My Vietnam era mode of transportation (1968 – 1975)‏

Note to reader:  As a U.S. invited contractor I was issued a Department of defense noncombatant’s certificate of identity with assimilated rank of Colonel/EGS-15, equal to a military grade of 0-6.  I was issued blanket travel orders  to board military aircraft to any in-country military installation.  These travel orders were valid from 1968 to March 1973.  After which I traveled either on commercial or Air America aircraft until April 1975.

Going There: World Airways DC-8 Charter ~ 1968

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN. One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Aboard a World Airways DC-8 Charter from Travis AFB to Tan Son Nhut AFB, Saigon, VN.
One of the stewardesses was Linda Phillippe; who happened to be the daughter of one of
my old bosses. She took good care of me while in-flight.

Trivia:

In the 1960s, World Airways became the first U.S. charter airline to enter the jet age with the acquisition of new Boeing 707s.

The USAF Military Airlift Command, “MAC”, used World Airways Charters extensively during the Vietnam era for Military troop transfers.

World’s most famous flight was on 2 April 1975

The first ‘Operation Babylift’ flight took off from Saigon in darkness; the airport had turned the runway lights off. The DC-8 departed without a formal clearance to take off or a flight plan filed. Oakland Aviation Museum Life Members Bill Keating and Ken Healy piloted the flight. Ed Daly paid for the flight out of his own pocket.

My first in-country flights ~

 PA&E C-7 Caribou-1968-Also flew on C-7 Caribou military versions throughout the delta (1969 - 73)

PA&E C-7 Caribou-1968-Also flew on C-7 Caribou military versions throughout the delta (1969 – 73)

 

First in-country flight aboard a Lockheed C-130 Hercules and main mode of air transport from 1968 to 1973. An Khe to Saigon on 24 December 1968 to clear personal baggage through VN customs. Also attended a gala Christmas Eve party hosted by PA & E.

First in-country flight aboard a Lockheed C-130 Hercules and main mode of air transport from 1968 to 1973.
An Khe to Saigon on 24 December 1968 to clear personal baggage through VN customs.
Also attended a gala Christmas Eve party hosted by PA & E.

Fairchild C-123 ~ 1969-73

Fairchild C-123 ~ 1969-73 Flew on this aircraft often while visiting baggage lift points in the Delta. (Tan An, My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho and Soc Trang.) The TO at Vung Tau would manifest his Jeep as required cargo; providing us ground transportation to military locations in the Delta.

Fairchild C-123 ~ 1969-73
Flew on this aircraft often while visiting baggage lift points in the Delta. (Tan An, My Tho, Vinh Long, Can Tho and Soc Trang.)
The TO at Vung Tau would manifest his Jeep as required cargo; providing us ground transportation to military locations in the Delta.

Douglas C-47 – Cam Ranh Bay to Tuy Hoa 1969

Douglas C-47 - Cam Ranh Bay to Tuy Hoa 1969 This 'Gooney Bird' was also nicknamed the 'IBM' flight. It made weekly runs between the Delta and the DMZ picking up and delivering everything from repaired adding machines to Xerox copiers.

Douglas C-47 – Cam Ranh Bay to Tuy Hoa 1969
This ‘Gooney Bird’ was also nicknamed the ‘IBM’ flight. It made weekly runs between the Delta and the DMZ picking up and delivering everything from repaired adding machines to Xerox copiers.

Malaysia Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-100 ~ October 1969

Malaysia Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-100 ~ October 1969 My first R & R was Singapore and flew on this 737.

Malaysia Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-100 ~ October 1969
My first R & R was Singapore and flew on this 737.

Thai Caravelle – Saigon to Bandkok ~ 1970

Thai Caravelle - Saigon to Bandkok ~ 1970 TDY U-Tapao RTNA. Established an unaccompanied baggage lift point during withdrawal of military personnel from Thailand.

Thai Caravelle – Saigon to Bandkok ~ 1970
TDY U-Tapao RTNA. Established an unaccompanied baggage lift point during withdrawal of military personnel from Thailand.

 

l’Aero Club de France Xuan Loc – February 1971

l'Aero Club de France Xuan Loc - February 1971 My wife Kim and I were invited to take a flight on this civilian aircraft from a French rubber plantation near Xuan Loc. The airspace was very limited and monitored by Air Control at Bien Hoa AFB.

l’Aero Club de France Xuan Loc – February 1971
My wife Kim and I were invited to take a flight on this civilian aircraft from a French rubber plantation near Xuan Loc. The airspace was very limited and monitored by Air Control at Bien Hoa AFB.

US Army U1A Otter March 1971 ~ Qui Nhon to Marble Mountain

US Army U1A Otter March 1971 ~ Qui Nhon to Marble Mountain

US Army U1A Otter March 1971 ~ Qui Nhon to Marble Mountain

While en-route to Da Nang when all of a sudden the ‘Herky’ had engine trouble and was forced to land at Qui Nhon.

I hopped another non-scheduled flight on this Otter and had a never forgotten the thrilling experience when the engine conk-out near Marble Mountain.

The pilot turned to the passengers and shouted not to worry, he just forgot to turn on the valve for the spare fuel supply.

He also assured us the Otter could glide for miles without power and land safely when there was a flat surface to do so.

We landed safe and sound and a little shook up at Marble Mountain. Needless to say, I continued to Da Nang via ground transportation.

Air Cambodia Douglas C-47 – Saigon to Phnom Penn, Cambodia March 1971

Air Cambodia Douglas C-47 - Saigon to Phnom Penn, Cambodia March 1971

Air Cambodia Douglas C-47 – Saigon to Phnom Penn, Cambodia March 1971

With a letter of introduction from American Embassy, Saigon and letters of credit from Hong Kong and American Banks, I traveled to Phnom Penn seeking out business ventures. The contract process was as corrupt as it was in Saigon.

I did not pursue nor wanted to deal with the Cambodian military purchasing officers.

However, I negotiated and was awarded a fuel transportation contract with Shell du Cambodge.

The VN consortium I represented provided shallow draft fuel tankers transporting petroleum products via the Mekong River between Nha Be and Phnom Penn.

Air Vietnam DC-6 ~ Saigon to Tuy Hoa, November 1971 to February 1972

Managed a very large contract award for Removal, Cleaning, Banding/Skidding of AM-2 matting at Tuy Hoa AFB and transporting to Cam Ranh Bay. Also, an addendum to provide similar activities for Revetments. The value of this retrograde was in excess of $20,000,000. My successful bid was $75,000 for the AM-2 project and $25,000 for Revetments.

Managed a very large contract award for Removal, Cleaning, Banding/Skidding of AM-2 matting at Tuy Hoa AFB and transporting to Cam Ranh Bay.
Also, an addendum to provide similar activities for Revetments. The value of this retrograde was in excess of $20,000,000. My successful bid was $75,000 for the AM-2 project and $25,000 for Revetments.

De Havilland US Army U-6A Beaver ~ Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang, 1971 – 72

 De Havilland US Army U-6A Beaver ~ Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang, 1971 - 72

De Havilland US Army U-6A Beaver ~ Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang, 1971 – 72

While on ‘TDY’ the troop withdrawal was on ‘fast track’ and scheduled flights were rare at Tuy Hoa US Army Airfield.

I found air transportation by any kind of available aircraft.

The base was placed under the control of the provisional Seventh Air Force 6257th Air Base Squadron on 15 October 1970, which facilitated the transfer of United States equipment to the control of the VNAF or to other United States controlled bases in South Vietnam.

The base was renamed Tuy Hoa Army Airfield and various U.S. Army units, including all army aviation units based at Phú Hiệp Airfield were relocated here.

The facility was turned over to South Vietnamese government control on 15 January 1972.

Beechcraft U-21 – Tuy Hoa to Long Binh/Plantation or TSN, Saigon 1971 – 72

Beechcraft U-21 - Tuy Hoa to Long Binh/Plantation or TSN, Saigon 1971 - 72 Flew on this aircraft several times.

Beechcraft U-21 – Tuy Hoa to Long Binh/Plantation or TSN, Saigon 1971 – 72
Flew on this aircraft several times.

U-10B Super Courier – Tuy Hoa to Long Binh ~ 1972

U-10B Super Courier - Tuy Hoa to Long Binh ~ 1972 This aircraft did not have rear seats. Once airborne, we headed over the water and followed the coast to Phan Thiet, then headed inland to Long Binh. I rode in the horizontal position the entire flight.

U-10B Super Courier – Tuy Hoa to Long Binh ~ 1972
This aircraft did not have rear seats.
Once airborne, we headed over the water and followed the coast to Phan Thiet, then headed inland to Long Binh.
I rode in the horizontal position the entire flight.

Pilatus PC-6 Porter – Nha Tang to Saigon ~ 1972

 Pilatus PC-6 Porter - Nha Tang to Saigon ~ 1972

Pilatus PC-6 Porter – Nha Tang to Saigon ~ 1972

This was my most fun flight while in Vietnam. I had to hitchhike from Tuy Hoa to Nha Trang using local ground transportation. I knew the Air America dispatcher and he manifested me on first available flight.

I also knew the pilot who later became a volunteer radio operator and occasionally worked with me at Saigon MARS transmitter.

He allowed me to set right side up front. This plane was made famous with actor Mel Gibson at the controls in Air America film.

U.S. Embassy Jet – Tuy Hoa to Saigon, February 1972

U.S. Embassy Jet - Tuy Hoa to Saigon, February 1972 Not certain if it was a Learjet. The aircraft made a courier stop at Tuy Hoa and I rode along with the U.S. Consulate General to Saigon.

U.S. Embassy Jet – Tuy Hoa to Saigon, February 1972
Not certain if it was a Learjet. The aircraft made a courier stop at Tuy Hoa and I rode along with the U.S. Consulate General to Saigon.

Thai Caravelle – April 1972

Thai Caravelle - April 1972 My last R & R was in Thailand. I stayed several nights in Bangkok at the Montien Hotel and the newly opened Dusitani Hotel, then I rented a car with driver and proceeded south and spent a few nights at Pattaya Palace Hotel. TDY U-Tapao RTNA. Established an unaccompanied baggage lift point during withdrawal of military personnel from Thailand.

Thai Caravelle – April 1972
My last R & R was in Thailand. I stayed several nights in Bangkok at the Montien Hotel and the newly opened Dusitani Hotel, then I rented a car with driver and proceeded south and spent a few nights at Pattaya Palace Hotel.
TDY U-Tapao RTNA. Established an unaccompanied baggage lift point during withdrawal of military personnel from Thailand.

Air Vietnam Boeing 727 – Da Nang to Saigon ~ 1973

Air Vietnam Boeing 727 - Da Nang to Saigon ~ 1973

Air Vietnam Boeing 727 – Da Nang to Saigon ~ 1973

This flight was the closest I ever came to being vaporized in mid-air.

After boarding and reaching my seat, I noticed an ARVN solider carrying several plastic bags containing a pinkish colored liquid. I immediately recognized the substance from one of my first experiences in ‘Nam.

[When I first went to An Khe from Qui Nhon, I was driven there by Jeep with an American civilian driver.  Going north on QL-1 a few kilometers and turning west at the QL-19 intersection.  The road ran through flat countryside with minor climbing over rolling foothills. When we passed by LZ Diamond Head and Binh Khe we were entering the An Khe pass.

Along the way, I notice a number of road stands.  My driver said they sold cold beer and soda and locally prepared ‘fast food’.  I asked him to stop at the next one we see and I would by us some cold refreshments.  He said the only thing he would drink would be from and sealed can. 

We found one and I saw some pinkish colored liquid hanging around the counter in clear plastic bags.  I asked him if that was something good to drink.  He said, “Hell no, that’s probably mo-gas or av-gas recently pilfered from our leaking pipeline.”

 I told him I took it for koolaide!  So, we had a couple of cold beers instead.]

My first encounter with real affirmative action.

I was sitting midsection and slowly got up and moved to the cockpit and inform the pilot. He asked if I was armed.

Yes, I was. He said for me to draw my weapon and walk behind him toward the seated ARVN solider. He grabbed him and clutched his arms around the culprits shoulders and carried him to the rear ramp and threw him down the stairs.

The pilot told me to shoot him if he attempted to light up the bags of fuel.

A ground crewman was on scene and dragged the potential suicide bomber away from the aircraft. The pilot requested that I not discuss the incident with passengers and then he calmly walk forward to cockpit and began take off procedures.

Leaving There: Lockheed C-141 StarLifter ~ 27 April 1975

“We Gotta Get out of This Place”  Eric Burdon & The Animals

Lockheed C-141 StarLifter ~ 27 April 1975

Lockheed C-141 StarLifter ~ 27 April 1975

About all I can now add to this is the gut feeling the Air Force Captain and I had Sunday morning (27 April) after NVA rockets had earlier slammed into the roof of the Majestic Hotel.

We were billeted in temporary embassy quarters that Mallette had arranged with an embassy contact and was located several blocks from Majestic.  We had evacuated our respective families and after my unpleasant experience on Friday with the QC at TSN, we decided it was time depart.

The captain and I left at 1800 hrs that same evening aboard a C-141 among over 300 people; majority who were Vietnamese. The load-master sat us in regimented rows on the aircraft floor and belted us using cargo straps attached to the bulkheads.

Our destination was Anderson AF Base, Guam.

Mallette stayed behind to close operations and I later learned he got out the afternoon of 29 April.

Pan Am 747 Guam ~ 5 May 1975

Pan Am 747 Guam ~ 5 May 1975

Pan Am 747 Guam ~ 5 May 1975

L to R: Kim Le, Lan, Ky and Ngoc, 5 May 1975

L to R: Kim Le, Lan, Ky and Ngoc, 5 May 1975

My family and I looked more like happy tourists boarding that Pan Am 747 at Anderson Air Force, Guam rather than scared-stiff refugees fleeing Saigon.

John Malch,  31 August 2015

Addendum: Helicopters

A single Huey parked next to a Beechcraft U-21; among towering C-130's, Cam Ranh-May 1969.

A single Huey parked next to a Beechcraft U-21; among towering C-130’s, Cam Ranh-May 1969.

Occasionally, I have been asked if I ever was a passenger in a military helicopter during my tour in South Vietnam.

I tried a few times to hitch a ride in a chopper and was always politely refused by the pilots.   Their prime reason. It was against regulations to transport unauthorized civilians who did not have valid travel orders to travel by helicopter.   If the pilot was caught, it was a career buster.

I heard rumors about some chopper pilots who bent the rules and ferried in hookers to remote military installations and not log in names of their passengers. Also, discretely carried Dough Nut Dollies and mostly female entertainers for a quick thrill ride in a chopper. These were ‘chopper tales’ and never confirmed. I spent nearly seven continuous years in-country and never knew of any American civilian who ever rode in a chopper without authorized travel orders.

The Vietnam war made choppers famous, especially the Huey. About 12,000 helicopters served in that war. What made choppers infamous were the amount of them that were destroyed by all causes. Nearly 42% (5086) was the number of helicopters lost in the Vietnam War.

This was another reason why pilots were reluctant to carry unauthorized personnel.  It was just too damned dangerous to do so.

 

 

One thought on “My Vietnam era mode of transportation (1968 – 1975)‏

  1. DC-8-63-F Takeoff in 2800 ft, Marble Mountain, South Vietnam

    MARBLE MOUNTAIN….VIETNAM 1969

    Those of us in country in 1969 will remember this incident well. This DC-8 charter was cleared to land at Da Nang International at night. The crew miss-identified Marble Mountain Army airfield as Da Nang which is way too short for large aircraft. Getting that loaded slug down and stopped at night must have made that pilots seat cushion disappear forever!!

    All recommendations were to disassemble the aircraft and ship it home but as you see this behemoth got off the ground in 2800* feet with very little fuel aboard and landed at Da Nang International a few scant miles away.

    This event is pretty well known history among the “Non Sked” flight crews flying the MAC charters in and out of Vietam but I had no idea it had been filmed. I found it recently. This Super 8MM footage shot by a GI in 1969.

    What’s interesting is, once Seaboard World Flight Operations got the word on what happened, they contacted Douglas Aircraft Corp for advice…Douglas said “take it apart and ship it home”.

    FAA said the same thing……….you can see from this footage how the flight crew handled the matter. Wish this told what engines it had.

    This incident was spoofed in a cartoon in Playboy magazine.

    Enjoy a little history.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bvK6enoQDg

    *Airfield at Marble Mountain was ‘4-P’ or 4,000 feet with permanent surface. Runway length requirement for a passenger air carrier take-off (DC-8-63F) is 12,800 feet.

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