Since Oct 29, 2001
Enlisted in the Army in Aug. 1960, basic training in Ft. Ord, Calif. (it's a long story, I enlisted in Taiwan, had been there for 2 years, just bumming around), and went to Ft. Monmouth, NJ for meteorological observation school.
After training, I was assigned to Evans Laboratory, near Ft. Monmouth. There were 7 single guys living in the barracks that summer (1961) and the First Sergeant showed up one fateful day and said " I need 7 volunteers, 4 to go to Alaska (18 month tour), and 3 to go to Greenland (2 six month Temporary Duty (TDY) tours). Having good math skills (the Army tested me on that), I quickly added up 12 months vs. 18 months, and said "GREENLAND". If I had only known!!!!!
In Aug. 61, 2 buddies and me were headed to Arizona (believe this or not)for "ARCTIC TRAINING". ARIZONA! Only the Army could come up with this!!!! It turned out to be a refresher course in Meteorology, but 30 days only 60 miles from Nogales, Mexico (a border town with all the normal border town thrills) was a benefit. Having sowed my wild oats for 30 days, I found myself on a plane to Thule AFB.
Oct. 61, we got off the plane in Thule, and they put us in the back of a 2-½ ton truck and drove us to Camp Tuto. Three very frozen GI's got out of the truck (we had not received Arctic gear yet) and reported for 6 months of hell, cold hell, but hell never the less.
They asked us where we wanted to go, Tuto East, West, Camp Tuto, or Camp Century. Having made all the stupid decisions I could possibly make (I thought), I said "CENTURY" with great pride. (Remember, I was young then)
I was put on a Caribou (an airplane made in Canada) so fast that my head spun. This plane had skis instead of wheels. "What the hell?" I remember thinking planes need wheels!!! What have I done?
We landed in the middle of the Greenland Icecap. Nothing visible objects for a hundred miles in either direction. And I mean nothing (except for a small shack)(6' by 6')(orange in color).
We walked down this long sloping gash in the snow, mouth agape, for there were lights, 14' wide, with a frost-covered roof over our head. This main trench (as they called it) was (I'm guessing) 1000 to 1100 feet long. Off each side of the main trench were other trenches, all covered with corrugated steel.
Inside each of these trenches were up to three prefabricated buildings. What a culture shock.
This SP-4 (Richard Charles, I think) ran up to me, drooling, wanting to carry my bag, and shaking my hand, thrilled to death that I was there. Little did I know but I WAS HIS REPLACEMENT! He was to train me, and then he could leave. This was at 1500 hrs.
At 1800 hrs, after supper, he said that we would go to the office. He took me through a maze of tunnels, then started to climb a 30' ladder, expecting me to follow. Yes, I followed!
We opened this metal hatch, slogged through some knee-deep snow and got to the weather station. It was dark, pitch black, (OCT. in Greenland, remember) and Richard relieved another drooling, absolutely insane GI. I took 2 surface observations (1 per hour) and Richard declared me fully trained, went down to the barracks and started to pack.
The phone rings about 2200 hrs, and I answer it. It is Sgt. Frost (I'm not kidding, Jack Frost was his name) wanting me to clean the thermocouples. I asked where they were, and he said on the tower 75' north of the office. I went outside, not having any idea which way was north and walked in a 75' circle around the office. When I stumbled onto the tower, I cleaned the thermocouples and went back in.(later I learned that all I had to do was kick the tower, and the snow fell right off) By the way, I never met Sgt. Frost, he never came up to the surface, he stayed in the micro met room, and left 2 months after I got there.
The next morning at 0630, the same disheveled, drooling GI from the previous night shows up and replaces me. I never did find out his name, he was known as " THE DAY GUY".
Down the ladder, I wandered around till I found the Mess Hall. Here is a positive statement about Camp Century. They fed us good!!!! I'm serious!!!! All the food we wanted, double rations, excellent cooks, and excellent food. Had steak and eggs before going to bed. Found out that they had a mid-night chow too. Good thing I found that out too, I was on night shift for the entire tour.
CAMP CENTURY: A lot went on there. There was the Nuclear reactor. Lights, heat, and a warm, green glow all winter. We had to wear lead jockey shorts if we didn't want kids with 3 eyes.
For water, they pumped live steam down in the ice, melting it, and pumped the water up to use. I had the opportunity to go down in a parachute harness hooked to a winch into the wells, as we called it. They lowered me through a small hole into a Cavern about 70' round. They continued to lower me, through another hole into another cavern, and into a third cavern. This was the one we were getting water from. They, the water Guys told me that we were drinking water that fell as snow 2000 years ago. I had no reason to disbelieve them. This was an exciting moment in my tour (REMEMBER, Greenland icecap).(GIs are easily amused!!!!)
We got our last mail in November and the next mail in March! No kidding, the weather was so terrible that not even a plane could get through. "THE DAY GUY" and Sgt. Frost left on the last plane out and we got some new replacements, but I don't remember their names. I found out that they referred to me as "THE NIGHT GUY". I was drooling by now.
For Christmas, we went out into the Greenland forest and cut a tree. Kidding, there were no trees.
This isn't funny, I think it was that Christmas that the Army sent a helicopter up with a Chaplain on board, and it crashed somewhere on the ice cap. All 8 on board killed. That is probably why we didn't get any airlift support until March.
The month of Dec. we never saw the sun (not that "THE NIGHT GUY" could ever see the sun. Not even a lightning of the sky at noon. But the Aurora was fantastic. It was impossible to describe. And the start of one of the best practical jokes I ever pulled off.
I started the rumor that if you hollered at the aurora, it would intensify. It seemed that way because it was a dynamic situation, always changing, brightening and dimming quickly, just streaming across the sky. I started hearing people outside, screaming "hey, hey, hey" at night. Even one guy yodeling!
This was so great I had to take it one step further. My buddy and I organized a mass scream out at midnight sometime in Jan. Picture this, 100 GIs, standing on the ice cap at midnight, -50 deg F., screaming at the sky. What a hoot! They fell for it. That's why my buddy and I called them "doafats".
What is a "doafat"? One of the expressions very common in Century was somebody asking a question like, "are you going to the club tonight?" and the answer was "DO A FAT woman sweat?" or "DO A FAT dog eat a bone?" or "DO A FAT whatever". The operative phrase was always "DO A FAT".
Outside of each building was a 55-gallon drum with the top cut off, buried at an angle in the snow. This was our urinal. Since we only had 1 latrine and it could be a quarter of a mile away, and knowing GI's, rather than messing up the trenches, they installed these barrels. I thought my job was bad, but can you imagine the guy who was assigned to exchange these barrels. Did he brag about his Greenland saga?
On one very cold night in Jan., I was walking out to the shelter that had the thermometers in it (Yuma Shelter) and noticed that I could not see my feet below the ankles. There was a very shallow fog about 6" deep. I could kick my foot, and the fog would rise up and then settle back down, rippling out about 18", like a rock thrown into a calm lake. It was cold -50 or so, and not a breath of wind stirring. I later found out that there was a temperature inversion that night of over 120 deg f. between the ½ meter level and the 4-meter level.
I also saw a level of clouds come in at about 30' above my head. I know it was 30' because I could see the 25' anemometer on the tower, but not the 50' one. But, here was what was strange, we had 7 miles visibility at the time, it was like a tunnel through the fog. Didn't last long, but Greenland weather is a strange place.
About the middle of Jan., the steam generator broke, and they announced that there would be no more clean clothes until they could get parts. Early Feb. no more clean sheets till they could get parts for the steam generator. What's next? Mid Feb. navy showers, get wet, turn it off, soap down, rinse for 1 minute. Get the hell out! That lasted for a week, then no more showers. They had finally stripped me of all dignity I ever had, tired, dirty, smelling, and now, no showers. Actually, we weren't really dirty. We were 6000' from dirt, and that was straight down through the ice.
We were running out of food, but the cooks did the best they could. By mid Feb. we had hamburger, chicken and powdered eggs left. We would have eggs for breakfast, hamburger for lunch, and chicken for dinner, followed by eggs at midnight, chicken for breakfast, hamburger for lunch
15 cents bought everything. A beer was 15 cents, pack of cigarettes, 15 cents, bar of soap, 15 cents. But now we were running out of everything. The only beer was San Miguel, whiskey, Old Overholt (over coat). Even for free, nobody wanted Old Over Coat or San Miguel.
Read this in the readers digest "Humor In Uniform" section. In Mar. the relief plane was in flight. The pilot radioed to Camp Century "How deep is the snow on the runway?" The radio operator said, "6000 feet deep, but come in anyway" That radio operator was Sp4 Radminsky, my buddy.
Speaking of Razz, another story. I was on the surface and Razz was operating the radio downstairs. I picked up the radio and said "XPN2, this is XPN2 Charlie, stand by for a spot announcement, ARF, ARF, thank you spot". Thought it was funny! I thought that the only one that could hear me was Razz, everybody else sleeping. The next voice I heard was the Camp Commander asking me to repeat my transmission. I gulped, and asked hi if Razz was there? He said that Razz was out shoveling snow, where I soon was going to be. I hide from him for 3 days, but he found me and gave me another nickname, "SPOT".
The first relief plane was in the air when the Camp Commander asked the pilot what he had on board. The pilot radioed back that he had parts for the steam generator and other repair parts. The Century Camp Commander radioed back to the pilot that he was to turn around and go back to Thule. The first plane to land a Camp Century that day had better have mail for his troops and some chow. The plane circled while the second plane with the mail flew up. The Camp Commander was my hero that day.
My turn to leave! My replacement was in, fully trained (2 observations), my bags were packed and the Caribou was waiting. This was the only time I had seen sunlight in 5 months. I walked out to the plane, found a seat, and looked back on the place I had called home for the last 6 months. I then noticed that building, (6' by 6'), (orange in color) (the only one on the surface), and realized that it was the WEATHER STATION.
I left Greenland in the spring and went back to Ft. Monmouth. I was a total stranger there, having been gone all winter. I remember the CO asking the First Sergeant who I was. Out of sight, out of mind.
My 2 other friends who went up to Greenland had returned near Christmas, and had shipped back to Greenland even before I got there.
short leave, a few weeks back to Ft. Monmouth and I was back on the plane to Greenland. I remember crying as the plane set down in Thule. They didn't ask me this time where I wanted to go, just put me on a Caribou back to guess where CENTURY.
This was mid summer. The sun was up 24-hours a day. How did they dig those large tunnels? I watched one being dug. I was walking to the weather station when all of a sudden the visibility dropped to zip, zero, nothing. Snow falling all around me, when 2 seconds earlier it was clear and sunny. I could hear this loud noise of machinery running.
I had on my sunglasses, which was probably lucky for me, and followed the sound. About 50' I stopped short of a 30' deep hole that had been dug in just a few hours.
It was a new trench! Down in the trench was a wonder. This machine (A Peter Snow miller) was a railroad engine, mounted on tracks (not railroad tracks, tracks like on a bull dozer), with the largest snow blower you can imagine on the front end. This thing was monstrous! It was throwing snow 100' into the air.
That was my loss of visibility. Somebody told me that it was designed to keep the railroad high in the mountains of Switzerland free of snow. I don't know that to be true, but hey, I don't argue.
Within a day, they had covered the weather station with snow (Remember the orange building?) And the troops (me) were outside shoveling.
In civilian life, it takes you 4 years of college before they call you an engineer, in the Army, they hand you a shovel and call you one. We now had to climb down through the roof to get into the weather station.
There was a rope (lifeline) strung between the emergency exit we used to get to the surface, and the weather station. One day I left the mess hall to go to the surface during a white out. I climbed the ladder up to the surface, grabbed the rope and went hand over hand to the station.
It was empty and I frantically looked for the observer I was to relieve. It turned out that he had left the station to go down stairs the same time I was coming up, and we had passed on either side of the rope without seeing each other.
I'm sure Don Moore will describe the SWING far better that me, but I had the opportunity to look over one that summer. Basically, the swing was 100-ton sleds with pre-fabricated buildings mounted on them. D-8 cats pulled them. There were barracks, mess hall, club, and library. Drove about 3 miles an hour, about 5 sleds behind a couple of Cats.
And of course, a couple of trains slowly moving over the Ice Cap with supplies for the next winter (and hopefully I'd not be there to need them.)
I only spent 4 months there that time. I left Greenland vowing that the next time I went to Greenland, there would be three of us going, me and 2 MP's, cause I wasn't going again.
Back to Ft. Monmouth, reporting to the First Sergeant, who promptly put me on a plane to Alaska for a three month TDY. So I had come a full circle, volunteering for Greenland to avoid Alaska, and then going to Alaska. Some thoughts:
· If the Environmental Protection Agency were in existence then, all of this could not have taken place.
· Looking back on this after 40 years, it was a hoot.
· Each time I got off the Ice Cap, my sense of smell was incredible. I could smell things a long way away. I guess it is true, that your senses increase with out stimulation. There were no smells on the Ice Cap.
· I never had a cold, or the flu or knew anybody who did up there. Germs just didn't live in that environment.
· I was hungry all the time. You could shovel in the food, and the calories you burned just keeping warm kept you hungry.
· I wouldn't have traded this experience for anything (he says in 1999).
My kids are eating M&Ms at the dining room table, and I see that they are sorting them by color. I asked them why they were doing that, and the response was that green M&Ms make you horny. I laughed at the kid and said something like yes, like you kids could tell if your are more horny.
Few days later, my wife, Attila and I are in Kmart wandering the aisles, when I spotted M&Ms. I threw 4 bags in the cart, just cause Im a good guy.
On the ride home, a plot hatched.
The kids were out on dates, or what ever they did at night (they were like Dracula, only went out after dark.) Attila the wife and I very carefully opened the M&M packages and sorted them out by color. We put the green ones in one package, and the rest in the other packages.
We carefully resealed the bags, so nobody could tell they were opened.
A couple of days pass, and all the kids are home. Even a couple of strange ones, you know, from the neighborhood. I break out the M&Ms and pass the loaded bags to the kids. They start looking in the bags and find NO GREEN M&Ms!!!!
Attila and I are in the dining room, and we break out our bag, all GREEN!
We just spread them on the table, munching them and talking. Pretty soon, one of the kids notice we have all green.
I put on some slow music and Attila and I start dancing. Now, nothing embarrasses teenagers like their parents dancing. And it is a parents duty to give maximum embarrassment to teenagers.
A few minutes later, Attila and I gather up our green M&Ms and go off into the bedroom . We stay in there a little while, laughing and giggling so the kids can hear us.
Attila emerges from the bedroom, wearing high heels, carrying a whip, a dog collar and a chain. I come out wearing my pirate costume, three-cornered hat, eye patch, and the inflatable parrot on my shoulder. Lets just call the costumes Halloween costumes we kept in the bedroom, and not pursue that subject.
The kids were freaking out!!!! Especially since they had friends over.
A few days later, I caught one of the kids sorting the M&Ms. I asked him what he was doing and he said I throwing away the green ones.
There were a couple of drawbacks, however.
The bishop, who lives across the street, insisted that Attila and I go in for counseling. Very few kids came over to our house to visit after this happened.
And I get very strange looks during Halloween evening while wearing my costume.
Forgotten to make. I found the number and dialed it. A man answered, saying "Hello."
I politely said, "This is Chris. Could I please speak with Robyn
Suddenly a manic voice yelled out in my ear "Get the right
f***ing number!" and the phone was slammed down on me. I couldn't
believe that anyone could be so rude.
When I tracked down Robyn's correct number to call her, I found
That I had accidentally transposed the last two digits.
After hanging up with her, I decided to call the 'wrong' number
When the same guy answered the phone, I yelled "You're an
asshole!" and hung up. I wrote his number down with the word 'asshole'
next to it, and put it in my desk drawer. Every couple of weeks, when I
was paying bills or had a really bad day, I'd call him up and yell,
"You're an asshole!" It always cheered me up.
When Caller ID was introduced, I thought my therapeutic
'asshole' calling would have to stop. So, I called his number and said,
"Hi, this is John Smith from the telephone company. I'm calling to see
if you're familiar with our Caller ID Program?" He yelled "NO!" and slammed down the phone. I quickly called him back and said, "That's because you're an asshole!" and hung up.
One day I was at the store, getting ready to pull into a parking Spot. Some guy in a black BMW cut me off and pulled into the spot I had patiently waited for. I hit the horn and yelled that I'd been waiting for that spot, but the idiot ignored me. I noticed a "For Sale" sign in his back window, so I wrote down his number.
A couple of days later, right after calling the first asshole (I
had his number on speed dial,) I thought that I'd better call the BMW
I said, "Is this the man with the black BMW for sale?"
He said, "Yes, it is." I asked, "Can you tell me where I can see it?"
He said, "Yes, I live at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in yellow rambler, and the car's parked right out in front."
I asked, "What's your name?"
He said, "My name is Don Hansen,"
I asked, "When's a good time to catch you, Don?"
He said, "I'm home every evening after five."
I said, "Listen, Don, can I tell you something?"
He said, "Yes?" I said, "Don, you're an asshole!"
Then I hung up, and added his number to my speed dial, too.
Now, when I had a problem, I had two assholes to call.
Then I came up with an idea. I called asshole #1.
He said, "Hello."
I said, "You're an asshole!" (But I didn't hang up.)
He asked, "Are you still there?"
I said, "Yeah,"
He screamed, "Stop calling me,"
I said, "Make me,"
He asked, "Who are you?"
I said, "My name is Don Hansen."
He said, "Yeah? Where do you live?" I said, "Asshole, I live at
34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, a yellow rambler, I have a black Beamer parked in front."
He said, "I'm coming over right now, Don. And you had better start saying your prayers."
I said, "Yeah, like I'm really scared, asshole," and hung up.
Then I called Asshole #2.
He said, "Hello?"
I said, "Hello, asshole,"
He yelled, "If I ever find out who you are..."
I said, "You'll what?"
He exclaimed, "I'll kick your ass,"
I answered, "Well, asshole, here's your chance. I'm coming over Right now."
Then I hung up and immediately called the police, saying that I
Lived at 34 Oaktree Blvd, in Fairfax, and that I was on my way over there to kill my gay lover!
Then I called Channel 9 News about the gang war going down on
Oaktree Blvd. in Fairfax.?
I quickly got into my car and headed over to Fairfax. I got
There just in time to watch two assholes beating the crap out of each other in front of six cop cars, an overhead news helicopter and surrounded by a news crew.
NOW I feel much better. Anger management really does work.
THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE
A few weeks ago, I got nostalgic for the Army, so I downloaded some bugle calls from the Internet. Retreat, Reveille, Charge, Call to Quarters were among my downloads. I programmed my computer to play these during certain times of the day. I was greeted in the morning with Reveille. You would recognize it. It sounds like I CANT GET UM UP, I CAN GET UM UP, I CANT GET UM UP IN THE MORNNNNING.
Then I started using the computer as an alarm clock (in effect turning my $1000 computer into a $4.95 alarm clock). Every morning, the computer woke up at 5 am and after warming up and loading all of its programs, it would turn up the volume and play Reveille waking both the dog and me.
Very pleased with my experiment, I connected my computer to my high fidelity home entertainment setup, and the quality of the bugle calls improved significantly, along with the quantity of the volume. Now it really sounded like the bugle calls in Fort Monmouth New Jersey at 5 am in 1962.
I decided I had to share the military experience with my neighbors. And, of course, Reveille MUST be played at 5 AM. Got out some wire and extended the speakers of the entertainment center to 3 different windows of my house. Some duct tape sealed the windows from the wind but left the speakers sticking out the window. I couldnt test the volume because that would give away the surprise I had for my neighbors the next morning so I just guessed at about 3/4s of the full scale.
The day of awakening, I used the regular $4.95 alarm clock to wake the dog and I at 4:45 am. Perked my coffee, poured myself a cup, and waited for the big moment. At 4:58, the computer came on, loaded up the programs and at exactly 5AM, THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE began for my neighbors. Ahh, the pure joy of reveille.
Only one problem, the volume rivaled the civilian defense air raid sirens, and apparently Reveille broke the sleep of 5,000 residents over a 5 square mile radius. I saw lights come on all over my neighborhood, but since the bugle call was only 30 seconds long, they couldnt locate the source. I was tempted to play it a few more times, but I didnt.
I gave my neighbors THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE for 4 straight mornings. I talked to the Bishop across the street and apparently THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE was not to his liking. He vowed to get the people that were playing bugles at 5 AM, so I realized that I had to get sneakier. I skipped 2 mornings (Saturday and Sunday), then gave them THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE again.
On Monday, the Bishop told me he was going to call the police. He suspected the new people down the street. They had teenagers and must be the guilty family. I decided to push it. I got out the police scanner, and fired it up. Tuesday, THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE went off without a hitch. Wednesday, the police scanner was full of talk. The Barney Fife SWAT team was deployed around the town, waiting for the perps giving THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE. I decided to wait, desecration being the better part of valor. At about 5:30, Barney Fife (the chief) came over the police radio, canceling the stake out. I gave them 5 minutes to go get donuts, turned the volume to full, then THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE happened again. Unfortunately, I cracked three windows in my house, and the dog went deaf.
I have decided to give my neighbors an Honorable Discharge, and let them sleep in, retiring the reveille tape.
Does anybody know where I can get the sound of a fog horn in the middle of the Atlantic?
THE HOT WATER HEATER
For many years I have grown used to sleeping inside and eating regular. After a recent experience, I have to add hot water to that list.
See, my hot water heater went out about 2 weeks ago. It was a great hot water heater. It had a 15-year warranty, so 15 years, 1 month, and 4 days, it finally rusted through.
The bishop across the street promised that he can get me a good price on a new one. I wait, and wait, and wait for him to come up with the good price.
After being in Viet Nam many years ago, I promised that I would never take a cold shower again. I told my wife at that time that there were four things I wanted when I came home. Today, (and considering the audience) I will not discuss one of them, but the other three were, a hot bath, a cigar, and a Playboy magazine, all at the same time. You can see how passionate I was about the cold showers.
Anyway, I tried to take a bath by heating up water on the stove and carrying it to the tub. That didnt work very well, because by the time I got to the fourth pan of water, the others had cooled. off. So now, I decide to just wash in the kitchen instead of the tub. So I warm water on my stove, and wash really well in the kitchen.
My poor dog doesnt understand why Im standing naked, in the kitchen, and washing too. She has never understood the whole principal of taking showers, anyway. I can see it in her eyes. I take off my clothes (she wonders how I can take off my outer covering, and she can not take off her fur) and climb into the shower, purposefully getting wet. It is a concept that is completely foreign to her. Almost daily, I remind her that if she had opposable thumbs like humans do, she could do a lot of things.
The Bishop had forgotten he was going to check on the price, so I reminded him.
The Bishop picked it up for me, put it into the back of his truck, and delivered it. This thing must weigh 125 pounds. We lift it out of the truck and put it in the front yard until I can get the old one out.
We disconnect the pipes from the old one, and with much grunting and heaving, get it to the top of the stairs and eventually, outside. After I got it outside, I decided to empty it of all the water. The Bishop, at that point, reminded me that it would have been 350 pounds lighter if I had drained it before we carried it up the stairs.
I wont go into installing the heater, because it was pretty much straight forward. A couple of pipes were cut, fittings were used, and it popped right in.
Got the heater in and fired up. It is making hot water, I can see that. Flames under the heater; big, warm flames. Now Im anxious to take a shower. I go upstairs, take off all my clothes, sit at the computer buck naked, decide to check my e-mail, then get to the shower. I had forgotten something.
Water in my hometown comes direct from the mountains. It is cold, just a few degrees above freezing. At times I think ice cubes come out of the tap, it is that cold. I had no concept how long it takes 50 gallons of really cold water to warm up to something that might pass for a showering temperature.
Here I am, sitting naked at the computer, checking my e-mail, and checking the water coming out of the tap every 5 minutes, for two and one half-hours, waiting.
I decided to go down stairs and check that the water heater is working. It is going great guns. Spot my old racing helmet and decided to take it up stairs, but my hands were full, so I put the helmet on my head. Im going up the stairs as the Bishop comes into the house, wanting to check my progress. He takes one look at me, naked, wearing a racing helmet, and says having an exciting weekend, Bob?
Now I have hot water, I have caught up on my showers, and dont have to go through this again for another 15 years, 1 month and 4 days. That is April 7, 2017, I have marked my calendar.
On My Way to Viet Nam
Memories of that day.
5 Jan 1969 I kiss my wife and kids good bye and board the plane in the El Paso Airport, heading to San Francisco, eventually to Viet Nam. There were a few other GI on board, since El Paso has Ft. Bliss Texas and White Sands Missile Range close to it.
I get off the plane and , walking down the concourse spot a blinking sign COLD BEER. Although it is only 11 am that sounded awfully good to me. After all, Im heading to Viet Nam.
Belly up to the bar, 2 Sp5s are beside me, they both got off the same plane from El Paso. Bartender asked both of them for ID, but not me. I said how come you didnt ask me His reply you have 3 hash marks on your sleeve, that means 9 years in the Army Sarge, there is no way you could be under 21 and have 9 years in the Army. Smart man.
Whcha gonna have? I said Tall, cold draft, and give these guys what they want, on me. Lord, I had no idea what I was doing. Bartender We have a special today, 2nd beer for 5 cents, do you want a 2nd beer? Ill pour it later when you finish your first. I said Sure, cant beat that deal, and besides, what are they gonna do to me if I report in with beer on my breath, Send me to Viet Nam? Im still clueless as to what is happening that day.
Now, the rule is If somebody buys you a beer, you buy them one back. The 2 Sp5s and I finish our 2 beers each, and of course, one of them orders another round (round 3, remember the beer for a nickel). We are sitting there in the bar talking, in our greens, all 3 of us going to RVN for the first time, and of course having concerns.
Beer 4 finished. Probably noon by now. We should go catch the bus to the Oakland terminal. However, the last of the party needs to buy his round (beer 5 and 6). After all, what are they gonna do to us, send us to Viet Nam?
I was a SSG E-6, and by now the 2 E-5s are looking to me for guidance. Man had they picked the wrong NCO to follow. I didnt have a clue.
Beer 5 & 6 gone, and the bartender says hey guys, let me buy you a beer. With what little wisdom I had left, I said we really shouldnt, we need to catch the bus to Oakland. The bartender pointed out that the Oakland Terminal buses run all day and night, besides, what are the gonna do to you, send you to Viet Nam? Made a lot of sense to me, Fill em up.
The day wore on, businessmen and women were in and out of the bar and the beers kept flowing. It seems as though the business people kept buying us beer after beer, and the 5 cent bonus beer, too. Finally about 6 PM, I sloshed up to the new bartender (the shift having been changed), and said that we need to get going, please dont let anybody else buy us a beer. He laughed and said we had 10 beers each all paid for, and besides, what are the gonna do to you, send you to Viet Nam?.
About 9 that night, 3 very drunk GIs got on the bus to Oakland.
We pulled into Oakland Army Terminal, and a kind NCO gave us bunks to sleep it off. He said he would log us in reporting before midnight, and we could process for Viet Nam transportation in the morning.
Next morning, get up, hung over like a bastard, and we report in for real. I lost track of the other 2 guys.
The Army indicated I wasnt going to fly out for a couple of days, but they had a job for me. Gave me a white helmet liner and sent me outside the door to direct people into the processing plant.
Im outside, white helmet, clueless, and standing around, looking like an official. This young man walks up to me, bag in his hand and says Sarge, Im AWOL. I was supposed to report here 3 days ago, but I got drunk at the San Francisco Airport and got thrown in jail. I asked him if he got the 2nd beer for 5 cents or not?
Now AWOL, to me, is pretty serious, so I take him inside for processing. I walk up to the NCO that has assigned me to doorman duty, and tell him that the young man is AWOL, but turned himself in. He sends me back out side to do the white helmet thing again.
A few minutes later, out comes the young man. I asked him what had happened, and he responded The NCO you gave me to was getting off shift in a few minutes, and he didnt want to start the paperwork on me, so he asked if I would come back in an hour, when the next shift started.
I turned in my white helmet, found a rack and slept 8 full hours.
I guess I should describe the processing place at Oakland Army Terminal. A warehouse. With bunk beds. A motel room for 30,000 GIs. Organized chaos. Transportation formations every hour, mandatory, 24 hours a day. (I found out they werent so mandatory, if you were sleeping, they simply put you on the next hours planes). They were filling planes.
After about 5 or 6 formations, they finally called my name. They herded us all into a group, probably 200 troops, and assigned a SSG E-6 to be in charge. Guess who? Yep, clueless me.
They took us all over to OUR AREA, where we were to stay until a plane was ready. OUR AREA consisted of 200 bunks, all lined up. I got my troops in a formation, and told them that we would do everything as a group, including going to chow. We went back to OUR AREA. I laid down on my rack.
Sergeant, when are we going to chow? Rudely awakened. I said When they tell us it is time for chow, Ill let you know. Put my head back on the pillow Serge, when is chow?. Damn it, cant I lie down for a sec!!!
Fall out! I said! Troops, I can not and will not answer each and every one of your questions, individually You will be told when to go to chow, and we will march to the chow hall. Got it, Good!
They call my name over the loud speaker system, I report to the dispatch office. They give me 15 more troops to take to RVN, these were AWOLS who had turned themselves in for overstaying leaves. Not really criminals (oh how my opinions had changed in the last 24 hours). I was to take special care of them, making sure they ALL arrived. SURE!!!! Like I had 200 other troops all asking me if it was chow time, and now, 15 more to watch 24 hours a day.
I got my special charges together and told them to watch each other.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we loaded up on a big plane. They handed me a ream of papers and told me to give them to the troops after we took off. The paperwork was transportation orders.
Wheels up, ½ hour passes, and I decide to hand out the orders. The first one I hand out, the young man says Hey Sarge, my name is misspelled. The 2nd one I had out, the young man says This has my MOS wrong.
I stop handing out the orders. I go to the stewardess and ask if I can use the speaker. You are getting transportation orders. These cover you from here to RVN. If there is a mistake on them, The United States Army has authorized me to sincerely apologize for the errors, but we can not change the orders on board the airplane. Just hang on to them, guard them with you life, and when we get to Viet Nam, I will personally make sure the errors are corrected. Please note, I was not clueless , I had learned.
Hawaii, Guam, Okinawa, then Saigon, we arrived.
Justice in Fairbanks
Many years ago, I was arrested in Fairbanks, AK., for buying a resident fishing license when I was in fact a non-resident. In my defense, I was 10 day short of being a resident (one year), and I decided to go to court and tell the judge. Yes, they are that serious about their fishing laws in Alaska.
I got there early, front row seat, and what a circus it was.
Fairbanks, during the pipeline boom was a small town gone wild. There were shooting in the streets, prostitutes galore, and general lawlessness. It was a modern version of Dodge City in the 1870s.
The crowd gathered. There were domestic violence cases, of course, check kiters, probation breakers, and me, your hunting and fishing scofflaw. Probably 100-150 people waiting in the courtroom for the judge.
Then they brought in the jail population, all in handcuffs 15-20 of them.
I remember 2 prostitutes, both black, handcuffed together. They were smiling, and joking, looking over each person in the audience, winking and blowing kisses to us.
Another guy was obviously a hard core criminal. They seated him in the jury box and handcuffed him to a iron rail. He propped his feet up on the rail.
The bailiff came in and gave us all copies of instructions on how the court was going to proceed that morning. The bailiff said they were sheets used to protect our rights. The hard core criminal said stick my rights up your ass, and threw the papers on the ground.
HERE COM DA JUDGE
All rise (Mr. Hardcore couldnt be bothered, but the rest of us did) and the judge hammered us into session.
He noticed 3 lawyers, 2 Highway Patrolman and a Fish and Game officer sitting at a table and asked why they were there. One of the lawyers said THE MITCHELL CASE, YOUR HONOR.
Holy crap, that is ME!!! 3 lawyers and 3 police men against me, and all I want to do is tell the judge I was 10 days shy of being a resident when I bought my license.
The judge asked me to stand and read me my rights and asked me how I wanted to plead.
I looked at the table full of legal people, 3 lawyers, and 3 cops, and decided that innocent wasnt going to be an option. I said nolo contendra (meaning Im guilty, but perhaps Im not, Im not going to fight it, however, but I want to tell you my side of the story) (man, Latin is descriptive).
Enough about my case, small potatoes, I got 4 months of probation on condition of good behavior and obeying all the fishing laws.
The hardcore criminal gave me a thumbs up, applauded; and the 2 prostitutes winked at me and tried to give me their business cards.
I stayed and watched the proceedings of the others.
One young man had been arrested at 4 am for Driving Under the Influence. He was one of the jail contingent. Here he was at 8 am, probably still drunk, pleading guilty. The judge gave him one year probation, suspended his driving privileges after dark (Fairbanks, in the summer, has sunlight 24 hours a day) and sent him on his way.
Another crook, a check kilter, was fined $100, and she asked if the clerk could take a check.
Lots of restraining orders were imposed on guys for the domestic violence thing.
The really bad guy, didnt bother to stand, and the judge let him sit, just referring him to jail, and another court date.
I spent the morning in the court, and it really was an eye opener. I highly recommend a visit to your local court for a mornings entertainment.