Sunday, January 16, 2005

Letter from Vietnam

I've been going through a large packet of letters my Mother saved from the times I wrote her from Vietnam. She was very interested in everything that was going on and I tried to be as descriptive as possible. Reading some of them made me realize how much I had forgotten about the day to day routine there and thought I'd try to post some of the ones that seemed to me to be more interesting. Here's one I picked from random, dated 13 October 1969.

"Dear Mom,
Received your letter of October 5th and will get off a reply tonight. I continue to be as busy as a bee and I keep a backlog of things which need doing which will last long past my time over here. I can see great progress here on the base because of some of the actions I have initiated. Every day another truckload of excess equipment is being shipped out of here to someone somewhere who can use it, or to some other base that needs it.

We have taken over refueling all the bladder birds here at Binh Thuy. (C-123s which have big bladders inside for carrying fuel to camps inaccessible by land or water) Before, they had to fly all the way back to Saigon to take on new fuel loads. We are doing this without adding one piece of extra equipment on the base, just by better managing our fuel trailers, barge deliveries, and the maintenance of the trailers. I've really been pushing to get this started and it's gratifying to see it working so well. We do our maintenance on the trucks at night and they move continuously all day between the barges and the flight-line. We service around seventy air sorties a day out of here carrying fuel and ammunition. It saves around an hours flying time on each sortie over what it was taking when the birds had to fly all the way back into Tan Son Nhut.

The new base commander, Col. Hill, arrived Saturday. Tomorrow I will be briefing him and taking him on a tour of all our facilities. Then again on Friday I will be taking him down to Can Tho to visit the IV Corps Direct Air Support Center, the Procurement Office, lunch and then to the Riverine Patrol Base to pay a courtesy visit to Commodore Faulk, the Navy Commander here. The reason I am taking him down there is because the Base Commander and the Vice Commmander, Col Olmstead, cannot both be gone from the base at once, so I am doing the honors. You have probably read of the Riverine Patrol operation in the Delta. It is often referred to as the brown water Navy. These are the gun boats that patrol the canals and paddies and make it hard on the VC to mass.

IV Corp DASC is an impressive operation. This is where all the air strikes are controlled from within the corps area. IV Corps encompasses the entire area of Vietnam South of Saigon. The operation consists of a large circular room, with many plotting boards, people sitting at microphones watching blips on radar and giving instructions to pilots.

We have been very lucky here at Binh Thuy. No recent shellings. Can Tho was hit a few nights ago and several rounds fell around the 29th Evac Hospital, a half mile down the road, but no one was hurt. It is rumored that the VC are going to begin terrorizing the civilian population again in hopes of breaking down their will to support the government of the South. They have been relatively quiet down here lately with just sporadic attacks here and there with little rhyme nor pattern. There are a good number of NVA regulars filtering in to the deep southern section of the Delta through Cambodia. Our Huey Heliocopters and A-37s, flown by the Vietnamese Air Force from this base, are harrasing them daily. They (VNAF) are doing most of the fighting from here now. The big problem is that they have no logistic support capability. That's where we come in. to wit: the fuel and ammo resupply which I mentioned above. Also they have little knowledge of how to keep a base running. It is really just like running a city. They can fly and fight real well, but management - that's another story. There is not a single operation that can take place here without thorough logistics planning. If they pulled off some of the things they would like to do they would be in big deep trouble very quickly. Mainly because they are fighting the war with our sophisticated tools and they are tool operators -nothing more. They have no idea whatsoever of what goes in to managing and maintaining those tools.

The Chaplain is very unhappy. Yesterday the new chapel was opened with ribbon cutting ceremonies, etc. That afternoon, all the electronic equipment, amplifiers and public address equipment was stolen. He came to tell me about it and we finally just decided to have a beer together and pray that a bolt of lightning would descend on those who did it. I believe it was the Navy as they have been seen poking around the base looking for things to scrounge.

Did I tell you about the Army Lt we caught stealing landing matting? A couple of Sundays ago, I got a call on my radio from a warehouse supervisor that someone had reported an army truck full of steel runway matting going through the main gate. The informant stated that they thought the truck had loaded it from our open storage area, which is not fenced in. We planted a guard in the area and in about two hours back came the truck for another load. We waited until they had the truck loaded and started to leave the area and then we stopped them. They brought this Army Lt. And a Sergeant to me and I asked him what he thought he was doing. He really had a sob story. He is the advisor to some Regional Forces way out in the boondocks and he said that the whole compound is nothing but mud. The Army would not supply him with the things he needed and he was doing his best to get the camp fixed up. I told him to take the stuff and get off the base and never show up here again. I was really sort of glad to help him because he was practically in tears and I have done my share of scrounging in my day too. I didn't tell him that the reason the Army is short is because we had relieved the Army of that very stuff to fix up our taxi strip.

The Army pulls some good ones on us too. Every time they get some junk shipped in that they can't use (tons and tons of concertina wire for example) they put new shipping tags on it and ship it out here to Binh Thuy marked for the 632 Supply Squadron. They just want to get it out of their port area and make more room It is really wild. You wouldn't believe it. I've got a whole field of barbed wire (concertina) that I'm sure would stretch from here to Saigon. Now I am stuck with holding it until someone calls for it and then it will be put back on an LST and shipped out.

A few nights ago around 9PM a tower sentry spotted a small group of VC about a mile off the perimeter, using his starlight scope ( a device which uses starlight and makes everything bright as day when you look through it) He called the position in to Central Security Control which in turn gave the coordinates to the DASC and in a matter of minutes a Shadow Gunship (C-119, an old flying boxcar with gatling guns mounted in the side doors) had bored holes in all of them. I observed the gunship in action and it is a sight to behold. It flys around in a circle high about the target firing its guns out of the side door. The fire is directed continuously on the target because the aircraft flys in concentric circles. Each minigun fires 6,000 rounds per minute and with four guns firing and every fifth round a red tracer you can imagine the sight. It looks like a lightning bolt from the aircraft to the ground which rotates like a top. The sound is like nothing I can describe. It is like a long, loud, uncouth belch magnified by a loud speaker.

That's about all the happenings worth reporting at the moment. Will write again soon.

Love, Dave"

Top: Dave at Binh Thuy
Middle: Road to Can Tho & Dave w/Base Mascot
Bottom: Dave with Orphans in Can Tho and Doctor Berrios & Dave, Binh Thuy

© 2005 David Agniel


Post a Comment

<< Home