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Subject: My First Days in Viet Nam and with the 5th

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 16:36:47 12/02/04 Thu

Itís been a while since Iíve written anything, so I thought Iíd share my first days in Viet Nam and with the 5th Ordnance Battalion (thatís what it was back then in 1966). After a miserable 18-hour flight on a Continental Airlines DC-8 from Travis AFB in California, with stops in Honolulu, Guam (two blown tires upon landing), and the Philippines, we finally landed at Tan Son Nhut Airbase at about 1:30 am on May 19th, 1966. We landed under blackout conditions. There was some discussion about diverting to Bangkok. After we got on the ground, guides with flashlights met us at the plane. Everything was pitch-black darkness except the occasional flares going off in the distance. We collected out bags and loaded on to an Army bus, which took us to Camp Alpha, again with lights out. I noticed that the bus had wire mesh covering the windows. To thwart sappers I assumed. When I checked into Camp Alpha, I asked the Desk Sergeant if the blackout conditions were normal procedure at night. He said no, itís Ho Chi Minhís birthday and the local VC are celebrating. When I got to my temporary quarters hootch, I noticed that a sandbag wall about three feet high surrounded it. My cot was above the top layer of sandbags. This made no sense to me so I put my mattress on the floor. And thatís were I spent my first night in Viet Nam, on the floor at Camp Alpha listening to the flares pop off and small arms fire in the distance. The next day I found out that my orders were being changed, so I had no idea where I was going. Needless to say I was very apprehensive. A priest was hearing confessions in one of the buildings and I went Ė first time in a long time. The following day I received my orders assigning me to the 56th Signal Company, 5th Ordnance Battalion. I wondered what the hell a Signal Company was doing assigned to an Ordnance Battalion. I also found out that it was located a long way from my new found comforts at Camp Alpha and Tan Son Nhut Airbase with itís very nice clubs. It would be a long time before I got another good mixed drink with ice! I flew up to Qui Nhon on an Air Force C-130. The Battalion Adjutant, Lt. Fred Sasse, met me at the airbase. After introductions around headquarters and a wait that seemed to be an eternity one of the company officers from the 56th picked me up. As we started out on our way to Phu Tai Valley, the farther we went the more nervous I got. To me it seemed like were where heading out into the boondocks. All at the 56th were glad to see me as I was the first replacement to arrive. The company had been in-country almost a year. There had been talk of tour extensions. The 56th was an electronics maintenance company, which explained why it was assigned to the 5th. The biggest question that everybody had about stateside was about Batman, the new craze on TV at that time.

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