Positively Bob Dylan

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Post cards from Bob Dylan

Posted on 10/30/2006

Doug MacKenzie was in the US Air Force, deployed to the Saudi Arabian desert during the first War in Iraq in 1990/91. He was assigned to a group of transport planes, where he worked as an engine technician. Being a Bob Dylan fan and the brother of Guy MacKenzie, who was closely involved with Dylan from 1961 to 1963, he suggested to paint "Masters of War" under one airplane's "nose art". As Doug recalls, it was just a spontaneos idea of black humour, but it turned out to make a big impression:

"At some point during the conflict, authorization came down from above allowing 'nose art' on the planes, as an homage to the brave airmen of WWII. We had a captain in our unit who was a talented artist and he began painting the planes in our group. On mine, he painted a silhouette of a dark knight on a black horse, both with red eyes. As he was painting it, I suggested he title it by painting, in swooping letters under it, "Masters of War". I told the captain it was the title of Dylan's bombastic indictment of the military/industrial complex. He thought that was great, so he painted it on my plane. I thought it was pretty good black humor, so I wrote to my brother and told him about it. He wrote back, suggesting I write to Dylan and tell him about it. He included Dylan's address (don't know how he got that). So, I did."

Guy and Bob may have still been corresponding with one another, anyway he still had Bob's current address, after 30 years. Doug gave it a try and wrote a letter. Nobody could really have expected any response to it in the first place, and Doug probably didn't even think of it any longer as one of the clerks in his hangar asked if he'd gotten his postcard. Six months after Doug had returned from the war, and eight month after he'd written to Bob Dylan, he actually received his personal response (Photo by Doug MacKenzie):

"The post mark was from Italy. I started reading the post card...'Dear Doug, Excuse the post card, that's all there is to write on right now. Thank you for the letter describing my song on your airplane. Good luck wherever you go, G-d's guidance will never let you down - Stay in good health and thanks again for writing. Bob Dylan'.- Needless to say, I was bowled over. I know it wasn't a hoax as I told no one about my letter to Dylan (except my brother). I know no one in Italy. And I've seen Dylan's handwriting before. So, I know it's genuine."

After thanking Bob for his reply, Doug received yet another letter, this time on plain lined paper:

"Dear Doug, Thanks for writing back. I'm glad to hear you finally made it safely home. The world isn't very safe anymore. We owe a lot to people like you, who put themselves in harm's way for their fellow countrymen. Thanks again for writing. Yours, Bob Dylan"

I would like to express a very honest thank you to Doug MacKenzie for sharing this personal story with us. He informed me that he had "only told close friends about this, and shown them the documents," and "I had occasion to write him one more time, and again received a reply. So, I'm sure he remembers my brother. My brother is also like Dylan in that he has a magnetic aura about him. He makes a big and lasting impact on people. So, I can see why Dylan would remember him."

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