Combat Loading, February 1, 1971

I arose at 2 this morn after attempting to sleep several hours.  We showed at 2:30 ayem and finally blocked out at 6 due to some maintenance and loading delays.
We combat-loaded a Vietnamese battle unit (130 troops with all their gear).  Our destination was Dong Ha, a newly-activated airfield 11 miles from the DMZ.  Flying that close to North Vietnam was not comfortable. 

Speaking of comfort, our C-130E could carry up to 92 passengers in bucket seats, but combat loading did not offer such luxuries as seats.  The loadmaster rolled in five empty 463L pallets, covering the whole cargo floor.  Next he stretched cargo tiedown straps across the pallets, acting as 7'-wide seat belts.  Theoretically everyone would sit in rows facing forward and slip their legs under the straps so they have lap belts--uncomfortable but organized. 

In an actual combat environment it was both uncomfortable and disorganized.  The loadmaster opened the rear cargo door and lowered the ramp so the troops could enter carrying all their weapons and equipment.  They were instructed to walk forward as far as they could and keep standing.  As the airplane filled up, they were told to move farther forward and pack in.  When no more troops could stand on the five pallets, the loadmaster closed the ramp, the troops sat down, and we took off for Dong Ha.

There was a traffic overload at Dong Ha, so I ended up holding for over an hour.  When I finally got my turn, I shot a GCA approach and the landing went well.  But with all that holding we didn't have enough gas to make it back to Tan Son Nhut.  All the C-130's were in the same situation and most stopped at Danang for fuel, resulting in extensive delays there.  Phu Cat was another 120 miles beyond Danang so I opted to go there and avoid the delays.  We had just enough fuel for one approach and I was watching the fuel gauges closely.  When we landed I shut down the outboards immediately--I didn't want to run out of fuel before we were parked.  Close.
All this messing around put us 10 hours into our crew day, so I told mother there was no way we could make it up and back again in 4 more hours, so they terminated us.  I'm just as glad.  I was pretty tired.  Tomorrow we have a 0945 show--quite civilized.

Brake Problems, February 2, 1971

We had a civilized departure time, but we had some problems with brakes and anti-skid, but got it resolved.  So I leaped off for Dong Ha and this time there was no holding.  I even made a pretty good max effort landing.

The antiskid circuit breaker on one wheel popped out so we planned to get that fixed at Tan Son Nhut.  As I later learned at Khe Sanh, it's unwise to land at short fields without antiskid.  We couldn't get it fixed.

The Red Rabbit, February 4, 1971

The day's frag called for two roundtrips to Bien Hoa and Dong Ha.
Today we're flying the Red Rabbit, which is the best aircraft in the fleet. The Marilyn Monroe foldout at the nav station has been replaced by the latest Playboy playmate.  We actually completed our whole frag!
The Red Rabbit was easy to spot on the ramp--on its crew door steps was a red silhouette of the Playboy bunny.  The navigator's station had the centerfold of the Playboy playmate of the month under a sheet of plexiglas.  But the best thing about that airplane was that everything worked!  I think its tail number was 64-17680.

When I flew The Red Rabbit I could expect to finish all the legs of my frag and bring everyone home without breaking down somewhere.  The crew chief did an amazing job.  While I was at CCK he was promoted to staff sergeant--well deserved.


Vietnam and Cambodia


Taiwan (CCK)



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