THE GULL HOIST
My Kids always ask me “What did you do during the War Dad?” Hell, that was 48 Years ago, any way, Here’s one of my Adventures as I remember it………
I was handed this small grey duffel bag as we walked from the hangar out to the plane. “Whats this?” I asked, “It’s your parachute but don’t worry, we’ll never be high enough for you to use it successfully.” I kind of turned it over looking at all sides of it wondering where I put it on, then on one side I saw this Military lettering that said ” Tinker Air Force Base” “Inspected June of 58”. “Great” I said under my breath. This is 1966″ I Located the straps stuffed in a fold of the bag, slipped it over my shoulder and proceeded to the Plane. My flights to Subic Bay in the Philippines were always on Navy Aircraft usually a Convair C-131D. This time I was Flying a C -123 Provider via “Air America”(CIA) because the normal scheduled flight left earlier and was already there.
Convair C131-D Fairchild C-123
This was my Fifth time of flying to the Philippines to procure Construction items for the Naval Support Activity in Danang, Third time alone. Flying time to Clark Air Force base in the Philippines from Danang Air Base in Vietnam was about 5 -1/2 Hours. 800 Miles, about a half Hour more on the return trip. Sometimes we’d stop in the Parcel Islands to re-fuel. The bus ride from Clark to Subic Bay Naval Base took another Hour, so it was a day wasted in travel since there were days we didn’t leave Danang until after Noon.
All In house construction ( That done by U.S. Navy Seabee’s) went thru us (Planning and Estimating) as did the Monies for those projects. The Seabee’s handled about 5% of the new construction in Vietnam, the other 95% was contracted thru Civilian Contractors, mostly from the States, South Korea and Japan. Every project had an estimate dollar amount and that amount came out of General Funds for NSA. When a Department needed something new that wasn’t on the Master Plan for NSA, it would come to us for Planning and Estimating and the appropriating of the funds and Materials. In the early years of the Vietnam Conflict, I was one of three project managers who did the Estimating, Planning and appropriating of the funds for projects that had an estimate of over $500,000.00 in the I Core portion of Vietnam. Obtaining signatures, approvals for the labor costs was also my job, plus obtaining, stockpiling and final distribution of material and equipment, for the project, Hence my traveling to Subic Bay for that’s where all of our material and equipment came from. If it originated somewhere else like Japan, Hawaii or the States, it was shipped to Subic Bay first.
Flying over to Subic to obtain equipment for the Support Activity was a lot faster than going thru normal channels of correspondence between us and the supply base. We could walk a request thru in a matter of days and obtain all the signatures needed to purchase what we needed. If the request were to go the normal channels via couriers and Mail , it would take months, plus with me going over there I could confirm that they had what we needed and doing it face to face seemed to make it easier to do business. I just couldn’t get pushy or demanding. I did a lot of Aye Aye Sir and Yes Sir to a lot of Officers.
My Flight over here to Vietnam was onboard a C-141 Starlifter from San Francisco to Tokyo Japan then on to Kadena Air Force on Okinawa. From there to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines then onto Danang Air Force base in Vietnam. The whole trip took about a day and a half. The Starlifter was a 4 engine jet transport of huge proportions with padded seats along the bulkheads of the main cabin. Very comfortable flight and plenty of room to get up and walk around.
Climbing aboard the C-123 aircraft was like entering a railroad boxcar, it was about 1/6 Th the size of the C-141, it was empty , dirty and the sides were exposed ribbing and sheet metal, there were fold down wooden seats along the side of the fuselage with straps hanging down from the top of the cabin and wooden grating on the floor. It was lacking a lot of TLC, It did have a few portals that let in light. “Grab a seat, we’ll be rolling in a few minutes” the Captain said. The Co-Pilot was about the same age but not as neat in his attire. I sat down in one of the fold down seats then moved down a few till I found one that had a working seat belt. I could hear them talking up front then one of the engines started , then the other. The whole aircraft began to shake, twist, and vibrate immensely, I thought that the damn plane was going to shake apart. The Co-Pilot looked down at me and gave me a thumbs up and I felt us moving. We must have driven around the whole damn airport for what seemed an hour before we stopped. I kept thinking, I should have taken one of those seats by a window. We sat there for about 10 Minutes and then he gunned the engines. My God were going to die. I never seen an aircraft shake so much and it felt like we were rolling down a plank road and noise, terrible loud noises. As I looked down the entire length of this airplane there was not one thing that wasn’t swinging, bouncing or gyrating in the plane. Then all of a sudden it got quiet, It became smooth the plane stopped vibrating and I could feel us climbing. I unbuckled my seat belt and pulled my way over to a window just in time to see us leave the confines of the Airport and head out over the South China Sea. Whew, I said to myself, as I reached for my bag and grabbed a book and slouched my self down in the seat for the 5 plus Hour flight to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. I don’t think we flew higher than 2000 Ft. above the South China Sea all the way there and I wondered why I was the only passenger on board and when I got up and walked towards the front of the plane and asked the Captain that and why we were flying empty to Subic Bay, he replied, “I was a last-minute addition to the flight, and they were taking the craft back to Subic for overdue Maintenance on its engines.”. “Great, I thought, “Why does this Thought always come into my head at the wrong time, The one where this inner voice says “Everything happens for a reason.” Thinking back to when I called the Navy Flight Dispatcher and stated I needed a flight to Subic, he ask me “How soon can you get here?” I should have told him tomorrow would be soon enough. The droning from the two engines quickly put me in a napping mood, which I did, figuring, if were going to belly flop in the South China Sea, I don’t want to be awake when it happens.
The landing was about as interesting as the take-off, I was tired and wasn’t as tuned into the noise and vibration as I was when we left. I check-in at the Naval desk in the Terminal and sat and waited for the Navy Bus to Subic Bay. I traveled in my Navy Fatigues and had my Dress Khakis for meetings and a change of skivvies with me for three days. I already felt the need for a shower. The bus ride from Clark AFB to Subic Bay Naval Support Facilities was pretty decent, a good highway bypassing all the Military Traps of Bars, Whore Houses and Tattoo Parlors of Olongapo and Zambales and took you directly to the Navy base.. After checking in at the Gate, I took the base cab to the Mess Hall for something to eat then walked over to the Transient Housing, took a shower and bedded down for the night.
Gull Hoist Pt. 2 next