Monday, January 28, 2013

28 JAN 13

War Story ...
Not an ASA story ...
rather, an Army story.
It was 1969 and I was on my way to Japan.
Had taken the United "Red Eye" out of Philadelphia and arrived at the Oakland Army Terminal sometime in the AM. First thing I noticed was the number of soldiers there who were already wearing jungle fatigues ... all of whom were bound for Vietnam. Apparently, there were no more departures while wearing khakis, with issue of jungle-wear in-country, as had been the case back in '67. Me ... bound for Japan, I was stuck wearing my class-A's ... MACV patch on right shoulder.
Was assigned to a waiting area in a large hanger space. Bunks were stacked 3 high, The place was jammed, full of soldiers waiting to be called for boarding. It was like a scene from "The Longest Day." There were card games, smokers, coffee swilling, secret small airline bottles of booze ... noise, there was noise, the constant chatter and hum of voices echoing everywhere. As an SP4, amid a thousand privates, I pretty much had my pick of bunks and chose a bottom rack. Duffel bag locked to bed frame, class-A blouse draped over the duffel, I loosened my tie and lay down on the bare mattress, took a nap. It had
been a long trip. After a couple of hours, I awoke and went in search of coffee. Noticed that I'd picked up a tail ... a young PV2, dressed in jungle fatigues. When I settled down with coffee and a cigarette, he approached and started in with questions. He'd seen the MACV patch, knew I'd been there, wanted to know what to expect. He was 11B20, I'd been 98C20 ... two different worlds. What could I tell him, except that it's hot there and be sure to drink plenty of water. He was scared.  He was a draftee.  I felt for him. For that night, and into the next day, he dogged my every step, asking questions. He didn't seem to understand that different people, with different MOS's, fought different wars over there. To him, it all seemed one big jungle war, "Guadalcanal" again. I was finally called for a civilian flight to Japan. Left the young private behind. Through the intervening years, I've often wondered what became of him.

Did he survive his tour?

I certainly hope so.


The civilian flight was a Pan Am 707, San Francisco to Tokyo, via Anchorage. The in-flight movie shown was "Hell In The Pacific," a WWII tale, starring Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune. There were maybe 12 of us U.S. Army types on board a plane carrying a couple hundred Japanese and we're watching WWII being fought all over again. We'd all had a few drinks by the time they started the movie. When the film reached the part where Lee Marvin's USMC character pisses on the Japanese naval officer, we Americans all clapped and cheered. Cabin was pretty much quiet after that.

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