Saturday, May 7, 2011

What I really did in Vietnam -- Part One

Welcome To Vietnam:

Of all the people on the 707 landing at Camh Ranh Bay in November 1969, I think the most edgy were those who had already served there. They know what we couldn’t know. Some of us on that plane were not going to come back and many would be either physically or mentally wounded or both.

For me, the flight started from Fort Dix, New Jersey on a chartered civilian airliner. And had two more stops before touching down in Vietnam. While many were still drunk, we landed in Fairbanks, Alaska and then at Yokota Air Base for fuel. But all the while on the flight many of us focused on the female flight attendants. Perhaps the last chance in our lives to breathe in the sweet scents, enjoy the beauty or hear the voice of an American female.

Camh Ranh Bay was an image of white pillars of smoke – burning human waste as we learned later, dusty sky and a bee hive of all sorts of flying machines which seemed to pop out of nowhere and disappeared just as quickly as they were scene. When the doors opened, hot humid air filled your lungs.
The smell of kerosene, rockets, and axle grease toyed with your nostrils. The screams of turbines coupled with the pounding of rotor blades broken only by the 2 and a half ton flatbed trucks known as duce and a half did nothing to silence the roaring voice of the man moving us into a metal building where we were told where we were going next.
Our next stop was Bien Hoa. This is where the Screaming Eagle Replacement Training Section (SERTS) was located and where the first physical reminder of hell on earth stood out. Burnt plywood decorated with shrapnel didn’t need a voice to tell that story.
I’m sure the soldier killed there had little vocal cords left anyway.
The boom box near the corner of the building played the Beatles Come Together:

Here come old flattop he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

He wear no shoeshine he got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger he shoot coca-cola
He say "I know you, you know me"
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free
Come together right now over me

He bag production he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease
Come together right now over me

He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say "One and one and one is three"
Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
Come together right now over me

You know, as much as I hate the Beatles, for some reason this song was probably the most appropriate one for that moment in my life. And it felt good.

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