My Arrival in Vietnam, Previews of Coming Attractions
Arrival in Vietnam
Preview of Coming Attractions
It was April 1968. After the longest airplane ride I had taken up to that time, my plane landed at Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon. After five days of briefings at Headquarters Naval Forces Vietnam which included getting my duty assignment, I departed for Danang aboard an old Navy C47 airplane.
The C47 (military version of the Douglas DC3) is a two engine propeller driven aircraft with a long and noble history. The DC3 was first introduced in 1936 and is still in civilian use today. It was used for both passengers and cargo. Sometimes, as did our plane, it carries both cargo and passengers.
Part way into our flight the co-pilot, a Navy Chief Petty Officer, came back to the passenger cabin and notified us that there was some trouble with one engine. The plane would have to land in Cam Rahn Bay for repairs.
After three hours in Cam Rahn Bay we resumed our flight to Danang.
Not long after getting airborne, the co-pilot came back and calmly announced that the same engine was acting up again. He said that there was nothing really to worry about because the C47 could easily fly with only one engine and would safely get us to our destination. However, in case both engines failed we would have to ditch, polite term for a crash landing.
Naval aviators have an aversion to crashing in the jungle, so we headed out to sea just in case we went down. The co-pilot then gave us detailed instructions for ditching, which included how to deploy and inflate the life raft. We were given life jackets and instructed how to employ them and exit the aircraft into the sea. He then disappeared back into the cockpit.
As the old plane droned on toward Danang I sat there in my backward facing seat and thought about my situation. What had I done? Here I had been “in country” for only five days and I was facing the possibility that I would die in a plane crash before reaching my first duty station. As hair-raising and exciting as that was, I had no idea what lay ahead.
We made it to Danang without further incident. I then hitched a ride on a cargo boat going to Cua Viet, where I reported in on April 12, 1968 as the staff intelligence officer for Task Force Clearwater.
Only 12 months to go.
Captain Herman W. Hughes, PhD
US Navy Retired (1962-1985)
PFC USMCR (1959-1962