Saturday, May 30, 2015

Vietnam, Another Story in the Works...

U.S. soldiers of Company A, 70th Engineer Battalion, waiting to be airlifted out of Kham Duc, in a ditch beside the runway. (PD)
Once again our man Virgil has piqued my interest in a story. Here's how he did that...
BTW, the story of how and why I became a FAC is a story for another time, but Sarge if you want a post about an operation that garnered an O-5 C-123 driver the MOH right in my back yard in an operation I flew several sorties as an F-4 GIB in support of, hit WIKI for the story of a "Khe Sanh in reverse" about the "Battle of Kham Duc" S.F. Camp in Quang Tin Province, I-Corps, south of DaNang. in May, '68. A lengthy, but spell-binding read.
I read the Wikipedia entry (here) but decided to dig a little deeper. That's going to take some time.

The Vietnam War raises strong emotions even 40 years later.

Forty years...


Forty years ago I was a brand new Airman Basic. Think "slick sleeve," no stripes at all, the very bottom of the heap.

I went in on the 13th of May, 1975.

To put that in context, Saigon fell two weeks before. On the 30th of April. I have many memories of those years. I cannot imagine the memories of those who were there.

I used to work with a Vietnamese lady, she, her husband and children fled Vietnam as the Communists entered Saigon.

On a moped!

He was a Lieutenant in the Republic of Vietnam Navy. The family managed to reach his ship. Waiting as long as they could, they put to sea shortly before the NVA arrived.

Her story was fascinating.

My cousin was stationed at Bien Hoa, Air Force. He too had stories to tell.

Most of my instructors in tech school in Denver had been in Southeast Asia, mostly in Thailand where I was eventually slated to go.

My assignment was cancelled, I remember listening to a radio broadcast as my buddy and I drove across country for Christmas leave. I heard the sound of F-4 Phantoms departing Thailand. I would work on many of those jets in the years to come.

But not in Southeast Asia.

Like I said, I glanced at the Wikipedia article on Kham Duc. I decided to do a bit more research, that article seemed to have a bias I did not care for.

Perhaps it's just me letting my emotions get the better of me.

Could be...



  1. I think all of us have strong emotions of that time Sarge. Both for the event itself, though in my case the way I was treated when I came home in Uniform.

    1. The way the men and women were treated coming home from Vietnam is a national shame.

      The Vietnam vets served with honor, they went where their country sent them and were despised for it. A shame.

  2. When the big buildup in Vietnam started (1965) I was in an Engineer Company is Germany. USAREUR soon issued a policy/regulation? that volunteers, unless fluent in French, were not wanted, and requests for transfer would not be processed. Fast forward a few years I hired a man who did a tour in Vietnam as a draftee infantryman to a minimum wage job. I told him I was embarrassed to hire him, a recent college grad, for the position. If memory serves he said, "Damnit, I need a job, any job, and no one will hire me". He ended up making a career with the company, starting with my job when I moved on. The job for me was something to do while finishing college. To see a man of his caliber spat upon by his fellow citizens simply because he served pains me to this day.

    1. It was still early days in '65, still surprises me that they didn't want volunteers. Maybe they figured it would be an all-Marine show.

      The treatment many vets received still pains me as well WSF.

    2. A bit more to the story. After his paperwork was processed, I got a call from a snippy HR person questioning my decision. I knew socially (from General Aviation activities) one of the senior VPs at the headquarters who was a Korea Marine. Gave him a call. Never heard from HR again.

  3. Coming home was both . . . exciting and difficult.

    1. Damn if that didn't make it all dusty in here, all of a sudden.

      Whether or not your old English prof would like it is a big "who cares?" You told it straight and you told it from the heart.

      I felt like I was there. Excellent post Snuffy. I loved it.

  4. Hey Ron! Welcome home. Job well done.

    I read some of the wiki and was turned off as well. Whoever wrote the first bit swallowed the lefty version of events. Not what really happened.

    I lost my uncle in May 1968 in operation Allen Brook. He'd been in-country about 3 weeks. They were overrun. His funeral was the first one I remember going to. I policed up some of the brass and still have it.

    Your blog AF, is a stopping spot for me everyday. Always something good and thought provoking. Good job.

    1. You smelled the same thing on that Wiki, right STxAR? That's why I need to dig some more.

      I pray your Uncle is at peace, we lost far too many good men out there.

      Thanks for stopping by, great to have you!

  5. I've never written about this, but my experience coming home from RVN was pretty uneventful. Got off Tiger Airlines at LAX, waited a few hrs, boarded a flight to New Orleans and there I was. Spent solid three weeks drunk/partying in N. O and Baton Rouge, then hopped onto a Delta flight to my parents home in Illinois in my suntans "space A" I was so wasted that a Delta Stew (UN PC term now, I know, ) approached me unbidden with a Bloody Mary in hand, saying "You look like you really need this--it's on the house" She followed it up with one more, at which point I blissfully slept until arriving in St Louis@ Lambert field, to be met by my parents who had driven down from Charleston, Ill. Wish I could remember the name of that Stew...saved my life.., lol

    1. Wow, great story Virgil.

      Damn, why can't I read these stories and not tear up. I am so damn proud of the guys who fought over there and so damned pissed at the way many were treated when they got home. I don't necessarily mean ill-treated but many were just ignored. They went off, fought a war and came home to... What?

      I don't know. I didn't know then, I don't know now.

      Thanks for sharing that Virgil.

  6. Everyone had different experiences when they came back to the states. In '72 they were beginning to fly some of
    us back on civilian airlines and I flew into San Francisco International. A few hundred feet down the concourse I
    was passing a small bar when three people came out and started calling me everything they could think of. At the
    end of their spiel one of them threw her beer in my face. While I was angry over this I thought they were drunk and
    not responsible for their actions. But what really shocked me the most was the large crowd that gathered to watch
    the show and they seemed to enjoy it.

    Farther into the airport was a USO so I stopped in there since I had a 5 hour layover. The lady behind the counter
    looked at me, shook her head and said that I wherever I was going, I should change into civilian clothes because
    it would be a whole lot safer. So much for my welcome home.

  7. Dear AF Sarge . . . after the ball ;

    1. Re: self-centered, uncaring and shallow...

      Not much has changed.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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