Recollections of Vietnam

Arrival at Cam Ranh Bay

I think the term "The Big One" actually derived from veterans of World War II, but I can assure you that any war in which you must participate is your personal "Big One". Mine officially started when I arrived in the Republic of Vietnam late one night in the Winter of 1971 at picturesque Cam Ranh Bay. I was unable to raise my squadron's duty officer on the telephone, so I settled into the VOQ for the night, sharing a room with another poor soul who was to join one of the sister squadrons of the 535th Tactical Airlift Squadron to which I had been assigned. Cam Ranh at night was eerie because there were continuously illumination rounds from mortars in the air. All night long, the Army grunts fed round after round into their mortars so that at any given time there were at least a dozen of them parachuting down. The result was a ghastly yellow half-light which cast shadows in many directions. We jumped into our bunks for some sleep on clean sheets after our vacation week in the Philippine jungle, but before we could doze off, we were jarred into full consciousness by the Cam Ranh Bay "Giant Voice" warning us "Security Condition Red, Take Cover Immediately", followed shortly by the sound of incoming rockets impacting and exploding on the airfield. Welcome to Vietnam! The rocket attacks would continue on a regular basis for the duration of my assignment to Cam Ranh.

Cam Ranh was a huge U.S. military installation. In addition to its two 10,000' runways, it had an excellent deep-water port and, due to its relatively secure location, was the site of large munitions and POL (Petroleum/Oil/Lubricants) storage site. It also had a very large perimeter, much of it exposed to the open ocean, which was an invitation to the enemy to test its defenses. They were successful on many occasions, but never really understood their enemy. Their target was always materiel, as if they didn't understand the size and resources of the United States. While I was at Cam Ranh, sappers managed to destroy the tri-service ammunition dump (the most expensive fireworks show I have ever seen) and a portion of the POL storage area (for about two weeks we had to return to Cam Ranh with full tanks). None of these intrusions, which almost always resulted in the death of the attackers, had any significant effect on our operations.

Some historical notes and a fact sheet on Cam Ranh Bay were compiled by Tom Beauvais and Andrew Hartsook of the 518th Personnel Services Co., U.S. Army Support Command, Cam Ranh Bay, in February, 1972.  Tom and Andy have been kind enough to let me share their original research with everyone who visits this site.

Pictures Around Cam Ranh
Welcome to the 483rd Passenger Terminal First Morning
Drive Carefully Road to the East Side First Day
Beach Looking South Cam Ranh Bay Entrance Aerial View 1 of Cam Ranh AFB
Aerial View 2 of Cam Ranh AFB Port Facility Cam Ranh South Beach
Cam Ranh Looking East Japanese Pillbox Home Sweet Home
Home Back Yard The Petester's Place Home Interior
Tape Central Signpost at South Beach Navy O Club
Officers' Beach Tiger Lake CO's House
Post Office Civil Engineering Quarters AM Runup
Touchdown on 02L Control Tower Monastery
Cam Ranh Village Vietnamese Cemetary Sunrise Over Wing HQ
Sunrise on the Caribou Ramp Caribou Ramp C-5 West Ramp
C-141 and C-5 on the West Ramp A Day at the Beach - Vietnam Style Destruction of the POL Storage
Destroyed POL Tank Destruction of the Ammo Dump Ka-Boom!
Fini Flight    

Revised: 09 August 1999