Thursday, December 6, 2007

Air Vietnam Crash 12/22/1969

Hey to all the old WOs stopping by....thanks, and Welcome Home! And Thanks for
bringing my numbers up. I got over myself long ago Shark4...and the war too. PRH 7-1-09






As I sit here looking for the bright sun to make a dent in the 5 inch snow fall, and rest the back...thinking what the Hell am I going to do in the next 5 days, and if the injections fails...where do we go from here? I pulled a couple of old photos out of the Vietnam Box...and I notice one, pretty non-interesting that shows an open air school house from my days at Nha Trang, RVN....the back of the photo simply reads "Gook School House 1969", crude to say the least, but that's they way things were 38 years ago....I had nothing against the Vietnamese people in general....it was a crude slang, like so many others used to describe a group of folks. I tend not to worry about ancient history....others should not either....if they do, well, sorry about their personal problem.


What was interesting about this school house, was, it was located at the end of the main runway at Nha Trang AB.....on December 22, 1969, I was finishing up my tour at Nha Trang, and would be heading south to Saigon, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, to serve another 6 months in Vietnam. I had 5 days left at Nha Trang. December 22nd dawned bright and sunny, I do remember that much...I also remember it as the day I realized just how much I disliked Army Warrant Officers...it was nothing personal, I didn't like their attitudes, I just didn't like them....Warrant Officers, were in my opinion, half assed officers....Helicopter Jockies who thought their shit didn't stink.....we had to put up with them, because they were stationed next to us....in general, they were a pain in the ass.....by the end of 12/22/1969, I couldn't stand the sight of them.

We received notice of an in-air situation concerning a Air Vietnam DC 6....someone had exploded a bomb on board the plane, but it was still flying, and was going to attempt to make a landing at our runway.....Cops, and the guys with the bright red fire trucks were called out....the Security Police would clear the area...the Fire guys would sit by and wait to see if the plane would land safely, if not, those boys knew what to do.....I knew a little about Air Force Fire Protection Specialists, my older brother Mike was one.......our problem clearing the runway and surrounding area would have been easy, the Air Force guys knew better than to give us any grief...the clowns that called themselves Warrant Officers(I called them assholes), were not as easy to chase off....I especially remember one overweight blond WO....as I told him to get off the pylon, and out of the area, he yelled back, I had no authority, and I was to call him sir(The Air Force didn't recognize WOs as officers, so we did not salute them or call them "sir")....that did it, I laughed at him, and told him the only thing I would call him was "Jackass", and he had 30 seconds to clear the area, if not, I was going to arrest him......the stare down lasted about 30 seconds until Staff Sgt Melvin Sloan showed up, and told "Blondie" he had just used up his free pass....looking at the 6' 4" black man, with the pissed off look on his face, I guess the WO figured, he best not force the issue, and with a glare(at me) left the flight line. Sloan was my buddy....plus I figured, if any fight ensued, it was best to have him on my side...especially at the NCO Club, or elsewhere some didn't appreciate off duty Cops.


My issue with this WO, and others, was here we were with a good chance of people dying, and they wanted to shoot photos.....they were not from "Stars and Stripes", and I wasn't letting them get close enough to see death and destruction.....no photos were taken by anybody near us, that I know.



The aftermaths of the "crash landing" can be found at:


and:


What I remember is the plane approaching from over the beach on the South China Sea....you could see the gaping hole in the rear passenger side....as in slow motion, the plane landed far down the runway.....it did not burst into flames, but it did spark and come apart...as it slid towards the school house and the shacks in the neighborhood......


How most of those on the plane survived, is a mystery.....to this day I can't remember exactly what happened on the ground....I know the school was hit and basically destroyed, 24 people on the ground were killed....what I don't recall, and probably best that way, is whether the school was evacuated.....and whether it was kids in the school or residents in the area that lost their lives.....I just know, I can still see the slow motion picture in front of me....and the thought that I was lucky I never saw the Warrant Officer again, I probably would have ended up in jail.... instead, I was gone in 5 days, heading for Saigon.....I don't know what happened to "Blondie", and frankly, I could care less....I'm just glad he never got to get his death photos, at least on my side of the runway.


{A DC 6B....not the one that crashed... the School House at the end of the Nha Trang Runway, a few weeks before the crash, and me in my blue Sky Cop Helmet manning the Civilian Gate in October 1969}



14 comments:

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Great post man. I really love reading about older times in your blog and a few others. You're teachin' the history teacher a lot of cool stuff.

And do you know what I'd give for 5 inches of snow right now. It was friggin' 80 here the other day.

pat houseworth said...

FHB: My youngest son, who graduates with a High School History teaching degree in March, is working down in Texas right now with the local Atlas Moving Company, making bucks towards his Masters which begins this coming summer....Dallas, then Houston, and this morning the arrived on the border at McAllen to move some folks....said he was wearing shorts and enjoying it.....but the kid is 23 years old, 6' 4" and weights in at 250, so he can afford to "enjoy" the heat and work....

Mushy said...

I remember hearing about that...terrible.

I wrote about the Flying Tiger that killed several south of the base at Da Nang in '66...those people caught hell from all sides.

Good stuff!

Buck Pennington said...

Good stuff, Pat, and so sad about the school.

The Air Force didn't recognize WOs as officers, so we did not salute them or call them "sir"

Oh, but we DID. While we (USAF) weren't making any new warrant officers back in those days, there were more than a few of 'em still left on active duty at that time. I knew one particular crusty old WO-4 when I was in tech school down at Keesler in '63 - '64 who would have had your a$$ if you didn't salute him or call him "Sir." This guy ran (he was the OIC) one of the "off-site" training annexes down at Keesler and was absolutely Hell-On-Wheels!!

And...I nearly applied for an Army warrant in '67 or '68. I had the application package all filled out and was at CBPO, ready to turn it in when an old MSgt pulled me aside and said "You DO know about the life expectancy of Army WOs, right?" And then he went on to explain things to me...and I left the CBPO without submitting the package. Not saying it would have been accepted, or anything, but I'm thinking life sure as Hell would have been different, had I gone that way...

pat houseworth said...

Buck:

I knew there was something different between the AF and Army WOs....we had Army guys at Nha Trang....as I recall we did not have to recognize them as Officers, if we did, it wouldn't have mattered, I was an insulant little bastard anyway, who seldom saluted or said "sir" to anyone. Not that didn't make me right....but I just never cared for their attitude....I know they have a tough job, but as a cop, we really didn't care.

As I grow older, I respected what those guys(and all combat pilots did), but something about that time, and that one WO in particular, pissed me off.....I'll have to tell you about my final Air Force days, in a future blog....you'll get a kick out of it.

Cookie..... said...

Yet another great read Pat. I've started coming over here more frequently so I guess I'm gonna have t'get ya inta my sidebar.. ;-)

BTW...I left a comment on todays Pearl post for ya...amybe you can relate somehow...

Cookie..... said...

OK Mate...gotchya inta the blogroll... :-)

pat houseworth said...

Thanks Cookie...got you on mine...I have to add a couple of others as well.

BRUNO said...

"GOOK SCHOOL HOUSE,1969"...

I don't know why---but for some reason, I laughed at that line! Maybe it's the way you "said" it---direct, blunt, straight-to-the-point. Or maybe it's because one of those "deja-vu" moments hit! Ain't no denying it, that was the "mood of the times"!

A shining-bit of "dark-humor", in a very un-funny story. Now---sit down, rest, and watch the snow melt, while it makes the top layer slicker than owl-snot...!

Dallas said...

Pat,

I just found your blog.

I was at Nha Trang Dec 22nd 1969 when the DC6 crashed.

I would really like to talk to you for a few minutes.

I have a somewhat different memory of those events, and I have wrestled with what I saw all these years.
I was standing on a ladder fueling my Army 0-1 Bird Dog when I saw it trying to land.
I was an Army Crew Chief responsible for maintaining the 0-1 for some nice, and some not so nice WO fixed wing pilots.

When it jumped the perimeter and crashed, I ran down there thinking I may be able to help.
From the direction I was coming, I did not see anyone around directing us to stay away.
Maybe it was because of the direction I was coming from, but what I saw was unbelievable.
It was sitting on top of the school and on fire with no more then 3 or 4 people around there at that moment.
There were people coming out of the plane wreckage from anyplace they could.

I saw what I thought was faces of people in the some of the windows.
There was a jeep that had been hit and rolled up behind it into the mess, I think it was on the road when the plane went over it.

In what seamed like only a couple of minutes the plane REALLY started burning and then nobody came out anymore.
The heat was unbelievable. You could not get even close to it. The smoke and the smell was ungodly.

All I could think of was, my god its on the school.
They may have been gooks, but they were children and no one deserves to die by fire.
It is the most painful cruel way for anyone to die.

I do not remember much more, it was as though I blocked out anything else.

I do remember going by there the next day and seeing that, the only thing left was a part of the tail section.
I could not believe that an airplane could almost dissolve into absolutely nothing.

And the smell form the fire was different then anything I have ever smelled in my life.
It seemed to stay in my nose for weeks.

I had dreams and nightmares about it for years.
I kept seeing the faces in the windows, and I could not help them.

Sometimes I think it was not real, and other times I think what I though was peoples faces was just my imagination.
In any case, it was real enough to cause me a great deal of anguish over the years.
I just stood there helpless.
I could not do anything but watch them die.

What your blog describes makes me wonder how I got that close?
Was I there before anyone?
Or was I coming from a direction that no one was guarding at that moment?

Anyway, I really would like to talk to you about it.
I have never heard from anyone that was there.

It would be of EXTREAM help to me, to try and sort out some of these things.

I would be very very grateful.

I have sent this to you in an email with my Phone Number.

Thanks
Dallas Foster
US Army
Vietnam 1969 - 1970

dan said...

Dallas I ran across your blog, dont remember you I was stationed at Nah Trang USAF Security Police early Dec 1969-1970. I was on the scene after Air Vietnam crash 12/22/69. I remember more than I would like it was a bad thing especially the school kids. Would like to contact dallas Foster if he still wants to talk about it, you also. Dan Graham 3168 Kemler rd. Eaton Rapids Michigan 48827 (517-204-4650) E mail daniel.graham2009@gmail.com. FYI on the wifes computer mine is in rehab at geek squad so might be a week or so.

Birddog0101 said...

Greetings,
Just stumbled across your site and noticed you were at Nha Trang at the time of the planes crashed. I saw them also. I was right behind the jeep that got hit by the wing tip.
I read Dallas Foster's post and thought I'd say hello. I was in the Birddog Unit at the same time, small world after all. I was wondering if Dallas Foster is the same George Foster on our roster. Don't remember Foster to well. Miliam was platoon Sgt.
It was good reading about the Vietnam experiences. I don't have much time, but my alternate email is Birddog0101@gmail.com
If I can be of any help contact me.
Booyah to all the former brothers in arms,
Art

Bill Comrey said...

Hello Pat, greetings and welcome home. I was with the 21st Signal Group's Aviation Detachment that was at the Nha Trang Airbase. I was there from Jan69 to Aug69, so I wasn't there when the DC6 ran off the runway and smashed into the Vietnamese school. But I read about the incident while working and living in San Francisco at the time of the Dec69 accident. I was amused about your comment about asking a blonde headed Warrant Officer to depart the area. The reason I say that is because I found out later that one of our Hueys was just north of the NT Airbase when the DC6 crashed, and that Huey was the first to touch down next to the crash site. Three of the crew of that Huey rendered assistance to the injured. And our unit had a WO Huey that was flying for us when I went home, and I bet he was the "blonde WO" you ran into. It's my understanding that all 4 crewmembers of our Huey received Bronze Stars for their assistance that day. I can name the pilot, but I'll withhold that information since there's always the chance of an error in the proper ID of the WO you encountered that day. Best to ya, and it's great to be home ... Bill C.

Pat Houseworth said...

Hey Bill C....thanks for that info and stopping by...Welcome Home!