Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I Really Did In Vietnam -- Part 8

Richard Nixon shortened my time in Vietnam by almost 16 days. I was supposed to leave on the 12 of November. Instead, the date for leaving country was now the 25th of October. Unfortunately, typhoon Kate would have other plans. On October 25, the typhoon further weakened to a tropical storm just off the coast of Vietnam. Later that day, the system made its final landfall near Da Nang, Vietnam with winds of 100 km/h (65 mph). I didn't actually leave country until the 27th.
Anyway, I would be coming back to the states before turning 21. Meaning the $3300 I saved for the 1970 Plymouth GTO was a total waste of time because my parents would never co-sign for it. That wasn't speculation. That's what really happened.
Gies was gone, orders were cut, and I can thank him for the new MOS.  A 71T20 Maintenance Data Specialist. And on top of all of that, I wasn't even going to a helicopter battalion. I was going to some wimp organization called the United State Army Intelligence Center and School. And that was located at Fort Holabird, Baltimore, MD.
Talk about adding insult to injury.
SERTS training moved up to Camp Evans and C Battery, 4th Battalion, 77th Field Artillery was responsible for putting on a show about what the AFA was about and what the Artillery Cobra can do. I needed some images of our Cobras in action and requested permission to ride front seat in the Cobra while the demonstration was taking place.
This got approved and I was flying in a "hot" Cobra taking pictures as we shot the mini gun, the 40mm grenade launcher and a dozen rockets.
These images were published in Rendezvous With Destiny Magazine. There's no byline for the images and I'll try to get a copy.
We went to an orphanage and I wrote a story about my experiences there.  Aside from having to record the event, I also brought with me a movie screen and showed the children some movies.
This was published in Stars And Stripes and I read the article on the freedom plane coming home In Army Times.
You go to Phu Bi to process out a few days before you actually leave so, when the we arrived and got told you really weren't going anywhere for a few more days, you have  some time to kill and -- since nobody really cares at this point what you do -- I decided to go back over to my old uinit and say goodbye to some friends who were still there.
Big mistake.  While I did say goodbye, those freight train sounding 122 decided to do the same.
You know, its very embarrassing to have to explain to a fresh young lieutenant who has less time in country than have in the chow line that you turned in your cambat gear because you are already considered gone...and very funny, too.
The next night, with the wind howling and nothing was flying but the rain in my face, I walked about the hooch and reflected.
There were 5 new bees in the hooch who haven't gotten shot at yet or yelled at or worse had to drive shotgun on a trash truck.  None have any idea what hell on earth is yet. But they were about to.  I counted 12 this time. I hadn't a clue what they were firing at this time nor did I care. While they did walk towards my location, the 12 wasn't even close to home.
They woke up when the sirens went off.
"What was that, incoming."
"Yep,"  I said, "Twelve rounds of B-40 mortars and twelve hit no where near here. I'm going to bed because I'm tired and I have no combat gear anyway.  Neither do you, so I suggest you do the same." 
They went back to sleep and so did I.
In the morning, I caught a C-130 from Phu Bi to Da Nang. This was where you changed clothes from combat fatigues to Class A uniform, were handed some orders to get on the freedom bird, converted the APC back to greenbacks and get you over to the tarmac where the 707s were being readied for the flight home.
Unfortunately, the holding area was backed up with three days worth of flights.  So there was a bunch of really pissed off soldiers with ethnic issues. Bottom line: A bunch of war tired soldiers who couldn't kill something were focused on each other.
I kept a low profile.
At 0500 hours on the morning of the 27th were we ordered to group into single line formation according to the number of the airplane. Before chicken man woke up 500,000 Americans stationed in Vietnam, we were in the air coming home and I was reading my article on page 47 of Army Times.
Nam was over. The memories have lasted a lifetime.

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