Refugees, August 9, 1970
Lon Nol ousted Cambodian Prince Sihanouk in a coup in March,
1970. A month later he ordered the arrest and internment of the
400,000 ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia, which led to a reign of terror
in which thousands of Vietnamese were slaughtered. Then the Americans
, and that operation ended in
July of 1970.
In early August the South Vietnamese government brought some 15,000
Vietnamese refugees down the Mekong River and through the Mekong Delta
in barges. Then they were trucked to the Vung Tau
airfield on the coast of the
South China Sea. Air
America (CIA) C-46's
brought more directly to
the airport. C-123's
took some refugees on to Ham Tan
airfield, about 40 miles away.
This day we carried three planeloads of refugees from Vung
, a cool
verdant place about 80 miles north in the central highlands. The
refugees brought all their possessions with them--bamboo poles, sacks
of rice, wooden racks, chickens, firewood and dogs. According to
a government representative, when they arrived they would receive a
plot of land and building materials.
20th century American birth have totally
On our third trip, loading went more smoothly thanks to some Aussies
from Luscombe, about 15 miles away. They brought the refugees out
to us in 3 Australian lorries. They even brought a big vat of
Koolaid--a nice touch.
As we approached Tan
the third time, a rain storm swept across the
field. As we were about to touch down, the visibility went to
zero so we made a go-around. Our passengers were probably on
their very first plane ride, and that go-around was a bit scary.
On the next approach the visibility was better and we were able to
land safely, but as we turned to park, the propwash blew over the
platform. Kids started running past our 13' props and others
tried to jump out of the airplane. What a mess.
Luscombe, September 3, 1970
Major Shannon flew the first leg from Saigon to Luscombe,
about 30 miles east of Saigon. Luscombe's 2800' runway
for the RAAF
but barely enough for C-130's (which weigh 4
times as much)
week earlier a C-130 went off the end of a runway of the same
length. We were on short final when the
Luscombe tower said the winds had shifted to a tailwind, which meant a
longer landing roll. Major
Shannon did a go-around--good call. Winds were better on the
second try, so we made a safe landing.
I flew the next leg and took about 70 Australian Army troops and their
(considerable) stuff back to TSN. They had completed their year
in Vietnam and were ready to board their freedom bird back to
Australia. Just like Americans each man had one or two big boxes
Sony, Sansui, and Panasonic gear.
At Tan Son Nhut we derigged the seats and reconfigured with empty
pallets. Then I taxied over to the hot cargo ramp and picked up 130 Vietnamese troops and one jeep--a
very full airplane
. Our destination was Quang
, about 15 miles from the
North Vietnamese border--a little spooky but I made a good landing.