Friday, May 1, 2009

Phil Lange-Gifts from Nha Trang RVN


The rain continued off and on, mostly on, yesterday. Last night about 8 I saw a thin line of thunderstorms crossing Illinois and Indiana, and swooping down towards Ohio...they appeared to be moving fast, and looked as though they would push through in quick order...seems they had other plans. Once the thin line got to Mercer County and directly east and west, it stopped...we proceeded to have rain and storms continue for the next 8 hours, with the resulting Flood Watches and Warnings now in place...What a mess!!

As I type this morning, the sun has tried to peak through a couple of times without much success....the baseball schedule continues to be pushed around, and the lawns that need it, remain unmowed. But, what the Hell? You cannot do much about it, except bitch...and I do. Must be something about getting older...you complain about the weather and your health, but can't do a damn thing about either....at least for the most part. Things don't look good for baseball tonight at Spencerville or tomorrow at Delphos, although neither place(both north of Celina) do not appear to have gotten the rain we did...but wet weather continues in the forecast for most of the next 10 days, at least. Sam is slated to do a High School game down at Dayton's Fifth Third Minor League Class A field tomorrow(home of the Dayton Dragons)...but that is in serious peril at this point.

Gifts from and an old boss____

I took the time the other day to wish my old NCOIC from Vietnam, Phil Lange, a belated happy birthday...Phil turned 77. He was my first boss when I arrived at Nha Trang AB on July 2, 1969. He was a 37 year old Technical Sargent(5 stripe E-6) from New Hampshire...assigned to Law Enforcement with the 14th Security Police Squadron. Phil was the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge of our LE Section.



I was a 20 year old Airman First Class who was assigned to my first and only Law Enforcement gig when I arrived at Nha Trang...the next 6 months would be my only experience with LE...I was before and would after be assigned to Security work((grunts as opposed to spit and shine). I had a couple of run ins with Phil, but basically we didn't see much of each other...I was assigned to Staff Sgt Melvin Sloan, and didn't see that much of Phil on a daily basis. Phil seemed pretty much a good guy, but a career one, and I tried to avoid most "lifer" types in my personal life...there were exceptions however.

Phil had arrived at Nha Trang in December 1968, and departed on December 14, 1969...he headed stateside and eventual retirement from the Air Force...2 weeks after he left for the "World", I was shipped out to Saigon, Tan Son Nhut AB...there I would work C Flight(overnight) Security on the perimeter at Vietnam's largest Air Base...Nha Trang was one of the small ones, and sat on the beaches of the South China Sea...there was little doubt which I preferred...duh! Nha Trang was nice, small, rather safe, and easy duty...at least compared to TSN..although at Tan Son Nhut one could get lost in the shuffle, and I did my best to do just that. I returned home, then to Griffiss AFB in upstate New York, on June 29, 1970.

Fast forward almost 30 years....

I had pretty much forgot a lot about my Vietnam days...unlike others, I was not trying to forget it, or was I ashamed of it, or was I "gung ho" concerning it...it just had not been a part of my life after getting out of the Air Force...my AF days were not my favorite time, although I did have some good times and met good friends, during the same...I had just choose not to relive them or dwell in those from 25 to 30 years before.

Well in 1999 I was surfing the Internet, Al Gore's excellent invention(sarcasm alert!) one afternoon, and typed in "Security Police Vietnam War"....my life was changed from that "click" of the button....I was taken to a place called The Vietnam Security Police Association" VSPA for short:


I spent many days the next several months that fall of 99 going over the web site, and looking for names of folks I was stationed with at Nha Trang and Tan Son Nhut...funny part is, as big as TSN was, I have never found someone I remember from there...although there are folks I was stationed with, I just have not been able to match name and face. Not so for the small band of brothers at Nha Trang...The first 2 names I see from 68-69 Nha Trang are Bruce Thompson and Phillip Lange...I remembered them both well. Since that time, Johnny Claflin, Marcus Payan, Tony Niemotka, Tom Johnson, Steve Walsh(who I was with at Dover), and one of my best friends Harry Bevan, have been found....the VSPA was indeed a God

send....there are others folks I would still like to find, but time is growing short as we get older.

As it is, there are about 20 of us from the Nha Trang days that keep in touch via e-mail and reunions.

Back to Phil Lange....

Phil and I exchanged e-mails and photos early on, and have continued to do so on a sporadic basis for the past 10 years...band of brothers rings true in the case of the guys I was with at Nha Trang.

The other day Phil sent me a e-mail asking if I had a collection of items from Vietnam, and our days with the 14th SPS. Yes, I had a small collection, including shrapnel fragments from the October 12, 1969 Rocket Attack...I had my Zippo Lighter, and some items including a plaque from Tan Son Nhut. He wrote back, that he had an original Air Police Shield, and some other items from Nha Trang he would like for me to have....because he knew I would appreciate them, and take care for them.

When I returned from a baseball game at Bellefontaine on Tuesday a small padded manila envelope from Laconia, New Hampshire, was on my desk....Phil Lange had wasted no time in getting these welcomed items out to me...in the envelope were the following:

(1) An Original Air Police(pre Security Police) Shield from 1966 or earlier(the APs became SPs in the fall of 1966)..these original shields are a scarce as hen's teeth, and go like gold on E-Bay....

(2) 2 QC Patches, original from our days in Vietnam...I have some newer patches that have been made, but these were actual patches from the 14th back in 1969...hard to find.

(3) and the a original Republic of South Vietnam flag....3 feet square in almost mint condition, without tears or rips....

My old boss Phil Lange had done me right...Thanks you Brother...I will keep these in your honor for the rest of my days.

After his Air Force days, Phil returned to New Hampshire, to teach at a local college there....I salute his service in both endeavors, because this college professor, is a Conservative and a Patriot.

back later...if the rivers don't rise to high. Have a great weekend regardless of the weather or who is sitting in the White House.
photos-(top) An Original Air Police Shield...we wore these regardless whether it was Vietnam or Stateside..the originals are hard to find. (the items in the package) South Vietnam Flag, a couple of QC Patches, and the Shield (and 2 photos from my Nha Trang days) me with my trusty Jeep, and Marc Payan, Sgt Ky, and Harry Bevan at the Nha Trang Main Gate.
















2 comments:

Law and Order Teacher said...

Pat,
A treasure indeed. I post with the Security Police shield because I feel it was the best I could do for my country. I spent 26 years as a police officer, but it didn't compare to my time as an SP. I'm that proud of it. Your items are my envy. I don't have any of those from my time. Just my pride. Good post, Pat.

BRUNO said...

You say you haven't heard a "peep" outta me for a while---well, this is for YOU, then:

"PEEP!"

Now! Took care of THAT!!!

As for the days of past that we'd just as soon forget, I can only offer this---Regardless of what Rank, Branch, and/or MOS we chose, or were assigned to, ONE thing always remained the same: We ALL started out in GREEN...!!!