Squadron 718 Thien Long EC47 VNAF Reunion 2008
On July 5, 2008 Squadron EC47 Thien Long 718 met at Parcel Seafood Restaurant in Westminster, California for their first reunion after 33 years apart. Over 350 attendees which included members and guests attended the reunion. The honorary guests for the night were Colonel John Griffith from Squadron 360 TEWS, Joe Martin of Unit 6994, and Squadron 718 Vice Commander: Major Loc Van Phan.
The master of ceremonies for the night was Tuan Minh Vu. The program began with the National Anthem of America and Vietnam. A minute of silence was held in honor of the members that have passed away.
The reunion was organized by Squadron 718 member Dang Yen Pham. Dang gave a speech that night thanking all the honorary guests, members, family and friends that attended this magnificent night honoring members of Squadron 718 and for their efforts to help raise money for members of Squadron 718 that still live in poverty back in Vietnam today.
During dinner the entertainment was provided by members of the Squadron and their wives whom sang the VNAF song. The eventful night also included professional singers and a live band that performed for a night of dancing. The ambiance of the night for Squadron 718 Thien Long EC47 reunion was very energetic, sociable and everyone felt like it was 33 years ago.
Dang Yen Pham
Mary and I were honored to be asked to join the 718th Thien Long Squadron for their Reunion on the Fourth of July weekend. Dang and Denise Pham were great hosts and we were cordially received by a large group (300 plus) of Vietnamese, both prior VNAF members and others who have settled in the area around Westminster, California.
The outstanding entertainment for the Reunion was furnished by several groups of wives and members of the VNAF members from the area, plus an excellent band and singers who provided music for dancing.
It was evident that the group had recognized their new home and opened the program by singing the Star Spangled Banner and then the Vietnamese anthem with both flags being displayed.
We visited the dual Vietnam/U.S. memorial that has been developed on land donated by the City of Westminster, California and donations collected by the sponsoring groups of Vietnamese. It honors both the U.S. and Vietnamese veterans for their services. Hopefully everyone will look at the picture of this memorial that is posted on the Thien Long File.
We drove to San Diego Bay on the evening of the Fourth and enjoyed a great meal while watching the fireworks display. On Sunday we toured Little Saigon, an area where many have settled and prospered proudly. The Vietnamese community is alive and well. We were very impressed with their accomplishments and thoroughly enjoyed the entire weekend.
Sincerely, John Griffith
I can only second John Griffith’s comments—it was truly an outstanding evening, and Carole and I were honored to be invited. Part of the opening ceremony was the reading of the names of the 718th and Unit 17 (back end) crewmembers who were killed in action. And the US/RVN memorial which Col. Griffith mentions (and of which there is a very nice photo on a following page) is most impressive. Although I was a civilian by the time the 718th flew its first mission, I have a strong connection with that part of the EC-47 story. So, to be able to share in this special celebration had a special meaning to me.
Part of that special meaning involves two men who unfortunately could not be present at this reunion. I spent the last 5 or 6 months of my tour at Tan Son Nhut working with the Vietnamese “back end” troops, and it was through their former commander, Lt. Col. Trinh Xuan Lang, that Dang and I were able to hook up a few years ago. As a reward for being such a staunch ally of the United States, Col. Lang spent over ten years in communist concentration camps. He now lives with his family in Florida.
Doan Van Ghi, with whom I flew many missions, is still in Vietnam. Ghi spent more than five years being “re-educated”, only to have his refugee application summarily rejected when he could not provide sufficient “inducement” to the INS-appointed translator.
I hope that one or both of these men can attend a future EC-47 reunion. Officially, the Republic of Viet Nam no longer exists, but the “Thien Long” [Heavenly Dragons] have not forgotten, and neither should we.