by Don Smith, Shotgun 8A, 1965/66
One of the real pleasures I had while assigned to the 221st was in being the guy that assembled the aircraft that we received from the States for use throughout IV Corps. This was great for more than one reason, but one of the prime things was that I did not have to go directly to Soc Trang when I arrived in Vietnam with Leigh Ogden and the rest of the Advance Party. I stayed at Ton Son Nhut to assemble the aircraft as they arrived.
Of course the facilities that we had for our assembly efforts left a bit to be desired. We were in an obscure corner of Ton Son Nhut Airfield with no shelter and only a small area to secure our tools and equipment. We had no weapons, but at that time Saigon was considered to be secure, and for the most part it was. Quarters were another thing. We each had to find our own way, and I ended up sharing a room with another Warrant Officer at the MACV compound. This turned out to be a real advantage later as he was the guy responsible for ordering and warehousing aircraft parts for the command. (Ever wonder why we had more than ten engines in our spares inventory?)
The next best thing was that I got to fly virtually all of the newly arrived aircraft before the Sector Pilots had a chance to get them shot up. They were all like new, and I fondly remember two of the aircraft, 55-4707 and 57-2980. Both had originally been TL-19D Instrument Trainers that in a previous life had been assigned to Company B, 24th Aviation Battalion based at Gabligen, Germany, outside of Augsburg. As I reviewed the logbooks there in Saigon, I pointed out to SP6 Huey that I was finally going to have the opportunity to fly two aircraft that I had been assigned to as Crew Chief several years prior to my arrival and theirs in RVN. I had learned a lot about the Birddog while working on those two machines, and I guess what I learned served me well over the years in many different forms. I’ve often wondered just what happened to those two ships–they were my babies for a while.