Provided by: James R. "Jim" Brown
Photo at bottom of screen
This is the text to accompany the bit map of the Army compound at Phu Bai RVN and I hope answers some of the concerns that the flights out of Phu Bai get little attention. Obviously there were far more ARDF aircraft/crewmen and missions than the one or two daily missions/crews that flew out of Phu Bai.
As always, feel free to alter, confirm or deny any of my observations. These are my few recollections - on this web site Darwin Bruce has documented the aircraft numbers, day-to day activities, etc. far better than I can remember. I was 20 years old when I arrived in country and had never flown on a military aircraft prior to my first mission for the 6994th so early on my concern was more to the job at hand rather the events around the missions.
I arrived in country at TSN 6994th in early 10/66. I flew as a backender 292x1 out of TSN (ARDF) and Phu Bai (direct intercept). So, as far as I can remember I flew out of Phu Bai - October thru December 66 (first time) and then again from August/September 67 until October 67 (second time).
The rest of the time was spent on flights out of TSN.
Sometime during the middle of 10/66 I was "volunteered" to fly with the 292s out of Phu Bai. At that time I only remember one aircraft which flew daily - there was a AC/Pilot/Crew Chief/1 or 2 ground technicians (all 360 TEWS) plus 1 202 and 4/5 or 6 292's. Everyone flew daily, I think we had one extra 292 so that we could rotate a day off. Once on site at Phu Bai there was no return to TSN until the plane was rotated this could be six to eight weeks. I would imagine that one could spend a tour atTSN and not know there were 292s flying out of Phu Bai.
Phu Bai was an interesting base. I believe it was 3rd Marine Headquarters and was said to be the largest helicopter base in the world. There was a detachment of ARVN and the Army 8th RRU. The Marines were billeted along and around the helicopter pad and the runway, the Army had some aircraft and what appeared to hangers off one end of the runway, the 8th RRU had a compound across on the other side of Highway One from the Marines.
The aircraft was usually parked off the side of the runway next to Marine tents. The whole area was pretty sandy. I always got the impression the Marines did not particularity like the Air Force being there and as I remember we periodically had to find a new place to park the aircraft. (I have visited other web sites (Army ASA types) and they made the same observations regarding the Marine's attitude toward the Army at Phu Bai). To put it in plain terms I think the Marines dorked around with the AC on a regular basis concerning where or where not to park the aircraft.
The officers were billeted in the Army's air-conditioned housing. These were mobile home like structures (#1 on the aerial view). These structures had a center hallway and rooms on both sides - every section had a washer/dryer, etc. (not bad for any base). As I remember these were the barracks for the Army ASA personnel and Marine security troops. The rest of the crew and maintenance personnel lived in a long hut which must have been some kind of warehouse at one time (#2 on the aerial view). If you had a day off - there was absolutely nothing to do - read a book, go to the Enlisted Mens/NCO club (if they were open) or sleep. Once everyone was back there was usually a card game going on.
The Mess Hall was air-conditioned and the food (meat & vegetables were fresh). The Army would pack us a large box of sandwiches for each flight. I remember we were told not to bring any food back - maybe we wouldn't get any more sandwiches if the Army thought we were wasting food or no one wanted to waste time cleaning the aircraft on landing. To this end I remember being responsible for dumping the sandwiches on the return to base. I have not heard of any one being hit by a piece of ham or cheese from 10k feet - I will give a prize for anyone who returns any C-ration or K-ration ham and egg can to me - because I've thrown a gob of these out the aircraft.
There were always 150mm rounds going off during the night - seems like they we going straight over our the barracks. Once in a while you would hear small arms fire at night. The Army compound was pretty secure - once it got dark no one got on or off the compound unless they were previously identified. I do remember a ground technician sleeping under the planeall night - more than once. Also there was a Army's Chaplin's "tour" of Hue one week end a month. I never got to go on the tour. There was a bounty on Phu Bai ASA personnel (10k local or USA?), I don't know the method of payment but I am pretty sure that the bounty was documented.
The second time I was there things were quite different. The compound was usually on full alert, no lights after eight o'clock, clubs closed, etc. I know we had two aircraft - one morning flight (6:00am to 2:00pm?) and one afternoon (2:00pm to 8:00pm?), plus I remember the morning flight occasionally flying at night also. I think there was an attempt to be over target twelve to sixteen hours a day. I know that on my last mission - things appeared to be normal - however when we returned the flight line was full of helicopters from the 173rd and the 4th Infantry?.
Remember that TET 68 as a couple of months away. From what I can determine Phu Bai was overrun during the TET Offensive - the SS personnel were moved to Nha Trang? - I don't know what happened to the ASA sight - but I understand it was re-opened within two months.
The NCO Club was interesting. This is the only club I was ever in where there were officers (not in regular uniform), NCOs and enlisted men - all four branches of the service (Army/Marine/Air Force/Navy (Seabees)) all in one club.
There was a rumor that we flew missions north of the DMZ thru 12/66. The Army flew some two/three men aircraft (RU6?) I called them Cessnas. The rumor is that the NVA shot one of these with a missile - ergo we never flew north of the DMZ again. I know not how true this is.
The compound had the best trenches I've ever seen. They were about two feet wide and seemed to be 7 feet deep. Mortar attacks were serious at Phu Bai - one usually stayed in the barracks for during his first attack - lesson learned. Once the sirens were sounded, the road to the trenches was " may the best man win - no holds barred" situation. The Army troops were in full battle gear versus a flight suit and they were not particular about who or what was in front of them and they would double time down the roads (#2-#5 aerial view) - not a pleasant experience. Sort like the running of the bulls at Pamplona.
Yes, the ARVN did fire small arms rounds across the runway at the Marines, the Marines did not return fire - the ARVN got ripped a new one.
I have included an aerial view of the Army compound and labeled the structures I remember (to the best of my memory). The crew (6994th & 360 TEWS) was a pretty close group that flew a vast amount of hours in a very short time.
Jim's Email Address is [email protected]
More on Phu Bai
Larry Cromer supplied the information below. He had ask when I
was going to add something about the EC-47 and the Guys at Phu Bia.
This is the way the major part of the site was built, so if you can supply any information, by all means, send it to me and I will add it.
JC, The operational name of the mission was--DRILL PRESS (for one bird) and PHILLIAS ANN (for 2 birds).
I replaced Smsgt Robert Graves (aka) Lefty in Late 67 and was there when TET hit. The quarters we stayed in were totally destroyed by rockets so like the smart people we were we got the hell out of there as soon as we could and deployed to Plekiu. I was with the mission until i left in 1968.
One thing i do want to point out is that with the small number of men I had we all flew every day. Some as many as 30-40 days straight without a day off.
No one every complained about it as we knew we had a mission so we did it. I will contact george Hollis (in san antonio) and tell him to provide you with imput and i will continue to do so as I think of something. I will leave it up to you to edit as you deem necessary.