US Army Retired

US Army Retired

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Kiwis in 'Nam

Here's an excer[t from Bullets and Beans that tells of something few people today know. The New Zealanders and Australians had a presence in Vietnam in an important - and dangerous - supporting role. They were some of the most friendly guys I ever met and they always made us Yanks at home in their messes - the equivalent of our clubs.

My personal thanks for the way I was always treated.

The Caribou with the New Zealand flag on the tail was in easy walking distance. Due to the wind crossing the open field, David stuck his cover in his pants pocket and made his way to the aircraft with the rear hatch down for loading. One last pallet had been rolled into the interior and David stood aside as the forklift backed out.

G'day, Mate. Yer lucky we're not chocka t'day. Come on board.”

David handed the boarding pass the Flight Sergeant Smythe who he knew from the Kiwi NCO club he frequented. He'd quickly learned there was no way he could ever out drink any New Zealander as they were obviously put on beer as soon as they were weaned from breast milk.

David found a vacant web seat against the fuselage next to a window and settled in. The interior was piled high with supplies and equipment, six American infantrymen already aboard, returning to their units from Rest and Recuperation at one of the hotels on the beachfront. They didn't pay attention to him as most were already asleep.

The Canadian-made aircraft was an STL, meaning it took off and landed in very short distances. Although the landing strip was long, designed to handle Air Force C-130 Hercules, the pilot wasn't about to do things the boring way. The pilot had the two engines revved high and once the chocks were removed, they practically leaped into the air. The Monsoon was not that far away but there were just wisps of clouds below. David had already seen the swamps and rice paddies s, as the ride was smooth, like the others, he dozed off. The soldier's art of being able to sleep when and wherever.

They were only in the air about thirty minutes when the engines sound decreased and they began a steep descent. At the last second, the nose lifted and the engines idled. The second the wheels touched the ground, the propellers reversed and everyone was pleased they'd strapped themselves in. He had no idea where they were, only that rice paddies appeared on both sides of the aircraft.

The plane stopped and Smythe came through calling, “Right there. All ye cuzzies git up and follow me.” He led them to the rear door that was lowered. Everybody stopped and stared to discover they were on a dirt road between two rice paddies. All wrinkled their noses in disgust at the smell coming from the rice paddies. A small village was about fifty paces from the nose of the plane.

Awright, chaps, let's put the muscles to it and get this here thing turned around.”

Because the wing was atop the fuselage, they went to the nose and out their backs to turning the plane around. None were surprised when half a dozen women shuffled from the village to help in the effort. Their men were not about to lower themselves to such work. Leave it to the strange whites and women to do such things.

The turn was so tight that the pushers needed to be careful not to stumble into the turgid water of the paddy. Once it was reversed, Smythe watched two of the GIs grab up their stuff and join the infantry squad that had come for their supplies. They were loaded onto two handcarts pushed by local women and were soon on their way.

No sooner had the rear door started to close when the pilot had the engines at full power. He didn't even wait for full takeoff speed before lifting the nose. David could hear the bottom of the bird scrape along the dirt of the road as the craft clawed itself skyward. They were rapidly airborne, climbing to get above small arms fire and the damned RPGs.

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