Viet Nam, 1970
I was assigned to MASS-3 towards the end of 1970, specifically at FSB Birmingham. We were a small detachment (13 men) operating a radar system in support of the US Army 101st Airborne. On Dec 22, we received a radio message that I was to pack my seabag and prepare for transport to our squadron headquarters in DaNang. A CH-46 was already enroute to pick me up. I reported to the 1st Sgt when I got back, and asked what I was there for. He told me not to get too comfortable, as I was scheduled on the next C-130 departing for Okinawa.
Our flight was uneventful and we were taken to the transit facility at Camp Hague after arriving at OKI. There was an all-hands muster at 0900 the next morning for those of us who were in a transit status. The Sgt in charge read off a list of names who were to remain, while everybody else was dismissed. Mine was one of the names called. Those of us who remained behind were told to return at 1000, at which time we would be taken to an airport for further transport. I was very concerned because I had only one set of cammies, and could not travel in that uniform. A clerk in the admin section was very uncooperative, even downright rude.
I asked to speak to the Admin Officer in charge. A few minutes later, I was explaining my situation to a WO. He considered my case, then ordered the clerk to prepare the necessary documents to get me an emergency issue of one set of Alpha's, and to expedite the process and ensure that all sizes were correct. Time was ticking away, and I was very anxious. By this time, I had only 1-1/2 hours until formation (the last one out until sometime in January.
I took all my paperwork to Supply, where the troops there were very timely and helpful. With all of my new uniform bundled in my arms, I proceded to the base Laundry/Tailor Shop. The ladies assured me that all would be OK. After that stop, all I had left to accomplish was preparing my new shoes. They were to standard issue leather ones that needed to be spit-shined. I found an old papa-san in the barracks who assured me that he could do the job.
By this time, it was about 1000 – 1015, and I was sweating bullets. I returned to the tailor's, where my new uniform was finished, but it was perfect in all respects. Tailoring, rank insignia, ribbons and badges, all perfect. Even new skivvies. All I needed were my shoes. Back in the barracks with my new uniform, I found that papa-san was nearly finished with my shoes. They glowed with perfection. I could not have done as well.
I started changing into my greens. I rushed out the door to where the Sgt. was calling our names. I had my orders in my mouth, my seabag over one shoulder, and was hurridly putting on my blouse as I fell into formation. All eight of us going home were present and accounted for.
We boarded a Marine Corps bus for the ride to the airport. We assumed that we would go to either Kadena AFB, or to MCAS Futema, where we would board a nother C-130 for the next leg of our journey. We were very surprised when we arrived at Naha International Airpork. We offloaded, and were escorted to a NW Orient Airlines boarding gate. We were told that we be be flying back to CONUS in a NW Orient DC-8. While we were waiting (we had about an hour to wait), I learned that we would fly to Honolulu, then on to San Francisco. It was up to us to arrange for transport on our own. I quickly went to the NW Orient ticket counter, where I booked a First Class seat from San Fran to Seattle, WA.
We landed sometime at night. I didn't know what time it was, just that it was dark. I got a taxi to drive me to my in-law's home, where I though most of my family would be. The taxi delivered me at 2230, where I paid him $100. It was 2230, Dec. 24, Christmas eve. Nobody knew I was coming home to my wife and son, and a new daughter.