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.  Children 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.

Mike Mercer    Then  and   Now
18th Engineers, 557 Light Equipment Co.
March 67- March 68




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