Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Air Force Days {1968-72} part 12 Tan Son Nhut RVN

What a difference a day makes...yesterday morning when beginning the day, I walked out to feed the backyard birds and Squirrels we felt the back end of the overnight rain and it was still hovering near 60...24 hours later, we are looking at wind, a dusting of snow on the ground and 20 degrees with a single digit chill factor...a cold weekend with flurries is forecast and then next week a more moderating beginning of February is in store...I still am fighting my personal cold, albeit it's not a bad one...but still a pain to work through. 

Basketball officiating tonight, with a game at Crestview, then one more on Friday, and two, one in the morning and one Saturday evening....just over three weeks to go for me on the hardwoods...and frankly it can't come soon enough, I'm ready for a break before Baseball, and the four weeks off between season will be welcome.

More Tan Son Nhut.....

{Today January 31, 2003 is the 45th Anniversary of the TET Offensive and the Attack on Tan Son Nhut Airbase, defended by the 377th Combat Security Police Squadron}

After six sun baked months on the beach and base of Nha Trang, I arrived at the Saigon/Tan Son Nhut Airport for my next adventure in Vietnam....the 377th SPS would be different in many ways than the 14th at Nha Trang.  It was a bigger{much bigger} base and squadron, and instead of the small 9 man Day{A}Flight Law Enforcement group I was with at the northern base, I would be assigned to C Flight Security, working the overnight shift along the perimeter, with dozens of others.  The threat of actual combat was much more real working nights at TSN, but in reality, I never was one to worry about that...the job was just that.

First night on duty, and I believe it was New Year's Eve, just before the dawn of a new decade, the 70s, that I spent my first night with the 377th....Echo Sector and the restored infamous Bunker 051.  Bunker 51 and the large SP Tower, Tango 4, were the center of action when TET 1968 descended upon the base on January 31st of that year.  4 Sky Cops died that night, others were left with deep scars that would be with them for the remainder of their for me and the others that night, not much action at all...and that would be my only night on 51, I would spend the next 10 weeks on C Flight Security, working mostly in Echo Sector, in the towers and flightline.

In those weeks I would come down with a nasty case of became common for me to work all night, head to the base NCO Club, drink more than a handful of morning beers, and head back to the barracks in the 1300 area, in hopes of getting some sleep.  Thank God for being young and in pretty good shape, I survived the insomnia.  In the meantime I would get my 3rd stripe and become a low ranking NCO...that upgrade{of sorts} and my not getting along with the older, supposedly superior ranking NCOs{meaning I didn't take much crap from them} got me "promoted" in mid March of 1970...technically I was still with Charlie Flight, but Resource Protection Flight aka: "Blue Patrol" was more of a offshoot of Law Enforcement.  I would spend the next three months working with a handful of other trouble makers guarding the inner resources of the huge base at Saigon.

Being one of the few NCOs with the Blue Patrol, most nights I got to drive around in the Jeep, checking on the others, keeping them awake with coffee, BS, apples and other was a sweet way to end my tour of Vietnam.  Shortly after being assigned to Blue Patrol, I got my orders for my R&R...I had chosen Hawaii.  Sure most of those going to the 50th state were married and heading back to meet their wives or in some cases, my case I wanted a taste of stateside and figured I would never get to see Hawaii  except for the plane ride over and was a wild five days, that story next.

back later>>>>

Photos-The damaged bunker 051 where four Air Force SPs of the 377th lost their lives on 31 Jan 68...Me getting my 3rd stripe and getting ready for duty in Echo Sector/Charlie Flight...Worked the towers at least 2 nights or more a week for my 10 week stay on C Flight Security...Resource Protection was next in my job description, and a good way to end my Vietnam tour....and in April of 1970 I was standing on Waikiki Beach on R & R....that story next:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Back to Tan Son Nhut 12/27/69....part 12 of my Air Force Days 1968-72

60 degree temperatures stayed with us overnight, and this morning, after more rain overnight, the temps remain well above normal for this end of January....but by this evening, 23 degrees is forecast, and then a couple of cold, very cold, days will be on hand...things will moderate back to the normal range by the beginning of next week, with temps in the 30s for highs.

I worked a double header Junior High Girls Basketball at Delphos St. Johns..things moved along swiftly until the 4th quarter of the second game, that 8th grade contest went into overtime...but we were still out of there by 7:15 and I was home by time to watch Ohio State knock off Wisconsin 58-49...a rare game indeed, the Badgers did not attempt a free throw the entire contest....rare indeed.

On to Tan Son Nhut.....

I left Nha Trang a day or two after Christmas 1969...frankly, I remember little of that day.  I was one of the last of the 14thSPS members to go, the 14th was disbanded and another smaller squadron replaced the 14th...the name and number escape me.  In fact, unlike the original flight from TSN to Nha Trang the previous July, I don't remember the flight at all....I believe it was another C-130.  The thing I do remember, just like the flight to Nha Trang, I was on my own heading back to Saigon...unlike the guys heading to Phan Rang as a group, this Sky Cop was on his own.

My six months in Saigon itself were an anomaly in total...I remember very few names from there, although I do recall the duty and the ups and downs of my time there.  My cube mate in the 1300 area barracks, where the 377th SPS lived, was a Hispanic, a good guy, whose name escapes fact the only names I really recall are Aceavedo, another Mexican who I spent a great deal of time with running the bars of Saigon on our day off, which was a Tuesday, Sarge Joe Prokop, my basic training T.I., who greeted me at the Airport Terminal on my return.  It was Joe who had told me in basic, when I received my assignment to Security Police School, that within the next year, I would be "Guarding the Perimeter at Tan Son Nhut".  He wasn't far off...and Joe had made it there himself even sooner than me...from Basic Training Instructor to B Flight for myself, I would be with "C" Flight, that would be the overnight shift.

Not many other names come to mind from Tan Son Nhut and the 377th...a couple of black guys, Brown, was one, he was or at least appeared to be the Squadron "Flamer" doubt queer as a $3 bill,  but supposedly with a wife back home....seemed like a nice enough guy, but needless to say I steered clear...then there was Ronald McDonald, the guy with the franchise clowns name was on C Flight as well....Saigon proved a bit more rough than his home of New York City....McDonald didn't last long, we found him dead on post one night, it appeared to be from a Drug overdose...although there was really nothing official on that matter.

The other guy who's name I remember was Chris Godfrey...everybody knew Chris...or as I called him "Surfer Joe".  Chris, who passed away last May, was a California guy who ended up in Tan Son Nhut in 1967 and stayed for over 3 years....leaving after me, in the late Summer of 1970.  Chris was the longest standing in-country SP that I knew of or ever heard of....he was a card to say the least.  Godfrey would blare rock and roll from his cubicle on the floor below mine, and tell us younger arrivals of the activity of the TET Offensive on January 31, 1968...the attack on Tan Son Nhut which gave  the 377th SPS the moniker "Proven in Combat".  Godfrey was one of those guys you will remember until the end of your days.

Those were the names I remember...rare as it seems, I spent a few more days at Tan Son Nhut than I did at Nha Trang, but I don't have anywhere the recollection of the former as I did the latter, as least as far as names, however duty-wise I remember much, those memories, and my R&R in Hawaii are up next.

back later>>>>

Photos from Tan Son Nhut-The entrance to what would be my new home for six months the 1300 Barracks home of the 377th SPS/Tan Son Nhut from Above/Richard Sheldon posted this photo of Tango-1 a Tower that I, and hundreds of other Sky Cops worked over the years/and finally my shot from my 2nd floor perch of my barracks home....this was during the Monsoon Season with a couple of knuckleheads playing roundball in the downpour.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Part 11 Moving on to Tan Son Air Force Days 1968-72

60 degrees today...60 on January 29th???  No wonder I have come down with a cold and sore throat...the crazy weather will continue and by the time the weekend arrives, lows will be in single digits with highs in the teens.

Nick and I hauled Sam's stuff to the western Chicago berg of Bensenville on Sunday, trying to beat the approaching ice storm on the way....we made it to the Tri-State Tollway southwest of Chicago before the sleet started, the ice followed in short order, and Sunday afternoon and evening were a wet, icy, windy, and cold mess....

Before we hit the bad weather however, we met with my old Dover AFB Buddy, Howard I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, "Howie" had found my blog, during a search for Vietnam and Dover Security Police...he typed in a comment, and I found it a few days later.  Sunday after a few calls, we met at a gas station "oasis" on the southwest corner of the tollway.  We swapped old stories and what has happened in our lives over the past 43+ years since we left Delaware for Vietnam.  I left in May of 69, Pritch left a couple of months later...both of us spending our time at two bases in Southeast Asia, me at Nha Trang and Tan Son Nhut, and Howie at Da Nang and Phu Cat, we had not seen each other since I left for AZR School in the late Spring of was a good reunion, and Howie has decided to join our VSPA group...and to make an effort to get to Dayton in March.

After some scrambling, Nick and I found Sam's new place, we would have made it drier and quicker if I had listened to Sam originally...I thought we took 294 to the correct exit, but instead we were supposed to cut back on I-290 West towards Rockford...that mistake caused us to have to backtrack around O'Hare Airport and after a few phone calls, wrong turns, etc, we finally found Sam's place...and the wet, icy, unload trip in the ice and rain to where Sam was living, and back again, and we finally finished the unloads...soaked to the bone as the ice started to freeze on the wires, limbs, and streets.

They left Nick and I to our own devices, as was my suggestion, so they could get back the 10 miles to where they would stay...Nick and I headed out looking for some food and a liquor store...we found both.  I picked up 8 cans of Murphy's Stout, an English brand, Nick got a bottle of Drambuie....we ended up not touching much of either...I opened a can of Stout, Nick never touched a drop...The Reason?:  A place called "El Famous Burrito" just a stone's toss from Sam's apartment.

I had never heard of this small chain....but it sounded like something we would like to try...we walked in about 6pm Central Time...a Spanish TV Station blared in the dining area, Nick and I took a gander at the Menu...each deciding to get a Burrito with Double Steak...."One Burrito would be good" I reasoned...that way I could still enjoy a couple of beers and maybe a shot of Drambuie on the Rocks...That all changed when our order was put up.....

We looked at each other...those damn things were as big as a small loaf of bread...I added some hot sauce, Nick took us a half hour to get through them...and this was with NO sides....the "sides" were inside the Burrito...what a meal.  I will go back next time I visit Sam at his place...that was the good, the bad was, those things stuffed us so that drinking alcohol was pretty much out of the question.

So we hit the hay, got up early, walked next door to the 7-11 picked up a couple of large coffee's and dropped a shot of Drambuie into each...figured "What the Hell"?  After a quick shower, we moved some of Sam's belongings around in the apartment, packed our stuff and headed out...overnight the temps had risen to the mid 40s and the ice was a thing of the past...not much traffic heading south and east away from Chicago...and we made it to Van Wert in 4 hours...stopped at Frickers grabbed a bite to eat and I was in my house before 2pm.

On to Tan Son Nhut{Saigon}....

I see today's posting about the Chicago trip, has been pretty long, I will just say that on December 27, 1969, I departed my favorite base in Vietnam and anywhere else I was stationed for that matter, and headed back to Saigon...this flight was not as memorable, although I seem to remember it to was in a C-130...the next six months would be a bit different duty, well a lot different duty, than the first 6....that story in the next installment.
In Dartball...

We managed to sweep our first set of the year last night at Hopewell last night to move to 8 wins 7 loses on the season's 2nd half...I continued my downward slide, going just 3 for 14 with a triple and 2 RBIs...but we moved into second place in the south, with division leading Mt Carmel up at our church next average slid to .288 to go with 17 RBIs.  My first full season I batted .286 and have not been below .300 in the past 17 seasons, finishing as league leader in Batting 3 times and RBIs twice...I will have to play well just to hit .300 this year, although it appears I will make the All-Star team again...but, I don't really deserve it.

back later{with more Tan Son Nhut and Air Force memories}>>>>

Photos-Howard Pritchard and me, more than 43 years since we last saw each other at Dover AFB, Delaware....The small Mexican Chain called El Famous Burrito has the biggest and some of the best Burrito Meals I have ever tasted....and me...March 1970 at Tan Son of the few photos from TSN I have in my hands....lost many, and working nights I just never took as many as I did at Nha Trang.

Friday, January 25, 2013

More Nha Trang Photos 1969...from My Air Force Days 1968-72 part 10

The snow began around sunrise, no sun to view however, as the snow started coming down, lite, but steady...maybe an inch or so thus far with another inch or two on the way...not sure if it will affect the games tonight, the next couple of hours will tell.  Worked here in Celina last night, with the local girls taking both the JV and Varsity games over WBL Rival, Van Wert....tonight boys at Delphos Jefferson, and tomorrow I stay north with a boys JV contest at Crestview...

Between the snow, the basketball, and the packing of Sam's items and furniture for transport to Chicagoland on Sunday, things will be a bit far as time to get all done.  Depending on how much snow we get, will decide how much, or if at all, the snow blowers get used here and at mom's.

More Nha Trang Photos from 1969....

It was hard to leave Nha Trang at Christmas in 1969...especially not knowing what waited ahead at Tan Son I have mentioned before, I could have stayed in Nha Trang for my entire tour, not only in Vietnam, but for the remaining 2+ years I had left in the Air Force.  Once I left Nha Trang, I did not hear from anybody I was with there, until over 30 years later....finally in the early part of this new

century I found, Walsh, and Claflin, both living in Florida, Marc Payan in El Paso, and Harry Bevan, working as a Philly Cop at the Philadelphia Airport...Harry and I hooked up at the VSPA Reunion in October 2011, along with a handful of other Nha Trang Alumni who were stationed there around the same time....It was by far my favorite spot, my VSPA Buddy Bill Harris lives in Vietnam these days and will be visiting Nha Trang today...I told Bill to snap a photo off the beach if he gets a chance...a photo like the one I took so many years ago:

Photos-The View from the Beach at Nha Trang, above the old Sky Cops from Nha Trang at Dayton in 2011.... below Top to bottom:  Tony Niemotka at the Main Gate in 1969,  Me and Harry Bevan at the VSPA Reunion in October 2011 at the Air Force Museum,  Left to Right, at the VSPA Banquet, Bevan, Me, and Niemotka, Marc Payan as he looks today,  Payan, Sgt Ky of the RVN QC, and Harry Bevan at the Main Gate at Nha Trang in October 1969...

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

My Air Force Years 1968-72....Photos from Nha Trang

A lite dusting of snow overnight...looks like it made the roads and city streets a bit slippery, but no school delays that I know of....youngest son Hal, called from near Harrisburg, PA, last night...guess he came down with some sort of hives before he left Dayton yesterday on a work trip to central Pennsylvania...said early this morning the blotches were gone but he was stuck with the itching, but had a day long meeting, so didn't want any Benedril to take the itching away, it might make him tired..I know all about "hives" from the allergic reaction I had to fresh crab meat nearly 40 years ago...nasty case, and my love for fresh Blue Crabs came to a end....don't touch the stuff these days.

Nick and I got together last night, planning our trip to the Chicago area to deliver Sam's furniture and other stuff...we will pack the stuff up and put in the truck bed Saturday, and head out early Sunday, coming back Monday afternoon....

Nha Trang in Photos.....1969

Before I head to Tan Son Nhut and begin that phase of my Air Force experience, I thought I would spend a couple of days attaching some photographs of Nha Trang during my time there....some of the photos are mine, others are from Bill Morgan and my late NCOIC Phil Lange, who between them took hundreds of  snapshots, put them on slides, and they survived well...after Phil passed away, his son Paul sent me many photos and Bill sent me a CD of many of his and Phil's views.  So here we go....some I can describe others, not so much:

Phil Lange behind the desk at the Airport first view of LE at Nha Trang.
The V100 of SAT at the 14th SPS HQ....
Transportation of sorts at Nha Trang in 1969....I am pretty sure outside the lights of the tourist trap at Nha Trang, things have not changed much for the locals...
The outdoor Movie House, located across from our living quarters....plenty of first run shows were played almost every night....
The BBQ Pit next to Bailey's Speakeasy....Party Time
Phil Lange, Captain Bailey, and the First Louie enjoying a good Cigar at the Speakeasy...
"Little George" the 14th SPS Mascot of sorts...George used to hang around our gate shacks and posts, until one afternoon he accidentally put an M16 round through the roof of one of the shacks...nobody was hurt, but that put an end to George hanging on posts.

More Photos and one last look at Nha Trang in the next installment before I head to Tan Son Nhut...

back later>>>>

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Part 8 My Air Force Days...1968-72 More Nha Trang...

4 degrees with a 13 below zero Chill Factor this morning when I strolled outside with the supply of peanut balls and seed for the backyard Squirrels and Marauding Birds...without a doubt this was the coldest morning in at least two years.  Last year much above "normal" and so far this winter season, despite a foot of snow post Christmas, the temperatures have been normal or above for the most part, until this week.  The remainder of the week looks below normal, then on Sunday, with conditions predicted to improve, Nick and I will head to the Chicago area to drop off Sam's "stuff"...speaking of Sam, lucky he now his gainfully employed, his first "emergency" came about with brake problems on his Nissan...$470 was the bottom line, "Ouch"!  O' well, he's making the Big Bucks now, so, welcome to reality, post college.  {insert smiley face}

Actually today, temperature wise, reminded me of our 2009 Vietnam Security Police Reunion at Dayton...that was January 31, 2009...the weather was brutally cold, much like today....when we snapped the attached photo, some of the guys as well as all the wives had already escaped to the cafe in the adjacent Air Force Museum.  Chill Factor was about like today, and was the factor that helped me decide to move the Mini Reunion from January to mid least that gives us a shot at better weather, and we have been lucky the past couple of years.

Remembering Nha Trang....

As July 1969 came and went, I settled in and became comfortable with my duties and my off time at the base on the South China Sea.  Spent time downtown, spent some time at the beach, but my usual off time was either at Bailey's Speakeasy{our private Security Police Club}, the NCO Club on base, or the outdoor theater, located across the street from out barracks.  There was a mini mall there as well, located next to SP HQ and the outdoor movie house, it had a barber shop, camera shop, where you could get your photos developed, buy needed cameras and items, etc....a small BX{base exchange} to purchase things to make life a little more enjoyable and easy.  Let's be real....our lives, at least at Nha Trang and even the more dangerous Tan Son Nhut, was vastly preferable to the poor bastards in the infantry and related outfits that those draftees and others in the Army and Marines had.

We also had a small snack bar, for shakes, cokes, and sub sandwiches....Nha Trang, which I have gone into detail before on this blog, was pretty sweet duty, especially for a guy working day flight law enforcement.  We had one rocket attack in October, and two major Aircraft in November and another in October.   The first killed a dozen or so on the aircraft and another 30 or so civilians, most children, at a school house at the end of the runway...the second involved a jet fighter hitting the wrong end of the runway, taking out a couple of Army guys and 2 or 3 civilians before sliding to a stop near the beach.

Such was life in a "war zone"....The days of Dover were I had not matured to adulthood yet, but I was growing, and gaining more confident as the weeks passed.  By this time I had grown from a 5' 9" 135 kid at Amarillo to 5' 11" and about 170...still a kid, but gaining confidence as the weeks passed.  Those days were the best of my time in the Air Force, at lease location and duty wise...probably one of the reasons I remember so many more names and faces from Nha Trang than the rest of my duty stations, Dover memories and people are next on that list....Tan Son Nhut, and even Griffiss, not nearly as much, although events from those two locations are clear in my mind today as well.

Shortly after the second Aircraft crash, I received did many others before me, I was heading for the Big Town...Saigon, and a base called Tan Son Nhut.  That story and more is next.

back later>>>>

Photos-top January 31, 2009 our frozen Vientnam Security Police mini-reunion at Dayton and Wright-Patterson AFB.  Me on Jeep Patrol at Nha Trang, and again on duty at the Civilian Worker Entry Control Gate.  And finally a look at Nha Trang Beach, overlooking the South China Seas, as it looks today.

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Air Force Days 68-72, Settling in at Nha Trang...part 7

January 21st on average is the coldest day of the year, at least in this part of the world....30 days past the beginning of winter and like it counterpart July 21st, it is the day of extremes....this day the coldest on average, and it appears that today and tomorrow morning will be the coldest days of the season so far....but I've experienced colder.  Highs in the teens for a few days with lows in the single digits and wind chills below zero...but what the Hell, it is January?

And on this "Holiday" of sorts...not really the birthday of Martin Luther King, but the Monday after, an excuse for government to take a day far as our nation's government, I'm wishing they would take many more days off...and stay the Hell out of our lives.  Speaking of out of control government, today is also the day our interloping foreign born President begins his second and {hopefully} final four years of destroying our Republic...Barack Insane Obama will be sworn in this day...and hopefully this clown and his Posse' will freeze their lying, Marxist, asses off....the more uncomfortable he and his Lemming-Like supporters are, the better for all of us. 

Needless to say, I won't be watching the self appointed "King of America" be crowned by the lap dog media of this nation.....

Nha Trang, South Vietnam, Summer of '69'....

Shortly after arriving at Nha Trang, I was out the Law Enforcement Desk at the it was, the 14th SPS Desk, I introduced myself to the Buck Sgt on duty, and he called for a Jeep which arrived in short order to transport me and my bags to Squardon HQ at the 14th first thoughts of Nha Trang were as follows:  {1} Pretty Small, which was nice..{2} Hot, no surprise there..{3} Pretty nice duty location...or at least it appeared to bem but then again, this was Vietnam, so what was "Nice Duty"?

I checked in, was given a Barracks location, and a bed/stall number, and told to check in there, get settled and be at the front desk the next morning....Here I was in Vietnam, a full year awaited me...that, at least to this 20 year old back in the Summer of 69, seemed like a Hell of a long time.

The first people I met, or at least remember meeting, were Harry Bevan, Marcus Payen, Bruce Thompson, and others, whose faces are are now clouded by time and a memory, while still clear on many things from those days, had forgotten more that I would like to admit.  The next morning it was back to SPS Headquarters and doing some paperwork....I'm not sure how exactly I ended up in Law Enforcement, rather than would be the first and only time I would work LE.  I was assigned to "A" Flight, which meant I would work days, with one day off per week, that would be Tuesday in my case.  My NCOIC was a Tech Sgt named Phil Lange and my immediate supervisor was a tall black man, Staff Sgt Melvin Sloan.  Phil and I had a rocky relationship to start, but we became good friends later in lift and agreed on many things through our days at the VSPA and our e-mails back and forth.  Sloan and I would become pretty close during my days at Nha Trang....albeit those proved all to short.

Bevan, Payen, and I were on the same shift, and worked LE together....Johnny Claflin, would arrive shortly after I did, and we would hang together until JC was shipped out to Phan Rang.  LE Duty was basically pretty sweet, well at least as sweet as you could find as a Air Force Cop in Vietnam.  All the Airman and Airman First, along with most of the Buck Sargent's{3 stripes} would rotate between the entry control points and Jeep Patrol Duty.  With our days busy, and rotating on SAT{Security Alert Team}, our nights were free to do anything we pleased, as long as it was on base.....

We had a open air theater that would show newly released movies, and the SPs had our own movie house, named "Bailey's Speakeasy" in honor of our First Lt...who, not much older than us, left the discipline and hands on duty to the senior NCOs in charge of the troops.  We had BBQs at the outdoor pit, cold beers, and plenty to keep us busy.  Frankly Security Police were not the most popular people on base....I have written before about my run-ins with Army Warrant Officers and others...I will try to shake the cob-webs out of my memory banks and try to recollect some of the activities and other memories of Nha I have stated time and time again, those six months I spent at the base on the shores of the South China Sea, were the best of my Air Force days....the rest are not even close.

More on my days at Nha Trang as this story continues....

back later>>>>

Photos-The early days at Nha Trang....Me at a Civilian Entry Point on the north side of the base...Obama and his SS Troops start their 2nd term today,  Payan, Ky, and Bevan, at the Nha Trang Main Gate...and me on the beach at Nha Trang, note the red hair....I had bleached my hair blond to piss off the NCO, Jack Adkins, at Dover...then I tried to dye it back to dark brown, not wanting to look like some kind of flaming fag, and it turned a bright redish orange, and remained that way until my first hair cut at Nha Trang...this photo on the beach was taken during my first few days in country.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Flying To Saigon....My Air Force Days 1968-72 pt 6

Working a girls game last night I make my longest trip of the basketball season, to Kenton tonight, to work a JV Boys game...not sure how that contest will go, but the Varsity game to follow should be  a good one...Kenton and O-G are at the top of the WBL standings, with the visiting Titans, once beaten, undefeated in the league, near the top of the D3 State Rankings.  Tomorrow a 12 Noon Girls game, at Marion Local, then some time to rest my aching feet.

Before the game yesterday, my old buddy Dick, who is up from Florida, me, and Dick's son Ross, a local lawyer, grabbed a bite to eat at one of the small coffee shops in town...always good to get out for awhile...Dick heads back to warmer weather on Monday....this weekend ours looks seasonable and dry.

Flying to Saigon.....29 June 1969

Hard to believe it will be 44 years this Summer...of course it's hard to believe how fast time goes anyway...

Landing at San Fran International....I really don't remember much, except getting my duffel bag and gear and heading via a bus of some sort to Travis AFB...after the night there in the Transit Barracks, I climbed aboard a Braniff 707 and began flight across the Pacific Ocean towards Hawaii.

One advantage of the Air Force over most of the branches, was that we didn't stay in the same outfit or squadron throughout our tour...and thus, rather than be sent en' mass as a group in some Air Force flying death trap, we got to travel in style via commercial airlines...there were exceptions, but for the most part...we flew in style.  The old and now defunct Braniff was my first flight across, I would also fly Pan Am, United, and TWA, at various times when crossing.

Our first stop was Honolulu first time in the 50th State...several of us, on the stop-over, dropped by an airport bar and grabbed a drink or two...this was my first view of the Aloha State, and I saw it only from some Airport Lounge...

On to Guam, the American Territory....the land of Brown Snakes.  They had a large Air Force base there as well, as did our next stop in the Philippines.  Neither place looked like good duty to me, especially the latter.  The stops at
both locations were short, at least in my memory, and basically insignificant stops on the way across the pond.

Approaching Tan Son Nhut....

It was likely this was the time I started to get apprehensive...not about the war, or what part I may play in it...or even the long year, and whether I would survive.  After all as a 20 year old, time moved slowly and a full year seemed like a lifetime to a kid that least it certainly did to me.  I was more apprehensive about the the 707 lowered over the Jungle below...thoughts raced through my mind..."Rockets, Small Arms Fire, What Could Go Wrong"?  Would I survive my first day in war-torn South Vietnam"?

Of course I did, and we landed at Tan Son Nhut, aka: Saigon International... TSN was not my base of station, at least not yet, although it would be later...I was headed toward Nha Trang some 200 miles as the Crow Flies.  Nha Trang was located northeast of Saigon and nestled on the South China Sea....and at this time I had orders to Nha Trang, and I had to get there from Tan Son Nhut....I didn't have orders  on how to reach my I headed to Base Operations with orders in hand to find out how to reach my destination. 

The military bureaucracy is much like that in public life...slow and methodical.  I can't remember the exact back and forth, but the boys in Base Ops
fixed me up with a flight for the next day...tonight I would stay at the Tan Son Nhut Transit Barracks, sleep a restless night, while rocket and small arms fire, along with the wailing of a warning siren during the night, made that pretty sleepless...a combination of fear, anticipation, and wonder, all made my first night in Vietnam pretty memorable, but mostly without sleep as well.

C-130 to Nha Trang....

By this time I believe it was July 2nd in Vietnam, maybe the first....but really I can't recall and my records, now stuffed somewhere in my basement, don't tell either.  I do remember it was sunny, hot, humid, and the smells of Vietnam came into my life for the first time.  I headed back to the airport terminal with orders in hand for the day's flight...the next few hours were almost comical, and was probably the most surreal thing I had done in my 20 years to that point.

I was to hop a ride on a Air Force C-130 Cargo Plane...a big, lumbering, and noisy contraption to say the least...I was to be one of two human passengers, along with the crew and four or five goats.....seems old mamasan was flying my way, her and her small family of goats would share the flight.  My conversation was held, for the most part with a fellow Buckeye, a Buck Sgt from Ohio who served as a Load Master on this C-130...being a cop was a somewhat dangerous assignment in Vietnam, flying in or piloting airplanes of any kind, was even more so.  Anyway the old gal nor her goats were much for conversation.  The flight itself seemed to me, much to close to the tops of the Jungle and trees below... I would be glad to land, and eventually we did.

We landed at Nha Trang, the 130 taxied up to the small terminal on a metal taxi had rained within the past few hours, but the mid-day sun was
beating down as I climbed out of the cargo doors....Here I was at Nha Trang Air Base, my home for the next six months...I did not know what I would be doing, Law Enforcement, Security, Desk Work???  Didn't know which shift, days, nights, or afternoons???  Those questions would be answered soon enough, meanwhile I grabbed my gear and walked into the terminal...."Security Police Headquarters"?  I asked.  My Vietnam Journey begins in the next segment...part 7

back later>>>>

Photos-Braniff Airlines out of San Fran{Travis AFB} toward Saigon{never will call it Ho Chi Mihn} A somewhat overhead view of the large base at Saigon called Tan Son Nhut...A lumbering C130 Hercules, much like the one that carried me from Tan Son Nhut to Nha Trang in the Summer of 1969.....inside the C330, open seating was available, if you like the Paratrooper's all they had, just me the old Mamasan and her Goats.  Over Nha Trang heading in....and a look at the medal runway at Nha Trang as a chopper lands during the war.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Air Force Days 1968-72...preparing for Vietnam

A pretty stagnant weather pattern...not that that is bad, we have a combination of clouds and sun, with no rain or snow since early Monday...highs in the 30s lows in the 20s, not bad for January.  This is the kind of weather that is livable, not to cold, not a lot of snow or rain, and the messy melt of last week is now gone, the ground frozen.  Basketball, Girls tonight at Convoy, Boys tomorrow all the way over to Kenton, then locally at Marion Local in Maria Stein on Saturday afternoon, a girls JV contest.  Five weeks of roundball to go.....a month off, then baseball and hopefully warmer weather.

Hal, wife Lisa, and Grandson "K-Man" flew to Denver this morning....Hal called when they arrived, and said Kasyn managed his first plane ride with out any problems...a few days over the King Holiday and get some skiing while visiting Lisa's brother outside Denver in the mountains.  Meanwhile next weekend, Nick and I will head to the Chicago area and take Sam's bed, furniture, and small items, to his apartment, which he moves into within the next week...the oldest son is settling in with his new job and life outside The Windy City.

Transiting from Dover to Nam....

After receiving my orders to Vietnam and a base called Nha Trang in April of 1969, I kicked back and did as little on base as possible.  I kept on irritating the Hell out of Jack Adkins when I could, but I knew he would soon be a memory, like a bad rash that finally goes away.  I had other items on my mind....First Off, "What the Hell is AZR School"?  The combat prepardness course is what the Air Force called it....most, but not all cops heading for Vietnam would spend a week or so back in Lackland, learning the stuff we were supposed to be taught while in our original Cop School at Lackland, less than a year before.

M-16, Gernade Launchers, other small arms, including .60 cal machine guns, etc, were on the list...crawling under barb wire while receiving live fire above our heads were also part of the game plan...frankly I remember some of it, but hardly most.   It turned out that AZR was sandwiched into my pre-Vietnam leave, and I do remember it worked out well.  I was hitting the bars, drinking like I was a co-owner and getting a profit from the money spent...the week or 10 days in San Antonio was a good break, before heading back to Western Ohio...drinking more beer, and getting my mind ready for Vietnam.

I had heard that Nha Trang was close to the Garden Spot on the South China Sea...and that thought made me look forward to heading over all the more....Here I was, someone who joined the Air Force to avoid Vietnam and Combat, and here I was, heading to Vietnam after Combat training.  Now that didn't mean I would see gun fire or any type of combat, and franly I didn't want to.  I was just satisfied to get away from the Chicken Shit duty of being a Stateside SP.

I finished the final 10 days or so of leave...and Dad and Mom would drive me to the Dayton schedule read like this...Dayton to Chicago, Chicago to San
Francisco, bus to Travis AFB. 
Overnight in the Transit Barracks at out in the morning to Hawaii, Guam, Phillipines, and on to Tan Son Nhut, that base at Saigon.  We left for Vandalia the morning of June 28, 1969, where the Dayton Airport is located and a flight to Chicago was boarding shortly after we arrived there...we rushed down to the gate...I could have taken the next flight an hour or so later, but why drag out the good-byes?  I was in no hurry, but I didn't want to think about his we headed for the gate in a hurry, I said my farewell and jumped on the 707 bound for O'Hare.
Funny thing about that was clear as a bell and the route took us right over Grand Lake....our house was located in Montezuma on the south side of the lake, right next to the small local airport...sitting on the right side window, I
could make out the small runway and my house as we flew over the Celina about a mixed bag of emotions?
From Chicago we had a bumpy ride over the Rockies, then things smoothed out as we headed into San Fran....a bus ride that took us past Candlestick Park and the Hearst Castle, and I was at Travis...with the 3 hour time lapse I completed some paperwork and got a bed at the barracks....tomorrow there would be time to think about what would lay ahead.

"The Flight to Saigon" is next...

back later>>>>

Photos-The Terminal at Tan Son Nhut in Saigon around 1968...Aeiral Views of Dayton Airport/Grand Lake etc....and me and Mom just before heading to the Airport for my Vietnam Vacation on June 28, 1969...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Air Force Days 1968-72 part 4

Sunny and Cold today...guess I really should not say 'Cold' per say....more like seasonable for mid January. After all, by average mid January through January 21st is the coldest on average time of the year...after that, with the days getting longer{since December 22nd} the temperatures slowly start to climb back upwards through late July.

Just a single Junior High game, that ended with a 41-3{yes 3 points, all free throws} score at Delphos last night...once in awhile at that level you get those types of games...worked for me though, a full pay check for just one game{same as two would usually get you at the Junior High level}.  So with that quick game, I was off to toss a full night of Dartball....I would have been better off working two games.  My Dartball season, as it reaches the 2/3 mark is the worst since my first season.  We lost 2 of 3 last night to drop to 4 wins 5 loses on the season's second half, and I went hitless for the first 9 at bats, before scratching out 2 hits in a row, and then ending with a 2 for 12 night and 1 RBI...dropping my average down to .296 on the season.  Even in my bad back year of 2007-08 I finished above .300 after a slow start.  The last time I batted below .300 was my first full season, when I ended up .286...I've made the All-Star team every year since, and may again this year...but not with any satisfaction.   If not for young Tyler, who is batting over .360 with more than a dozen RBIs, we would be in bad shape...he is quickly turning into the leader of the team, the passing of the torch so to speak...old age, working basketball, and sore feet are coming home to roost on my game.

Tonight to Paulding for a double header Girls Junior High Basketball....

The Air Force Years...on to Dover, Delaware fall of 1968....

After completing Security Police School at Lackland in September, I took some leave time before heading to my first regular duty station.  With my "Dream Sheet" requesting Ohio, Florida, or Delaware, as home bases....I ended up getting Dover AFB, Delaware.   It was a SAC Base, so I figured the MAC Squadron would be somewhat better duty for a Security Police guy with just one stripe and clearing $92 a month....even by those days standards, "How the Hell did one survive"?

Mom and dad, along with youngest sister drove me out...I had sold my 62 Ford Falcon and it would be a few months or maybe weeks before I took a bus back to Ohio to pick up my new ride, a 1963 Plymouth Fury 318.  Mom and Dad visited her brother Bill and his wife and kids in Wilmington...I knew I would have a place to visit on my breaks at the with that, they took me the 90 miles or so south to Dover.  I checked in to the transit barracks on a fall Sunday evening, the
folks headed out, and here I was alone.  After the hustle and hurry of Basic and Cop School, it seemed pretty desolate for this 19 year old from the small Ohio town of Celina...not sure if I remember being lonely, but I do remember of the uncertainty of starting this new life alone.

The next morning I headed over to the 436th SPS and signed in...gotta say I don't remember much about the first days...except I was put on "B" Flight Security, given a room with a guy from near Pittsburgh, who was my senior by a couple of years, on the first floor of the SPS Barracks.  For the next 7 months my main "job" would be put on the dreaded "Mounds"....more on that later.  I would meet guys named Pritchard{Howie who just found me some 43 years later, thanks to this blog},
Turcotte, Gates, Little, Hochendoner, Lippencott, Walsh, Resnick, Parham, and addition to "Pritch" I have found Gates and Walsh over the years..."Hoke" was murdered back in the early 70s by a jealous ex-husband...the others, I don't know what became of them or what the did in life and possible death....but those were the names, along with a 5 Strip "Tech" Sargent named "Smiling Jack" Adkins...

Adkins tried to come off as a tough guy....he always reminded me of a bitter type, who never bothered doing anything constructive while he served, but disliked those of us who didn't take well to orders.  Of all the of good guys that served as my NCOIC types...Adkins I put in the same category with Joe Gomez...he was no Prokop, Lange,  Marcelle, or Melvin Sloan...those supervisors I liked and respected, not so much for Adkins or later Gomez at Griffiss....but I probably gave them reason enough to dislike me.

The Mounds.....

On rare occasion I worked the gate houses, "humped" around and guarded C-141s that carried Nukes or Special Cargo, or drove in a patrol wagon...but most nights and days{we worked 3 overnights, 3 days, and 3 afternoon shifts, with 24 ours off between shift changes...until we finished up the three late afternoon shifts, then we were giving 72 hours off to could never get enough sleep working that crap}....where spent on The Mounds...the mounds were akin to today's storage barns...except they housed Nuclear Weapons....that was our job, armed with Carbines
and .38 Police Specials, we stood on top of these "mounds" for 8 straight hours, with 30 minutes for a meal break..the wind blew, and blew, and since I was at Dover during the fall, winter, and spring months of 68-69, it was usually cold.  I remember one November night Turcotte and I were  standing on the mound BSing, when the small transistor we had blared out that "Richard Nixon has been Elected President" .  I cheered Turcotte didn't I was for Tricky Dick he was hoping Hubert Humpty Dumpty would be elected...looking back, did it really matter?

I soon was bored with Dover, the Mounds, and "Smiling Jack".  I was sick of going to classes when I got off from my shift and was assigned to study to upgrade my skill levels...I basically refused to worry about or work on the upgrade...What the Hell were they going to do...make me a Cook?  I mean, if I had wanted to study, I would have went to college.  I just wasn't going to do it....I've still got old test results from those days with my military records...most of the time, the tests didn't end well.

Even though I enjoyed my breaks in Wilmington at Uncle Bill's place...I hated the town of Dover....and I mean HATE.  Unlike Rome, NY, a few years later, Dover was, at least in my mind, not a friendly town for those of us serving.  I had good roommates, after the first guy I paired up with Robert Little III, Bob came across as a spoiled rich kid, but we got along....he was a cleanliness freak however...and that spring of 1969 Jack Gates and I roomed together.  Jack was from Oklahoma, smoked a few packs of cigarettes a day and was a few years old than
most of us...he was 23, the rest of us 19 or 20.  Jack, who now goes by Richard, Gates was one of a handful of good friends that I would make in the Air Force....after 40 years we made contact a few years back...he now lives on the Kentucky side of the Tennessee State Line.

But regardless of roommates, time off, or the coming summer with the Atlantic Ocean beckoning...I was sick of Dover, sick of the Mounds, sick of testing and most of all sick of "Smiling Jack" Adkins.  I strolled down to Base Ops one sunny spring morning in 1969...and told the Airman in charge...."I want to Volunteer to get out of here"...."Where would you like to go"? he inquired...I'm not sure what my initial response was, but I finally filled out another "Dream Sheet"....probably laughing to myself as I penciled in (1) Thailand  (2) Vietnam...

Yep, I had done it...I had joined the Air Force to stay out of Vietnam and Combat....I knew when I filled out that paper, I was not going to be sent to Thailand, where my brother Mike had served out his last years in the Air Force....I knew what country, just not which base, I was going...It would be Vietnam...and it was....

That story next.......

back later>>>>

Photos-The Main Gate at Dover back around the time I was there in the Late Sixties...Dartball Board, it's been a struggle this year, my worst year in nearly two decades, still time to get back to near normal if I hit better, but I'm not confident in that....Me at the "Mounds", I guess I should say "off post" at the mounds, on a winter night at Dover...we were supposed to be on toe, but when the Hawk was blowing we often snuck down to the storage buildings...the gate security made it pretty easy to get away with...Little, "Pritch" and Gates, followed by Gates and Ron Turcotte, and finally a blurry image of Jack Gate and PRH in our barracks room with our Playboy Pin Ups behind us, not long before we headed to Vietnam, all of "B" Flight, at least the guys I hung around and worked with, would be scattered off to Vietnam before the Fall of 1969....