All the records indicate that after the New Years, things got decidedly “hotter” and more dangerous all around. We spent a lot of nights in the bunkers and had a fair number of “alerts” where we fell out fully armed.
Still, the inspection trips kept coming and I kept on going…this time to the in-country R&R site at Vung Tau. This place was possibly the safest spot in Vietnam. Both we and the enemy used it for R&R.
This is what I wrote about the trip down there, back when my memory was fresh: “On this trip we took the slow boat/plane/chopper to Vung Tau. That innocent looking prop plane above known as an “Otter” gave me one hell of a scare. We got diverted to land at a local ‘hot’ airfield to pick up a VC prisoner. The pilot’s way of sneaking in was to turn the engine OFF at several thousand feet and just glide in.
Trust me – the view of a propeller standing still as you go into a 60 degree bank into some dirt field was not particularly comfortable. Scared, sweaty, you better believe I was.”
A visit to the “recycle” area for broken equipment…
My area in our hooch…
This is exactly the way I wrote about a night “event”, written close to the actual event…
“One of these nights, the VC hit the Ammo dump and connected with a full area of 500 lb bombs. The explosion was so bad that it knocked stuff off the walls in our barracks, knocked over furniture and sent guys on their hands and knees charging to the bunkers. They spent the rest of the night there.
I woke up, still in my bed and wondered what the hell kind of barracks brawl I had slept thru. There wasn’t a soul around. I got dressed, went to the mess hall and was jumped on and royally dumped on by the barracks Sargent who thought/just knew that I had been AWOL. It took some time to convince him that I had slept thru it all.
He was convinced, cause several times after that the poor guy had to come back into the barracks after taking roll call in the bunker and finding I wasn’t there. I’d wake up, not to the horn going off but to this E-7 screaming cuss words at me to get up and get in the bunker. The rest of the guys thought it was rather funny.”
As a side note: the bunkers had a series of wide benches around the perimeter walls that the folks would sit on and wait things out. They were wide enough that I would slip under them and go back to sleep on the concrete floor. In the picture below, of some new bunkers under construction, you can get an idea of what they were like and the bench under which I would sleep it thru.
In late February, there was a determined VC assault on the compound that was repulsed. That night I saw a “smokie” in action for the first time and it was awesome. More on that later. We also were able to watch several B-52’s run their “carpet bombing” runs outside the perimeter. The B-52 remains to this day my favorite airplane of all time. Some pictures I took that night:
Here I am in the morning reporting for duty…
A “Smokie” as we called it was (and still is) a tricked out C-130 with multiple Gatling guns mounted in the sides. I have no pictures but I saw it in action and the river of fire that it threw at the ground. It puts a round into just about every square inch or so that it targets. It’s had to describe the sound…like a hum. I found these pictures on the internet from the Vietnam era that give an idea of what it could do…
I have to add this…while we were tooling around God knows where, we passed a prisoner of war camp and I took this picture…the sign reads: “No Stopping, No pictures allowed”. In 1992 I met a nurse that worked in one of these places.
I wrote this about the last inspection trip I made: “There are no photos from my last trip. We visited a Special Forces camp down deep in the Mekong Delta. The VC had tried to overrun the place the night before. The air was still rank with cordite when we got there and Maj Nugent & I were quite glad to get out of there. It was the only time I remember him being in a bit of a hurry to leave a place. Saw some VC.”
“cordite” = gun powder & explosives.
From one last spell of perimeter guard duty:
This last is my favorite picture of me. Obviously posed but it captures exactly me at that time and place.
We had a “party” to celebrate me having survived my tour and having my orders to return the the USA in my hand.
And this fellow, whose name I do not recall was my “turtle”…otherwise known as my replacement. “Turtle” because he was so slow to get there. But, he deserves to be here.
And this is one very, very proud fellow who was awarded a Bronze Star for his performance in Vietnam.
I wrote this at the time: “Proud of myself? You better believe it. I may have been a finance clerk. I may have never fired a shot in anger but I went to Nam determined to be the best damned soldier I was capable of being.” Best Finance Clerk the U.S Army ever had.
From here I went to Bien Hua Air Base and the 199th Replacement Battalion and waited for my “Freedom Bird” and the flight home……
it was a long wait and the feeling I had at the time was beyond description….
Stopped in Yokahama, Japan and saw these fellows who were traveling in the other direction:
A final 36 hours without any sleep being processed in Oakland, California and now a civilian in a shiny new uniform to travel home in. From the bus ride to the airport:
One really sad but true story from this day and one that set the tone for the next decade: When I arrived at the airport and was walking thru the terminal to my plane to Miami, I was set upon by some anti-war protesters who had set up some kind of stand or display. They cursed at me and one of them spat on me. There are those to this day who say that these kind of things did not happen. They lie. I was there and it happened to me.
The attitude did not change much for a long time. It finally did change when Ronald Reagan was elected president. He was the president that finally welcomed us home. When he passed, I stood in line for 9 hours just to be granted a few minutes in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capital so I could say goodbye and render him a hand salute. It still brings tears to my eyes.
But on a happier note…taken on that flight home to Miami:
There is one more page to add to this of scans of some of the documents and pictures that are special to me which I want to add in a Gallery with individual comments. But I want to close this with a special note.
This project has been decades in the works. I first took all of the papers and pictures and assorted related materials and put them into a pair of scrapbooks sometime around 1985 or so . They are more than a 16 inches thick and were put together when the events were still reasonably fresh in my memory. Then, many years later I scanned every negative I had of all the pictures that I had taken. That took a couple years to do. Then I scanned all of the magazines I had kept and a few that I found online and put them on the original Grandpakewl website. When that became unwieldy due to the restrictions on a free Google site, I subscribed to a real hosting site with a lot of available storage and posted the magazines there.
But this, I had only dreamed of…..So, Peter Asiedu, If you ever read this and make it this far, you should know that you were the inspiration that got me moving on this at last. I thank you for that and our all-too-short friendship.