|Vietnam, 1967 - 1968|
|In August of 1967 I was re-assigned from the
Weather Service detachment at Naha AB to the detachment at Tuy Hoa AFB,
RVN. I had volunteered for a direct transfer from an overseas assignment to
Vietnam in order to get this inevitable assignment out of the way. I did
not want to return to the states from Okinawa for a year, get re-accustomed
to state-side life, and then have to leave for a year in Vietnam. I also
was led to believe that by volunteering I would be given one of the better
assignments available, over non-volunteers. I also had the slightly
altruistic objective of giving my older brother, who at the time was serving
with an Army combat engineering group somewhere in III Corps, the
opportunity to terminate his tour early. I was very unlikely to be ordered
into a combat role during my tour in Vietnam, and my brother could claim a
re-assignment out of country as as soon as I arrived. Being an older
brother, of course he did not let his kid brother bail him out. I think
today he is still picking shrapnel pieces out of his butt because of that
Here is Capt Stevenson, USAF Meteorologist hard at work at the Tuy Hoa AFB Base Operations Weather Station. As the saying went, "... at first time goes slowly here, but after a while it stops altogether." Actually my expectation that I would get some preference for the better assignments was justified. Tuy Hoa was the Air Force's showcase base in Vietnam. Most of the other Air Force bases in Vietnam were converted air terminals (Ton Son Nhut), upgraded ARVN bases, or bases operated by the Army or Marine Corps. I believe Tuy Hoa was the first base built in Vietnam from the ground up by the Air Force for the Air Force. Consequently the base was built with the usual Air Force priorities: First build the Officer's and NCO clubs, then the recreation centers, and then ... and then ... oh yeah, build the runway.
|I didn't take many pictures while in
Vietnam. Here and below are the few that have survived.
Like most personnel, I initially arrived in Vietnam at Ton Son Nhut AB in Saigon. I ended up spending 3 or 4 days there while the Weather Service was trying to decide which weather station would benefit from my service. Norm, my old roommate from Okinawa, was the Ton Son Nhut Officer's Club Secretary at the time, so I hooked up with him until I got my orders to report to Tuy Hoa. Norm had an apartment in Saigon and he put me up so I didn't have to stay in the VOQ tents on base. As he pointed out, all of the mortar fire was outgoing in his neighborhood. The Ton Son Nhut Officer's Club was a hoot. Norm must have had a dozen waitresses on the payroll in the bar, but they rarely served anyone. Norm couldn't fire any of them, because each was some General's private stock. Norm was not happy in the role of chief procurer for the general staff.
I was happy to get my orders and get out of Saigon. To the left and below are some pictures I took on and around Ton Son Nhut. The building on the middle left is the ARVN Officer's Club at Ton Son Nhut. The picture on the upper left is probably the most photographed billboard in all of Vietnam. Below are some pictures taken around the flight line at Ton Son Nhut.
On the upper left is Tuy Hoa AFB. All the buildings were shipped from the
states, pre-fabricated by a contractor and assembled to on-site to produce a
near instant base. Junior officer's quarters were air conditioned 10'x10'
containerized hootches shared by two officers. Each hootch was equiped with
a bar refrigerator. Senior officers did not share their hootches. On the
lower, far left is the my quarters. I know what you're thinking, "No lamp
shade and only one pillow, how awful!" Well, there was a war on, you know!
The outside of these quarters is in the lower left.
Quite often Army personnel assigned to field units would be sent to Tuy Hoa for medical attention or rest. You could easily identify these guys by their constant gaping expressions of amazement at how the Air Force lived here in contrast to their lives.
|Although I spent most of my few off-duties hours
in the Officer's Club bar either drunk or getting there, I was prevailed on
by our Catholic Chaplin, Father Maurath (Father Moe to us), to help him in
his activities supporting several local orphanages in Tuy Hoa. The fact that
Father Moe was one of my drinking buddies at the Club meant he could usually
catch me at a time when I was very vulnerable to his requests for help.
Below are some pictures of these orphanages in Tuy Hoa. On the far left is
Father Moe with a young Vietnamese boy who helped the local Vietnamese
priest. This kid was killed a few days later by the local VC or bandits.
Immediately below that is a picture with the local Vietnamese priest who
never slept in his bed. He slept under it next to a hole in the wall
through which he escaped and hid in the rice paddies whenever the local
VC/bandits would come looking for him. On the second row below are pictures
of another orphanage in Tuy Hoa that we would regularly visit and to which
we would bring supplies.
Getting off base for these visits was the only contact I had with the reality of this country and the suffering of these people. I wish I believed our small actions had any real beneficial effect for them.
|In the top two rows below are scenes in and around Tuy Hoa City. On top row left is the bridge that connected the Air Base with the city. On the bottom two rows are pictures of several refugee camps and villages on the outskirts of Tuy Hoa.|