A little history of my service in the United States Air Force.
My name is Charles (Chuck) Bangert, A2/c (E-3)
My AFSC was Ground Radio Operator - AFSC# 29350
I was assigned to the 505th Tactical Control Maintenance Squadron
Located at Can Tho, South Vietnam from June 1965 ~ June 1966
The AFSC 29350 is for the Morse Radio Intercept - Fast Talk Radio Operator School. Chuck then was transferred from this school into Light Ground Radio Operator School. Chuck was drafted from his AFSC to become a ROMAD or Pack Rat while in Vietnam. While most of the ROMAD's were from Ground Radio Maintenance , a lot were drafted from many other fields as well. ~Robin
While stationed at March AFB, 15th SAC AF command post, in Riverside, California, where I kept contact with and conducted drills, as a "fast talk" radio operator, with thirteen nuclear missile sites, on the U. S. West coast, I volunteered to go to Vietnam, on my 22ND birthday, February 10, 1965.
So, one April day, 1965, I received the news, at a general meeting, that I would be the first airman to go to Vietnam, from the 33rd Comm. Sq. After my survival, evasion, resistance, and escape (SERE) school, in May, 1965, at Stead AFB, in Reno, Nevada, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and a short jungle survival class, at Clark AFB, in the Philippines, we were off to Tan Son Nhut air base, on board a C-130, on June 15th, 1965.
Staying at Tan Son Nhut, was a somewhat primitive experience, to say the least. At that time, I believe that the total American military was somewhere near 50,000, or less. I lived in the 'tent city', in a large tent, with several other guys, for the first couple of weeks. Our headquarters was a small house trailer, less than thirty feet long, tucked away in the bushes, which seemed very insecure to me.
One dark memory, and I won't mention too many, that haunts me to this day, was my walk to work each morning. I had only one way I could take, so I had to cross a make-shift bridge, built across a long, wide ditch, that was always full of blood and smelled bad. A large pipe came out of the side of a building, next to the ditch, that I assumed was some sort of morgue, or medical facility.
My command changed from the 33rd TAC Group, to the 33' Air Base Sqdn., and from there to the 6250th Combat Support Group, under the 2nd Air Division, PACAF. I was then assigned to IV Corps DASC, Can Tho which is the southern most sector of the 4 Corps. In Can Tho, I worked out of the command center, with the Vietnamese Army and the American Army Intelligence, ordering and directing air strikes, in the Mekong Delta area. I was a ''Pack Rat" or ground radio operator, a ROMAD. Later that year, in October, 1965, we were reassigned the 505th TCMS, under command of the Seventh Air Force. At that same time, I was ordered on to temporary duty (TDY) status, on a as needed basics, to relieve other "Pack Rat's" of their duties, due to death, taking R&R, or sick leave, etc.
I (conveniently) don't remember a lot of peoples names, that I worked with, nor incidents, places, etc., which I suppose is on purpose. It seemed like a good idea not to get to know people
or remember too many bad things, at that time, and it still does, so I don't try too hard; I just like recalling the good things, which weren't that many. Today, I sort of regret not knowing the people that I was working with, but at the same time, I think I did the right thing, for me, by not getting too close. Too many good people died for nothing, if anyone cares to ask me.
My best memories were drinking too many bah-mui-bah beverages (know as 33 Beer, a local Vietnam brew), and playing my guitar for the Air Force and Army troops and their girl friends. I sang and played a lot of Bob Dylan's stuff, at several bars and hotels, around town.
One afternoon, the actor, Robert Mitchum, walked into an Army hotel, where I was playing on stage. He sat down alone at a table, in the front, and listened attentively to my music. When I finished my set, he invited me over to his table and bought me a drink. We talked for awhile, about the usual chit-chat. He was pretty drunk and told me he'd been on a two week bing (part of the USO Shows), up and down the coast of South Vietnam. He pulled a business card out of his pocket and wrote on the back of it: "Reva, please!! Rob". He gave me the card and told me that, if I look up his secretary, Reva Fredricks, when I get back to California, she will get me anything I want. I joked and said "anything?". He laughed and said, "Yes anything!!". I actually never used that card!! I threw it in a drawer and it has somehow disappeared, since then.
I was sent to several different compounds, villages, towns, and outposts, throughout my many TDY trips. I was sent to more places then I can remember, some of which were Vinh Long, Bien Hoa, Hai Yen, Binh Hung, Ca Mau, Long Vinh, and My Tho. I was involved in about six different rocket, mortar, missile attacks, but I couldn't tell you where, when, or any other details. All I remember is spending a lot of time hunkered down under a truck, in a room, and usually protected from fire.
Some of my worse memories where when I was stationed at our Southern most outpost, Hai Yen, in Binh Hung, a Green Beret camp, (A-412 or A-411), under the command of Captain Gary E. Luck..
Hai Yen was originally run by Father Hoa, who was somewhat of a hero, in the earlier fighting with the Viet Cong, who had been heavily infiltrated and 'dug in' in that area. The Green Berets, I understand, trained and re-trained, North Vietnamese (NVA) and Chinese Nung fighters, to fight for the South, if you can believe that one. Here's the story of the Sea Swallows and father Hoa.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nguyen_Lac_Hoa Father Hoa history.
My experience with, and my opinion of, the Green Berets isn't to me a wonderful, John Wayne, image type stories that one would expect from our special forces, but I can't speak for the entire organization, just the outfit I was with. Since I was the only Air Force person there, among twelve Green Berets, they felt the need to persist in trying to impress me, dishonor me, ignore me, push me around, order me around, alienate me, and generally I felt that they had failed to use me in a positive way, for their benefit, as I was the only radio operator that they had. My living quarters were segregated from theirs. I lived in a seven foot by four foot storage room, where I worked, kept my radio station, and a sleeping cot. I won't spend any time explaining, but I could write a book about my experiences, in that long two months. I'm sure, however, that the Green Beret's have learned to respect the Air Force ROMAD's, TACP special forces, as a whole, by now.
When I lived in Can Tho, I usually lived in a hotel, and I also rented a two story villa, for a couple of months. I loved to fly, with any FAC Officer, whenever I could. Probably my best memories were when we would go out on reconnaissance missions, just looking for trouble. One FAC that I particularly liked, would fly over villages, just above the tree tops, with the trees brushing the bottom of our small O1e Bird Dog, trying to get someone to shoot at us, so we would have a reason to call in an air strike or two. I especially liked everything involved in directing air strikes, from start to finish, even when we were shot at. Once, after we had received some small arms fire, we discovered a bullet hole, in our wing, about two feet from my back seat. After that, I learned to respect our equipment and flew sitting on my flak vest, for the duration.
When I left Vietnam, on June 15th, 1966, there were already over 350,000 troops on the ground. Tan Son Nhut now had a large officers club, an airmen's club, a huge concrete PX, a three story concrete block barracks, and a two story, concrete block, radio and command center. WOW!!
I left Vietnam in style, on American Airlines, with three pretty stewardesses, and a load of happy GI's. When I landed at Travis AFB, the guy at the out processing desk looked at me and immediately said, "I assume you don't want to reenlist!?". I simply shook my head to indicate a "NO" response!! I then went to the PX, bought a pair of Levi's, a tee shirt, a pair of tennis shoes, and every Bob Dylan album I could find. Then, I cleared out my locker, threw all of my military cloths in a large trash barrel, and took a bus home.
Of course, I regret my attitude about the war and for throwing my uniform away. However, I learned a lot about myself, politics, and my country, from my experiences, and that was probably worth the entire trip.
Chuck has supplied his military orders as shown below. Please note that all of the orders have the Service Numbers for the various airmen blacked out. Should you need a copy of these orders with the Service Numbers still visible to prove a VA Claim, then please contact me, tell me the date of the order - reference Chucks name and a copy will be emailed to you.
Orders for assignment at Keesler AFB
Orders for Class at Keesler AFB
Orders for Assignment at March AFB
Orders for March AFB School
Orders for Vietnam
Orders for Vietnam Flight Page 1
Orders for Vietnam Flight Page 2
Orders for Vietnam Assignment
TDY Orders for movement within Vietnam
Orders for transfer to Travis AFB for discharge from USAF
Chucks sent some additional information about the Green Berets.
Some additional information I have found on the internet: I did some research on the Green Beret A-412, later changed to A-411, as I understand. I noticed that Captain Gary E. Luck is listed in the following website, who I was stationed with, was apparently still with the A-412 unit, and he was only at Hai Yen until October 1965. So, my recollection, that I was there in 1966, was wrong. Now that I think about it, I was sent there sometime in October 1965, until November or December 1965. I believe I mis-recorded the photograph dates as 1966, which should read 1965 (Corrected). I'm just trying to recall as much as I can, as accurately as possible. Sorry, if I confused anyone!
I enjoyed reading about these guys and what they were doing in South Vietnam before the actual war was declared in the spring of 1965. There is a lot of history here that most Americans do not know anything about. It might open your eyes to what was really going on South Vietnam should you visit this web site.
This is the patch in question
Should anyone have this patch and would be willing to scan it in
at 300 DPI full size and send it to the web master, it would
be appreciated very much as I have not been able to locate
a larger size picture of it on the internet.
Please email to : firstname.lastname@example.org.