Chapter Twelve

In Chapter Ten I talked about my hearing loss and I’m sure some wondered why I didn’t go to sickbay (the doctor) when that happened. To understand that, you have to understand Nha Be and probably the best way for me to help you do that is to get into the individual photos and events that took place at Nha Be while I was there and traveling between it and Saigon.

Most of us ate breakfast at the chow hall in Nha Be because the pastry cook was easily the best in the world. Since cooks are part of Supply Division, he would often set aside some pastry for us to take to the warehouse because it was gone so fast. I usually stayed clear of the chow hall for any other meal because the food and cooking was so bad. On one occasion, over 50% of the base went down with food poisoning, if that tells you anything. The problem was part of the deal with the U.S. leaving Viet Nam; we were turning things over to the Vietnamese and some things they just couldn’t handle. I generally ate dinner and/or supper from my locker because by then my supply network back home was really getting the hang of it – I had all kinds of canned food coming through in the mail that I could heat up and eat. And if I had a little spare money, I ate here:

The snack bar setup in Nha Be was similar to Snoopy’s in Camp Tien Sha, without the atmosphere. They were more into BLT’s, which is probably why I didn’t eat here too much. It took a LONG time to get used to seeing American automobiles again, like this Mustang. You just didn’t see anything like that in Da Nang.

The sick bay situation in Nha Be was just about as bad as the main chow hall – if you went there you usually came away sicker then you were when you went. The rule of thumb was to avoid it at all costs, which is why I didn’t report my hearing problem.

There was a chapel, of sorts, in Nha Be but it also served as the theater. A Catholic did the Protestant services, I think. He tried but I decided they just weren’t for me, nothing at all like Da Nang.

When I had to start making two runs a day to Saigon; that really messed me up. I had to be at our front gate, ready to leave when it opened at 6:00 am, and I had to be back with the second load before it closed about 6:00 pm. That was all well and good unless I had had to stand a mid-watch during that time period. Some people can sleep before and after a mid-watch, but I couldn’t. That meant that I went close to 48 hours without sleep. By the time I was making the second run back to Nha Be on the second day, I was floating in nana land.

One of the blessings of being a truck driver was that now and then I got a special assignment that was fun. On one of those, I had to take our mascot, which had had its paw run over by a forklift, into the vet at the Air Force Base. Our Chief gave me and another guy (who knew where the vet was) a pass and told us just to get to the vet; he didn’t care where else we went in Saigon and when we got back as long as it was before the gate closed. And we had a pickup instead of my big 10-ton.

I remember that “Boots” was still alive when we got him back to Nha Be but I don’t have any memories of him after that, so I’m not sure if he survived the accident. Anyway, trying to find the vet was interesting. The guy who was riding with me was the same one who was too high to get us checked in when we first arrived in Nha Be, and he didn’t do much better remembering where the vet was. At one point, following his directions, I ended up out on the flight line at the Air Force base:

Oops. I got us out of there as fast as I could, but not before I grabbed this shot. We did eventually find the vet, and then headed in to downtown Saigon to a restaurant that my “guide” knew of. I was required to carry my .45 when I was driving and I had got so used to it that I didn’t even think about it most of the time. That was until I walked into that restaurant and set off a panic. The whole thing was crazy – I was a U.S. Navy sailor, in uniform and you’d think people would expect us to be carrying weapons. But a guess they didn’t like that. In the end I had to check my .45 and was so nervous about what might be happening to it in the back room that I didn’t even begin to enjoy my meal.

Other special trips included one to the American Embassy and a couple to Long Bin (probably spelled wrong), the Army headquarters. The highlight of the Long Bin run was this (below), even if that’s not why I was there:

Another run that stands out is the one I went on to find parts for the forklift. We (my supply officer and a translator) went into the Chinese district of Saigon, which was strictly off limits to U.S. servicemen at that time. It was a very interesting place, a scene right out of an old spy movie. I stood by and took photos, etc., while they talked to some Chinese or Vietnamese at a commercial warehouse.

Earlier I mentioned Sea Float. Sea Float was literally a floating base on a river somewhere in our area. It was “hot”, which is why it was out in the river – VC or NVA activity was so heavy there that a shore-based base wouldn’t have lasted more then a few days before it was overrun, even at that late stage of the war. We sent supplies to them regularly and actually had one of our guys aboard the thing all the time. Bill made one supply run to it on our supply barge, but only to guard the supplies we were sending; he came back as soon as they were delivered. Tours on Sea Float for us Storekeepers were one month long and I was scheduled for a tour, but because I had so little time left in my year by the time my name came up, they passed me over. Needless to say, I had no complaints about that. Bill said he had to guard the supplies as much from the Vietnamese “good guys” as from the bad guys on the way there and he was VERY happy to have that run over with. There is more about Sea Float on the website I mentioned at the beginning of the Saigon part of this.

As mentioned, the primary function of the base at Nha Be was to support our river forces. We had one of the most complete boat repair facilities in the delta – if it could be fixed, our guys could fix it. The following are shots of some of the boats at our main pier and dock.

I can’t remember what all of the boats actually are but I’ll try to identify those that I can and please forgive me if I make a mistake here and there. I’m going to crop many of these so I can get more then one photo on a page.

Below is one of the barges that were beached in front of Two Foxtrot. The photograph was most likely taken during a period of high tide.

Next are a few shots from the dock and pier. The first is one looking down on part of the docks, with a PBR (Patrol Boat River) running it’s engines, I guess.

The first photos in the Nha Be section were shot from the top of a barracks ship that was docked there. This (below) is that ship. It was not a very pleasant place to live – at least to a guy like me who had not served on a ship yet.

It’s time for a story break, related to the photo above. We had a guy in Supply Division who reminded us of the various comic strip characters who always had a black cloud over their heads, everything seemed to go wrong for this guy no matter what he did. He was the storekeeper who took care of the chow hall supplies (food, etc.), similar to what I had done up in Da Nang – only in Nha Be it was a one-man job. On this day he was driving his forklift with a pallet of supplies on it, taking them to the barracks ship. We found out later that the brakes had gone bad on the forklift, but instead of getting it fixed, he had resorted to slamming it into reverse to get it stopped (our forklifts had a kind of automatic transmission). The law of averages caught up with him. As he reached the point where he needed to stop, he shifted into reverse. The transmission on the forklift promptly decided it had had enough of that and gave up the ghost. The forklift went off the edge of the dock and dropped into the river between the dock and the barracks ship, along with its load and our guy. The forklift was later pulled out of the river with a crane after some of the SEALS went down and attached a chain to it. I don’t know what happened to the supplies. Our guy was pulled out by bystanders and suffered only a string of painful shots to protect him from the river contamination. And discipline from our Supply Officer and any other officer who could get a word in.

I believe these (below) are mine sweepers but I don’t know what type they are.

Next, just a general shot of the docks. If you could see it, Two Foxtrot is just off the edge of the photo to the right – beyond the end of the docks.

Loaded for bear – a couple closer shots of some of the patrol boats. First (below), a twin 50 on an ASPBR (I think)

A floating tank; probably not something you would want to disagree with!

<- Chapter Eleven          Chapter Thirteen ->