Recollections of Vietnam

TDY at Bien Hoa

A TDY to Bien Hoa (just to the northwest of Saigon) was generally not much fun. The missions out of Bien Hoa were almost always resupply of the forward firebases out past Tay Ninh and along the Cambodian border due west of Saigon. Two items, in particular, were in great demand at those firebases; howitzer projectiles and fuel.

The 105mm howitzer projectiles were loaded by forklift at Bien Hoa to the load capacity of the aircraft (around 6,000 pounds). On arrival at the destination, they were "speed offloaded". The entire cargo area deck of the C-7 was covered with ball bearing-like rollers and the cargo was tied down for the flight. On landing, the flight mechanic removed all the restraints on the load except for the pallet latches along the side rails which could be released with a single lever from the forward area of the cargo bay. After taxiing into the offloading area, the aircraft props were put into reverse and the engines were throttled up to start the aircraft backing. On a coordinating signal from the flight mechanic, the pilot quickly placed the props in the forward regime and advanced the throttles to METO (Maximum Except TakeOff) power, while the flight mechanic simultaneously released the pallet latches. If all went well, the load cascaded out the rear of the aircraft, breaking open the wooden palettes and scattering 105mm projectiles all over the area. The grunts scrambled to pick them up and clear them, as by this time the next Bou was just touching down. Power was never reduced after the offload - we just taxied rapidly out behind the landing aircraft, pushed it up to takeoff power and we were on the way back to Bien Hoa. Landing at Bien Hoa started the cycle all over again. Thus, for the entire daylight period, a continuous stream of Caribous would circulate around, delivering the goods to the firebases which needed it.

Fuel was usually delivered in flexible rubber containers we called "blivets".   These were cylindrical objects with hemispherical ends, a little more than three feet in diameter and about 5 - 6 feet long.  At each end was a metal plate to which a tow yoke could be attached.  At Bien Hoa, the blivets were loaded with a forklift and rolled into position in the cargo area for tiedown.  To offload them, one simply untied them one at a time and got them rolling toward the open rear cargo door, where they fell out onto the ground.  The Army folks could then get a tow yoke in place, hook it to any available vehicle, and drive off pulling what looked like a giant grass roller.

Although there was a decent combined Officers' and NCOs' Open Mess at Bien Hoa, it was a pretty dreary place in my memory and I always counted the days until I would be back "home" at Cam Ranh Bay.

(Pictures:)

Revised: 24 March 1999