I remember when......

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This page is devoted entirely to interesting stories provided by former members of the 33rd Trans Co. or 118th AHC. It might be safe to say that the stories are true but in some cases "the names may have been changed to protect the innocent"!!

I remember when......

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The Tan Uyen Leper Colony

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus or bacteria. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes, apart from some other structures. Leprosy has afflicted humanity since time immemorial. It once affected every continent and it has left behind a terrifying image in history and human memory - of mutilation, rejection and exclusion from society.

Leprosy has struck fear into human beings for thousands of years, and was well recognized in the oldest civilizations of China, Egypt and India. Since ancient times, leprosy has been regarded by the community as a contagious, mutilating and incurable disease. There are still many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America with a significant number of leprosy cases. It is estimated that there are between one and two million people visibly and irreversibly disabled due to past and present leprosy who require to be cared for by the community in which they live.

When M.leprae was discovered by G.A. Hansen in 1873, it was the first bacterium to be identified as causing disease in man. However, treatment for leprosy only appeared in the late 1940s with the introduction of Dapsone, and its derivatives. Even today, many believe leprosy is a disease that causes people's fingers and toes to fall off. Actually, the disease causes skin lesions, attacks the nervous system and numbs the extremities. As a result, lepers develop lesions or injure themselves (when lighting a fire, for example), and their injuries do not heal, ultimately causing them to lose the extremity. The disease is not very contagious and can be cured. Early treatment makes it possible to avoid disability.

With a total population of 78.7 million, Vietnam currently has about 22,000 lepers, and the Government has made it a priority to eradicate this disease. Unfortunately, most lepers live in remote areas, and available resources are far from being enough to meet all of their needs.

The 118th Thunderbirds participated in flying both US Army and US Air Force doctors from Bien Hoa to a leper colony only about 10-12 miles North of Bien Hoa just across the Song Dong Nai river. Flights usually took place on Saturday and Sunday with the doctors being dropped of to work for the day and returning to pick them up well before dark. Since leprosy was so rare to American doctors, many took advantage of the opportunity to see and treat the victims of the disease at the colony.

Doctor Joseph Altomonte, MD, the 118th Thunderbird Flight Surgeon during 1965-66, made weekly visits to the Tan Uyen Leper Colony treating patients and local civilians. Likewise other Flight Surgeons, such as Dr. Marvin Marchman, MD, continued the weekly visits to the Colony. Everyone was always amazed at the fact that the Catholic run leper colony at Tan Uyen was most often avoided by the VC and no problems ever seemed to happen when US personnel went there.


An aerial view of the Tan Uyen Leper Colony on bright sunshine day immediately
N. across the Song Dong Nai river. (Oct 66)
(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


Dr. Joseph Altomonte, MD sitting with children
at the Tan Uyen Leper Colony.(66)
(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)



L to R: Tommy Thornton, Jack Waters and Dr. Joseph Altomonte with some of the girls at the colony. Note the bandage on the little girl at left and the one next to her covering her face.(8 May 66)
(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)

CPT Al Phillips standing under a Jack Fruit
tree growing on the grounds of the
Tan Uyen Leper Colony.(27 Apr 66)
(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


CPT Tommy Thornton standing next to flowers
growing on the grounds of the
Tan Uyen Leper Colony.(Aug 66)
(Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)

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Blue 5--Shoot-Down

Crew of Blue 5 that was shot down at Can Giuoc on 24 Jul 66. L to R: CPT John Hopkins, CWO Tom Baca,

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The Building and Operation of Newport Terminal

During early 1967, ships were anchored up to 45 days or longer waiting to be assigned berths (Command History, 1967, Vol. II). Demurrage costs ranged from $3,000 to $7,000 per day. By the end of 1967, ten ports would be handling cargo thus reducing ship berth time from 20.4 days to 2.4 days (Heiser, 1974). There was also a shortage of tugboats to handle vessels, barges and miscellaneous duties, but with the building of Newport, the Saigon command port crisis would be essentially over by late spring of 1967. The new port was built on the Saigon River between Saigon and Bien Hoa along Highway 1.

For an excellent report on this project go to: http://allanfurtado.com/newportterminal.html

(Photos above courtesy Lyndon Lawler)


III Corps Artillery &

Flight Following Maps

Every pilot remembers the famous map called "One over the World"!! It was that BIG 1/500,000 map we all put in a plastic cover and then folded into a package about 15 inches square for easy carrying or stuffing between the seat and center pedestal of the helicopter. That was not the only map we received to aid in our flying in III Corps during the 1966-67 time period.

12th Group was famous for putting out occasional maps showing the various Artillery Control Centers which were used to check on any U.S. and ARVN artillery being fired in the A/O. Below is a scan of three maps that were issued in mid 1967 to show rough boundaries and FM frequencies of artillery control zones, plus flight following routes with ATC frequencies and tactical sites with their control tower frequencies.

III Corp Artillery Control Centers with FM frequencies to
call for "up to the minute" U.S. and ARVN artillery fire!! (67)
(Map courtesy Tom Payne)
Composite map showing artillery contact frequencies and ATC info
with tower and ADF beacon frequencies in boxes.(67)
(Map courtesy Tom Payne)
U.S. Army Flight Following System and Pilotage Chart showing magnetic headings,
distances and beacon frequencies and identifiers, plus flight following radios and frequencies.(67)
(Map courtesy Tom Payne)

Miss Ha--Now a U.S. Citizen !!

As has been said previously on this web site, many of the Vietnamese citizens who worked for the U. S. military during the Vietnam war escaped by boat or immigrated to the United States, later. No stories have been told of anyone doing that to Russia?? Miss Ha, Now a U.S. Citizen, is a heart warming story about one of the wonderful young ladies who worked for the 118th Thunderbirds known as Miss Ha or more humorously as "Ha, Ha". She was a very personable and cheery young lady who worked in the Thunderbird HQ and Supply for approximately 6 years. During the time she worked for the 118th, she would go along on Civic Action trips as interpreter, visiting the orphanage of Tam Hiep (run by Vietnamese Catholic Nuns). After 1968, Miss Ha also worked for USAF 510th FS .

Miss Ha legally immigrated to the United States in 1990 with her husband and daughter and settled in San Jose, CA under "Humanitarian Operation Program." Her husband was an officer in the S. Vietnamese Army and was interred in Communist "re-education" camps for a number of years. Recently, her brother Timothy Pham, also in the U.S.(he was a former ARVN 1st Lt., and left VN on April 29, 1975 "Operation Frequent Wind")., found the 118th Thunderbird web site with Miss Ha's photo in it. When he told Miss Ha, she was very happy and stayed up many nights looking at the site and remembering many of the names of men who served in the Thunderbirds. She called and visited with the Webmaster several times and is interested in hearing from any who served in the 118th while she worked there.

Miss Ha left the 118th around 1968-69 and began working for the 510th Fighter Squadron, aka "The Buzzards of Bien Hoa" (F-100 Super Sabre)also at the Bien Hoa airbase. She apparently worked for the U.S. unit until the Squadron packed up and went home. She has maintained contact with several of the other ladies who worked for the Thunderbirds and makes almost yearly visits back to Bien Hoa and Vietnam to see those who stayed.

Below are some photos provided by Miss Ha (American name isTeresa Ha Pham) and her brother showing her through the years with the Thunderbirds and the 510th Fighter Squadron. Also, there are some photos of her today as she has attended reunions in San Jose, CA and back in Bien Hoa Vietnam.

If anyone would like to contact Miss Ha today, she would be very, very pleased to hear from you. For that contact information contact the Webmaster.

Personal response to some of the emails Miss Ha has received.
 To the former 118th AHC :

It was overwhelmed for me to get lot of thoughtful emails every day from all of you. I am really grateful to your warm thoughts. I am unable to respond to each individual email in a short period of time so I asked the Webmaster to help me posting my response on the website. Sorry if this caused any inconvenience.

To Lt Gil Gerry: Thank you for the inviting me & my husband to join your meeting & pot luck dinner in November 15. I really love to attend but our working schedule is conflict with the meeting time.

To Robert Larsen: Miss Nguyen Thi Bich worked 93rd Dispensary (64-65) and miss My Thi Tam worked at Naval Station Library outside the 118th Bailey compound gate. These two ladies quit their jobs pretty early so I lost their contact.

To Jack Todd: I am not sure who is Duc and where he worked at. If Duc was not a military officer for the South Vietnam government, he was not forced to go concentration camp.

To James Morgan: Two clerks worked at motor pool, one of them named Luong, pictured taken in section 118th AHC (Orderly Room) showed on the website. Luong did not work for Orderly Room but at motor pool. The picture was taken during I took my vacation. That was why Luong was in the picture and I was not. Luong passed away in year 2000 due to an illness. Miss Dao (Cherry Blossom) left motor pool kind of early so I lost her contact as well .

To Gordy: Regarding of Miss Nguyen thi Sau worked in Officers Club, I did not know any one who worked there. I left the team in 1969 due to reduction inforce.

To Wayne Wright:
I did not know Mr. Duc at all.
I did not know Miss Kim worked for the club . I only know miss Kim worked for operations tent with me (63-64) . Kim left Vietnam in 1976 to France as her husband is a Vietnamese French . Kim currently lives in Paris . We keep in touch really well via phone. She went over to the US twice for visiting old friends.
To Tom Payne: Miss Thi (Titi) worked for operations . Her picture was in section 118th AHC on the website. Titi is still not married and currently lived in Bien Hoa . She is a successful business woman. She runs a small business there and take care of her big family includes her mom and siblings. She still looks young and cute. I am asking her to come to the States for a visit. It is a good chance to see members of 118th.

To Sean Hall: I totally have no idea bout MIA status of Lt Walter Hall (65). Sorry I cannot help you on this one.

To all members: In 1964, I worked for Captain Riggins Ronald in a short period of time. He was KIA with another 3 members of 118th. I was given a chance to fly along with all pilots and crew members. I sat on the aircraft of commander to fly into Tan Son Nhut for a farewell ceremony of Captain Riggins Ronald. I still remember vividly I was tearful at the ceremony. And it was not only me! I found people around me were also tearful. That scene never get fading in my memory. I am very grateful to all American soldiers who fell down on my country for our freedom.

Words cannot describe my excitement. I am really impressed with the warm welcome, thoughtful emails and sincere phone calls. Once again, thank you for remembering Miss Ha 43 years ago. Thanks America!

Goodbye now and please send my regards to your families.

Teresa Ha Pham

Miss Ha--Then

L to R: Miss Kim and Miss Ha
in early 1963.
(Photo courtesy John Ness) 
Miss Ha in front of 118th HQ in late 1967.
Note: CO was MAJ Joe Boggs,
XO was MAJ Robert Davis and
1SGT was Ermal Sparks.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)


Miss Ha in front of 118th HQ in late
67 or early 68. Note:
CO was MAJ William Bradner,
XO was MAJ Evans Guidroz
and 1SGT was Dale Kinney.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)


Miss Ha beside the 118th HQ
in approx. 1969.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)


Miss Ha as she worked for the 510th
Fighter Sqdrn at Bien Hoa in approx.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)


Miss Ha posing with 510th
Fighter Sqdrn purple jump-suit.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)

Miss Ha--Today


Miss Ha with Miss Kim (from France) in
San Jose, CA at a reunion in 1991.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)


Miss Ha on left with Miss Thy "Ti-Ti"
standing on the waterfront at Bien Ha in 2005.
Miss Ha returns to Vietnam almost yearly, she says.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)

Miss Ha's family at the marriage of her older sister's daughter in Minnesota in
2006. Miss Ha's husband is on far left and their only child and daughter is in
the red dress with her husband. The little girl in front is Miss Ha's granddaughter.
(Photo courtesy Miss Ha)
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Rainbow 6 .....DOWN !!

Sometime in the year 1968, one particular aircraft was chosen to be Rainbow 6. This aircraft was flown primarily by the Thunderbird CO, "Thunderbird 6" and served as a C & C ship. Just why it was called Rainbow 6 is not fully known. But, it must have been because this name would include all three of the 118th Platoon colors and thus would represent all of them.

On March 1, 2968, while on a flight with the entire unit, Rainbow 6 had a maintenance problem. According to the official record, "Engine failed at 2000 feet. An auto rotation was made to a rough area. The tail bounced and the main rotor cutoff the tail boom. The number 5 stage compressor failed." The pilot was 118th CO, MAJ Robert G. Shain and CPT William E. Bannister was Co-Pilot. The following official U.S. Army black and white photos show the aircraft and the damage done. According to the Crew Chief Lanny Hansen, who was on board the aircraft, this is what he wrote in his diary about that day and Rainbow 6....DOWN!

 I got the new ship 17082 on 16 Feb 68. This next part is what I wrote for 1 Mar 68- --"Today started off good, then went bad. First off, the ships were going into the first L.Z. They took fire(but) no ships took hits. One crew chief was killed (SP4 Stanley R. Lewter)(and) also an ARVN on board. Both got shot in the neck. Then at 11:15 we were flying at about 2300 ft. when something exploded some where around the engine. The ship rocked and down we came. The pilot flared out and we stopped about 30 ft. above the ground and dropped. The blades swooped down and chopped off the vertical fin and then everything from the sync(ronized). elevators back. Both pieces hit within 10 ft. of my side of the ship and the skids were collapsed. We all got out OK. Like I said before this is what I wrote in the diary. I do not know who the co-pilot or gunner were that day other than what the crash report said. I do know that Maj. Shain was the pilot and I (was)the crewchief. I do not know what ARVIN unit was being inserted that day or who the ground troops were that secured the area of the crash. We stripped the helicopter of guns and other equipment and were picked up by one of the slicks fairly quickly and were gone before the ground troops showed up."


MAJ Robert G. Shain and CPT William E. Bannister (apparently the
commander of one of the platoons) following the incident.(68)
(Photo courtesy Lanny Hansen)

Memorial Services

Over the nearly 10 years the 33rd Transportation Company/118th Thunderbirds were in Vietnam, 81 men were lost. Some years were more deadly than others and the breakdown is thus:
 1962--0; 1963--4; 1964--11; 1965--19; 1966--4; 1967--16; 1968--11; 1969--12; 1970--3; 1971-1
Whenever a loss occurred, it affected everyone in the unit. Usually, there was a time of remembering and a time for memorializing their service. There was no TO&E Chaplain for the 118th company sized unit, but there was a Chaplain within HQ of the 145th Combat Aviation Battalion which the 118th was part of.
Below are scans of the memorial service programs for three men who were lost in 1969. Thank you to James G.
"Jim" Bock who provided the scans of the original programs he still has in his memorabilia.