Đà Nẵng: In-Country, Day One!

by: Don Poss
© 1995

Airborne from Travis AFB, California, via 1965's USAF luxury transport: C-119 Boxcar, twin engine props! First stop, Hawaii--so what...too tired to care, and can't hear anything anyway from the non-soundproofed C-119. Next stop, Guam ... on one feathered prop, then Wake, Okinawa, and Clark in the Philippines--where some poguee Airman was too lazy to file for my Expert Ribbon with the M-16.

We landed at Ton San Nyut, Saigon, where a couple of fellow Airmen joined me enroute to Đà Nẵng. Seems they misunderstood their orders: they thought the part that said they were going to Bangkok meant they were really going to Bangkok. In USAF-eze, it really meant they were going to Đà Nẵng, Vietnam for a year. I helped them understand the Air Force never made a mistake, and the purpose was that if their flight-orders fell into Commie hands the little fellas would be confused and not realized they were being spirited into Nam to help me win the war. Unfortunately, their dufflebags also misunderstood the orders and went on to Bangkok, Thailand.

Landed at Đà Nẵng. What ... Uncle a-Ho not here yet to surrender? The Base Commander must be tied down killing Commies or something--he's not here with his limo for me either.

Da Nang: Flightline HOT! I mean flight line HOT!! Airmen standing on the flight line looked like those Darwin-lizards that lift one foot off the ground, then the other. Civilian scrote-pukes call the paved surface where aircraft park, a tarmac. USAF calls it a flight line. I think Navy-squids call it an Apron--which seems appropriate for them--and jarheads think the Squids could be right. Doggies? "What's a tarmac doing out here?" Well ... it was a hundred-bazillion degrees Fahrenheit. Heat waves were shimmering and radiating so severely that they registered .8 on the Richter Scale in Los Angeles! My cover's eagle-emblem was flapping its wings to stay cool--get the message? . . . hot!

We decided that the Air Force screwed up and didn't arrange a ride for us--forgetting the band, we could forgive. Trudging on down the flight line totting my duffel bag, we spied a greasy-spoon hamburger stand near an Air Police Gate Guard Post.

The AP called in for an AP Jeep to drive us to Personnel for processing. "Hey Sarge-- got some fresh meat here to add to your tent-detail!" I tried logic (rarely successful in the USAF): Look, Sarge...we just spent 72 hours flying here, breaking down on every rock from Travis to Saigon, and we need sleep." The MSgt considered for a moment, then said, "You're right--but first you gotta put up some tents for the thousand other Airmen we're getting assigned." His logic was, more or less: Put up one tent and you's got a thousand tentmates--two tents, only 500 .... How could you argue with that?

Turning to leave, the MSgt called, "Hey, POSS ... you type?" I attempted to formulate a basic response that would keep me out of trouble. But the Sarge seeing the only flywheel spinning in my fatigued skull full of mush brain offered an NCO's encouragement: "Don't lie to me Airman! Set down here and type something!"

Plink ... Paaaaaa-linnnnnnk ...

 PLnniinnnn...k ...kink-kinkkkkk ...ra-tatt-tatt-tatt . . .plink.

The old 1911 Corona-manual typewriter's ribbon was drier than a dead chicken's beak in a sand storm. "Sarge ... how's this look?" He snatched the paper from the typewriter and scratched his 5-O'clock shadow. He replied, Hmmmmmmm ..." which sounded promising to me. "POSS ... this here typin' sucks--and come to think of it ... we don't need no Clerk right now, what we need is ground-pounders walkin' the Line--and you're it.

Tag ... I'm it all right.

Da Nang:Tent City!Da Nang:Tent City!We finished processing-in and signing our lives away for at least a ton of property that somehow fit in a 20-pounds bag, and then were driven to the new Tent Compound field.

Of course you gotta set up your own tent! Where do you think you are--the friggin' Hilton? Mosquito Net? We ain't got none'a them. I discovered later there was only one mosquito net assigned to Đà Nẵng A.B.--I mean, for the entire base--and everyone has stolen it at least once. Ollie the Caveman's right--There's them and us: especially them others that wear stripes on their sleeves.

Cement Telephone Pole About 25 Airmen were busy raising tents and putting down wood-flat pallets for floors and sidewalks across the twenty acres of hardpacked red clay field. The squadron was a little over 100 Airmen, on its way to 1,100. They didn't know it, but in years to come, the compound would be called Gunfighter Village, or the Camp, and evolve into one and two-story wood- screened sandbag-walled hootches. Looking around, I noticed there were wooden-sidewalks and cement telephone poles. This place is really ....

A C-130 taxing pointed its tail and revved RPMs in preflight about fifty yards away, blowing a hurricane of red dust the length of the tent-city field. And then a 105 Howitzer Battery opened up nearby --a new sound causing an instant pucker factor that changed the lump of coal in my wallet that Santa left me last Christmas in to a diamond!

Good news about putting up a bazillion tents: we got to chose our own tents away from the C-130's prop blasts. Bad news--the NCOs, in their finite wisdom, decided that we weren't any better than anyone else, and gave those prized tents to E4s

Day One of DEROS?

... Sorry' bout that!

Gunfighter Village ... The Camp
Đà Nẵng, 1965 and 1968 photos


(Click on sm.Photo to view Full Size!!!)

1968 photos by Alan Ellison
Da Nang 1965: Vietnamese housesVietnamese houses
Vietnamese houses
across from hooches
Da Nang 1965: Camp Road (West)
Camp Road
Da Nang 1965: Camp Road (East)
Camp Road
Da Nang 1965: Airmen's Living Quarters
Living Quarters
1965 photos by Don Poss
Da Nang 1965: Tent Mamasan
Vietnamese houses
across from tents
Da Nang 1965: Jim Baker.
or Hot and Dirty
Da Nang 1965: 35th APS Tent City.
Too hot to sleep
in a tent!
Da Nang 1965: Tent Mamasan
Mamasan shinned all leather:$1.00 US payday

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