PLEASE MR. CUSTER…….
It was hard coming back to Vietnam after being in Hong Kong and I was already planning my next R&R. I had 5 months to go before I finish my tour and had enough time remaining to go some place else. Perth Australia had become available for an R&R destination and that sounded great. So I started to save my money.
Danang had grown from a run down city to a Military metropolis with most of the building being done West of the Air Base. There were paved roads, Electric power plants,PX’s Movie Theaters and all kinds of Military Buildings of which supported our existence over there. A waste of money I always thought and we were aware that things weren’t going that well out in the Battle fields. Our Planning and Estimating Division was more or less becoming a Logistics Division for Material being shipped in to Danang. We were still on a 24/7 schedule but there was a lot of free time and at times daily jobs were boring. The Naval Support Activity Base in Danang was huge Navy Base that brought along with it Military Control. Gone were the fun times between enlisted men and Officers. I was glad I was leaving soon, but first I had to do some recording of my tour here. I purchased a Camera from the new PX they had built and started to photograph places around Danang. Up till now all I had was a 8mm Movie camera that I used in around the city of Danang and took with me to Hong Kong. It was a good Camera but obtaining 8mm film was hard and even harder to get it developed. I use to send my Mom extra money and have her ship me several rolls of film and I would in turn send them back for her to have developed. I never saw what I had taken movies of till I got home from the Service.
Lt. Commander Jack Malera and I have been over here since the start and even though I respected his Rank, we would some times just sit and talk about everything that was going on. Several times he would stop by where my desk was and invite me to go for a ride with him in his assigned Navy 1962 Dodge pick-up Truck. We’ed go out to one of the Dams we designed or out to Red Beach and park and look out over the South China Sea. Lt. did not want to be here, he joined the navy as an Officer, did his thing at Annapolis MY and expected to be in some stateside base along with his Wife and two Kids. He had one more year in his tour over here after I left and was deciding weather to stay in the Navy or go back to Civilian Life. I often think what he decided to do and where he is now. Most of the Officers that first came over in the beginning did not want to be there. The start of the Vietnam Conflict started so fast that Line Officers were taken from their soft plush jobs stateside and thrusted into the Vietnam scene, leaving behind their Navy Officer life and social drama. It was truly a war being run by the White House, The Republicans and the Sec. of State Mcnamara.
One day out of shear bordom I decided to borrow the Division truck and drive down and visit with Tom outside of Danang just to have something to do. The crew Tom was working with were forming a cement wall over a drainage ditch down by the Danang River. When I arrived Tom called a break and we all sat down by this sandbag emplacement for a smoke and some water. We were there about half an hour when small arms fire started hitting the emplacement we were sitting on. we all rolled over the sandbags and got behind them. Some Marines down from started to return fire and as fast as it began, it was over. Tom stood up and asked if every one was ok? One Seabee got hit in his shoulder. I said I was OK and then Tom said “Your Bleeding” I said I fell against the metal rods sticking up from the ground behind the sandbags. He said I should go see the Marine Medic down the road. We said our goodbys and I took off to see the medic. I placed some old rags from inside the truck on the seat so I wouldn’t get blood on the seat. When I arrived at the medic, he told me to drop my pants and began to look at my wound. He gave me a shot of something and began to dig around on the side of my Butt, he pulled out a small Russian caliber bullet and handed it to me. Two stitches and I was patched up with a bandage and he said “You’re good to go”. Stop in at the Hospital on China Beach and tell them what happened. They’ll probably want to take a look at that wound too. When I got to the Hospital and checked in at the desk, the officer looked at me and said “You look pretty good for just being shot, follow me. Well the nurse re-cleaned my wound, gave me some salve to apply, took down my information and basically said “Have a good day”. When I got back to the Division, nobody believed me that I got shot. I showed them my copy of the report, even my best friend Lt. Malera said it probably was self inflicted. I received the Purple Heart 6 months later as I was being separated from the Navy at Great Lakes Naval Training Center.