Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Remembering Tan Son Nhut


Light snow flurries greeted the old Airedale, Reagan, and me when we walked to the bird feeders, to give the daily ration to the sparrows and squirrels. It was a change from the past couple days of drizzle, fog, and melting snow banks....the ground is grimy, the snow has turned a somewhat muddy brown on top, and the back yard is a mess of bird seed, droppings, and a few piles of Reagan's works...which I will get to tomorrow when it freezes...always fun when the snow melts..Not!

JD and I were at the Church last night as the South Division Dartball Playoffs between Hopewell Lutheran, and Mt Carmel Church of God, were held at our place(being this years host team/Church)...Upstart Hopewell with some young players won the first half championship, while perennial power Mt Carmel topped the South in the 2nd half....Last night Carmel got off to a fast start and won the first of the best of 3...before Hopewell got hot, winning the second game 9-8 in 10 innings, and taking the series with a 10-5 win in the final game.

Hopewell will take on Schumm from the North next Monday, for the League Championship. Meanwhile Mt Carmel will join Schumm, Mendon, and Rockford, in the semi-finals of the post season tourney....we at St Johns are long gone, except to host the event...although JD, Ed, and I will take part in the All Star Game on March 8th, also at St. Johns.

Nothing going on tonight, no Dartball, no Basketball, no meetings.....maybe my shoulder and neck can make a recovery, although this pain is different than most back and neck problems. I may have to see the chiropractor if it doesn't work itself out soon.

Tan Son Nhut(Saigon) RVN_____

I have written many times on this blog about the time I spent at Nha Trang AB on the South China Sea in South Vietnam. A full dozen of those men I served with I have met through the Vietnam Security Police Association.....one, Phil Lange, my NCOIC, honored me with a Life Time Membership in the VSPA, before he passed away last spring. The names and faces of Nha Trang, where I worked day shift(A Flight) Law Enforcement are etched in my memorty banks, as clear as the days at that base usually dawned. Bevan, Lange, Payan, Thompson, Niemotka, Copland, Johnson, Sandridge, Sloan, and others. Not so for Tan Son Nhut......

I first set foot on Tan Son Nhut on July 1, 1969. Just a day stop on arrival from San Francisco, via Hawaii, Guam, and the Philippines....one day and one night at the Transit Barracks, before heading back to Base Operations and jumping a C-130 to Nha Trang on July 2nd. I left Nha Trang and returned to Tan Son Nhut on December 27, 1969....crazy part is, I don't remember the flight, the plane, or for that matter even my arrival. The trip from TSN to Nha Trang 6 months earlier, I remember in great detail, the flight back, not at all.

But arrive I did...I would spend the next 6 months working Security, 3 months on Charlie Flight Security, walking the flight line, working the towers and bunkers...the final 3 months I would work "Blue Patrol"...once again on Charlie Flight, but this time in the alleys and buildings of the interior base, keeping down crime, and busting locals and GIs who would rob the place and base blind if given the opportunity.

The clearest memories of my time at Tan Son Nhut are the days I spent downtown in the bars and brothels of Saigon, and my 5 days in Hawaii on R&R in April of 1970. I suspect the reason TSN memories are not as clear comes down to a couple of reasons.

(1) The Size of the Squadron...the 377th SPS was the biggest group of Security Police in Vietnam, while the 14th SPS at Nha Trang was one of the smaller units on a smaller base.

(2) Working day flight at Nha Trang made things clearer...that along with plenty of sleep. At TSN, I worked overnights, and ended up with Insomnia for at least 2 months of the 6 I spent there. I would work until 6am, unable to sleep I would go the the NCO Club and drink beer until I figured I could go back to the barracks and pass out.

Regardless of the reasons, I just don't have the clear memory of people and their names as I do from Nha Trang, even though I served my time at TSN, after Nha Trang.

I do however have memories of a few....

Me and Aceavedo waking up on our off day at a brothel in downtown Saigon... it appears we had been slipped a "Mickey" and passed out. We were 2 miles from base, and broke(robbed), except for the $5 MPC(Military Pay Currency) that I had slipped in my fatigue pocket...enough for us to grab a cab ride, hangover and all, back to the base entrance, where a couple of LE Guys, fellow Cops, gave us a ride back to the barracks.

I also remember working a tower out in Bravo Sector on the perimeter one stormy night. The tower was medal with a lightning rod...during a heavy rain and rare thunderstorm a large bolt of lightning struck the fence line, not 50 yards from my "metal" tower. "Screw This" I said to myself....I wasn't about to get fried(like what happened on more than one occasion to SPs while manning towers during storms)...so I grabbed my M-16, my equipment bag, threw my rain poncho over my head and climbed down out of that tower. I plopped my ass down in a small ravine covered the weapon with the bag, and waited for the storm to end....I was soaked when relieved by the day shift the next morning, but damn, I was still alive! Hell, even "Charlie" as Gung Ho as those crazy sons a bitches were, wouldn't be out on a night like that. What I did was of course illegal, I basically left my post...tough luck.....I survived the storm.

The Hawaii R&R trip and the day I left Tan Son Nhut on my way home to the states, 29 June 1970 are also well remembered....but as far as hooking up with folks I actually remember, or those that might remember me, just has not happened. With the exception of Chris Godfrey from California...of course everybody knew Chris...we called him "Surfer Joe", he spent over 3 years of his tour with the 377th, still kicking around in California today, Chris Godfrey is a Tan Son Nhut legend.

Despite that, I have met many folks that were there the same time, before ,and after my time with the 377th...I just have not found Ace or the guys from Boston I hung around with...but I will keep looking. If I could just remember a few more names???

One great location for those that served with the 377th SPS in Vietnam is Charles Penley's(A fellow VSPA Member) great web location:

And for former Security Police and non Sky Cops, there is the Tan Son Nhut Association web site:

Captain Paul Christensen_____

Captain Paul Christensen was one of the men that worked Charlie Flight the same time I did....he was one of the "bosses", whom I probably met, saluted, and saw, during my 3 months in Charlie Flight Security at Tan Son Nhut....Paul arrived before I did, in August 1969, and left about a month after me....so I'm pretty sure we crossed paths. But I just don't remember him. However I did contact him regarding his on line photos of Tan Son Nhut and the 377th SPS....most of those here, but not all are credited to Captain Christensen...Thanks Paul!

back later >>>>












Photos-(1)Entrance to the 377th Squadron(2) Me, getting ready for Charlie Flight work in March 1970, just after getting my Sgt stripes....(3)The Barracks inside the 377th Compound, I lived in the 2nd from left on the top floor(4) Tango Tower #10, I spent many nights in this and other towers...trying to stay awake.(5) A view from one of the towers overlooking TSN (6) And the Terminal at the Saigon Airport...I arrived and left from this building on more than several occasions. Photos 1, 3, 4, and 5 are credited to Paul Christensen.

7 comments:

United Citizens Council said...

Thank you for your service to our country so that people like me can sit back and criticize our government without (so far) worry of reprisal.

Sarge Charlie said...

what did you think of the angle of decent into TSN

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

I remember looking into the trees coming downtowards the base, and thinking.."Holy Sheet"...but the time that C-130 flew into Nha Trang the next day, I felt like I could survive anything.

Hope you are feeling well Sarge!

Kansas Scout said...

Very interesting post. I like your blog.

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