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War Stories

My Tour - 1971-72

by Frank Dillon


FrankI was trained in MOS 35M20 which was Avionics Navigation Equipment repair at Ft. Gordon, GA in 1971. Upon arriving in Vietnam (Oct 71), I was initially assigned to A Troop 3/17th at Lai Khe. A Troop had plenty of avionics guys and I found myself pretty bored, so I took it upon myself to head to the motor pool and work there. The NCO in charge of avionics didn’t seem to care, and at least I was doing something productive.

Towards the end of 1971 A Troop stood down and I was reassigned to F Troop and moved with them to Long Binh. At Long Binh, and for the rest of my tour I worked as a 35K20, Avionics Mechanic and 68F20 Aircraft Electrician. There were times that I did work outside of the two MOS’s just because it needed to be done. I have some mechanical ability and if I could do it, I did.

At Long Binh I worked on the line. Richard Kruzel and I took turns flying out on missions to be dropped off someplace with spare radios in case someone needed a replacement during the day. I believe Richard took the place of Carl Betsill who had been doing that job on his own. Richard suggested I join him and we could swap days. Most often we would be dropped off at Tay Ninh, which was OK. There was always Mamasan and some kids around for entertainment. Other times we would be dropped off at Cu Chi. At that time, Cu Chi was a ghost town and spooky quiet. I would sit there all day and not see a soul, with only an occasional bird chirping for sound. No one ever needed a radio repaired or replaced on the days I went out.

In April the unit moved north to I Corp. I spent some time at Phu Bai. I know that because I have pictures of Phu Bai, but except for us evacuating one day just after dark, my memory of Phu Bai is pretty blank. We evacuated to Marble Mountain where I stayed and worked for 3 or 4 months, while the forward part of the unit set up at Tan My.

Marble Mtn     TanMy

One night, holding a flash light in my mouth, at Marble Mountain, I replaced the cyclic grip in the back seat of a Cobra. The next day or so Tan My called and said when the FM radio was keyed on that Cobra, the mini gun went off. I knew immediately what I had done wrong. I was told to grab my gear and get up to Tan My and fix it. (My claim to shame.) However, that incident had me at Tan My for the last couple of months in country, which was much more pleasant than being at Marble Mountain. It seemed like there was incoming every other night at Marble Mountain, but I doubt it was that often.

TanMyIslandThere was no incoming at Tan My and it was rather pleasant in other ways as well. At night we would often see the B52’s creating arc lights in the sky, but nothing ever came in our direction. It was actually a Peninsula but we called it an Island.

October 4th 1972 a Slick flew 4 of us deros guys from Tan My to Tan Son Knut where we were told there were no flights scheduled going out, and that we would have to get home the best way we could. The 4 of us got a ride on a C141 morgue flight going to Dover, DE. We landed in Anchorage, AK where we bought commercial airline tickets and finished our trip home.