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Thoughts Of My Vietnam Experience
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“Give honour to our heroes fall’n how ill soe’er

the cause that bode them forth to die.”


William Watson


I am proud to be a Vietnam Veteran!

Last Day In Vietnam
Getting ready to board the Golden Tailed Continental 707 for the trip home

My Thoughts On Vietnam

I am A Vietnam Veteran, but I hid this fact from people for several years after the war, because I was caught up in the national shame of being involved in the War in Vietnam.

I did not want friends to know how I spent a couple years of my life facing my mortality and being involved with what so many protested as an American mistake.

When my own service, the United States Air Force, acted as if we should hide the fact of our involvement by ordering us to not wear our uniforms off base, I was convinced it was a shameful thing we had been involved in, even though it was my country that ordered me and over a million others to go to Southeast Asia and defend a promise made to the people of Vietnam.

I never gave it much thought whether it was right or wrong to fight in that war. My country sent me, and because I was a member of the military I went.

When my country abandoned the South Vietnamese I was ashamed of that. I was ashamed of the way the United States ran helter-skelter from the friends they had promised to support and the treaties that were signed.

I was ashamed at the lack of support our country showed us. We were never given the support that America had given its military throughout history. It was as if it were our fault that things did not go right for this country that had gotten us involved and did not have the resolve to finish what it had started.

It is now more than forty years after my tours in Vietnam, and somewhere along the way my thinking changed in the way I see my personal involvement.

The pride started creeping into my thinking as we, the Vietnam Veterans, started the movement to get a Memorial, "The Wall". Since Americans and our own government abandoned us, we would pay for and build our own Memorial.

The war protesters, the draft dodgers could go on with their lives after Jimmy Carter gave them amnesty.

So, our lives could go on too, even if we only recognized our accomplishments without support of the American people. I started seeing other Vietnam Veterans as brothers, and shared what only close brothers could share.

I began also, to think of the war as a test, a rite of passage that my father's generation went through in World War II, and my Brother went through in Korea. I know now, that had I not gone to Vietnam when I was called, I would wonder all my life if I had what it takes to be an American, called on to do a duty for my country. I don't have to wonder. I served. I went when called.

I have spoken with many men since the war, who did not serve in the military. Many say they wished they had gone. They feel a part of their life passed by while they watched from the sidelines.

They will carry with them to the grave an unanswered question that I was fortunate enough to have answered. Would I serve if called by my country? I did and I survived, and now I walk with my head held high.

When I meet other Vietnam Veterans I immediately feel a bond, a brotherhood that only we, who have been there, can understand. My life would be missing a large part if I did not have this comradeship with my fellow Veterans.

Some say, "it's been over forty years ago, forget about it." I am here to tell you that you can not forget the defining episode in your life that sets you apart from others.

How can you forget something as life changing an experience as the War in Vietnam was for so many American men?

Some who are old enough to remember where they were and what they were doing when John F. Kennedy was shot, or when Martin Luther King was shot can no more forget that, than a Vietnam Veteran can forget about the combat in which he was involved so long ago.

How can someone who did not experience it, and doesn't know if they would have gone had they been called, tell Veterans to get over it and forget it?

I wore the uniform of The United States Air Force for 26 years. I went when called to serve in Vietnam For that I stand tall! I am proud. I am a Vietnam Veteran!

George Martin, Da Nang RVN

First Tour -1967 - 1968

Second Tour - 1969 - 1970


Doing my time


US Air Force Captain Lance P. Sijan, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions November 9, 1967, on his 52d and final combat mission, during the 46 days he evaded capture, and his 28 days as a POW. Captain Sijan flew as a pilot and systems officer in an F-4 Phantom for the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing, 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron, stationed at Da Nang Air Base during the Vietnam War.

As Captain Sijan and pilot Lt. Col. John Armstrong rolled in on their target to release their ordnance, the bomb fuses malfunctioned, causing a premature detonation on their release and engulfing their F-4C in a ball of fire. Captain Sijan managed to eject from the aircraft, his parachute landing him on a rocky limestone ridge adjacent to the target. Nothing was heard from him until the morning of November 11 when he made radio contact with an aircraft flying over the crash site. For the rest of the day the US Air Force launched a massive effort to locate his position and to soften up the enemy air defenses in the area. At dusk, search and rescue forces were finally able to position a helicopter near his position.

Captain Sijan refused to put other airmen in danger, and insisted on trying to crawl to a jungle penetrator lowered by the helicopter. He opposed a parajumper coming down to find and rescue him. But the helicopter crew could not see him in the jungle. The helicopter hovered for 33 minutes, when, hearing no further radio transmissions from Captain Sijan, they were ordered to withdraw. Search efforts continued the next morning, but were called off when no further radio contact was made.

During his violent ejection and rough parachute landing, Captain Sijan had suffered a fractured skull, a mangled right hand and a compound fracture of the left leg. He was without food, with little water and no survival kit. Still, he evaded enemy forces for 46 days. He was able to move only by sliding on his back side along the rocky ridge and later along the jungle floor. After managing to move several thousand feet, Captain Sijan crawled onto a truck road along the Ho Chi Minh Trail where he was finally captured by the North Vietnamese on Christmas Day 1967.

Badly emaciated and in poor health, he was placed in custody in a North Vietnamese Army camp. Soon thereafter, he managed to incapacitate a guard and escape into the jungle, only to be recaptured several hours later. Captain Sijan was transported to a holding compound. Although in terrific pain from his wounds and from brutal beatings and torture inflicted by his captors, Captain Sijan displayed superhuman defiance, refusing to disclose any information other than what Geneva Convention guidelines allowed.

Suffering from exhaustion, malnutrition and disease, he was then transferred to Hanoi. But in his weakened state, he soon contracted pneumonia and died in Hoa Loa Prison (the notorious Hanoi Hilton) on January 22, 1968.

Waiting For Flights To Return To base


Last night in Vietnam


Duty Honor Country

On The Ground At Barber's Point Hawaii


After 12 Hour Overwater "Training Mission"

For those who fought For it, freedom has a flavor the protected will never know

AC-130-Spectre Gunship


Learn about the AC-130 Spectre here.



"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest thing; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks nothing is worth a war is worse.

A man who has nothing which he cares more about than his personal safety is a miserable creature who has no chance of living free, unless made and kept so by better men than himself."

John Stuart Mill, 1850


Yes, we'll rally 'round the flag, boys
We'll rally 'round again
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom
We will rally from the hillside
We'll gather from the plain
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom

The Union forever, hurrah boys, hurrah
Down with the traitor, up with the star
While we rally 'round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom

We will welcome to our numbers
The loyal, true and brave
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom
And although he may be poor
Not a man shall be a slave
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom

So we're springing to the call
From the East and from the West
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom
And we'll prove a loyal crew
To the land we love the best
Shouting the battle cry of Freedom

The Grunt Bore The Brunt of This War!


POW/MIA It's Time To Bring Them Home

"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."

Major Michael O'Donnell

KIA March 24, 1970

Dak To, Vietnam






Bad Night At Da Nang: The Crash of Corny 26       

 by JT Chapin


On the night of July 8, 1967, a B-52 Stratofortress attempted to make an emergency landing at the huge air base at Danang, South Vietnam. The attempt ended in disaster.  This is what happened.


Clem Beard, a tall, lanky, 6'3"Texan, looked up when he heard the noise. A 1st Lt. with the US First Marine Division, Beard was night duty officer in the Combat Operations Center, 1st MarDiv Headquarters, located high on a hill overlooking the sprawling Danang air base. Beard was bunkered in, drinking coffee and listening to normal radio chatter on the division net. His calm night was abruptly interrupted. 


"The ground shook and I thought all hell had broken loose. Then the radio chatter made mention of a crash, a B-52, which was non-standard aircraft for Danang. I made some radio reports which reached the Old Man in his quarters (Maj. Gen. William Rupertus, commander of the First Marine Division), then went outside to take a peek. There was one hell of a fire at the north end of the active."


What Beard saw when he stepped outside to get a good look was a monstrous fire raging in the distance, faint blurs of red emergency vehicle lights and dim, far-away lights of activity around the base.


He watched for a few minutes, went back in the command bunker to check radio messages, then again went out to continue watching the conflagration.


"That fire was huge," Beard said. "The aircraft overran the airstrip, crossed over an overrun area at the end of the strip, and continued on into a security minefield put down to stop infiltrators. The aircraft was destroyed completely, and the crash and fire killed all but one of the crew. Only survivor was the tail gunner."


Things were extremely busy that night on the U.S. Air Force ramp area of the base. Sergeant George Martin and other personnel of the 20th Tactical Air Support Squadron were hard at work receiving and checking a number of Cessna O-1 and O-2 aircraft, gassing them up and getting them ready for their next day's missions. Armed only with target marker smoke rockets, the Cessnas were light planes flown by Air Force FAC (Forward Air Control) pilots who directed fighter bomber strikes onto Viet Cong and NVA (North Vietnamese Army) targets.


Martin was unaware of the B-52 coming in until he heard the sound of its engines. "Danang was a fighter base, and it was unusual for large aircraft to land there except for the airlines bringing in troops on Boeing 707s. B-52s never landed there, so the sound of a large jet coming in for a landing, at night, at Danang, was a very unusual occurrence and got our attention real quick."


"We noticed the bright landing lights and the wingtip lights. That's the reason the size of the aircraft caught our attention. We watched it on a long final by its lights. It was a very dark night, and what also caught our attention was the fact that it (the B-52) was halfway down a 10,000 foot runway before the wheels touched down. We learned later he (the pilot) couldn't lower his flaps, forcing a faster landing speed."


Martin's work area was approximately at mid-point down the runway, and the B-52 landed nearly in front of him. "The B-52 touched down pretty close to our mid-runway position. We could hear the tires touch, and smelled the rubber smoke cloud as the wheels contacted the runway. We saw no fire (inside the aircraft), and this was all reported to accident investigators who interviewed my crew that night after the crash."


Martin believed the aircraft had no brakes after touchdown, nor did he see a drag chute pop out. "It was too dark to see any damage on the aircraft, and there were no sparks from metal hitting or dragging on the ground that we could see."


The big Stratofortress disappeared down the runway out of George Martin's view. Last thing he saw was a massive eruption of fire caused when the aircraft overran the end of the runway, trenched through a plowed overrun area, nosed over an embankment and down a slope just beyond the perimeter, nosed up into a security minefield, disintegrated, and burst into flame.


A stubby little twin-tailed, twin-rotor Kaman HH-43 "Huskie" local base rescue helicopter, affectionately called "Pedros" by crews who flew them, was already in the air when the B-52 touched down. It followed the bomber down the runway to its destruction point, hovered over the scene and reported to the tower that flames were so high it could not affect a rescue attempt.


Over on the other side of the base in the Marine Air Wing area, a fire truck manned by Marine fire and rescue personnel was alerted to the incoming aircraft. One of those on the truck was Corporal Jeff Lewis.


The truck roared into motion as the B-52 landed, and they chased it down the runway. They were still a long way away when the aircraft disintegrated. They and other emergency vehicles could not continue straight on out to the crash site because of the minefield in which the burning bomber lay. All had to detour around a base perimeter road that lay beyond the airstrip.


As his fire truck approached the flaming wreck, Corporal Lewis and his crew saw that the only intact piece of the plane left was the B-52's tall tail, horizontal stabilizers, and the tail gunner's compartment. Inside the compartment, still alive and struggling to get out, was the tail gunner, TSgt Al Whatley.


As other fire units poured foam on the flames, Lewis and his lieutenant grabbed fire axes from their truck, ran to the tail, and began chopping a hole through a Plexiglas window. They had to work from the right side of the tail because of fire on the left. When the hole was large enough, they grabbed the gunner as he emerged from it and pulled him through it to safety. Despite the horrendous crash, the tail gunner's injuries consisted only of several abrasions and a scratch on his left arm.


Al Whatley was the only survivor


Next morning, when the wreckage had cooled enough to conduct a search, Lewis and his fire truck mates used fiberglass poles to probe through the foam to locate the crew's remains for retrieval.


Clem Beard also visited the wreck area the next morning. "I went down the next day and surveyed the crash site. The area was surrounded by security people, but they let me through because I was in a Headquarters 1st Marine Division jeep. I got the lowdown from some of the "snuffies" (a Marine Corps term) working the crash site. They said the only guy to survive was the tail gunner. We had the jeep parked just below or near the empennage, and I remember the escape hatch was still swinging in the wind. I'm surprised they recovered any remains, because the fire completely consumed the aircraft all the way back to the tail."


A multi-million dollar aircraft destroyed, five crewmen dead, and just one survivor. It was a bad night at Danang. What caused the crash? The story, pieced together from interviews with Air Force veterans and the official Air Force Accident Report compiled just eleven days after the crash, lends a different light to what had long been thought by many.


It wasn't combat damage from an SA-2 SAM missile hit that forced the aircraft to find safety on the ground in a hurry. Tragically, and far more ironic, the problem and cause was equipment failure.


The aircraft was a B-52D, tail number 56-0601, call sign "Corny 26" and cell call sign "Brown 2." It had flown from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to South Vietnam on an Arc Light bombing mission as part of a three-cell nine-aircraft group. Corny 26 was assigned to the 4133 Bomb Wing (Provisional) at Andersen, augmented from its home unit, the 22 Bomb Wing, March AFB, California, and flown by a crew from the 454th Bomb Wing/736 Bomb Squadron, Columbus AFB, Mississippi.


There is an explanation for this odd mixture. Provisional bomb wings were paper wings only, established by the Air Force to conduct overseas operations. These paper wings were equipped and staffed with stateside units - complete bomb wings with aircraft, crews and ground personnel - rotated in and out on a regular basis. All stateside units were assigned to provisional wings on a 179 days TDY (acronym for Temporary Duty) basis, to permit them to be rotated easily back to their home base. US military regulations stated (and still do) that any reassignment of 180 days or more was, and still is, a permanent change.



The C-141 had just landed on runway 17L/35R at Da Nang Air Base following a 6-hour night flight. The pilot turned off the runway and taxied toward the ramp, crossing the active runway 17R/35L.
At that moment a U.S. Marine Corps Grumman A-6A Intruder was taking off from that runway. The A-6 crew attempted to avoid the collision, but the airplane struck the nose of the C-141. It continued and crashed inverted. Both crew members survived the accident. The C-141 caught fire.
Tower personnel stated that they had not cleared the C-141 to cross the inner active runway, but poor radio equipment possibly precluded the C-141 from hearing this transmission. Landing and taxi lights were not being used by either aircraft, both were displaying only navigation lights.

C-141 Lifetime Mishap Summary / Lt. Col. Paul M. Hansen, USAFR, Ret. McChord AFB WA (1 October, 2004)
US Crashes 1950-2002 / Jan van Waarde


Spirits Of The Wall

I never intended to visit The Wall.

One year, I found myself in room at the Hilton Hotel in DC on a business trip. I told a non vet friend of mine that I was going to go visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and would be back by midnight. This was about 22:00 hours.

I thought it would be like going to see the Washington Monument or something. I didn't expect what happened after that and I can't explain it... really.

I jumped in a cab and headed down to The Wall. As I got out of the cab I noticed that it was really hot and steamy. Just like Vietnam, I thought. I noticed some booths where the POW issue was being promoted, but chose to walk directly down a ramp to The Wall, avoiding the booths. It was very quiet.

As I started walking towards The Wall, I couldn't see it in view yet, it seemed that my steps were getting heavier and heavier. I felt really strange, like I was on something, but I was completely straight.

I rounded the corner and it all came into view. Suddenly and very unexpectedly, I lost my breath as tears came pouring down my face. All I could think of was "There's my boys, there's my boys ... there they are...!"

As I walked deeper into The Wall, things progressed. I could not stop from crying, I felt happy and sad, all at the same time. I felt that THEY were there and that I could feel them and that they were welcoming me there. I could feel a feeling, a feeling that words can't describe, a feeling, maybe more of a state of mind, which I had not felt since my days in Vietnam. Yes, I could feel Vietnam, I once again could really feel like I was back in Vietnam and I was glad to be there. I had forgotten what It felt like... Vietnam was all around me, flowing through me.

I felt that I could not leave and really didn't want to. I stayed, that first night, until 04:30 hours. I just wondered around The Wall, back and forth. I could hear a sound, a sort of music in my mind, a clatter of some kind, a racing, pacing, sort of thing. A hot LZ sound? Maybe. It was like they all showed up at once ... the ghosts ... the ghosts of the Vietnam War.

I couldn't believe how many visitors that were there at 03:00. People just kept coming and coming, walking in silence. Yet, I knew that I could feel a sense of belonging, a sense duty. I could really feel them all very ... very strongly. They are spirits joined to each other and to each and every one of us.

I began to think that I had snapped, gone over the edge ... finally. I wondered if I would be OK. Just then another vet approached me. He was wearing jungle fatigues and a Green Beret, "This your first visit, huh?" I mumbled, "It shows, does it?" He said, "Yeah, but you'll be OK."

I told him how I thought that I could feel them all, could hear them in my mind trying to communicate. He told of how so many, many come there for that very reason. That somewhere between 22:00 and 24:00 hours that they all come screaming in and then disappear around dawn... just like Vietnam. He said mostly every Viet Vet feels the same thing, but only in the night.

I asked why they were there, why did they show up? He looked me in the eye and said softly and very slowly, "Because... they... have nowhere... else to go."

I stared down at The Wall... a chill ran down my back that sent goose bumps all over my body. I was numb. More tears. I wanted to stop crying and could not. When I looked up, the Green Beret had vanished... nowhere in sight. It was like he jumped in a tunnel. Gone. Di Di. Het Roi.

Sure enough, as dawn approached all of these feeling evaporated as surely as the dew leaves the grass surrounding the memorial. I felt normal again and headed back to the hotel. In the hotel I wondered if I had imagined all of this.

My whole stay in Washington turned into a non-stop pilgrimage to the memorial. That's all I wanted to do... hang at The Wall. I looked up every vet I knew whose name was on The Wall. Found one I didn't know about until that day.

During the day it was like any other attraction in Washington except, heavier traffic than anything else. Even saw the Soviet Army come by. I noticed that one point of THE WALL, pointed directly at Capital Hill... there they are... The Masters of War themselves. Those who sold us all out as the blood ran out of our bodies and was buried in the mud. Even Jesus would never forgive what they’ve done.

But at night, whew, I would sit and wait for them to show up... and they always did. It would start as a trickle... then turn into a monsoon rush. The air changed and all the feelings came pouring out. They were there... they were there for us all.

I took pictures during both day visits and one night visit. During the night visit, I felt it not right, not appropriate, to be taking pictures, but I did anyway. When I got the film back, the night roll was all blank. I'm a good photographer and have never had this happen before or since. You figure it out.

I'm a fairly stable guy, family, kids and a good life. I'm not one to be drawn into such things. I don't know what happened down there and I am still always thinking about going back. I know that I belong there.

If there is any vet that has not made the journey to The Wall, you really should, you owe it to yourself. They want you there. It is all that they have. Go seek it out... but go at night... spend a night there awake... just like you did in Nam. If you really spend a night with them... if you do that... then you'll believe everything that I have written here.

Mark Cuddy, 9th Infantry Division,  Mekong Delta 1968 - 1969


Playing Tag With Ground Fire


Freedom is not Free

20TH Tactical Air Support Squadron
Unit Shoulder Patch


FACs (forward air controllers) in Vietnam flew low and slow, searching for signs of an elusive enemy. Often they trolled themselves as bait for the NVA troops to try to shoot down.
When a friendly unit made contact, having a FAC overhead made their day, because the FACs controlled the bomb-, rocket-, and napalm-laden fast movers, fighter jets, and attack aircraft whose ordnance often made the difference between life and death.
They were regarded by many of their air force and naval aviator brethren as insane, suicidal, or both. In addition to the perils of enemy fire which ranged from lucky AK-47 shots to .51 caliber machine guns and SA-7 shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, they had to watch out to keep from being blown up in a B-52 Arc-Light strike or knocked down by friendly artillery.

O1-E On The Top        O2-A On The Bottom 
Both Flown by the 20TH TASS
Da Nang AB, RVN


The mission of the Covey FACs (Forward Air Controllers)from Danang was to provide 24 hour coverage of the eastern part of the  Tigerhound area; to include the southern portion of North Vietnam from Dong Hoi south to the DMZ.
To interdict enemy supply routes from eastern Laos into the  RSVN; to support U.S. Army Special Forces Operations (Prairie Fire); and to conduct visual reconnaissance of their Area of Operations (AO) for intelligence purposes.
In the fall of 1968, Covey  Facs ceased their operations over the southern part of North Vietnam.   In early 1973, as the war de-escalated, and prior to their de-activation, Covey   Facs ceased their out-of-country operations and flew missions in support of in-country operations.
The mission of the Tigerhound Pleiku Detachment Covey Facs was to provide continuous coverage of the southern part of the  Tigerhound area; to interdict enemy supply routes leading from southern Laos into the  RSVN; to support the U.S. Army Special Forces Operations; and to conduct active reconnaissance of their assigned area for intelligence purposes.
In July of 1968, the mission of the  Pleiku Covey Facs was increased to encompass a 30 mile span of Route 165 extending northwest of  Chavane.
In June of 1970, the northern third of Cambodia was added to the   Pleiku Covey's Area of Operations. To accomplish this mission, air assets were increased by eight aircraft and ten pilots.
To clear up some confusion with regards to the use of terms to designate specific AOs, Steel Tiger, Barrel Roll, and Tigerhound were names applied to "Route Packs" in Laos; target areas comparable to Route Packs 1 through V1-A and B in North Vietnam. 
Tally-Ho referenced target areas in the DMZ area.
BARREL ROLL:  The area of operations along the Laotian border with North Vietnam.  US interdiction and close air support operations, mainly out of Thailand, began at the end of 1964.
STEEL TIGER:  The area of operations south of Barrel Roll.  Air Force and Navy units began operations to interdict the logistic network in April 1965.
TIGERHOUND:  The area of operations in southeastern Laos, south of Steel Tiger.  Operations in this AO began at the end of 1965
TALLY-HO:  USAF and US Marines joint area of operations between the DMZ and the area 30 miles northward in Route Package 1.
Slow-moving FAC coverage was limited to the more mountainous western region of the AO. Fast-movers covered the eastern plains area. Operations begain 20 July 66.
ROLLING THUNDER: Code name identifies the conduct of Air Operations against North Vietnam. (1965-1968).


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