A Few Pictures of My Time in Vietnam

During my first 13 month tour in Taiwan, during April and May of 1967, I spent one month in Danang, Vietnam on a TDY (temporary duty) assignment where we lived in wood and screen-sided, canvas-roofed barracks.

I served in the U.S. Air Force from December, 1965 to September, 1970. My first assignment after technical school at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois was a 13-month tour of duty in Taiwan. Ch'ing Ch'uan Kang Air Force Base (CCK, in Chinese ) in central Taiwan outside of Taichung was involved in a major mission supporting the Vietnam war, and many of us who were stationed there took turns going 'in-country', a month at a time, supporting CCK's C-130s, which also rotated in and out of the war zone. My first exposure to the war was when I took my turn and spent part of April and May of 1967 in Danang, Vietnam supporting the mission, working on Hercules C-130 aircraft automatic flight control systems (auto-pilots) and electronic compass systems.

As my year in Taiwan was coming to an end, I dreaded leaving there. I had fallen in love with the place, and the work on CCK's C-130s was exciting, fun, and fulfilling. I was told that if I volunteered for a year assignment in Vietnam, I would have a very good chance of coming back to Taiwan after my year was up. So I did volunteer, and I did go. I got orders for a one year assignment to Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base near Saigon, the then capitol of South Vietnam. There I would be working on RF-4Cs and RF-101C photo-reconnaissance aircraft which flew daily missions looking for the bad guys. I'd be maintaining their stability control systems and electronic compass systems, and the auto-pilot and compass systems of EC-47 electronic warfare aircraft, whose top-secret mission I never did learn.

Because of the month of temporary duty I served while stationed earlier in Taiwan, I only had to spend 11 months of my 12 month assignment in Vietnam. I was there during the Tet Offensive in January, 1968, when Tan Son Nhut was attacked many times, and made it through several other attacks on the base which, being so big and so close to Saigon, was a popular target for the enemy. When I finally received my orders to return for another assignment to CCK in Taiwan, I was overjoyed! Now I just had to make it through the remainder of the assignment.

The whole 11 months I was in Vietnam, my mom never knew about it. I'd send letters to my dad at work, telling him of my experiences there, and other letters home that Mom could read without getting upset. When I got back and told her the truth of what I did the previous 11 months, she was pretty glad that I hadn't told her. I saved her a lot of worrying, she said.

I made it through the 11 months safely. I still vividly remember the day our charter flight left in the early morning darkness from Tan Son Nhut heading first for the Philippines, then Taiwan, with hundreds of overjoyed GIs cheering as we lifted off. Looking out the window, we could see red tracer fire coming up at the plane, which was, fortunately, already too high to be hit. And with that flight, I said good-bye to Vietnam forever.

Or so I thought. During my second tour of duty in Taiwan, I met and married Mei-O, and, as a married airman, I was able to extend my 13-month tour to two years. Unfortunately, with the war still going, I ended up spending another two months TDY in Vietnam, occurring over our first anniversary! Taking a lesson from the experience with my mom, I didn't tell Mei-O I was going there; instead I told her I was going to Thailand, where CCK also had C-130s on duty. With the help and support of my fellow airmen, she never found out until I returned and told her.

To see pictures of the aftermath of a rocket attack on Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, click here. To see the few pictures I took of Saigon, click here.

Click on any picture to see the larger version.

Preparing for a mission. We occasionally had to go up with the planes to troubleshoot problems or to calibrate the electronic compass systems. When we did, we'd be issued sidearms, in case the plane went down in enemy territory. But, because we weren't officially trained in the use of the guns they issued us, they didn't give us any bullets!

A haircut and a shave was pretty cheap and convenient from a street-side barber in downtown Saigon (as long as they didn't slit your throat!) During my first few months in Vietnam, I didn't venture downtown a lot, since I knew I had many months ahead of me to check the city out. But after the Tet Offensive in January, 1968, downtown was put off limits to us, so I never made it down there after that and never got any more pictures.

Occasionally our squadron would go out to the countryside on humanitarian missions. Here we were bringing school supplies to a small village not too far from Saigon.

During the trip to the rural village, I got to take a short ride on this ox cart.

While in Danang, I picked up this K-bar knife (which I still have). We airmen were allowed to buy liquor from the base exchange, but troops from many units weren't, so I traded a bottle of 99 cent vodka for this knife. I memorialized the event on the back.

During the Tet Offensive in January, 1968, we filled thousands of sandbags to protect various areas of Tan Son Nhut Air Base. One of my friends caught me taking a break.

In our avionics shop at Tan Son Nhut, summer of '68. This picture is in pretty bad shape; it's torn with a hole in the middle and tape holding it together, but I was able to fix it up a bit to include it here.

Outside our barracks. We didn't do this all the time, but we had to fill our free time doing something. (No, I'm not in this picture.)

Our squadron's monkey mascot. I don't know where he came from and he wasn't there the whole time I was there, but I do remember him hanging around with us for a while.

The night before I took this picture, at around 3 A.M., I was riding our squadron bicycle from our avionics shop to the mail room to get everyone's mail (we took turns) when rockets starting raining onto Tan Son Nhut. I immediately dumped my bike along side the road and laid down in a drainage ditch right in front of this building. The rockets were close and loud - the pock marks on the side of this building were from shrapnel from one of them hitting so nearby. I made it through the attack safely, then returned the next morning to get this picture.

Our base was always full of Vietnamese workers doing all sorts of odd jobs. When they didn't show up on certain days or if they left early, we knew we were in for a rocket attack that day.

Downtown Saigon was full of scenes like this and this.

The following few random pictures were originally old 35mm slides which I scanned into digital format JPEGs, hence, the quality isn't always that great (but, in general, not that bad.) Some of these are from my temporary duty assignment while I was stationed in Taiwan. I may have more coming as I someday continue to scan more slides I have.

Two of the planes I worked on while in Vietnam, a taxiing C-130 that I worked on while on temporary duty from my assignment in Taiwan, and a n RF-4C reconnaissance (photo missions) plane.

During the Tet Offensive, our base was being attacked from right outside the perimeter fence that separated our barracks from the civilian population of Saigon. During the Offensive, Vietnamese planes rocketed the area where apparently the enemy was holding out. This is how close to the war I actually got sometimes.

An interesting sign post on our base. Where do you wanna go?

A night shot looking up the street from the second floor porch of my barracks.

One of the EC-47s I worked on.

Our mess hall.

On the flight deck of one of CCK's C-130s. I had a whole bunch of great aerial pictures (like this) from this mission that O got to go on, a whole box of slides, but I have never been able to find them.