http://www.vspa.com Vietnam
Đông Hà Airfield Air Base
Early 1967

If I Could Change One Thing…
Terry Sandman,
Sgt USAF Security Police

Det 1, 620 TCS
Đông Hà Airfield Air Base, RVN
1966-1967

 

If I Could Change One Thing…

Sky Spot directed B-52 Arc Light [video] and Fighter-Bomber missions within a 200 mile radius of Đông Hà Airfield, including North Vietnam. The SP post is behind the sand bags to the right of the Sky Spot sign and left of the entrance gate. You can just barely make out the top of the circular radar dish over the roof of the SP post. The SP entrance post was manned 24 hours each day. The post in the rear was located at the top of the north wall, which can be seen through the gate in the background. The post was manned only during the hours of darkness. There was a sandbag bunker that the SP stood on top of to view over the north wall. A wood ladder was climbed to get to the post.

Sky Spot was located outside the perimeter of the Air Force compound and west across the dirt road from the Main Gate to the compound and just north of the Marines' Delta Med. East across the dirt road from Sky Spot was the Marines' Graves Registration Building. A large gray Navy refrigeration truck was almost always parked by the side of the road and plugged in awaiting the day's latest offering of young Marines (we often forget how young they and we were) who's lives had come to a sudden end. During the days when there was deadly action such as the "Hill Fights" around Khe Sanh in early 1967, or when Con Thien was almost over run by an NVA ground assault on May 8, 1967with 44 Marines KIA, the casualties would begin to flow into the Delta Med. Graves Registration would also begin to receive their share of KIAs.

There would be so many KIAs that they would over flow the building and be lined up on the ground outside along the dirt road, the red dirt covering their faces and uniforms. Often a Marine Chaplain would come by, kneel down at the side of each Marine, say a prayer, touch a head, a shoulder or make an attempt to straighten a shredded uniform. Often the wounds or condition of the body would be so horrific with gaping holes, missing body parts or a body bag inflated like a balloon with maggots scurrying about doing nature's work that the Chaplain could make only a brief and futile attempt at prayer. The Marines now forever young would lie there bearing the wounds that had so violently ended all of their dreams and aspirations. Waiting there on the ground for the processing to begin that would start their long, unanticipated journey home. And back in "the world" a friend, brother, mother, wife or lover did not yet know that their world was forever changed. The sickening sweet smell of death always hung over the area. Sometimes it would be overpowering.

If I could change one thing, it would be that someday there be no further need for Graves Registration. That our differences can be settled without armed conflict, suffering and death. Then these honored warriors will have given their lives for a truly noble cause.

Terry Sandman
Det 1, 620 TCS
Đông Hà Airfield Air Base, RVN
1966-1967