"Sketch of My Daily Life in Vietnam"
My Bn Hq was in DaNang, on the perimeter of the AF base. The actual base, hangars, runway etc, had its own fence. Surrounding it was a cluster of smaller compounds, including mine. There was a fence around that too plus each compound had its own fence. One side of ours was the outer perimeter. The guard towers were manned by two guards with M-60 MGs. The inter fence towers were manned by single guards with M-16s.The actual city was a few miles away and off limits, unless you were on official business.
We had a steam and cream, but it was usually closed because the girls couldn't pass the health inspection. Besides it was so far away we couldn't get there easily. After I became a section chief, I had a jeep and occasionally had to go to other places, so I got to cheat. The USO was also too far away, but using my jeep, I made it there twice, making a side trip while on official business. I got a hamburger both times. It was like a special treat.
There were places we could go to get girls, but it didn't seem worth the effort. They had diseases there where the germs were bigger than I was. At night our compound was closed and you needed a pass to get off base. Twice a week, the Air Force had movies at their theater, about a mile from our compound, but still within the base perimeter. We were allowed to go there. I made it there three or four times. It was a real treat. They had a popcorn machine, a soda fountain that dispensed orange soda and a soft serve ice cream machine. Best of all, it was air conditioned. For a couple hours, you could feel like a human.
Other than that, we had our own EM club, and the skeeter flick, an outdoor movie. I slept with my rifle next to me and didn't leave home without it.
We had two company parties at China Beach during the year I was there. I managed to check out a surfboard once, so I can honestly say that I surfed the South China Sea. I went to Cam Rahn Bay a couple times, we mutually supported a unit there, I got to goofed off at the Air Force beach club while there. Other than that, it was ruck up and go to work.
I thought I had it very easy compared to many of my friends. As for being a REMF, I always thought I was one. Our unit SOP was to avoid contact. Most of the time we did. I was in DaNang about half of the time, the rest I was somewhere in I Corps. Got home without a scratch. Went to sick call twice, both times for ear infections. Once I wound up in the hospital for a few days. Some kind of stomach bug. I lived through my share of rocket attacks and have been shot at many times, shot back too, but I am certainly no hero and never pretended to be. I came home with a Good Conduct medal and an ARCOM plus the usual medals for showing up.
Busted a guy once for being under the influence of marijuana. He was on guard duty and I was Sergeant of the Guard. Found him passed out in a bunker. I saw very little drug use. Did do some serious drinking at our EM club but never touched dope. Looking back, I wonder how smart it was to get plastered in a combat zone. I have been so drunk I doubt I could have reacted in an emergency. Only got drunk like that a couple times and always in DaNang at our compound Fortunately, nothing ever came of it.
One of my best memories was Sunday mornings. I often rode shotgun with the mail clerk. Regulations required an armed E-5 to leave the compound with a vehicle. Sundays he needed to go off the base The mail clerk was an E-4. We almost always stopped for breakfast at Air Americas compound. They had a snack bar where you could get breakfast sandwiches. I still like salami and fried eggs on toast.
--US Army Sergeant Major William Walker, retired, Belle Fourche, SD. A tough, former drug cop in Los Angeles, he is the recent author of a novel, To Ride a Hurricane, as well as numerous short stories, some dealing with the war in Vietnam. Acronyms have been retained to add authenticity, but can be easily identified, along with any other unfamiliar term, by using Google.
Bill Walker recommends The Path of the Warrior video: "The price of Freedom has always been the blood of the Warrior"