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BLT 3/5 as a SLF aboard LPH-5 USS Princeton ('Nam 1966)

BLT 3/5 as a SLF aboard LPH-5 USS Princeton ('Nam 1966)

It was sometime in mid-1966, somewhere off the Vietnam coast, we were returning to our ship after a search and destroy operation. As I stepped onto the deck, and knowing most of the deck crew from my helicopter guard duty while on the ship, I could see the startled expression on a swabbie’s face.

Not knowing if it was the aroma from fifteen days of sweat, gunpowder, insect repellent and rice paddy mud or the unshaven face, I just grinned. Recognizing me, he said “Hey Jarhead, what did you do, scare ’em to death?” I replied “Yeah, VC number ten.” He then said “I’ve got the latest scuttlebutt.” I replied dryly “What’s that, some chicken shit inspection?” He laughed and said “No, we’re floating back to Subic to confuse enemy observers for a few days and having liberty call instead of training.” Ski, our wireman, said he knew the perfect place for us to go and unwind.

As we entered the Philippine waters we floated by the USS Enterprise and it felt like we were on a tug boat. Soon as the ship docked, “Cinderella Liberty” was sounded and five of us headed directly to the best off-limits, restricted slop chute in the Olongapo City’s wild side.

After a few boisterous hours of flowing booze, a classic, all-out brawl started. Broken bottles, tables, chairs, fists an bodies flying, Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children, the squid sea going bellhops, some mean local patrons and everyone else . . . I felt like it was an episode of ”McHales Navy.”

So I said to myself “Self . . . What stupid? . . . this is getting risky, and that naive, prick sergeant (personalities clash from day one, I had one he didn’t) would love to see me get office hours,” so out the back door I went and somehow made it back to the ship on time.

Once on board, I waited by the gang plank for Ski and the rest of the group who returned in a Shore Patrol paddy wagon. After taking some ribbing for leaving the festivities early, I just said I’m planning on keeping my remaining supply of odds against danger for the combat zone.
No bullshit GI.


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Bob Mauney - April 16, 2020

In reply to Paul Santiago.
Paul Santiago…..You are so correct. I was aboard the Henrico, APA-45 somewhere between Pearl Harbor and Okinawa in mid July 1966.

Terry Widener - April 16, 2020

I was with W (Mort) 2/12 on the Princeton BLT 2/12 I served in the FDC for this 4.2 Mortar Battery. And also sometime in the field with I 3/5 as a FO during Deckhouse Il and part of Hastings. Loved our trips Back to Subic Bay to regroup. 101 Night Club was one of my favorite Bars. After BLT 3/5 Mort hooked up with BLT 1/26 and went aboard LPH Iwo Jima and we participated in Operation Priarie and a few more . After BLT 1/26 we went in country and our ARO was in the Hue area

Gordon Niska - April 16, 2020

India Battery 3/11 was with BLT 3/5, SLF aboard the LSD Alamo during this time with SLF 35.

Mike hayes - April 16, 2020

Great story. Great memories. I think any of us could hav written it at that time. Thanks for recharging my batteries. At that time: PFC Mike Hayes, Fox Battery 2/11/BLT3/5

Joe Holt - April 16, 2020

In reply to Bob.
Wuorenma ???

Joe Holt AKA Private Holt forever - April 16, 2020

In reply to Andy Syor.
Half the battalion of 3/5 were crammed in the USS Pickaway. India and Kilo Companies. Also…I realized the moment I saw that photo of a landing it wasn’t one of ours. Each of our landings took place on the most beautiful, cloudless days imaginable. The sea and the ocean were damn near the same shade of blue.

J. M. “Bull” Samuel - April 16, 2020

God love Subic Bay. God love Olangapo City. God love Magsaysay drive. God love Peso Jimmys. God love Subic City and god love Joe “Sockets” Unwin for showing me how to live right every time we pulled in. HMLA-369 Gunfighters, Mag-39, Camp Pendleton. Golden Shellback and otherwise loveable boat trash!

John Beeman - April 16, 2020

In reply to Andy Syor.
I was on the USS (NeverSail)Princeton with HMM 364, The Purple Fox squadron the summer of ’66. Busy times in RVN and Subic Bay/Olongapo. John Beeman

George Hammer - April 16, 2020

n reply to Howard Hada.
I was on the Princeton April 59 to May 61 loved my tour

Andy Syor - April 16, 2020

In reply to Paul Santiago.
FYI Sgt Grit added that photo. All of our (BLT 3/5) amphibious jungle landings from the USS Princeton LPH-5 were in UH-34D Sikorsky helicopters to designated Landing Zones. The search and destroy operations were 10, 20, 30 days in length with resupply of water, c-rations and ammo from the same copters.

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