I had been at Cam Ranh Bay for about 6 weeks when I got transferred to another boat crew in a hot spot down south called An Thoi. A Second Class Engineman (EN2) and I were given orders to Saigon and had to arrange our own follow on transportation.
We flew into Ton Son Nhut Air Base in Saigon and began to arrange our flight south. We found we had two choices. We could leave tomorrow morning, or the next flight headed south was in four days. Well, hell, it seems like neither of us were in any hurry to get to An Thoi, so we manifested on the later flight.
Next, we went to the billeting office to get a place to sleep and stow our gear. After dropping our bags, we decided to head out and do a little look-see around town. As we were walking up to the gate, we could see, beyond the fence, a busy, bustling city, quite different from the ‘ville we occasionally visited in Cam Ranh Bay. Cars, mopeds, ladies in their elegant au-dai gowns – it was beautiful. So we walk up to the gate, present our ID cards and the Air Force Sergeant at the gate says, “Sorry, shore-leave isn’t authorized.”
We asked why, and he said “You are transit personnel, and shore-leave is not authorized. Only for base personnel.” Well, the EN2 looks at me and says, “Well, tell ya what, I’m going on liberty.”
Then he turned to the guard and said, “Have you ever shot anyone?”
The guard said “No”, and before he could say anything else, EN2 said “Well, get ready to, because that’s the only way you are gonna stop me from going out this gate.”
He then proceeds to head towards town. It took me about ¼ of a second to make up my mind, and I was right on his starboard shoulder. He whispered, “don’t look back, but if you hear a shot, run like hell.”
As soon as we got across the street, we turned up the next street and tried to blend in, which meant we headed for the nearest bar, which wasn’t too far. We knew we probably wouldn’t be able to pull off blasting the gate again; in fact, they probably will arrest us when we come back. With that, we made the decision to stay out in the city for the next four nights, then go back and either catch our flight south, or get tossed in the brig. Either way, it would probably be worth it. After a few beers with some local Airmen, we found out that the President Hotel was the best and safest place to stay, so stay there we did.
After four days of eating, drinking, running around with wild women and just enjoying life, we came to the realization our good times were over and we had to come back to reality.
So, very reluctantly, we headed back to the same gate we had come from. We were both half expecting to be arrested on the spot, but our feeling was - hey, what were they gonna do, ship us to An Thoi? Well, we walked through the gate with the rest of the Airmen, showed our ID and were waved on in. We went to the barracks to pick up our stuff, which unbelievably, was still there, untouched. We went to the airfield, and within hours were sitting in the ass-end of a C-130 cargo plane full of C-rats, spare parts and 6 other Sailors headed for An Thoi.
Just another "non-war" story from my time in the Nam.
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