BLOG: Vet with Government Cover-up Complaints Dies in Fire
Newsrooms attract lots of characters with damaged souls, people with perceived wrongs that need to be righted, with hazy truths that need revealing.
Bill Hachmeister fit that category. He visited reporters regularly in the ’90s with tales of official abuse, dereliction and coverup.
Most veteran Hilo reporters knew Hachmeister well enough, but his beefs with the Veterans Administration, the state child welfare protection bureaucracy, spaceport plans and NASA, primarily, were never put in print.
Hachmeister’s stories were too often fractured, confused and desperate accounts. Reporters like me passed. Too much digging in hard ground there to make trusting a suspect mind like that worth the effort.
Then on Monday when I learned that Hachmeister had died in the house fire on Wainaku Street last week, I started trying to put my recollections of him into clearer context.
Many of Hachmeister’s demons now live in the understory of the internet landscape, where he opened his soul and revealed his pain on now-abandoned discussion boards.
On a VA thread in April 2007, for example, Hachmeister wrote of perhaps his most significant life-changing event:
“I was in Danang with 1st LAAM Bn in 1965/66 and I have been medically tested for diabetes type 2, skin cancer, brain injury, and have many related medical health problems, but recieve zero in service disability. With a team we hand sprayed and used a flame thrower to control high grass and weeds on hill 327 in July or August of 1965. Dog Patch area and the Airport area received 35,000 gallons of AO spray. The VC blew up at least one C-130, Ranch Hand aircraft on July 1st(?) 1965 at the Danang airport. In 1965, in part we enlisted protested the usage of AO but was repeatedly reassured it would not harm humans.” (sic)
Hachmeister said later, “Before Vietnam, I was employable, after Vietnam, I was unemployable.”
He complained for years that from work with NASA he knew exactly how the Challenger crashed and all about the coverup and that no one would listen to him. He believed the government engineered the taking of his child from him because of what he knew about NASA, and he railed at the complicity of state child welfare service agencies.
One thing he did not mention was a shooting at his Colorado junior high school in 1961. Hachmeister argued with a 14-year-old student who pulled out a .38-caliber revolver, wounding Hachmeister and killing a 14-year-old girl.
Makes you wonder how that might change a person’s life view.
Hachmeister seemed to mellow in later years. At least he stopped visiting newsrooms. The last time I saw him was about a year ago. He was preparing for a trip to Washington, DC, soon, because the paperwork for his Medal of Honor was almost completed. I didn’t press, I offered congratulations.
Remarkable how death brings new context to life. In every encounter I can recall with Hachmeister it seems there was this constant pleading for help in a screwed-up world, for which we in the press did not give him comfort.
And the indignities may never end. Recently Hachmeister was asking help because he couldn’t get Facebook to spell his name correctly. Somehow somebody apparently changed his middle name, Fredrick, to “Fredick” on his page and Facebook was no help getting it right. Now, with Bill’s death, William “Fredick” Hachmeister may be his unfortunate legacy on Facebook.
Coincidentally, a few weeks ago Bill had sent me a Facebook “Friend” request and I never got around to something as simple as a key stroke in response, so he remained among others who sit in my “friends pending” box.
Now I regret not responding in time.
Maybe, after all, Bill really did know what happened to the Challenger.