PLEASE MAKE USE OF THIS MESSAGE BOARD BY POSTING AIR FORCE HELICOPTER RELATED QUESTIONS, POSTING APPROPRIATELY RELATED INFORMATION, LOCATING YOUR AIR FORCE FAMILY OF HELICOPTER FRIENDS YOU MAY HAVE LOST CONTACT WITH OVER THE YEARS OR OTHER USE AS DEEMED APPROPRIATE.
My name is Rich and I was a PJ for about 10 years. I loved the rescue mission and have always been fascinated with the art and symbolism behind it.
I've had several conversations with others about the meaning behind the green feet and I've never received what I would consider a definitive answer.
Would you be able to share any information on the meaning behind the different number of toes? From what I can tell, 5 toes seem to be the original but 4 toes are commonly used as well. Is there any meaning behind the number of toes?
Hi Rich. First let me thank you for your service. I was a 20 year helicopter FE with many assignments in Rescue and with PJ's.
As far as the "Green Feet" question. My research indicates that this tradition started with a couple of 'drunk' PJ's getting their tats one night after a rescue in SEA. Originally it looks like this was a PJ thing, but quickly moved into FE's, Pilots and Maintainers. I think originally the feet all had five toes, but as time went on some decided that FE's or Maintainers would have four toe feet. But as with a lot of traditions over the years the meanings have changed and blurred. I've seen recent references by some that the five or four toes referenced the number of a unit such as 54th or 55th. At least as far as I can tell the "Green Feet" tats regardless of the number of toes have pretty much been a rescue unit association. There used to be a story about this by Wayne Fisk on Bob LaPointe's "PJ's in Vietnam" website, but the website is no longer available.
Bottom line is they mean different thinks to different folks, some who have some hard feelings about others they don't consider deserving having the "Green Feet" tats....
Hey Jim! Thanks for the reply and thanks for your service as well.
I'm pretty familiar with Wayne Fisk's story and you're definitely right that the rest of the rescue professions (pilots, co, gunner/FE) joined the tradition very quickly as well. Currently the whole rescue mission -from PJs to maintainers- and the PJs in Air Force Special Tactics use the green feet which I think is a great callback to a proud heritage. Both commonly use the 5 and 4 toe versions.
So to your knowledge the 4 toe variant started as a thing for FEs and maintainers? If there's any more to the story I'd love to hear it.