It was hot when we landed in Danang Vietnam in July! Very Hot! The Airport there reminded me of a scene from a world war Two movie set, dirty, run down primitive looking. We sat around with our Sea Bags waiting for something to happen.
Not too many Military personnel around, mostly South Vietnam Soldiers. Up pulls this truck and we told to hop on board. We drove for about hour through run down villages and then into Danang itself. The smell was terrible everyone wore these triangular hats made of straw.
We pulled up to this white building on one of the main streets in town that looked like a Southern Mansion. It was here that we were assigned Departments that we were to be working in. I was assigned to the Planning and Estimating Division. I was given my packet of orders and told to report to the P&E Division around back. It was a Garage converted into and office of three rooms, three windows, and one door. The Chief at the door read my packet, said “OK” and pointed to the room in the back and said, ” That’s your desk back there, Welcome Aboard”. A few minutes later he came back and told me that we wear Greens here, work starts at 0800 every morning and goes to 2000 hours. I was to report to the docks at Danang Harbor and board the landing craft that was going to APA 227. They would assign me a bunk on board the ship and give me a schedule of boats times returning in the morning and he would pick me up at the pier every morning at 0745.
APA 227 was a WW2 amphibious personnel carrier that was anchored in the Harbor to Billet personnel stationed in Danang. It was about 1/2 mile off shore and the boat ride was about a 1/2 hour ride once fully filled. On the way out to the Ship, I studied up on Ship protocol and what to do and say on board, what life is like on board a ship of the US NAVY.
The reason why I was Billeted on board a Transport Ship was there was no land based Billeting for arriving personnel. This was all brand new here and any available houses or buildings were being used for Officers and foreign contractors who were in the process of building roads, bridges and barracks for us. The Air Force had a large amount of personnel and its own contractors rebuilding the Airport and it’s infrastructure. There were contractors dredging the Harbor deeper and building a deep water docks to accommodate large transport ships and huge off-loading facilities. Anyway, back to boarding the APA 227, U.S. Baxr (Bear) After we pulled alongside this huge ship, secured the Mike Boat, I climbed the ladder up to the Quarter Deck, Saluted the Officer on deck, turned to the stern of the ship and saluted the Flag, ask permission to come aboard. I was told to proceed down the passageway to the transient assignment officer who gave me my bunk assignment and directions on how to find it. I kept thinking back to when I was in Davisville R.I. at Quonset Point and was told I’d probably never see any assignment to a Navy Ship. I found my bunk down in the bowels of this ship after numerous false turns and several trips up and down ladders all while still carrying my Seabag of some 45lbs. There it was, a room full of hanging hammock type beds stung from the ceiling to the deck with heavy chain My bunk was the third from the floor and to get into it I had to climb on the two lower bunks just to get into mine. I had a locker against the bulkhead which I stowed my gear and locked with a padlock I was given when I received my Seabag. I asked around and found the Mess Hall and had myself a good hot meal. I was starved! Life on board a navy Ship was sure different than what I was expecting and it took me several days to get accustomed to it. Getting use to all the “Now here this” announcements and taking showers and bathroom (Head) arrangements I was almost becoming a Sailor. The getting up at 0530 each morning, 7 days a week, having breakfast in the Mess hall, standing on deck waiting for my transportation to Danang public docks, climbing down the ladder into the boat and the 45 minute ride from the ship to the docks was becoming common place in my new Sailors experience.
I had this canvas bag with a pull tie that I would put my laundry in the needed to be washed and folded and took it to work with me a couple of times a week and this Vietnamese man would pick it up at work and delivered it the next day washed, pressed and folded for about $2.00 American money. Everyone used him and were quite pleased with his work. Life living aboard ship was becoming a breeze.
Holly Shit!!!! One morning I awoke to find myself swinging in my bunk.