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Maine Public is encouraging Vietnam Veterans and anyone affected by the conflict to share their own story on the Vietnam War and correspondence they had during or after the war. Submissions can be written, recorded or videotaped and sent to Maine Public at mystory@mainepublic.org. The stories will be collected and archived here and some may be shared with the greater Maine audience.Watch "Courageous Conversations."Click HERE for support opportunities for veterans in crisis.

Richard W. Sevigny

MY VIETNAM TOUR 66/67

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While stationed at my first base (Little Rock AFB) after tech. school I received my orders to go to Vietnam on May 1966. I got to go home on leave first and then before I left the states I visited my Uncle Duke & Aunt June in San Francisco, California. They treated me very well during my stay there. A memorable evening was when they took me out to a very fancy restaurant. I left the next day on a commercial airplane. The plane stopped in Hawaii for a short time to refuel and then it was 17 hrs. to the Philippines and to Vietnam. We laid over for a week at Tan Son Nhut air base before our flight to Pleiku, Vietnam. When I got off the plane at Pleiku AFB the night was moonless and was so dark that one could barely see the hand in front of your face. We boarded a small bus and the driver drove without headlights. It was sort of eerie. He drove us to an Army base so we could get our bedding. Then he drove us back to where we were to bunk. To my surprise it was a tent on a platform. I thought to myself I’m in the Air Force, how come? I took it in stride, (well OK). That night I did not use the mosquito net that was around my bunk. During the night, I was awakened to something nibbling on my thumb. The next day I learned that rats came in the tent because of food scraps left/fell on the floor. So, from then on, I tucked the mosquito net around me at night. A nice perk we had was that we had a maid to wash and iron our clothes and we paid them to do so. She was a maid to about six men.

The days were time consuming. We had to go to the Army base by bus to eat our meals and then return to report to the hanger for our duties. I was in a munitions career field and it covered all weapons and systems in the Air Force. I was assigned to the weapons release section. Most of my duties were to maintain the pylons which are attached to the airplane wings and belly of the aircraft. Napalm bombs, conventional bombs and many other types of armaments are attached to the pylons from which these weapons are released on the battlefield.

Pleiku was a primitive air base with a short runway. The planes we had were A-1 Skyraiders, old Navy planes from the Korean war also known as A1-E. Also, the base was used for forward air controller missions. After a few weeks learning my new duties, I was assigned as a “augmentee Air Police”. This extra duty meant that I was to go on the perimeter of the base when the alert was sounded. There was always rockets and such firing over and around the base on most nights. There were Army and Marines bases close by. So, we always felt relativity safe.

A civil company (Morrison & Knudsen) began putting up buildings and built new barracks 3 or 4 months after I arrived. Approximately six months after I came to Pleiku Air Base we moved into the new barracks. It was great. The company built a chow hall, theater and many other buildings. The chow hall was a great addition for us as we did not have to go to the Army base for our meals. The theater was also a great addition for us, we enjoyed many no name acts but one memorable act was Nancy Sinatra, she sang her popular song “These boots were made for walking”. One day we also took a bus ride to an Army base and I cannot remember where it was but we enjoyed the “Bob Hope show”. At some point during my tour of duty I went on R&R (rest & relaxation). I chose to go to Tokyo, and I also visited Osaka the old capital of Japan. A very nice trip.

The times and dates in my memory are approximate. It seems that in April the base and surrounding area was under attack by the enemy. The alert was sounded as it had before and I took my place on the perimeter of the base. As a augmentee air police with my M-16, I sat in some tall grass facing the fence.

Flares were constantly being dropped, so the night sky was as bright as day. I could see that the helicopter fuel depot was all a fire. Soon at the other end of the base, firing of M-16’s began and it seemed that an all-out assault had begun. I became concerned and was watching the fence intensely. Apparently, the airplane had runout of flares. Meanwhile, in a nearby raised guard post the guard on duty got nervous and fired a hand flare which startled me so much that I raised my gun at the sound. I immediately realized that I had my gun on full automatic. Wow, was my instant reaction and returned my weapon to semi-auto. I thought about the pictures and the stories of the attack on the base a few months before my arrival at Pleiku. Throughout the rest of the night shadows seem to move. I said to myself if more Vietcong come over the fence than I can handle, I’ll just lay there and let them past over me.

The next day I learn that someone started firing at a “shadow” and caused others to panic. That was a relief to learn. I later learned that the base was attacked again few months after I left for the US to Tyndall AFB. So, I must consider myself very lucky.

Many other stories and experiences/memories happened on my tour of duty in Vietnam so I will leave it to this short summary. A nice link, en.wikipedia.org