APRIL 1965 – APRIL 1966

I was ordered to Vietnam before my tour of shore duty was up, that being April 1965.

Upon leaving Washington, headed for a brand new adventure, talking with my fellow department members when I got my orders, no one even knew how to spell ‘’Vietnam ” back then.  The Master Chief (E-9) did comment that things were heating up over there and I don’t think he meant the weather.

Upon arriving at Travis AFB in California, via Detroit, couldn’t notice looking around that were a least a hundred or so of us with the same rating badge on our sleeves, with all being in Supply. Talking with others some left on short notice as myself, some were pulled right from behind their desks in their basic school, some were called off leave.  Just where were we headed we had no idea.

Leaving the spring like weather at Travis Air Force base, some many, many hours later by commercial airplane landed at Ton son Nhut air base in beautiful South Vietnam

Spent a couple of days in some sort of former Vietnamese hospital while they sorted us all out.  A couple dozen of us were to work at the Port Terminal in the southern part of Saigon where just about all the cargo coming in from the states was off loaded.  My job was to manifest the cargo on TCMD (Transport Control Movement Document).  Needless to say I have seen a few thousand of those.  So if you fellow Vietnam Veterans didn’t get the gear you were suppose to, please don’t blame me. This assignment was historical for the Navy Supply System as just about everything was started from scratch and built up very fast.  If I recall, only 27,000 troops were in country at the time and increased to 249,000 in my first year. It was a constant struggle to place (stage) cargo and then keep track of it when it was time to ship it. Just about all the cargo was taken from ocean going vessels and placed in the Port area for further assignment to smaller ships, such as LST’s (Landing Ship Tank) for distribution to other ports along the coast and inland on the Mekong River and its tributaries.  The Port Terminal offloaded complete jeep carriers, helicopter carriers, hundreds of thousands of cases of “C” rations.  The constant barrage of troopers coming and looking for their equipment and supplies either the right way or going up and down the pier and “borrowing” from other units.

Will never forget the Army Officer that came in looking for his popcorn machine.  Granted this sort of thing is a very good morale booster.  Only way to show him was to take him up and down the pier and told him whenever you think you see it Captain let me know and I will get it on the next ship or you can take it yourself.  Was a E-5 telling that to a O-3, and you know he apologized for it seeing what we were up against.  We had two signs hanging on the warehouse, WE ARE TRYING TO DO THE BEST WE CAN WITH WHAT WE GOT AND EVERYDAY IS MONDAY.

Approximately March of 1966 the Army took command of the Port of Saigon.  It’s not that the Navy failed, the United States Army has Transportation Corp and the Navy doesn’t.  The change over at the Port, for all practical purposes, went fairly well.  What used to be a Navy Master Chief with WWII service as our enlisted leader there was now three United States Army Majors, equal amount of Captains and Sergeants in the flow chart. Col. Oliver did have a tear in his eye when the remaining three of us sailors left, he commented “you guys always seemed to get the job done and I have all these charts.”

Haunting memories of my first tour of Vietnam, were the numerous taxis that were used to blow up Americans, there was a hotel blown up right across the street from mine as well as the standard of living of the people of Vietnam.  I had seen many countries around the world by then, but none prepared me for the sights of Vietnam.  I was housed a block from the military hospital, the constant sound of the ambulances bringing in G.I’s. I had a minor accident and had some stitches put in and heard the screams next to me, the nurses said we just amputated his leg.  The “My Chan” floating restaurant that had a bomb set off to make the people leave and the other bomb that went off to blow them back in.  Some 40 were killed. At times, I had to escort some of our Vietnamese workers back to their area of residence while wearing a side arm.

It wasn’t much but I didn’t flee to Canada and did the best I could and what was asked of me. I’m so grateful to be serving again with some of the same guys and gals that shared the Vietnam experience as well in the form of Washtenaw County Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 310!

Vietnam R & R was taken in Taipei, Taiwan



APRIL 1966 – APRIL 1968

While stationed in San Diego, we had our second child, Lori born at the Naval Hospital. A southern California earthquake happened while Lois and Lori were in the hospital. There was a Russian trawler off the coast of California that had a woman on board that was about to give birth and she was flown to the naval hospital as well during her stay. Lois tells me Secret Service was all around for her. That should tell you if it was a trawler or a spy ship.

LST stands for Landing Ship Tank.  This is an amphibious type of ship that is serves directly in support of combat operations.  Inside the hull of the ship is a giant cargo hold, in that thousands of tons of cargo, numerous vehicles and upwards of 400 troops can be housed if needed.  At one time she loaded 30,000 cases of ‘C” rations   I had advanced another pay grade by this time to Storekeeper First Class (E-6) and became leading Petty Officer of the division.

Although the ship had just made a trip to Vietnam before I got aboard, this time we left for Vietnam just three months after my first tour in Saigon. Another nickname for LST is “ Last Ship There” as she moves very slowly in the water.  It took us about three days short of two months to go from San Diego to DaNang at about 12 Miles Per Hour. LST’S have diesel engines she can go for long periods at sea but only has so much room for provisions (food).  With very short visits to Pearl Harbor, Guam and the Philippines, we finally landed the Marines and their tanks at DaNang,Vietnam.

Tioga County made a trip to the Mekong Delta as part of the “ Brown Water Navy” in support of the Mobile Riverine Force and the 9th Infantry of the United States Army. She housed the 9th’s soldiers, the Navy PT boats and had a mobile morgue and a helicopter for servicing the wounded and deceased.  She received a couple pot shots from the shoreline while traversing the waters of the Mekong Delta.

Ports of call while serving on the ‘Tiger” (Tioga County) were Hong Kong, San Francisco, Long Beach, California, Guam, Philippines, Yokosuka, Japan Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and Okinawa.

Probably the best skipper I ever served with was Captain Charles Smith on the Tioga, he was a former enlisted man and was a WWII, Korean veteran as well as Vietnam. At one time he was Who’s Who in America and worked with the Boy Scouts for 60 years.  After retirement, he passed away waiting for a ride from his daughter on a street corner after a haircut in Chula Vista, California

Have attended several ‘Brown Water Navy” reunions but never a Tioga one directly.  Still in touch with four former shipmates aboard the Tiger and share sea stories and now helping out each other with Agent Orange problems, relating to those trips up and down the rivers of the Mekong Delta.



APRIL 1968 – JUNE 1970

 During my tour of duty on the USS Tioga County LST- 1158 I became well aware that I was going to make the Navy a career in that I was half way toward the traditional 20 year mark of most “lifers.” I was promoted to First Class Petty Officer (E-6) and became the leading petty officer of my division and the 3rd most senior of the department. A new ensign (O-1) supply officer had just come aboard about the time I was promoted.  Our ways of thinking didn’t exactly agree so I asked the Commanding Officer for a transfer.  I came well recommended from a lot of other leading petty officers from other departments so the Captain got me a transfer.

It was to ACB-1, I told the Captain, and I wasn’t eligible for that in that I hadn’t completed my complete tour of sea duty.  He indicated that it wouldn’t affect my rotation in the slightest, so it was off to ACB-l. Here is where the very different part comes in.

From ACB-1 I was assigned to the Pacific Fleet (SOAP) team.  This stands for Supply Operation Assistance Program.  Although I still drew my paycheck from ACB-1. After initial training in Long Beach, California I became the sole representative for SOAP in San Diego, California.

When Navy ships were either in port for extensive overhauls or in private shipyards in San Diego, if requested, they underwent the SOAP process.  All engineering, electrical, and electronic spare parts were offloaded into a warehouse in the Navy Supply Center Warehouse.  Based on the size of the ship, a team of engineers and electronics technicians was temporarily assigned under the direction of SOAP. For the duration of the ships overhaul this team of technicians were to aid in the identification of all spare parts that were offloaded.

A mockup of the ship’s storerooms was made and a complete inventory of every single spare part that was offloaded from the ship identified with the correct Federal Stock Number.  This inventory was then paired with all new or removed equipment that might have been processed during the ship’s overhaul. After this process then began the ordering of new parts to accommodate the new equipment or the off loading on any parts that were either no longer compatible with the new equipment or of no use to the ship.  These parts were put back into the fleet wide supply system for possible use on other ships in the fleet.

When the vessel completed her overhaul a complete inventory had been conducted, any excess parts were offloaded and put back into the supply system and a new COSAL was in effect.  COSAL meaning a “Coordinated Ships Allowance List,” In other words, an inventory of spare parts the ship took to sea. Any service member familiar with equipment knows that every single spare part cannot be carried aboard any ship or shore station due to space limitations.  Fleet wide usage and the Ships Parts Control Center (SPCC) determine that issue. Now you know why you sometime cannot get a part for your equipment and you thought supply held you back at the time.  Equipment support is only as good as what is fed into it.  You would be amazed how equipment gets installed and no one is informed to support it.

As a footnote, the Supply Officer and I that didn’t quite see eye-to-eye back in 1968 are now reunited as shipmates after some 43 years.