I Remember The journey for me began on a cold, blustery day at the airport at Manchester, N.H. Crews had assembled there, awaiting completion of the retrofitting of the aircraft we were to ferry to Viet Nam. I had been there since August, 1966, flying calibration for Sperry Corporation, the contractors of the special equipment we carried aboard. But, the day of departure had arrived for my crew and I to leave.
I remember the date well, because October 31 was my wife's birthday. So, as it began to snow, we bid each other goodbye and we began our journey. I remember, as we departed McCord AFB, Washington state, that all of us gave thought to the fact that, once we were airborne for Ehnundorf AFB, Alaska, our "one year clock" began toward our year's tour in Nam. This thought stayed with us as we waited at Elmundorf for 17 days for a new right engine we had lost near Yakatat, as we waited at Adak for the "plus IO knot" wind factor we needed to depart for Midway Island, some 12:30 hours of flying time away. It was the only consolation for the 31 days and 91 hours of flying time it took us to reach Tan San Nhut AB in Saigon.
The crew members on this -flight performed outstandingly, and were the most professional people I had ever flown with. I remember the apprehension we all felt when we landed at TSN; an apprehension which was soon displaced by the welcome we received from Colonel Jim Jelley, 360th Squadron Commander.
I remember being happy to see old familiar faces from CCTC at England AFB and Hurlbert Field. I remember the feeling of being right at home when I learned that my roommate through all the training, Ed Hosbach, had saved a bunk for me in his "luxurious" quarters. I remember December 4th, at about 11:30 at night when the VC mortared the base. Just a friendly welcome for me!! I remember Bob Graham, as he took our crew through theatre training, and how thorough he was in teaching us what we needed to know.
I also remember Bob, Ed Hosbach and I spending three hours assembling the first "49cc Honda" in the inner court of the billeting area. It only took us 40 minutes to do the others we assembled. I remember missions we flew that showed the destruction our B-52 bombers were raining down on the VC (MY infantry son said it didn't get into the tunnels!!).
I remember seeing so many villages blazing in fire and smoke as the VC burned them out. I remember the the 1st Cavalry Division carving out a big ONE and calling it The Iron Triangle. A no man's land!! I remember Malaria Monday and the salt tablets that made me ill.
I remember the night I went to the Officer's Club and hearing the familiar voice and laugh of an old friend, Colonel Chappie James, and seeing him in his black flying suit, the mark of the Death Squadron, which he commanded at the time. He has left us since then, and it was a great loss. I thought of the times I had heard him sing and play the piano at Otis AFB, Mass., when he flew for the 41' FS. It was more serious business now.
I remember New Year's Eve, 1967, when our son came over from Bien Hua to visit. It was his first leave since becoming a member of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. Colonel Jelley gave up his room to let Tim sleep there. I remember the pleasure I got from watching him devour two sirloin steaks at the 3rd Field Hospital Field Mess that night. I remember how hard we tried to catch up on the things that had happened to us since we'd last seen each other.
I remember, as he got on the bus to go back to Bien Hua, that I realized he was not the young man I had seen off to Nam in August,'66, but a grown man who matured almost overnight in order to survive the duty of an infantryman. I remember being very thankful that I was flying over Viet Nam, instead having to walk through it every day as part of a Long Range Patrol.
I remember taking off on a Sunday morning from TSN for a 7 hour mission. We had become airborne at 7AM, and were turning toward Vang Tau. As we were leveling off, we saw an Army helicopter crash into a grave yard at Long Bin. I called the rescue choppers and we continued our mission.
I remember the next day during Joint Personnel Recovery training at the theater being told they wanted me a the squadron right away. I remember the feeling of apprehension I had as I went back to the squadron; how every one looked away as I came into Ops. That feeling of apprehension was borne out when an Army Warrant II came over to the desk, saluted me, and handed me a telegram, and left quickly. I remember I knew what it was before I opened it. The Secretary of the Army was informing me that our son had been killed the day before in a chopper crash on April 22' at Long Bin.
I realized it was the chopper I had seen go down. I remember the kindness and consideration of Colonel Phil Hom, the CO, and all the other people that night in the BOQ. Every one was embarrassed for me, but there was nothing to be said. They felt my grief, too. I remember asking Ed Hosback to bring our son back for burial at Arlington National Cemetery, and I will always be in Ed's debt for his kindness.
I remember walking through the rotunda at San Francisco International to catch my plane, and the young girl who stopped me and asked me if I had just returned from Viet Nam. When I nodded yes, I remember the hate in her eyes as she spat in my face and called me baby killer. It was my first hint that what we were doing was not very popular back in the states.
I remember when I was reassigned to Otis AFB instead of having to return to Nam; and how that every one would understand why I didn't return. I remember the first reunion of the 360th TEWS at Andrews AFB in '78, and how we had all changed. We were older, maybe wiser, and a lot more serious. I think we each reflected to ourselves what had taken place in Viet Nam, and I think each of us hoped we might not ever again become embroiled in another Nam.
I remember a letter someone wrote to the TSN Association that he couldn't remember any one or the organization he was in. That's why I had to say something about remembering Nam. These are some of the things I remember about those days.
Some memories are pleasant, some are sad, but I remember them because it's important for me to remember.