by Huard Libby

 

After the 221st arrival in Soc Trang in 1965, the concentration of settling in and preparing ourselves as well as our equipment for the mission at hand occupied most of any time we spent awake.

Our advance party had done their job, the main body theirs, and the rear echelon; i.e., the last to leave Fort Bragg and Pope AFB (though not in the original order as planned due to the unscheduled arrivals of the “zoomies” in their C130s), had completed theirs, and we settled in our new residences at Soc Trang. Although the timetable of having our 221st aircraft and equipment awaiting our expert hands upon our arrival in-country was not met, we found the transferred aircraft left at Soc Trang would occupy the talents of all to make them mission ready. A lot of work was accomplished in a very short period of time with the eventual arrival of our organic O-1D Cessna Birddogs, their assembly, and subsequent deployment.

During the period around Sep or Oct 1965, as memory serves me now some 44 years later and the eventual graying of the hair and mind as well, a little black and white terrier puppy appeared in the company area. She acquired the name “Melody,” possibly for the same name of a frequented bar in the city (?) of Soc Trang. I honestly don’t remember. She knew a good thing when she saw it, and was ever-present just after any mealtime around the company area. She became, perhaps, the mascot of our hooches, and we all really were careful to not step on her, as she was only about 4 or 5 lbs., and stood all of about 8 inches. One day, in all the traffic and bustle on our dirt “street,” a vehicle hit Melody in the rear leg. Those around her were mortified; this was the first “casualty” we had experienced in RVN. Several of us enlisted types took her to the Flight Surgeon, hoping some miracle would mend her to health. I believe 1SGT Beetem’s jeep was the transport, and without his knowledge I’m certain.

After examination by the Flight Surgeon and the staff at our dispensary, it was decided that indeed her left leg was broken between the hip and knee joints. What was needed was a stainless steel splint, of very small proportions, and screws to hold in place to assist healing. Now there being no other source for health care, the Flight Surgeon, (his name is just not with me), agreed to do the surgery if a splint were provided. I remember talking with our unit machinist, SP5 Homer Montminy, and he, after conferring with the Flight Surgeon, made the appropriate piece in a borrowed machine shop that belonged to, I believe, the 121st Aviation Company, the “Soc Trang Tigers.” Through Homer’s most capable hands this splint was delivered to the Flight Surgeon, and then a suitable anesthesiologist was found in the person of the Airfield Chaplain. The surgery was a success and little Melody, being the trooper she was, hobbled around as she healed.

Unfortunately, I was reassigned to temporary crew chief duties in Ben Tre until a permanent replacement was assigned there. When that position was filled, I was sent to Can Tho to work with my 2nd Platoon comrades under SFC Nieves, the Platoon Sergeant, and the 2nd Platoon Leader, CPT Jackson. I lost all contact with little Melody at Soc Trang.

Any further information would be a sequel, I guess, but my fear is that with all the dust, dirt and poor recovery area, it’s just possible little Melody may not have survived. Further information about Melody would be most welcome to provide clarity that I have left out or overlooked.