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.

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