Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Nha Trang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam

Back in 1999 shortly after finding and joining the Vietnam Security Police Association:

I started to dig up all the old memories of my tour in Vietnam, during the so-called 'war'. Unlike many, I didn't come back with ugly memories of the conflict, don't have PTSD, don't have nightmares from that year, and all-in-all I actually consider that year, the only 1 of my 4 year Air Force tour that I actually enjoyed. I know, it sounds strange...and the Air Force, other than those involved in Special Ops or pilots are not known as combat types....the closest we came to combat, were the Air Force Security Police(nee' Air Police). And that's what I was. After a short stay at Dover AFB, Delaware, I headed over to Vietnam and a base on the South China Sea, called Nha Trang.

Here is the little story I penned for VSPA back in 1999 on the 30th anniversary of my deployment:

Nha Trang AB, 1969

After leaving San Francisco on June 29, 1969, I arrived at Tan Son Nhut(Saigon) on July 1st....I would stay in the Transit Barracks their that night before heading out to my semi permanent duty station at Nha Trang, several hundred miles north, the next day.

As the C-130 lumbered out of TSN heading north to Nha Trang, I had time to reflect. As I looked out the open cargo hatch down at the trees and jungle below, I looked back on the past year and how I came to be there.

"June 1968 I left Columbus, Ohio, on my first ever plane flight, one that would take me to Amarillo AFB in the Texas Panhandle for Basic Training. The reasons I joined the Air Force were simple. I was not inclined to be a draft dodger, but I was not gung ho for the war either. My brother Mike's best friend David Kim Deeter was killed in April was serving with the 1st Infantry. Kim had decided to the the draft take him rather than serve 4 didn't work out. Then after I joined and was in Amarillo, I received word that my cousin, Jackie Ray Poling had been killed in a fire fight with the 101st Airborne. Jack and were born in the small town of Scott, Ohio, he was aged between me and Mike....our families moved to south Florida together in 1953. As it turned out, Jack was a reason I still live to this day....he had saved my life when we were kids, pulling me out of a canal that we were swimming across near Englewood, Florida. I was a poor swimmer at that time, Jack was an all around outdoors man, and an excellent swimmer...I was 10, Jack 11 or 12, Mike, Jack, and I were in deep water going across the canal, I panicked, and grabbed at Mike, and then started to go under...Jack swam up behind me, grabbed me around the neck, and pulled me across to shore....if not for him, I would not have made it. Jack was gone at 20 years old, Kim Deeter was the same age. Those two, and guys like them, are the reason I did not dodge the draft....I would never disgrace the souls of men like them.

There was Amarillo, then Lackland, where I honed my "skills" as a Air Force Cop for 8 weeks, then off to Dover in the fall of 1968. There I spent my time drinking, getting used to being on my own, and humping the Nuclear Storage Mounds on the outer limits of Dover....I also spent the 7 months knowing that this life was not for me...4 years and I would be gone....I made several good friends at Dover, including Jack Gates from Sulfur, Oklahoma, we would meet again in Vietnam. I also learned a thing or two about those I served with...some honorable good men, some total assholes, like my NCOIC 'Smiling' Jack Adkins....TSgt Adkins was the reason, after a half year in Delaware, I decided to volunteer for South East Asia....Im sure now as I look back, Jack thought much of me, a smart assed 19 year old, as I did him. Time they say, brings things into focus.

My orders came in April 1969...Nha Trang AB, RVN, where the Hell was Nha Trang?, that was one base I had not heard of. After doing research, I found out that the base was situated on the shores of the South China Sea, across the bay some 25 miles from Cam Ranh Bay...a real resort of sorts. But heck I had no idea, I knew it was a war zone, and I knew what Security Police were required and expected to do there....was I nervous, excited? Probably a little of both, but I knew I was ready to get out of Dover and move on, and if Nha Trang was the place I was headed for, I was looking forward to it.

First off there was a leave of sorts back home in Ohio, then a trek back to Lackland(San Antonio) for AZR School, a combat preparedness course for Security Police...then back to Celina to finish out my leave, and then head for Vietnam".

Arriving at Nha Trang............part 2 next.

Flood waters have not hit west central Ohio, the heaviest rain has been to the south along the Ohio and Mississippi River Valley area. My guess is Bruno has seen more that his share of rain, add that to the ice they have been sacked with, and it has been one long wet winter. Guys like The Hermit have seen their drought conditions ease in north Georgia as well. As for me, I say "Enough!" scrimmage season is scheduled to start next Tuesday the 25th, with the regular season beginning March 31st.....right now I say both starts are in severe jeopardy.
photos-Me at Nha Trang Beach on July 4, 1969, a couple of days after arriving...Hon Trey Island in background, various views of Nha Trang, including the Market Place, a city overview with Hon Trey in background, or was it the Black Mountains?(I think both,the Black Mountains dwarf Hon Trey in front), can't really remember, and a view from the beach, and yes that is Hon Trey, where we had several cops stationed, including my buddies Bruce Thompson and Steve Walsh.


Mushy said...

A beach, a Black Label, ah the memories...passed out on China Beach and developed terrible water blisters on my shins which I had to hide or be courts marshaled!

BRUNO said...

Yeah, I've enough rain for a bit, now---13.5 inches, in less than 24 hours---for THIS part of the world, is quite sufficient for the time being...!

Shrinky said...

Ah, you look so young and tender in that photo. (I guess that's because you were.)

Perhaps if we had a national draft today, there would be far less teenagers bored, unemployed and going off track. Who knows, huh?

Anonymous said...

I enjoy getting my old foot locker out and looking at pictures like these from my time. Sometimes I find a shoebox or a cardboard box out in the barn with pictures I forgot I had.

Buck said...

Cool! Another war story! I LOVE 'em!

I was at Wakkanai AS in extreme northern Japan (as far north as you can go in Japan, without hitting the ol' USSR) from '68 - '70. It would be hard, if not impossible, to come up with a larger contrast in weather. And other things... like getting shot at or mortared. ;-)

~Fathairybastard~ said...

Loved reading that. Love the history and the personal angle. I'm fascinated by you guys and the lives you led. Keep it up.

CushMan said...

I was at Nha Trang from Apr '70-Apr '71. Welcome Home, Brother! I was in the 1879 Comm Sq. It was a hellofa time! Your story brings back some memories. Larry, Sulphur Springs TX

PRH....... said...

Thanks for stopping by CushMan...and welcome home!

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Anonymous said...

Were any of you there when the USS Lynde McCormick came up to help keep the VC back? I am desperate to talk to any one who was there. My husband had the Con of the ship that night and I have some questions. Anyone out there help?
Joanne Nesbitt