with everyone they met, usually at the slightest provocation or display of interest. Into every bar and dive they went, thrilling perhaps themselves more than others, but undeniably having a marvelous time. Back at the squadron, they became the envy of the rest of the PJ team, flight engineers, and pilots, who likewise rushed out to procure theirs. The aberrant had become the craze.
As the weeks sped by, the 40th ARRs’ sister helicopter squadron, a TAC unit, feeling as though it was being outdone and suffering an acute lack of attention-especially at hootch bar parties and NCO an Officer Clubs bashes where normally club managers became quite upset at the sight of a line of bare-assed GIs flashing the moon soon acquired their own squadron’s logo on their rear ends. Other squadrons joined in, and it soon came to be that nobody on NKP RTAFB was afraid to flaunt his butt in public. Jimmy Wong’s business flourished, and he soon purchased additional instruments to refinish even more samlors.
Thusly, the custom began. From a humble, inebriated backroom beginning, the Pararescue procurement and flaunting of Jolly Green Giant footprints has spread throughout the world, shocking and delighting many who have become the objects of-and sometime unwilling sufferers bearing the brunt of Рmoon flashes. In some circles it is considered a serious breech of etiquette not to display these historic symbols of pride, valor, and commitment. Today, new generations of PJs have proudly carried them into battles, from the humid jungles of the UN presence in Somalia, they have left their impressions upon all who have witnessed.
Now, who said an idle Pararescue mind is a horrible thing?


Story from AF.mil on the enduring tradition of the Green Feet


FINAL NOTES: There are two often confused points around the Green Feet that should be clarified:
1) The Jolly Green Footprint is not a PJ footprint; it is a rescue footprint.
2) “5 toes, not 4” -Wayne Fisk.