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Vince S.’s Story
Shared on June 10, 2017
I was an Air Force 1LT, and started my 12 month scheduled tour in Vietnam in Dec ’70. I flew the C-7 Caribou, a twin-engine short take-off and landing transport aircraft, and we air supplied US and Vietnamese Rangers and Special Forces, primarily along the northern and western boundaries of South Vietnam. We flew into airstrips that were rugged and short – a number were barely 1,000′ long. The flying was occasionally dangerous, since we flew primarily at low levels and were subject to ground fire. And on the small airstrips, we were sitting ducks. Very occasionally we would have to land while fighting was going on. I would fly roughly every other day, and we were airborne from sunup to sundown. It was virtually all unscheduled, as far as itinerary. We would be given a starting point, usually flying there empty. Then we would be loaded up for a destination – howitzer shells frequently, to a fire base along the Ho Chi Minh trail. From there we would load up (e.g.) troops, native Vietnamese, or body bags for transport to another larger base. Then a load of something else, for another base, and on and on for the rest of the day, leap-frogging around the country. The base I was stationed at was Phu Cat. We were located in Binh Dinh Province, which was near Ho Chi Minh’s birthplace. We couldn’t leave the base, due to the hostile area we were in. Since this was my first assignment out of pilot training, I learned a lot about flying, myself, and being part of a larger effort. I was a volunteer to serve there, and was glad I did. I felt sorry for the Vietnamese people, who had lived in a wartime environment since basically WWII. They were friendly people, and the country was very beautiful. In October of 1971, with the end of the war supposedly in sight, I was sent back to the States, a month short of my scheduled 12 month tour.
Then in February of 1973, I was stationed in Thailand, where I flew B-52 bombing missions in support of the still-continuing Vietnam War. I dropped bombs on the final day of official hostilities, in August of ’73. My unit stayed in Thailand as a precaution to recurring combat, until December of 1973. We mainly flew training sorties, except for a few weeks in October, when the Yom Kippur War flared up and we were put on standby alert with loaded airplanes, in case we had to support that conflict. Fortunately we didn’t. Also, fortunately, in the nearly 2 years I spent flying in support of the War in Vietnam, we didn’t lose a single unit crewmember in combat.
I enjoyed my time, both in Vietnam and Thailand (apart from the tragedies of the war), and hope to return to Asia for visits there.
Sponsored in part by
Retired Officers’ Corporation at Freedom Plaza
Production Credits: THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington D.C. Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Sarah Botstein, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns.
Funding Credits: Funding provided by: Bank of America; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; David H. Koch; The Blavatnik Family Foundation; Park Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Pew Charitable Trusts; Ford Foundation Just Films; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Members of The Better Angels Society: Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine, Diane & Hal Brierley, Amy & David Abrams, John & Catherine Debs, Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, The Montrone Family, Lynda & Stewart Resnick, The Golkin Family Foundation, The Lynch Foundation, The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Richard S. & Donna L. Strong Foundation, Bonnie & Tom McCloskey, Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III, The Lavender Butterfly Fund