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Air America Comes Through
For a Top Priority Supply Item
By Joe L. Talley

On one occasion the battalion commander instructed me to get some rat traps. I took it upon myself to tell him we were in a war zone and I could get beans and bullets but I did not know about traps. In short he told me that he was the battalion commander and he knew we were in a war and he also knew that warrant officers rank insignias could come off just as they went on and that was the end of that short conversation. He immediately dispatched me to the south for rat traps. Now where in the world was I going to find rat traps,? I could not even find myself on some days.

At the Dong Ha Combat Base (DHCB) we found it fairly easy to go south for supplies. Hop on one of the C-130’s that were deadheading from the base and in minutes you would be somewhere south. Needless to say, a couple of hours later I was standing on the airstrip waiting for the next flight. I really did not care where it was going as long as I could get away from that crazy major "Hurricane" Kindt who had reinforced the battalion’s commanders wishes.

After trips to different army and Air Force supply depots where I was laughed at and humiliated I finally got the nerve to visit the Navy and was able to get my hands on the requested traps, but then the real problem arose. How do I get them back north?

At the Da Nang air base my plea was falling on deaf ears, there were larger priorities than rat traps and I was delegated to the back of the line. My shiny new warrant bar, clean clothes and freshly shaven face and a hand full of rat traps was quite a contrast to those who were coming and going to the “bush” with their M60 machine guns, mortars, and bandoleers of ammunition strapped around their neck. I understood their priority but they did not have a crazy major waiting on them, I had to get back.

Air America had a small maintenance desk at the airport and with tears in my eyes I told these fine folks about a bubonic plague that had hit our fire base and men where getting sick and dying by the dozens. I must have convinced them as they hollered at one of their “guys” and told him to drop me off at Dong Ha.

This guy happened to be the pilot, but he looked more like John Wayne. Levies, a short sleeve shirt, jungle hat and a 38 tied down on his leg. Wore sun glasses and did not say a word

In only a few minutes I was on a small aircraft that had no military markings there was no pre-flight check, with two other occupants who were Vietnamese and talked constantly in their language. I wonder if I had made a mistake as I had never heard of Air America and I certainly did not know of their reputation.

Amidst roaring jets, C-130’s and an assortment of other aircraft this young pilot taxied out on a taxi way gunned the engines and we were in the air. By this time I knew I had made a big mistake With no compass, map or conversation I felt helpless, but in less than an hour the familiar sight of the DOCB came into view. “Oh !!!! Thank You Jesus.”

As a private pilot I knew what short field landings were, but this guy gave it new meaning. As soon as he hit the runway he locked the brakes and we actually skid to a stop, I bailed out and he was gone. What an experience.

The rat traps were dispensed to the various fire bases, and from that date on Air America were our first choice of flight. We became friends with these civilians (?) and they supported us the best they could. This experience also reinforced the “old mans’ opinion that everything was available in country if you knew where to look.

Later he had no reservation in demanding a movie projector for the “pineapple” theater, nor a ice cream making machine, nor did I ever have the courage to remind him again that we were in a war zone.

Joe L. Talley
Svc Btry 67-68