Raid on the Danang Deep Water Pier
It was late March 1968 and I was stuck with the additional duty of Base Development Officer. At the time the entire Battalion was living in tents with dirt floors, which turned into muck every time we had a heavy rain. Everyone was on my case about getting plywood to build tent floors, and maybe even a decent mess hall. Unfortunately, being in an Airborne Division that
was supposed to be a highly mobile unit, we weren't authorized permanent building materials, i.e., plywood. What the hell was I to do?
While flying a mission down to Danang I noticed tons of supplies off loaded from ships that frequented the Danang Deep Water Pier. There were trucks, generators, trailers, and of course pallet upon pallet of plywood. This stuff just sat there week after week and never seemed to move. Being a good old boy who grew up in Brooklyn, NY, I decided to go back to the philosophy of the old neighborhood; "If you can't get it any other way, steal it."
It didn't take long to come up with a plan. Since we had just moved the balance of the unit from Bien Hoa up to Hue it was only natural that we should be missing a few things that required a "Report of Survey." It happened that we were missing a water trailer (we had traded it for a few 50 Cal. Machine Guns which we weren't authorized). I appointed myself Surveying
Officer (I was also the Property Book Officer at the time) and proceeded to make a Report of Survey on the water trailer. I drove down to Danang in a jeep to check out security around the piers and check out suitable landing areas on the pier near the plywood. I drove back to Camp Eagle and got a hold of our Operations Officer, Ron Kearns, our Maintenance Officer Capt. Dennis Vassey and gave them a run down of what I planned to do.
We would hold up four (4) UH-1H aircraft in maintenance to fly the mission. It might be necessary to sling load the plywood so I would drive down to Danang in a "deuce and a half" with a team of riggers. When everything was ready at Danang I'd call Ron Kearns on a PRC-25 to bring the aircraft in and grab the plywood. It was a good plan.
We got to the Danang Deep Water Pier, which had a PFC. Marine guard at the front gate. I got out of the truck and showed him the Report of Survey papers. I explained that we were looking for our water trailer that was lost in our move from Bien Hoa and if we found it on the pier we would tow it out with us with our "deuce and a half." The kid bought it lock, stock, and
barrel. He waved us in and we were on our way to dry floors. We made the radio call and Ron showed up with the aircraft. Things worked out better then I had expected. We loaded the plywood directly inside the aircraft. Ron and Dennis had taken out the seats and removed the doors to give us the extra room we needed for the 4'X8' sheets of wood.
I felt sorry for the poor guard. He just stood there with his jaw on the ground wondering what the hell was going on. We were able to make two trips with each aircraft. The riggers drove the truck back to Camp Eagle while I got aboard the last aircraft and flew back with the last load of wood. The next day there was a sign at the front gate of the Danang Deep Water Pier. It
read; "NO UNAUTHORIZED HELICOPTER LANDINGS." I guess we upset a few people.
With the plywood we had "requisitioned," the Company was able to put floors in every tent, build a mess hall (SSgt Ritcher was very happy), build the "O" Club, and an EM Club. We also gave HQ Company enough wood for a Battalion Mess and floors for their tents.
Since I believe the Statute of Limitations has run out on this criminal activity, I'd like to give some credit to some of my fellow Eagles who flew that bit of "daring do": Frank Wynne (Crucifix 6), Brian Wold (the Mighty Mite), Malcolm Lathers (our illustrious Supply Officer), Ron Kearns, and I can't remember the rest.
A.K.A. Howard Klein
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