I felt like I was in a closed drum with a vacuum cleaner running for almost a week when I was on my way to Vietnam. I was one of the fortunate ones (?) who did not have to ride the USS Upshur, I was part of the advance party for the battalion when it was deployed to Vietnam, and was privileged to fly.
I, along with Ltc. Barnes, Captain Brauning , Don Brodie, and a few others flew in style. You guessed it -- a C-130. We went by bus from Fort Sill to a staging area at Will Rogers International Airport, and waited patiently until this loud thing was led to our staging area.
Pallets of equipment were loaded. Then we took our place on the web jump seats. These seats were not bad for the first couple of hours, but my friend a week is far to long. A C-130 was never intended to be comfortable, and when you sit staring at boxes stacked to the ceiling only two feet in front of you while on these web seats for a week, cold , cramped scared, deft from the roar of the engines, you start praying to get there, as you know Vietnam could not be this bad.
We were served (thrown) box lunches of a sandwich, a candy bad and some kind of warm drink. We used a tube to relieve ourselves, and then tried to hold any other natural activity until we landed which was quite often. First it was California, Hawaii, Philippines, Guam and then on to Da Nang. The only reason we landed was for the plane to change crews, refuel. We were given a few minutes to stretch, take care of some personal matters, recover our hearing loss, and reboard.
Arriving in Da Nang was an experience in itself. The arrival was not quite what we expected as this was one of the busiest airports in the world (at that time), and the fighter jets, commercial aircraft, helicopters, and God only knows what else, caused our hearing loss to continue. As soon as we off loaded the equipment the plane departed and a host of funny looking little people in pajamas started to disperse our meager supplies. With authority we stood our ground and LTC Barnes left for God know where to try to find some meaning for this fiasco. We were expecting to go to a base down south; but we had been diverted in flight. It seems as if every one got the word except the mighty Marines that we were going to supporting them on the DMZ.
Hours passed as we sat proudly on our equipment waiting for some kind of direction until LTC. Barnes returned. For the next few days we begged transportation and accommodations as we scurried around trying to arrange for a battalion of seasick troops that were to arrive shortly.
The most welcomed sight was when Bob Boyle (the maintenance warrant) and party arrived with our equipment and we could get our own vehicles. With Boyle’s help we got a couple of jeeps off the ship and had our much needed transportation while the rest of the equipment was off loaded.
Then the big day arrived. At first I thought it was McArthur wading a shore but on a second look I realized it was Bill “Hurricane” Kindt leading the charge across the beach. We welcomed him with accommodations in GP tents. None of us were really ready for the next few days, as we all wanted to establish a position, which we could call home.
That day came and the battalion departed for a place called Dong Ha, leaving George Large with B Battery behind to support the 1st Marine Division at Da Nang. Arriving at Dong Ha was a little surprise as there was not enough room in the established perimeter and we moved through the compound to a site on the other side. Wow, with Marines and their loaded rifles behind us and Charlie to our front and sides, that’s a hell-of a- combination. But we survived.
Joe L. Talley