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Return to Trang Sup
May 6, 2011

I've been reminiscing about Trang Sup and 5th TAC. In the spring of ‘68, I returned to Vietnam to remove the radar from my old site on Trang Sup. Dear old Detachment 7, 619th Tactical Control Squadron had, alas, been deactivated; tossed on the ash heap of history. Two things must be understood early on: 1 – I had returned to Trang Sup under protest; 2 – I do not enjoy driving large, multi-wheeled vehicles under any circumstances. From the moment we picked up the trucks at the motor pool on Clark in the Philippines and up to the point when we had everything loaded and were down in Tay Ninh West waiting to return to the PI, I had exercised my prerogative as crew chief and remained a passenger.

When we got to Trang Sup, we found that the site personnel had already dismantled and packed most of the radar gear. All we had to do was take down the radar tower, pack it up, and load the trucks. Seems the Permanent Party troops were in a hurry to leave Trang Sup for some reason. Taking down the tower took us a little longer than usual, because I stopped work in the middle of the day and resumed later on when things had cooled off a little. I saw no reason to give anybody heat stroke.

Then, word got passed around that a big attack was imminent, and we sort of speeded things up a tad, but it was too late. We wound up with six heavily loaded six-bys, deuce-and-a-halfs, or whatever you want to call them, down on the Army base in Tay Ninh West smack in the middle of the Tet Offensive. Charlie took delight in energetically mortaring and rocketing the hell out of the place on a daily basis. He seemed to particularly enjoy firing at the hospital.

At any rate, over the next two weeks or so, we managed to get transport out for each of the trucks, one by one until there was but one left. I told that driver to go on back to Clark with the remainder of the crew and I'd bring the truck back myself on the next available flight. So, I was left with a loaded six-by and the Captain. Our anticipated one day wait for a flight lengthened into another week. By now, our supposed two weeks max TDY was rapidly about to pass a month in duration. Finally, the Captain decided that he was going up to Saigon and stand on somebody's desk. “The next time you see me,” he declared, it'll be on the flight out of here.”

He then disappeared for about another week, leaving me alone amongst a bunch of strangers with a truckload of radar gear to guard at night by the rockets' red glare and the mortars bursting... well, you get the idea. Fortunately, the Army took pity and continued to feed me. During the day, I slept in the empty recreation room that the Army had provided to house my crew. Meanwhile, in addition to the attacks on Tay Ninh West, I had a ringside seat as the VC attempted to overrun the Special Forces camp up on Nui Ba Den. The mountain is clearly visible from Tay Ninh. Indeed, it can be seen for miles from any direction.

After about another week of waiting, I'd just about decided that my Captain had forgotten about me and returned to the PI alone. Either that or, consumed with frustration, he really had leapt up on somebody's desk and been summarily thrown into LBJ for gross insubordination. I hoped it wasn't the latter, because he was a good guy, and I liked him. Then came a phone call alerting me that he had gotten us a flight out and would see me shortly.

Soon, here he came, racing into the rec room to tell me that we had about ten minutes to retrieve the truck and get it down to where an aircraft waited. “We've got to get one of the Army guys to drive the truck to the plane, and we have no time to waste!” he panted. “They're not going to wait for us.” “Who needs the Army to drive?” I asked, picking up my already packed gear. “Let's get the truck.” The Captain looked at me in surprise. “I thought you said you couldn't drive a Six-by.” “No, Sir,” I replied, “I never said I couldn't, I said I wouldn't. Now, I've changed my mind. Let's go!”

The Captain just shook his head as I chauffeured us rapidly down to the flight line, and backed our limo right up to the plane. (I would have backed it on board, but I guess the Loadmaster didn't trust me.) “Sergeant Woodfork,” the Captain said, “you never cease to surprise me.” Little did he know – even if I hadn't known how to drive one of those things, I'd have learned on the way to the plane in order to get away from Tay Ninh and Tet. Mama Woody didn't raise no fools; I'd already done my year's tour in Nam; this crap was extra.

Oh, hell, I nearly left out the best part. When I finally got back to 5th TAC in the Philippines, The Powers That Be informed me that three of the trucks, still loaded with electronic gear, had mysteriously disappeared. (They had all been signed out to me.) Millions of dollars worth of equipment, for which I was responsible, had simply vanished, and they wanted to know what I was going to do about it.

“Well,” I said, “first I'm going home and make love to my girlfriend. Then, tomorrow, I'll come back and we can discuss my promotion to five stars so that I can pay for all this shit.” How the hell was I supposed to know what had happened to the trucks? I was in Tay Ninh, thousands of miles away, hiding from mortars when the vehicles arrived back on Clark.

They eventually turned up some time later. I forget now exactly what had happened to them. I do know that it was something stupid; somebody had moved them to a different area from where the drivers had parked them as they arrived, one at a time. They were still fully loaded when found.
Thurman P. WoodforkBy Thurman P. Woodfork
Copyright 2003

About Author... Thurman P. Woodfork (Woody) spent his Air Force career as a radar repairman in places as disparate as Biloxi, Mississippi; Cut Bank, Montana; Tin City, Alaska; Rosas, Spain and Tay Ninh, Vietnam. In Vietnam, he was assigned to Detachment 7 of the 619th Tactical Control Squadron, a Forward Air Command Post located on Trai Trang Sup. Trang Sup was an Army Special Forces camp situated about fifty miles northwest of Saigon in Tay Ninh province, close to the Cambodian border. After Vietnam, Woody remained in the Air Force for nine more years. Visit Thurman P. Woodfork's site for more information

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