One more screw-up

Story By: William A. Burton

You would think that after three years in the service that I would know better, but. After a serious bout with frostbite, related surgery and convalescent time I asked for reassignment to a warm weather assignment. Having just returned from Viet Nam prior to this little fiasco I should have known better.

A couple of months at Ft. Sill, and back to Viet Nam. Ft. Sill was neat though as we scrounged anything we couldn’t move, and that didn’t leave much. Capt. Cuda was quite resourceful at acquiring necessary equipment. I received several demands to retune equipment to its rightful owner after we were operational in Viet Nam. I always invited them to come up here and pick up anything they wanted and didn’t have any takers.

November of 1968 Major Adamcik called me into his office and told me that I, with the aid of a Spc4 (I don’t remember his name), was going to escort the units equipment to Viet Nam. He gave me a .45 and several clip of ammunition and told me to be careful with the crew of the ship. It seems that the previous escort on that ship had jumped off in Panama in fear of their lives, and he didn’t want a repeat performance. Things got off to a good start as we left by commercial carrier to fly to Port Arthur. The flight to Dallas was uneventful, but the flight to Port Arthur we encountered engine trouble and then fog and eventually wound back at Dallas for the night. With the engine fixed we flew on to Port Arthur and eventually found our way to the USS Elizabeth Lykes.

We set out to sea a little before Thanksgiving and headed for the Panama Canal. I had never been on a ship before and fully expected to get seasick but this was a large new ship and I never experienced any trouble at all. By the way those guys that jumped ship had played poker with the crew and lost big time and couldn’t cover their debts. I threw that .45 in the top draw and forgot about it. Beautiful ship and nice crew. I learned how rough sea duty was as I had a stateroom suite with a steward that took care of all my needs. I ate at the Captains table and had access to the entire ship.

We arrived in Danag in December and were met by Gen Zais, he didn’t approve of my beard and long hair, I was directed to a barber close to the pier. Other than that we were welcomed to the 101st and made to feel important. The equipment was unloaded and moved to a holding area for a couple of days and then loaded on to a Navy Landing ship for a two day trip to the beach at Hue. My what a disappointment, no stateroom no meals at the captains table and no steward. Just before sunup the ship made its run into the beach and all of our equipment was unloaded quickly and they left just as quickly. A little later trucks from the 101st began to arrive and the equipment was moved to our new base at PhuBai.

Have I mentioned yet that I was never given an itenary, or told what to expect. My orders were to stay with and protect our equipment until relived by Major Adamcik.

We were provided quarters at Hq and were going to be assigned details with same until I protested that I had orders not to be separated from our equipment. We were then assigned to assist with construction and outfitting our new base. Since both of us were in communications we spent most of our time running electrical wires and setting up communications equipment. The SeaBee’s built our huts and left them unpainted awaiting the arrival of our pastel Major. Major Adamcik some how acquired enough paint to dress up our area. I personally painted that damn 90-foot telephone pole pink!

By the time the rest of the unit arrived the base was constructed and ready to be occupied. I personally spent a lot of time preparing my office, it was the back ¼ of the Operations building.

My memories aren’t as clear as they used to be, but I still remember the wet cold winter. I’m not sure how others survived but in our nco’s quarters we had plumbed a heater designed for a hanger to provide heat. I still remember the one big rocket attack as I wasn’t far from the old bunker near the mess hall when it was hit.

My most vivid recollection of this time was of nothing. I’d better explain that one. I was used to the noise at night and slept quite well. But one night was different and I couldn’t sleep so I quietly got up to get a beer. When I opened the door of the refrigerator the light illuminated the faces of the rest of the occupants of the hut sitting at the table. After a little discussion we realized we were all awakened by the same thing, silence.

I was sent home in June of 69 and haven’t been in contact with anyone from the 159th until this website.

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