Kelbaugh1

By Bill Kelbaugh

 

The recent hurricanes along the East Coast brought back a memory.

The Korean 9th Inf. Division had 3 regiments spread out along Highway 1 from Phan Rang to Tuy Hoa. We had one week rotations of a slick (for a flare ship) and a gun team at the outlying regiments at Cam Ranh City and Tuy Hoa. One afternoon in the fall of 1967 we were called back to home base at Ninh Hoa. As soon as we landed, there was another crew ready to take our aircraft. The company had been called up to support a large operation up in the highlands (Dak To or Kontum?).

We were left with a couple of birds in maintenance and one flyable. After a couple of days of idleness, we were informed that a typhoon was headed our way. Most of the Korean buildings were permanent structures. The 48th had a couple of frame buildings with tin roofs, but the majority had canvas stretched over wood frames for the roof. There were wood floors and wood sides about half way up with screens the rest of the way. They weren't too uncomfortable.

When we went to bed , it was raining. Sometime near dawn, I was aware of water hitting my bed. The canvas roof was springing leaks. I was warm under my poncho liner, so I stayed in bed. After a while everybody else was up and making rude comments about me still being in bed and the wind was picking up, so I finally got up. As long as nothing was flying around, the tent buildings stood up to the wind fairly well. The bunk across the aisle was fairly dry, so I sat down on it to put on my shoes. About then, part of the tin roof tore off the crewchief's hooch up wind of us. That was all she wrote. The first thing that happened to our hooch was tearing canvas and then the roof joists came down. I had been out of my bed about 3 minutes when my wall locker was thrown across my bunk. We finally found a dry spot in a nearby steel building used by a civilian engineering firm. It has always amazed me that we did not have any injuries.

It wasn't long before the rain stopped and it turned into the clearest day I remember in Vietnam. Everybody's stuff was in a big soaking wet heap. The few of us that were left had to clean up everybody else's stuff. We couldn't find enough places to hang everything out to dry. Our area was not flooded, but the rice paddies and Highway 1 just outside the perimeter was all under water. One of my favorite Vietnam pictures is two of our camp puppies sitting in the middle of the road soaking wet and trying to figure out what was going on.

We sent the one flyable aircraft out for rescue up in the valley where the river had flooded. They were picking people out of treetops, etc. One of the people they rescued was a VC - he was glad to be a prisoner rather than drowned. While our one aircraft was out doing good deeds, the US advisors to the ARVN Artillery School called and wanted our help. Seems like they had a terrible emergency - their flush toilets had flooded. I wish I could have heard what our operations officer said to them. Needless to say, they didn't get helicopter support.

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