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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  • Vietnamese Civilian Employees
  • "Funny Money" aka Military Payment Certificates(MPC)
  • VC Mortar Bien Hoa Air base POL Dump!
  • 1966 Hanger Christmas Party!
  • Long Binh Ammo Dump--Oct 29, 1966
  • C-Rations
  • C. O. L. A. (Cost of Living Allowance)


    Vietnamese Civilian Employees

    Vietnamese civilians employed as domestics, secretaries, bus drivers, cooks and a number of other occupations were a very important part of making life in Vietnam more bearable and productive. There is no doubt that life in the 33rd Transportation Company/ 118th Aviation Company was a lot better than many other units. However, it was still below the level of comforts back home. Vietnamese civilians who worked for the 118th affected both pilots and crew members and enlisted.

    On Cong Ly Street, Bailey Compound on Bien Hoa Air base or at the Bird Cage, they were a part of our lives. While many were very obvious to everyone as they went about daily work and duties, some were just there and somewhat less obvious.

    When the 118th stood-down after almost 9 years, the Vietnamese civilian employees were left to make a living in the inflation ridden and chaotic Vietnamese economy. Most of these local Vietnamese served honorably and efficiently for the entire time. This story is written in their honor and their memory. The photos were provided by numerous folks who served in the Thunderbirds. If you remember others and have photos of them, please contact the Webmaster so that arrangements can be made to add their photo and name.



    Um Lam, the bus driver from the
    Villa on Cong Ly street to Bien Hoa Air
    base. Not sure what he did when not
    driving bus? (65)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


    Mr. Xiem, bus driver from Villa to Bien Hoa
    Air base. Anyone remember his name?(65)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


    Miss Nah, who worked in the
    Thunderbird villa bar. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Ted Jambon)


    Miss Chi (L) and her sister Miss Lan.
    Chi worked at the Villa on Cong Ly
    street and was very shy.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


    Miss Luan, aka "T-T", who worked at
    Thunderbird Operations on Bien Hoa
    Air Base.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


    The Cong Ly Street Villa kitchen crew.
    We need help with their names.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


    Officers' Mess Cook (L) and "Duke", the
    Bartender at Club on
    Cong Ly Street Villa. (68)
    (Photo courtesy Jim Thorne)



    Unidentified MamaSan(obviously pregnant)
    who worked at the Bandit Area at the "Birdcage"(67)
    (Photo courtesy Richard Little)


    Ma Be (L) and Mot Kha (R) who were Hooch
    maids in the 2nd Platoon area at
    Cong Ly villa.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)
    Ma Be, in 1969 (shown in the photo to the
    L, on the L in 66). She still worked as
    "Hooch maid" for 118th Officers after
    they moved to Honor-Smith compound
    at Bien Hoa Air base from Cong Ly villa.(69)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Hirtle)


    Unidentified Vietnamese/French
    girl who worked for the 118th, possibly
    in the Enlisted area on Bien Hoa
    Air base. Please help ID.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Martin Lehotay)


    ? (L) and Miss Hoa (R) who were maids
    in Bandit area on 2nd floor of Cong Ly
    (Photo courtesy Tom Payne)


    Two who worked in the
    33rd Trans Co. area in 62-63.
    The one in red is Miss Kim, who worked
    in the Officers' Club with Duc. She also
    collected laundry from the officers and had it washed by local Bien Hoa women....capitalism
    at work!! On the right is Miss Ha, often called "Ha Ha" Anyone remember
    more, please contact the Webmaster
    For story of Miss Ha today click here...
    (Photo courtesy John Ness)


    Unidentified "Hooch maid" who worked
    in Enlisted barracks.(64)
    (Photo courtesy James Larson)


    Maid named "Phai" at the
    Cong Ly villa.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Joe Newsome)
    Miss Marie, a waitress at the 118th Officers'
    Villa on Cong Ly Street.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Joe Newsome)


    Marie, daughter of hooch-maid Agnes
    at Cong Ly Villa.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Pat McLarney)
    Another photo of Um Lam, the Vietnamese
    who drove the "borrowed" USAF bus from
    Cong Ly Villa to flight line everyday.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Tommy Thornton)


    Miss Van, a waitress at the 118th Officers'
    Villa on Cong Ly Street.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Joe D. Newsome)

    Mr. Mooi or "Smiley" who worked at the
    118th Avn Co. Operations doing
    clean-up and odd jobs.(65)
    (Photo courtesy Joe D. Newsome)  


    Two men who worked at the Bandit area.
    Here they are uncrating and assembling 2.75" rockets. At other times they cut weeds,
    policed the area and polished aircraft.(67)
    (Photo courtesy Richard Little)

    Unidentified Vietnamese woman who
    worked at the Cong Ly Villa in the
    office. (67)
    (Photo courtesy Carl Garrett)


    Miss Lan who worked at Thunderbird Club
    on Bailey Compound.(70)
    (Photo courtesy Lawrence B. Smith)


    Miss Duyen who worked at Thunderbird Club
    on Bailey Compound.(70)
    (Photo courtesy Lawrence B. Smith)


    Miss Nguyet who worked at Thunderbird Club
    on Bailey Compound.(70)
    (Photo courtesy Lawrence B. Smith)


    Miss Xoan who worked at Thunderbird Club
    on Bailey Compound.(70)
    (Photo courtesy Lawrence B. Smith)


    Miss Nga who worked at Thunderbird Club
    on Bailey Compound. Note 3 wheeled
    Lambretta by building.(70)
    (Photo courtesy Lawrence B. Smith)
    Miss Loan who worked at Thunderbird Club
    on Bailey Compound.(70)
    (Photo courtesy Lawrence B. Smith)


    Hooch Maid called "Beetlenut" on the second floor of Thunderbird barracks. (71)
    (Photo courtesy Michael Breaux)

     This space waiting for your photo!!

    If you have photos and stories of some of the Vietnamese civilians who worked

    for the 118th in Bien Hoa, please contact the Webmaster

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    "Funny Money"


    Military Payment Certificates (MPC)

    American "greenbacks" have long been sought by foreign governments and societies because of one main reason....solid worth!!

    In Korea and Vietnam, and most wars since WWI, the U.S. government has printed Military Payment Certificates or MPC for use by members of the military who are outside the United States and in foreign lands. This "Funny Money", as the troops called it, was spendable and good for use within the confines of the military stores, but was useless to anyone not in the military. Such efforts were successful in basically eliminating the "Black Market" for good old U.S. "greenbacks".

    Below are examples of several denominations of Military Payment Certificates used in Vietnam. It was a common practice to change the color and the design of the certificates from time to time to further control their use on the black market.

    All MPC notes have a series number. This is comparable to the date on regular U.S. money.The series numbers will always be found on the front of the note, but not always in the same place. The series number consists of three numbers; the first two digits the year of issue and the last digit the issue number. For example 641 represents 1964 and 1st series printed. 692 represents 1969 and 2nd series printed. MPC was printed in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50 cents, and 1, 5, 10, 20 dollars. Some series do not contain all the denominations.

    There have been 13 issues of MPC beginning with 461 and ending with 692. The day for converting from one series to another was called "Conversion Day" or C-Day, however some examples have survived. Below are several series seen and used in Vietnam. Note how there seems to be two years between new issues!

    641 (Front) 641 (Back)

    641 (Front)

    641 (Back)


    Personal Remembrance

     "I'm sure everyone remembers the onerous duty of "C-Day Officer" that usually went to the greenest new guy in the unit. I don't remember exactly when this was, but I guess around mid-1969. We were notified of C-Day - Currency conversion day - when all the scrip would be turned in and exchanged for new colors so that it wouldn't have any value on the black market. Our C-Day Officer dutifully collected everyone's scrip - with all our signatures and ID numbers on 10s and 20s - and recorded all the amounts on the forms and took it all over to Long Binh for exchange. When he got to the Payroll Office, it turned out there was a discrepancy in the numbers. Either he had more or less money than he had recorded. He was sent home to reconcile the numbers. The end result of this was that the unit - the Thunderbirds - didn't get their money back for almost two weeks. By the end of 3-4 days, cigarettes were the medium of exchange for almost anything else to be bartered and by the end of the week there wasn't a cigarette in the unit. And, needless to say, the Spartans, Top Tigers, and Playboys weren't sharing any! I went cold turkey and never started again."

    Bill Hirtle
    Thunderbird 3B


    661 (Front)

    661 (Back)

    661 (Front)

    661 (Back)

    681 (Front)

    681 (Back)

    681 (Front)

    681 (Back)

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    VC Mortar Bien Hoa Air base POL Dump

    Sometime in the fall of 1966, the VC successfully launched a night mortar attack on the Bien Hoa Air base POL storage area located SW of the 118th Thunderbird area. Since the men of the night crew of the 573rd Transportation Detachment were on duty, some great photos were taken. Of course, work never ceased. Need help with the exact date of the attack. Contact Webmaster.

    Time-lapse of jeep tail lights and head lights on the 118th flight line. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)

    Closer look at the Bien Hoa POL dump on fire following VC Mortar attack.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    Smoldering fire at Bien Hoa Air base POL storage area the next morning.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)

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    1966 Hanger Christmas Party!

    The men of the 573rd worked hard, day and night. When the occasion presented itself, they could play just as hard, too. The photos below show a time when good food and beer were in abundance. These men deserved the time to enjoy themselves so very far from home at Christmas time.



    Cooking and tasting for the
    Hanger Christmas Party. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    The other half of the Hanger Christmas
    Party goodies...the beer trailer!(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    Unidentified trooper with beer and
    bag of Christmas goodies in safe
    place. Could those be cigs
    under his T-shirt?(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    SSG Lawrence F. Cole, Night Crew
    NCOIC at Hanger Christmas Party. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    L to R: SP4 Jim Harden,"Sparky" Bill Langan,
    and ? at the Hanger Christmas Party.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    Happy group of guys sitting in the CO's jeep at
    the Hanger Christmas Party. Need help in
    identifying all. Far left is John Meglitch and
    far right is Martinez.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    SP6 Daniel R. Siam, Technical Inspector and ? at the Hanger Christmas Party.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    L to R: Howard, Walenga, Renfro and ?.
    More happy guys at Hanger Christmas Party.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)


    Members of the night crew enjoying the
    Christmas party at the Hanger.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Willis Long)


    Two NCO's. (L) 118th 1SGT Ermil Sparks and
    (R) unknown SGT.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Willis Long)


    Everyone "attacking" the beer trailer at the 66 Christmas Party.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Willis Long)


    MAJ Joe Boggs, Commander
    checking things out. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Willis Long)


    MAJ Boggs visits with men at the Christmas
    Party. (R) SP6 Siam, one of
    the Tech Inspectors for the 573rd.(66)
    (Photo courtesy Willis Long)


    Three MAJs diving for a cold beer. (L to R) MAJ Bob Michel, MAJ Smith and MAJ Wray, CO of 573rd Maint. Det. (66)
    (Photo courtesy Willis Long)


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    Long Binh Ammo Dump

    October 29, 1966


    Big Boom!

    Around midnight on October 29th, 1966, the Viet Cong mortared or rocketed the Long Binh Ammo Dump. Even though it was about 6-8 miles away to the NE of Bien Hoa, it was plainly visible . Bill Langan, aka "Sparky" was on duty in the 573rd hanger at the Bird Cage and took the slide photo. Anyone remembering more details of the attack, please contact the Webmaster.
    (Photo courtesy Bill Langan)
    Personal remembrance of Bill Fargo, USAF

      "My name is Bill Fargo and I was a ground radio guy, A2C, assigned to Fac-Alo TACP with the 11th Armored Cav Regiment. We arrived in country on 9-9-66 by troopship with the 3rd Squadron, 11th Armored Cav and moved into the Cav staging area at Long Binh after getting our radio equipment off the docks in Saigon."

    " I and approximately 4 others in my TACP were sitting in a tent at the time playing cards. The flaps were up, so when the dump blew we got a close look at it. Some of us were knocked to the floor. I couldn't believe the concussion. All around us the Army troops were grabbing their gear and running to the perimeter. People were yelling "human wave, human wave!" To this day, I don't understand why they thought that but it scared the hell out of me." " I grabbed my gear, put on my flak vest and helmet and hauled-ass to the TOC (tac opns ctr) where I and one other airman worked the radio traffic. We were requested to call "Spooky" and did so. We kept waiting for the attack but the VC never came. There was a lot of nervous firing on the perimeter though. That's the night I call my "wake-up call." That's the night I started smoking too. I gave it up in '83, thank goodness."

    " For a new guy in-country, and an AF guy with no infantry training or working with the Army, I was pretty shook up. "Spooky" worked the perimeter over in real good fashion. Some guys said that "stuff" was falling all over the place after the explosion, but I don't remember it. Some said it was VC mortars and others said it was sappers. Either way, I knew I was in for an uncomfortable year!"

    "That's a great picture of the explosion. It's the first photo I've seen of it. So, almost 35 years later, I see a photo of that night and I realize the VC were serious about their business."

    Bill Fargo, A1C/Sgt., 30454
    TAC, TACP 11th Armored
    Cav Regt/19th TASS
    Bien Hoa,VN 66-67
    Personal remembrance of Tim Pounds, USAF

     "I remember that night…me and Pete Eilersen were on the base at Bien Hoa, we had been at the EM club and were staggering back to our hut. We were by the building where there was a movie showing and we looked up and saw a huge fireball rising in the night sky and the sound and the concussion of that explosion hit….very powerful, all the guys came running out of the movie building but by that time the fireball was gone…so everybody goes back in…and here comes another one, fireball first, sound and concussion second. We headed for the flight line to our shop, we were AGE guys, we got some transportation and headed for the end of the runway toward Long Binh…but were turned back because shrapnel and various explosive ammo was reaching and falling on that part of the base. I never did hear about any deaths at the dump that night but there must have been with that size of explosions."

    Tim Pounds
    Bien Hoa 9/66-9/67


    Ah Yes! The infamous C-Rats!

    Every helicopter in Vietnam always carried at least one case of C-Rats somewhere........in the empty heater compartment, the avionics compartment, the a/c inverter compartment or simply under one of the fold-down canvas seats in the back. The purpose of carrying the C-Rats was either as a snack for the crew, emergency food if unable to get back "home" or to treat some of the many curious children who always flocked around the aircraft while sitting on a soccer field or rice paddy dike in the countryside.

    Just so you won't forget what was IN that wire-wraped case of "delictible delights", the typical list is below. Of course, the present day soldier does not have to "endure" C-Rats. Instead, they have been replaced with MRE's,which is short for Meals Ready to Eat! However, many believe this not to be an improvement, rather a repackaging of many of the same old foods.

    Full case of C-Rats dated 5 Dec 68 ,
    Here's what is in this case:
    FSN 8970-577-4513,,,,Wt-25 Lbs,,,,CU-0.79,,,,
    12 Meals 4 P-38s
    Chicken and Noodles and a B-1A Unit
    Beef, W/Spiced Sauce and a B-1A Unit
    Ham and Eggs, Chopped and a B-1A Unit
    Beans W/Meat Balls and a B-2 Unit
    Spaghetti W/Ground Meat and a B-2 Unit
    Beans W/Frankfurter Chunks and a B-2 Unit (Yeeeeaaah...Beans and weenies, tail boom paint!)
    Another Beans W/Frankfurter Chunks and a B-2 Unit
    Ham, Sliced and Cooked and a B-3A Unit
    Beefsteak and a B-3A Unit
    Chicken, Boned and a B-3A Unit
    Turkey Loaf and a B-3A Unit
    Pork, Sliced and Cooked with B-1A Unit
    Accessory Packet was the same for all:
    Cigarettes (Various Brands)(4 smokes in a box)
    Chewing Gum (Various Flavors of Wrigleys or Chicklets)
    Toilet Paper
    Coffee, Instant
    Cream Substitute
    Pastic Spoon
    Cocoa Beverage Powder (Came in B-3A Unit Only)
    Apple Sauce
    Pineapple Bits
    Fruit Cocktail
    Peanut Butter
    Pound Cake
    Pecan Cake Roll
    Date Pudding
    Jam, Pineapple
    Jam, Seedless Blackberry
    The B-1A Unit almost "always" had Peanut Butter; rare to have Jam/jelly in it
    The B-2 Unit almost never had any canned fruit, peanut butter or Jam
    The B-3A Unit always had Cocoa Powder and almost always a Jam/Jelly

    The Units always had the Crackers that would constipate Superman, and a switch off, on a Chocolate Bar or Cheese Spread or ( Remember the infamous Chocolate, Tropical, affectionately known as the John Wayne bar)
    This was not everything as there was in a Tuna meal, Grape Jelly, Apple Jelly,etc.

    There were changes all the time such as the Boned Turkey box became "Turkey or Chicken, Boned" in 1969
    My 1968 case is "as issued" and still has all the contents in the cans.
    #1 thing to remember about any and all C-Rats----the shelf life on the very
    last case of C-Rats ever issued expired years ago and NONE are fit to eat. A
    collector item only.

    For general info,,,,the case of C-Rats that had cigarettes is worth about $150-$200.
    C-Rats after the cigarettes were taken out go for about $50-$75
    MRE's currently go for about $30-$45 per case retail

    Final Quiz

    Which C-Rat can made the best M60 feeder?


    (This info courtesy of Lou "Rocket" Rochat)


    C. O. L. A.

    (Cost of Living Allowance)

    Can you imagine receiving a monthly C.O.L.A. on your pay voucher today for $44.80? No way....never happen G.I.!! Well, back in the 1963-68 time period, that is what the Officers and Warrant Officers got when they lived on Cong Ly Street and on the "so called" economy of Vietnam.

    In most cases, the C.O.L.A. was given to the Club Officer in cash to use to buy items off the Vietnamese economy. He would got to town and buy bread (with free weevels included), fresh vegetables (which had to be thoroughly washed in clorox water and soaked in salt and clorox brine to kill the bad bacteria), soft drinks and some liquor and supplies for the Thunderbird Lounge, and to pay the kitchen help, etc.

    Below is a scanned copy of the orders dated 6 July 1964 authorizing some of the pilots of the 118th Thunderbirds to receive a cost of living allowance, better known as C.O.L.A. and also terminating the C.O.L.A. for those transferring or going back to the World (USA).


    (Scan of C.O.L.A. Orders, courtesy Pat McLarney)

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