Wednesday, July 28, 2010

July 27, 1970: Departure for Viet Nam 40 Years Ago

As I wrote my first prescription today, I noticed suddenly the date July 27, 2010.  Fortieth anniversary of my departure for Viet Nam as a Captain in the US Army and new army aviator with new rotary wing aviator pilot wings.  I left my wife of seven months at the Cincinnati airport to fly to Oakland, CA and depart form US Air Force Base at Treasure Island.  My sister-in- law was in labor with her second baby when we departed for Anchorage, AK.  After arrival in AK and a delay for engine trouble, Matthew was born before we left for the Far East.

After refueling in Kubota, Japan, we were off to RVN, landing in Saigon for further assignment to be determined at Long Binh HQ.  We new pilots filled out forms and waited in a bar drinking Budweiser beer.  Someone posted a list of assignments on the bulletin board and we read our fate.  I was surprised and pleased to be assigned to the 18th Engineer Brigade in Cam Ranh Bay.  Wow! An engineer officer getting an aviation assignment with an engineer unit.  I laughed and had another beer. 

The next day, I flew to 18th Engineer Brigade HQ in Cam Ranh Bay where I reported in and participated in a volleyball game and cookout with other pilots and crew members.  I felt some guilt if this was to be my view of the War in Viet Nam, but the next morning I was assigned to their 45th Engineer group in I Corps (northernmost part of South Viet Nam) and 24 hours later, headed for Phu Bai (Land of the Dead) home of the HQ 45th Engineer Group.  The land around Phu Bai was pockmarked with grave sites which from the air looked like bomb crators.

I reported in to HQ and was escorted to the Aviation Section. We had seven helicopters, two UH1H's (Hueys) and 5 OH-58's (Kiowas) and several pilots and crew chiefs and one technical inspector.  I next met my hooch-mate (roommate) and got introduced to the officers club (a plywood hut).  We ate roast beef (an almost daily main course for supper) and went to the club to play cards and get refreshed.  In case the drinks at the club weren't enough, we had a ration card for alcohol.  Each of us could buy two bottles of liquor, five (or was it six?)  bottles of wine and six cases of beer monthly.

This was Viet Nam forty years ago.


  1. That is a lot of liquor!

    Thank you for your service.

  2. Dr. Synonymous: Our time in Vietnam with the 45th Engineer Group overlapped by nine months; flying around in one of your helicopters was one of my favorite things. Would love to connect somehow.

  3. Hey Doc
    I was with the 45th in 1969 at Phubai. In fact not far from the helicopter hangers was the Motor Pool that I was in charge of. I've even got some pictures of the hangers from my side of the fence.

  4. Thanks, G-Man. Where can I see some of the photos?
    Castle 42 (My RVN pilot call sign)

  5. Leroy Kawai said
    Dr. Synonymous: I was one of the crew chiefs who rode with you periodically. I was called Kiwi. Good to see that you have been doing well.


  6. Leroy,
    It's great to hear from you. You were a good mechanic and crew chief. We had a good team. I found a photo of you close up when you were working on a helicopter. I'll check Facebook for you. Peace. apj