from Neighborhood to 'Nam......and back.

Growing up in a close knit neighborhood during the ‘50s and ‘60s was not unusual, it was the norm. Friendships were long and the bonds were tight. Friends walked to school together; joined scouts together; played sports together; grew up together. They dated and married girls from the neighborhood. . .And, most of them went to war together, not as a group, but as single individuals….and those same friends parted ways for a time. Each moving on to a new phase of their life.

The neighborhood was ‘Kaisertown’, a Polish-American community on the far east side of Buffalo New York. . .the war was Vietnam.

This blog is a collaboration of stories and experiences from this group of men, childhood buddies, all now in their sixties, whose friendships have lasted a lifetime.

These are also recollections from those young men who stayed behind. . ’caretakers’, as you will, of the old neighborhood that was a part of them . . .keeping the memories alive until all returned.


Heroes Grove Objectives:

1.  Engrave Kaisertown’s Fallen Soldier’s names on the 
VIETNAM monument at Heroes Grove. . 
Paul M. Evans, James A. Grzegorek, Robert May, 
and Robert J. Polniak. . .on Memorial Day of  this year.  
Sometime this year, we would like to plant trees to serve as 
living monuments for our Fallen Soldier’s.      
Monument Engraved & COMPLETED: 7.21.13

2.  We need to save the World War II Monument from any more foundation issues.  At present, water il seeping down into the foundation, thawing & freezing, and it looks like it might eventually cause a safety hazard, and the complete loss of the monument.  
Once this happens, it’s probably too late to save it. 

3.  Would like to purchase a Middle East Conflict 
monument for those that served.
Monument Installed & COMPLETED: 10.19.15

4.  Purchase a permanent spot light for our American Flag. 
An electrician would tie the source into the 
dawn & dusk timer of the street lights.   
COMPLETED:  6.17.15

5. Purchase & Install curbs around the monuments so that soil 
doesn’t drain onto the sidewalk.    
COMPLETED:  Summer of 2015

6.  Keep maintaining the Grove area as we have been as long as we possibly can. . .cutting grass, planting flowers, trees, and replacing bushes when needed, and whatever else might become an issue at any particular time.

7.  Placing Christmas lights yearly, replacing stolen lighting as needed.

8. Replacing flags as needed.  We’ve been fortunate to 
receive the flags from our local politicians.

9. Refurbish or purchase new park benches.
COMPLETED:  Summer of 2017

None of these objectives are in any priority listing, 
but priorities do need to be considered.

Most all of us that maintain HEROES GROVE grew up in Kaisertown, maintain a pride that has been with us all of our lives.  The Grove caretakers have been friends for life. We grew up in a special neighborhood, at a special time in history, made special bonds, 
what a great time to be a child and teenager, “the best of times”.  
All of us, as kids, can remember saying to friends
 “we’ll meet at the monument”.

Let us always keep in mind that this Grove isn’t just Pride for us VietNam Vets, but for the WWII, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, and 9/11 individuals who lost their lives, 
and it’s been a pride for Kaisertown itself.

We hope that this has given you an incite as to what we are all about.

    Thank You,
      The Veterans and Friends of Heroes Grove


Jerry:  The Summer of '65. . .

The summer of ‘65, what a great period in our lives.  Graduation from high school, didn't have to worry about going back to school come September, unless one had plans to go to college and most of us didn't share any enthusiasm to go back to school at that time.  What it meant was a lot of beach time, and Sherkston and Sunset Bay were the places to go, and we certainly did that.  There were a few of us sitting in Wiechec's,  Lommer, Harpo and myself, and we were hashing over what our plans for Saturday would be.  Well I think Harpo came up with the idea to rent a boat at the small boat harbor and take it to Sun Set Bay, weather permitting.  Saturday came around and it was a gorgeous day, perfect conditions to take the 14 foot boat that we had rented and take that trip as we planned.  I think Lommer borrowed a 14 horse motor from his uncle and man we were ready to depart on this planned adventure. Such a beautiful day for boating! Lake Erie was like glass, again perfect conditions for what we thought was going to be a perfect day.  

Well, after boating for a while, we headed to our destination that seem like the trip that lasted forever, and come to think of it from the small boat harbor to Sunset Bay in a 14 foot, 14 horse motor probably did take us forever.  As the story goes, we never made it all the way to Sunset, and Lake Erie turned to what I thought at the time was a perfect storm. The weather was still good but the wind picked up and our boat was taking on water. . . A LOT OF WATER!  At that time we decided to turn around and give it our best shot to make it back.  For some reason we had a #10 can in the boat that we used for bailing the water as the waves came gussying in over the sides.  I'm saying to the guys, "shit! this doesn't look too good for us to get back to shore”. . . I really can't remember if we had any life preservers, we probably did if we rented the boat, but if we had to pay extra for them knowing us we said the heck with them.  We thought the trip was long going out well, let me tell you the trip coming back seemed even longer, but finally ‘Skipper’ Lommer got us back behind the break wall and things started to look a lot better. He got us back safely and to dry ground.  You want to talk about feeling good to be on ground, such a great feeling.  We ended up of course at Wiechec's to talk about what we’d do the next day,  I  think  we ‘drove’ safely to Sherkston. Never again did we attempt to take any boat out on the glassy waters of Lake Erie. 

Here we are 51 years later and I still laugh about it. . . what crazy, young, inexperienced teenagers we were.  I would not join the Navy because of that, Lommer joined the Marines because of that, and Harpo must have enjoyed himself because he joined the Coast Guard.  Well, we’re here to talk about that day and that's a good thing.


Bogie:  Thought of Teenage years in Kaisertown. . .

Neighborhood (Kaisertown), how do you start to describe your childhood and adolescence. For me it was normal and fun. Everybody that's from there has a lot of stories just like I do, but when you look back we had our tragedies,  but most of the times was nothing but laughter. To skip the early years going to catholic school then transferring to public school, where I considered the start of my growing up, i.e. smoking, drinking and kissing girls. Yeah started smoking at about 10 stealing cigs from my parents and uncle or picking the large butts from the street in front of the bars. Oh by the way there was a bar on every corner and a bakery on the other so you didn't have much chance of being normal, and I'm not blaming the bakeries. Started drinking at about 12 still can remember my first quart of beer was in a tree house on Glen St. with Jimmy Folger and a couple of other guys can't remember their name right off hand maybe Jerry should have started this about ten years ago before we killed to many brain cells. Met with Folger in the park one afternoon (Houghton) and he says to me wanna get some beer tonight, I thought he was crazy, I said were too young to buy it he told me he Knew this guy named Bukowski and he would buy it for us. All we had to do was buy him two quarts with our money. So Jimmy devises this plan go home and tell your mother there's a street dance at Babes could I have a dollar and that I would skip Saturday cartoons at Strand Theater. Ok all most sure there was four of us  Folger goes meets with Buko and told him where we would be, It started getting dark and Buko shows up at the tree house with three bags of beers. I was scared shitless, well about after about half that first quart, I was getting pretty loose. Someone asked Buko what do we do if the cops come and Buko without hesitating says throw the empty bottles at them tell them to get the deposit and go buy their own fucking beer, we were all pissing in our pants laughing.

 That story was just the beginning of happiness filled with alcohol. Listen don't get this wrong but most of us didn't turn out to be alcoholic and get arrested all the time but some did. Beer wasn't the only choice There were the gallons of hard cider we bought by crossing the tracks to Mineral Springs St. in South Buffalo, but a warning to all don't drink this innocent looking stuff in the hot summer sun in the back of the park, if you did don't fall asleep at the picnic benches the cops would come and round everybody up, take us home and tell our parents and that lead to a good ass whipping, so being the smart Polocks that we were we changed drinking location to right in front of school 69 in the bushes. Well everything went well  until one evening Folger goes crazy and starts throwing the empty jugs onto Clinton St. yelling the Germans were coming we all scattered and you know who got caught we didn’t see him for a month. You heard me mention Polocks if you know it or not that nationality is synonymous with alcohol hate to tell you this but we lived in a segregated neighborhood I think John Nichols was the only token non Polock, now there's a ton of stories there more on him later.

Music and dances were a big part of growing up in Kaisertown most of us danced and sang well we thought we could sing it was all air instruments and lip syncing, Johnny Nichols had a good voice so did Larry Chops. We would go down in the basement of St Casmir’s school and sing in the bathroom with what we thought was a good reverberation sometimes we would go up to the auditorium on the third floor turn on the mike  and sing to no one in the audience. We went up once and the old ladies club had a card party going on,  so we started singing anyway and they threw us out telling us they were going to tell the Pastor on us, we never heard anything about it. Like I said most of us danced with the exception of some of the older guys, Bucky, Butcer, Dave Chops (Larry's older brother), Albert Roy and a bunch of other can't remember their name, these guy were like the protectors of the neighbor-hood. When there were dances they were held at Babes Soda shop on Casimir and Spann St. Ryan High school once in a great while at St Bernard school and a few were at the old pool hall on Clinton St. The protectors of the neighborhood would hang around looking for a good fight and most of the time Buffalo's finest would show up to break thing up.

Back to the alcohol again the dances and drinking went hand in hand, I use to play the accordion, didn't want to but being a good polish lad  I was kind if influenced into it. Well to make a long story short I use to go get lessons at Art Kubera's on Fillmore take the Fillmore St bus to Clinton and then home I was 14 and young looking there was a liquor store on the corner of Fillmore and Clinton one day after practice I walked into the store and asked for a bottle of Tango the guy looks at me and says you’re not 18 are you and I told him no that it wasn't for me but my father he said ok after that my Dad was buying a lot of liquor and wine at that store. Where did you get the money to be buying the stuff. Well during the summer we would work at Phiffers Farm for 50 cents an hour and save the money, go on carpentry jobs with my Dad and he would throw a couple of bucks at me, on Saturdays, would be car washing day at Swierski's gas station and hit my Uncle Bill and Matty up for some cash when they were drunk, so after I was 14 pretty much had enough cash for booze when ever .

We have yet to mention wine I use to get deathly sick from that stuff. Well for one thing at 99 cents a quart you might have drank rubbing alcohol and got the same effect. When I was 14 I met up with Tommy Kancar  he was like an older brother to me, we would lift weights together and talk about joining the Marine Corp and basically hang out together, they were older but a good group of guys, Ray Moytka, Jerry Murk, Mark, Bud Tamborski and Levi. Then the friendship between Jerry Kancar (Tom's younger brother) started, along with Bobby Sittniewski. We did a lot of things together but mostly take a lot of walks to the other side of Kaisertown, and it wasn't just for exercise Mr. Smooze Jerry had a couple of girlfriends on that end of town, not all at the same time, the first one was Justine she was a looker and her father owned a tavern (Rays) across from Town edge bowling alley, my thoughts on that was we would go bowling then go across the street and Jerry would be tending bar and we would sit there all night and drink for free. Well that never happened, Justine broke it off with Jerry, and the dream of drinking for free never happened. Don't feel sorry for Jerry he landed right back on his feet and wouldn't you know it the same part of town. Carole (my favorite) was the next and last. Don't ask me about me and Bobby, I had a couple of girlfriends Sandy, Lorraine she dumped me when I came back from Nam, she told me I was a little too crazy, can you believe that, I didn't take it to hard there were girls all over the place, and if I couldn't find one I'd get Jerry and Davy Loncz to take me downtown and get a hooker. It was cheaper that way didn't have to buy them flowers remember their names or take them out to dinner and I was happy, sometimes Jerry and Dave got mad at me for leaving them in the black section at 3 in the morning freezing their asses off. Dave has since passed but Jerry can tell you the stories.

Graduated high school 1964 almost didn't make it got thrown out of shop class in my Jr year and failed that but rebounded in my senior year to graduate without honors. I know what happened they didn't want me there anymore. I told the assistant principle that it didn't matter that my Dad had signed the consent papers so I could join the Marine Corp and I wasn't coming back even if I failed. As I said I signed up for the Buffalo Bills platoon it was a 120 day program, were you would sign up and 120 days later you were on a train to Parris Island, this would start the next phase of my life.

New Monument:

In October of 2015, the Veterans and Friends of Heroes Grove purchased and installed a new Monument to Honor those who fought and those who lost their lives in the Middle East Conflict.


Heroes Grove Honors Local Veterans

For those of us who grew up in Kaisertown, Houghton Park holds some great memories.  It was always a place that we would meet up with friends and just be teenagers, participate in sports, and even school events, but mostly we enjoyed the outdoors at this beautiful
neighborhood park.

We also remember the WWII Monument that was the parks focal point.  As kids, we sat on it, played on it, but the real reason behind it wouldn’t sink in until later in our lives, when so many of those same teenagers were called to war themselves.  That’s when this monument became a memorial in our hearts.

In 1988, the stone monument was moved with great care to a more prestigious place at the front of Houghton Park.  Since then,  some of Kaisertown’s very own Veterans and Friends have been caring for the grounds around it, and have made it what it is today, ‘Heroes Grove’.  Additional monuments have been added over the years, Pearl Harbor, Korea, Vietnam, and even 9/11...trees, flowers, shrubs, and even benches have been added, and behind the monument itself proudly stands a flag pole with the ‘American Flag’ and the ‘MIA’ flag waving in the wind.  Plans are in the works for the addition of an Iraq-Afghanistan monument in the near future.

We have these Veteran’s, friends, and a local politician, Richard Fontana, to thank for keeping this Monument and the Grove that surrounds it in such beautiful condition.    Heroes Grove is in
appreciation to all of our veterans who have kept us safe throughout the years.  It is a reminder, that without these young men and women, some of whom have made the ultimate sacrifice, our way of life would disappear.

Heroes Grove


Dan: A Real Adventure

And then there was a Marine by the name of Jim ‘Fergie’ Folger.  For as long as I knew Jim, we were mostly always drunk at Wiechec’s bar.  One Friday night we were all getting pretty buzzed as usual, someone got an idea to go to ‘Franks Casanova’, it used to be a strip joint. That evening, the entertainment was an all female impersonators show.  We all loaded the cars and went on a adventure.  

As we sat by the bar and had a few drinks, the show started in the back room.  Jim kept looking at the dancers, the big thing was, he didn't know that they were all male. We didn't say a word to him.  After the show the dancers would come to the bar and mingle with the customers.  Jim picked out one, and bought him/her a drink, and then a few more. He thought it was a sure thing for the night.  As he sat there next to me, I watched as his hand went around the dancers waist, and squeezed his ass. . .the guy looked at Jim, and said “IF YOU DO THAT AGAIN, I'll BREAK YOUR FUCKING ARM!”. . . Jim leaned over to me and said, “hey Derf, mine has a deep voice”.  We laughed all the way back to Wiechec’s.

Many a time we had to carry Jim home, being so drunk.  He's gone now, and its ironic, the Greek (John Nichols) and I carried him to his final resting spot.  He’s been gone about eight years now, but we can still remember all the good times we had with Jim, WE ALL MISS YOU "BUD" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Ralph: the Lighter

I’ll tell the story only once. . .

It was March or April of 1967, I was on an ambush outside of Phu Bai when we got in a firefight deep in the jungle, luckily we had no wounded. 

Later that day, I noticed that I had lost my lighter.

In June, I was in Kha Shan when I ran into a guy named Ledbedder, whom I hadn’t seen since boot camp.  He said that he remembered me and the first thing he asked was if I had lost a lighter. . .I told him that I did.  Next thing you know, he hands me my lighter.  “Where the hell did you find it?”, I asked.  He said that he was out on patrol when they ran into a North Vietnamese squadron, and after a firefight in the bush, he pulled it out of the pocket of one of the dead Viet Cong. 

That's it. . . nothing more to say, you don’t want to know the rest of the STORY.

Dan: My tour in Vietnam, and my 28 day ship cruise on the USS Whiegel

Why I didn't go on a plane like everyone else, I'll never know. Before I left for Oakland, California, my Mother always said "maybe tomorrow it will be better", we'll see.

We got to the ship yard, and there it was, a troop carrier from WWII... You’ve got to be freekin kidding me!! .Being the first unit there, the Navy guys put us in the bottom of this thing, so, there we were, six stories down. In about two days the ship was full and we were on our way. Then it started. . . .my first breakfast, the food was great, the eggs were a beautiful shade of green (powdered eggs}, burnt bacon, and God only knows what the other stuff was, it looked like wall paper paste!!!!!! So much for chow. . . how about a nice hot shower, sounded pretty good. No one told us that the water was salt water, needless to say, the soap only turned to paste, and we needed to scrape the crap off. In a little while we found out that the fresh water shower was right across the hall.

It was a very boring cruise. The only exciting thing that happened was the propeller fell off. There we were, in the middle of the freak 'n ocean, waiting for another ship to bring us parts so that we could be on our way. Maybe tomorrow it will be better!

After 28 days, it felt great to see land. There we were, in Vung Tau South Vietnam. The water was muddy, and air smelled like our feet, NASTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In a few hours we came ashore and for a few minutes I wished that I was back in Kaisertown, at Wiechec's, with a cold beer! They put us on a truck convoy, and took us to a place called Thu Duc. This was to be our base camp for our tour of duty.  As we looked around, there was nothing, no trees, no grass, nothing! Later on we found out that the Air Force dumped some stuff to kill all of the green vegetation, and that it did. . .everything was brown. In a few hours the engineers came in and put up a bunch of tents. " Maybe tomorrow things will be better". HOME SWEET HOME!

A few days went by, everything was pretty quiet. Then I heard a loud explosion, the ammo dump was hit by small arms fire, in a few seconds I looked up, and there was a small mushroom cloud in the sky.  We started to scramble for cover, till it blew over. The next thing I heard was the old man (first sergeant) telling me to get my team together for a patrol. This would be the first time to do something like this in country. After the first half hour on patrol all the training started to come back and we were all scared shitless. We received small arms fire, didn't know where it came from, just sat back and waited for daylight. We returned to the base camp and this ended our first day in country.
MAYBE TOMORROW IT WILL BE BETTER, but for 385 days it NEVER did.

Along the way we had some good times, many got drunk, just to keep your head together. I had a few Vietnamese friends, one little girl, her name was Lan, cutest six year old you ever saw. Gave her many C_rats {army ration food}. I think that I found a special friend for life, and who knows maybe after too.



A Note from Harpo:

AH,Kaisertown !!!

I miss it, and I miss my Kaisertown/Wiechec’s friends. When you grow up in a neighborhood like Kaisertown you make a lot of good friends that you can never forget. Just because I’m not there doesn’t mean I don’t think of you “Knot heads“. . . . you hold some of my fondest memories! We have a bond that I will always treasure.  YOU helped me grow up (now my wife may debate whether I’m there or not).

By ‘YOU’ I mean:
Frankie and “T”(Tom); “Sitt/Eric” (Bobby); “Chops“ (Larry):; “Audy Lommer or Rotten Ralph” (Ralph); “Booby”(Bob G.); “Kance” (Jerry); “Boggie” (Mike) and Timmy; “Ollie” (Larry) and “Charlie“; “Nasty” (Jack) “Linky/Pete“; “Peewee” (Paul); “Red” (John); “Fergie “ (Jimmy); “Nick/ Greek“ (Johnny); “Mouse” (Norm); “Latrobe” (Larry); “Chooch/ Kar“ (Dave); “Derf” (Dan);
“the Beast“ (Chet); and many more.

When I’m out at a bar in Montana, I always say to myself “here’s to YOU knot heads“, and that’s no shit, I’ve done it ever since I left for the service . I can remember having beers in Nam doing the same thing but always adding “good luck”.

Thank YOU fellow “knot heads” I hope this note finds all of you well! I’m waiting for more stories on this blog from you lads. Support the blog it’s now part of US.

Take care friends,


Mark: Phil Everly at Lost Lake or How I met Danny D.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was a time for adventure and exploration. Life was good. I believe I and my friend, Jerry Stahura were in sixth grade, Mrs.Ganon’s (“Mrs. Grenade”) class at PS69. Mrs. Grenade got her knick name for every time she left her desk to walk up and down the isles she would drop a grenade. The smell would choke a dog.

We were at the ripe age of around 11. Jerry, at that time, was my favorite exploration partner. We were kind of a Kaisertown, Lewis and Clark. The year before on one of our adventures exploring along Buffalo creek, Jerry saved my life when I fell into the creek. That’s another story.

One Saturday in late spring we were exploring on the ”other” side of the creek over the South Ogden bridge. We happened on Lost Pond. Jerry and I thought we discovered an unknown lake until we found a crude made raft. Little did we know the savagery we were going to be subjected to from the savages that built the raft.  We took it for a ride doing what 11 year olds do, catching frogs, looking for turtles, exploring the newly found “great lake”. Then I heard Jerry say “oh, oh“, that’s when I knew we were in trouble again. The natives were coming! There were two of them. I looked and the first one I saw looked like one of the “Everly Brothers”. What was an Everly Brother doing at Lost Pond with a BB gun? It was probably the famous lever action Red Rider. I would soon find out. I heard the deadly report of a high powered air gun, then Jerry screamed ouch! Then another shot rang out and I felt the BB hit my back and I screamed ouch! I was being fired at by an expert rifleman who was to become a paratrooper. Also, little did I know that I would be doing the same thing in the future but in the Mekong Delta. I was hit again in the back of my leg and heard Jerry yell again. Finally Jerry yelled lets get out of here and we both jumped in to get away. When we were trying to dry out our cloths by the dump fires behind Houghton park, I asked Jerry “who were those assholes, especially the one who looked like Phil Everly (nice hair do)?” He said you don’t know Dan Derfert? I replied, “I do now“. That was the first time I met my future friend, Danny.


River Cruise. . .

Mark: 362 days to go. . .

I was sent to Cat Lo, Vietnam in the fall of 1969 as a Gunner’s Mate attached to US Coast Guard Squadron One. My first day I arrived I was told I would be flying out the next morning so I got on the bus to go to temporary quarters for the night. On the bus I was greeted by calls of ‘what are you doing here Coastie”. The next morning I was put on a C123 to Vung Tau then driven another 30 miles up river to Cat Lo, a Navy Swift boat base. I reported in to HQ and was assigned a boat and by about 3 in the afternoon I was walking aboard my boat when the Gunner’s Mate I was relieving walked off and said “good luck”. The “skipper” (CO) welcomed me then told me we were leaving at eleven that evening for a SEALORD Operation. Since I was responsible for the weapons on the boat, (5 - 50cal.,MG; 1- 81mm mortar; 2- M60’s and misc. small arms). Needless to say I was puckered up pretty tight. The Skipper put me on the helm as we were leaving, he wanted to talk to me on what I should expect. I couldn’t have slept if I wanted to. We rendezvoused with the two other boats around 7 am. We were going up a canal off the Co Chien river on a “maximum destruction raid” where anything was fair game. The Skipper put me on the roof with a M79 and told me to watch for bunkers and “willie -pete” any hootches. I was sweating bullets, this was my third day in country, I’m the FNG, trying to learn the ropes. I was given a flack jacket and helmet and was told by some of the crew “relax“; “you should see your face“; “good luck“. I didn’t know all they’re names, I was spooked! The rpm’s of the engines kicked in with the Skipper saying ‘here we go“.

About 200 yards up the canal the boats started to recon by fire. I fired several rounds to relieve the tension. The canal was small enough that we couldn’t turn around, we were supposed to go through the canals and comeback out into the river. About a mile up the canal, the lead boat started picking up small arms fire. Being on the roof I could see the lead boat. I saw a geyser ahead of the lead boat then I heard the report, then another one, then I heard the lead boat on the radio saying he’s receiving mortar fire and that they had the canal registered. Then I seen this cloud of smoke off to the side of the middle boat, my first B-40 (RPG) and it’s only day 3 only 362 to go. Things were getting intense, I could hear all the radio traffic. We started to receive automatic weapons fire. Then the first boat started to tell all boats to turn around. The Skipper turned the boat hard and ran the bow on the bank and pivoted the boat around, I was scared but impressed, I would learn this maneuver over time. Once we were turned around I was glad to hear the sound of increased rpm’s from the engines. Then a B-40 went high over us and the auto fire picked up. I went through all the M79 rounds I had, I climbed off the roof and started shuffling .50 cal ammo to the guns. We were out of the canal and things settled down. I was in aw. The skipper said ’welcome to SEALORDS”, he said that was the second or third time the boats been chased out of there. He said we were suppose to have overhead air support but they were called away. Some of the crew came over and gave me a pat on the shoulder for taking the initiative for getting them ammo without being told, made me feel better. The chief engineman said “hey guns, only 362 to go“. That was a long day! The Skipper said to me “day 3 and a combat action ribbon, that was quick”.


Bogie: the Black Flag

I complain about the heat here in Tennessee, but I can handle it.
I remember a funny boot camp story. The DI (Drill Instructor) told us that when the black flag goes up on the parade deck, the temperature was over 95 and that we would not have any PT (physical training) or running out side, so we were all praying to see that black flag fly. . .Well, the DI's didn't lie, we didn't have PT or run outside. . . they ran us in the squad bay where it was about 130 degrees! Now we were praying NOT to see the black flag again, but we did see it, 2 more times.
Right now, the flag temperature stands at 90 here. . . Oh, changing times. . . Pussies! 


Jerry: Lost Power

One early morning in April 1969, my NCO in charge asked if I would like to take a flight in a C-47 (the 12th TAC wings ‘Sandblower Airlines’ as it was called) to drop off and pick up supplies at Phu Cat Air Base. I said, “sure, it would be nice to see some of the Viet Nam country side”. We left at 7 am and  would return around 8pm the same day. It certainly was a beautiful day for flying and we did get to see the country side.

The pilot pointed out to us a few things that we passed over in our flight. . .some blown out roads and a bridge that was just taken out by some F-4 fighter jets, I really don't know if the F-4’s were from one of our squadrons or not, but they surely did what their intentions were, to make traveling for the Viet cong a little more difficult to say the least.

There were only 6 airmen on this flight including myself, the pilot, and co-pilot. . .and we were served box lunches.  The flight went well and we dropped of the supplies we needed to and picked some other items for our return flight.

The return flight to Cam Ranh Bay was just before dusk. Everything seemed to be going well until we were making our approach to land. At that point I noticed fire trucks on the tarmac with their emergency lights on.  As we landed, they were following us down the runway. I'm thinking that something must be going on if they have all these emergency vehicles ready. . .could this greeting be for us???  After landing, I found out that one of our engines wasn't working and the greeting on the fight line was indeed for us.

I never really found out what happen to the engine, just kind of glad the pilot had enough experience to fly, and land the aircraft safely the way he did. I was happy and relieved to make it back to base camp, especially after knowing that we were flying with only 50% of what it took to fly a C-47.

All in all I did get to see Viet Nam from a birds eye view. 

Jerry: Night Attack

While in Vietnam, I was stationed at Cam Ranh Bay, a huge, secure, Air Force Base that had all the amenities for comfort, and while there, it felt very safe.

But on August 7th of 1969, at approximately midnight, while most on base were sound asleep, myself included, a team of Viet Cong sappers (military demolition experts), infiltrated the north side of this high security base, with the help of some North Vietnamese sympathizers that were employed (locals were trucked in everyday,the first thing that they did each morning was check the garbage cans) within the perimeter of Cam Ranh Bay.

When the alarms went off, everyone knew that something was going on.  The sky was lit with flares, which would light up the entire base, and you could hear explosions. . .tracers could be seen in the air.  The base had been attacked before, but by mortars that hadn’t hit their mark, but it was nothing like this.
While inside the base, the VC tossed explosives into the base hospital, opened fire with machine guns, and were able to destroy several other buildings, and after accomplishing their mission, left the way they came without a single casualty.

We had 3 squadrons of F-4 on our base and other aircraft as well.  These planes were involved in numerous missions over North & South Vietnam with heavy damage tolls.  This certainly was a thorn in the enemies side and whatever damage that they could accomplish in that attack would be a score for the North Vietnamese. 
We later found out that 2 Americans G.I.’s were killed, 98 wounded, and severe damage was done to 19 buildings. The enemy seemed to be telling the United States that as secure as you may think you are, we can and will infiltrate. This attack was an eye opener for the United States, and for all of us who were stationed there who had became lax in our security thoughts.

Back home, Carole had heard about the attack on the news and tried in vain to call the base, but she only got as far as Saigon, how she did that, I have no idea.  I don’t think that she remembers either.