Sunday Driver
Tan Son Nhut, Tet 1968

by: Dan McKegney
© 1999


Tan Son Nhut, Tet 1968 - Shift Change with the help of the 377th Security Police, USAF - As it turns out, Denis Cook (RIP: 21 May 2017) of the 377th Security Police and I, while assigned to the Air Force 1876th Communication Squadron at Tan Son Nhut AB, may possibly have come in contact during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Such contact may perhaps not have been by way of the following story, but many of the 377th personnel stopped by our radio communications compound during their regular jeep patrols of the TSN perimeter, inasmuch as our compound was situated along the perimeter road.

Memories, once they begin to start, seem to build on and beget one another, whether they be good ones, bad ones, or in this case, my memory of a Sunday Drive ....

How could I have been so friggin' stupid, and how one of you guys from the 377th likely saved my dumb butt. I suppose it was a day or two after the initial assault on TSN, and of course everyone was on high alert, with defensive positions being considerably beefed up. Now, as I have mentioned before, I worked in the radio communications compound near the ammo dumps, and the most effective way to get to and from the compound from our barracks was to drive the perimeter road, including driving along that section of perimeter that had borne the brunt of the initial ground assault just a day or two before.
      So, around the midnight hour, I was elected to drive the pick-up to the barracks to get the next shift, which amounted to about six radiomen, and bring them back to the communications compound. I suspect that my election (or order) to be the shift change driver was owing to my fairly junior rank, but who's really into counting stripes? Ahem---something about something rolling down-hill? Well, in preparation for getting the next shift, I had ample help in piling half of our available M-16s into the truck's passenger side, so as to arm the next shift during the return travel. I was instructed to put on our one .45 sidearm, and I consequently felt pretty confident. With good lucks and Last Rites offered, I then drove off to get the next shift. What's everybody so somber about? I wondered. And why would anyone want a lock of my hair and clippings of my fingernails? And ... why are they casting-lots for my mosquito-net? Oh well ... off I went---no big deal!
      Dropped from C-47s high above, flares suspended beneath mini-parachutes would illuminate the night, but their light would extinguish within 4 or 5 minutes. Otherwise, it was black-dark along the perimeter road, as you may know. While I drove the perimeter road, there was enough flare glow, however, for me to notice the line of dug-in Army grunts on my left, whose rifles were pointed towards the direction of an expected enemy assault on the other side of the road I was driving on. The direction of such an assault would come from my right, but somehow it did not occur to my twenty year old pea brain that I was traveling in a potential crossfire. I just considered how great it was that there were many more base defenders now, compared to the night of the initial attack.
      Something being amiss didn't occur to me until I noticed some dude in an SP jeep, without headlights on, overtaking my truck with great speed, and suddenly braking just at my open driver side window. We looked at each other, and he jerked his body forward in a quite violent and agitated manner as he roared: LIGHTS! His expression conveyed a thousand other choice words. Yup, it is so true. I had been driving the entire time with my truck's headlights on, thereby making a perfect target for the enemy. Without questioning, I shoved down the light switch its full travel to the dashboard, as there seemed to be some immediate connections made by my dumb-butt brain.
      So, I've no idea of the identity of the Security Police in that jeep who shouted, "LIGHTS" at me. But, I suspect by his actions, he probably saved the life of this now wiser Airman.
      Oh, by the way, the shift change went off just fine. Logo
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