My first day in Vietnam
Saigon …

TET 1968

© (2000) by Ted Graser,
Navigator on a C130 E


My first day in Vietnam
Saigon …
TET 1968! was a navigator on a C130 E we were flying a team from the Tactical Air Lift Center to the various sites of PACAF (Pacific Air Force) airlift operations. We expected to have a great time as the stops included Hickam AFB, Clark AFB, then Tan Son Nhut AB and finally Tachikawa.

Our third stop was Tan Son Nhut. We arrived about noon time and were escorted to the 834th AD HQ where some of the crew met old buddies and we soon retired to the O'Club for lunch and a toddie or two. The big joke was "Base Beautification Projects." It seemed that almost every building and Quonset hut had a rock garden at its entrance; we even saw budding lawns and trellises with climbing vines on them. The big bitch was that now that the war was about won the commanding staff was griping that the bases should be esthetically pleasing.

It was a beautiful day, not too hot, just a lovely February day in Southeast Asia. About Mid afternoon we retired to a villa in Saigon where a group of 834AD officers lived. The house was a mess as all of the help were off for the Tet Holiday. Well we could just step around the dog turds (it was that messy) on the stairs, find the liquor cabinet and mix up some gin and tonics.We were on about our second drink when the phone rang and the caller asked for the pilot. The conversation went something like this; "Benny get that dam airplane out of here ... Where to? ... Cam Ranh? ... No dammit just out of here (Benny replies very jokingly) Bangkok? ... Okay, just get going right now."

So we were transported out to the field and discovered we did not have a full crew, we had two Navigators but no Engineer, I was appointed engineer and the two pilots would keep a good eye on me, luckily as we were about to start engines an engineer from the crew showed up. He was in the crew hotel in downtown Saigon when they got the call to move the aircraft, we had two engineers (we were an augmented crew that had a 24 hour crew day) and the senior engineer told the junior one to get out to the field and move the airplane; he thought it was just a taxi job. Little did he know, and how he later regretted it.

We finally got off the ground with out too much delay due to a difficulty in filing a clearance for Bangkok. It was just getting dark as we lifted off and headed for Binh Thuy AB. As we gained a bit of altitude we could see what looked like fireworks going off all over the place, and why not, it was the beginning of the Tet celebration -- hell no -- it was the beginning of the Tet 1968 Offensive.

We arrived in Bangkok, spent a few days seeing the sights and were sent back to pick up the Boss in Saigon and then back to Bangkok and a few more days of sightseeing then back to pick up the rest of the team who had been holed-up in a hotel scared to death for nearly a week. While we were waiting for the passengers to get to the airplane we spent the night sleeping in the airplane, hell it was safer than most places in Saigon that night as dawn approached so did the passengers.

Then we were off to Tachikawa. Not much excitement -- but it was for the crew a small vacation and it all started with my first day in Vet Nam. I have a few more as I spent some time as a Laison for airlift, a C130 crew dog and a KC 135 nav, that last was a piece of cake but some spectacular views of multiple aircraft heading into Hanoi.