C-130 Airlift in Vietnam
The inbound rotator was pretty full. 2 pallets of onions, one of tomatoes, one engine, one prop, and 15 pax. Once we got airborn I climbed up on the pallet of tomatoes and racked out.
TSN is the same old place. It's 1 AM now and outside the rain is coming down in sheets and blankets (or as my country comrades would say, like a double-bladdered cow pissing on a flat rock). Occasional thunder and lightning; occasional drenched persons scurry across the street. Wow. That thunder made the building vibrate!
A typical morning at TSN--lawnmowers chugging, helicopters whop-whop-whopping their course down Main Street, alternating patches of white and blue in the sky, maids squawking up and down the halls, scooter cabs rasping along the roads, women with shovels and trowels tearing down sandbag revetments and replacing them with concrete block, the AP in his guard booth throwing snappy salutes between munches on an apple.
Today was the Vietnamese training mission again. After 40 minutes of taxi delay we eventually reached the VNAF ramp. It took two more hours to load 68 passengers and a power cart.
One of the reasons it took so long was that we insisted that the fuel be drained from that power cart before they loaded it. Once they finally got around to draining it, attention was then devoted to whose motor scooter was going to get the gas, then finally to loading the cart.
At Danang the Vietnamese had a well-established Americanization program going. When we reached the VNAF ramp there were no Vietnamese in sight and an American officer and NCO unloaded the baggage!
I'm outside the BOQ at the picnic tables which are under a big ol' army tent. It's a sunny day and there's even a breeze here under the tent. My ears are filled with the sounds of the Lambretta scooter taxis rasping past, helicopters passing overhead, the maids' chatter as they slosh the clothes in the shower, a Caribou taking off, garbage being dumped. Tan Son Nhut.
The Det One "Asshole Crew of the Month" award (patterned after the CCK Crew of the Month award) was given to the input rotator crew yesterday. They left the mail from CCK on a pallet instead of taking it into Det One, so that day's mail is now delayed/lost somewhere on TSN.
Sunday afternoon after chapel I rode down to Saigon with 4 other guys to the Saigon Street Boys' Barn. It's the shell of a casino housing an undetermined number of kids (I'd WAG 100 to 200) who shine shoes or pick pockets or pimp or go to school. Ages 6 to 16. When I asked how many, the American who runs the place said he didn't know exactly, but 5 had just gotten out of the clink. The place is sponsored by the Saigon government--they pay the American (who lives in the one big room with them) $200 a month to run the place. He must be dedicated!
After lunch I headed down to the Saigon Street Boys' Barn with seven others. After about two hours of hemming and hawing over where to put a stairway and getting little work done, it was time to leave. Nobody wanted to take the responsibility to put the stairway here.
I got tired of their namby-pamby approach and started working on something else. I got two other guys to help and we put some railings up around the deck and began to put down the floor at the top of the previously done stairway... That spot at the top of the stairs had been left before with a pretty unsafe temporary floor and when the others got ready to go I didn't much feel like leaving the job incomplete again. One of the two guys working with me wanted to finish it too, so while the others returned in the 6-pack, we stayed and finished up that spot of flooring. We then had to get home (home? TSN?).
So we walked a few blocks to the Khe Sanh Billets and caught a bus that wandered all over Saigon before finally bringing us to the Cho Lon BX where we caught another meandering bus to MACV on TSN. From there we walked to C-130 Ops and caught the 112 shuttle. I'm glad I stayed. I felt like I got something accomplished.
Saigon is windows of buses covered with screen wire and hotel fronts covered with chain link fence to deflect hand grenades.
Saigon is an old barefoot woman in straw hat and black pajamas selling sunglasses and peace symbols and war symbols and black bracelets and rakes and Vietnam film cases.
Saigon is blue-and-yellow taxicabs, Renaults, and Peugeots, motorcycles, 3-wheelers, O.D. buses labeled hiểm nghèo (danger), jeeps and military vehicles of all description.
Saigon is continuous interconnecting chains of chain link, chickenwire, barbed wire fences, and tangled concertina wire.
Saigon is rubble and garbage, smoke in the air, dirt in your eyes.
Saigon is the continuous stream of sixteen-year-olds who approach you on the street with "Capten--you change money--1000 for MPC.
Saigon is a city of cryptic cables to Singapore and Rangoon, the Dragon Lady, international airlines and restaurants.
Saigon is school children--mostly girls--returning home in their traditional garb.
Saigon is the Baby-Doll Bar, the Welcome Steam Bath & Massage, Tu-Do Street.
Saigon is always watching out, moving, avoiding crowds, taking care.