Long Binh Bound 707
The 707 began to tilt, left wing going down. I grabbed for my steak as my tea
spills across my lap tray. Sitting, or more or less standing next to the
right side window, I see the jet fighter go by on what would have been a certain
collision course. Radar picked the fighter up just in time. Our last
meal before we arrive in Vietnam is now spread over the left cabin windows.
We settle back into our seats and I realize we are already starting to be sucked
into the black hole called "Vietnam".
We are well past the Philippines and the stewardesses are on edge just as the
three hundred men on board. As warm air rises the plane bucks and pitches.
Crossing onto the mainland I can see the rivers. They resemble hundreds of
snakes crawling across the endless dark green. As our descent to Long Binh
Air Base starts I am surprised by the steep angle at which we come down. The
pilots want to come in high over the runway and drop onto the end, avoiding
rocket or small arms fire for as long as possible.
The door opens and a horrid smell tells me I am in another world. Then the
heat attacks me causing a sullen headache between the eyes. The flight
attendants with tears in their eyes embrace each of us as we disembark.
What a sorry looking lot we are as we mix among all the hard dark bodies with
war costumes and weapons. They whoop it up and laugh, as we are "fresh
meat" and they are "short timers". Running onto the waiting trucks, we
already suspect our physical and mental training may not have been enough.
Down through Long Binh, we cruise, as the
children put the first daggers in our hearts.
of all sizes, ages, round-eyed, slant- eyed, all with their emotions locked up
tight. They come running to the road as soon as they see us, hoping for
something, anything, food, money, cigarettes, or candy. They survive on
what they can beg or steal. The hardening process has begun with us
against the children because they remind us of how vulnerable we have become.
We roll into the replacement camp where we will be assigned duty and picked up
by our respective units. As night comes, the dark sky is lit with white
phosphorus artillery flares from the fire bases that surround Long Binh. The
ammo dump a mile away is drawing heavy mortar and small arms fire.
So my first night in Long Binh ends lit up like Christmas and the Fourth of
July. The canteen opens and a Vietnamese band plays country and western music.
I am learning how to suppress my emotions. It will be one of the
requirements to survive.
18th Engineers, 557 Light Equipment Co.
March 67- March 68