218th MP Co Letters (Simmons)
To all former 218th MPs,
Just thought I'd throw in my two cents worth. Reading over Dick's letter and going through all these pictures has brought back a lot of memories although I am sad to say there were very few names I could put with faces.
Some of the things I remember begin with the first night in April 68, in Cam Rahn Bay waiting for transportation to the 218th and lying in a bunk listening to gunfire and watching flares float through the sky, and me without a gun. I heard "Spooky" that night, but didn't know what that was at the time. The next day we loaded up on a duece and a half for the trip to Nha Trang. Along the way we stopped where several dead VC had been laid beside the road, victims of "Spooky" the night before. They were all shot up, most had been hit multiple times. Still me without a gun and I was getting a little concerned about that. I remember being told as Dick said, that we'd be shot at on the road to Nha Trang although we weren't. I do remember that first night at Camp McDermott though there was a mortar attack. The "old timers" told how lucky we were because they had slept in tents until the barracks were built just before we arrived. Does anyone remember the engineers building the shower house with water tanks on top for (sun heated) hot water?
Everyone probably remembers the Special Services beach that was cordoned off with concertina wire. I was at Nha Trang a year but was only on the beach two times. The first afternoon after signing in the Company and drawing all our gear we were given the rest of the afternoon off. I think Dave Morrisette and I spent a few hours on the beach that day. I wound up blistered so bad I had to pay somebody to pull my first two or three days duty. That first visit gave me reason not to hurry back even if I had of had the free time, a man-of-war jellyfish swam close enough I could have touched it and then there were other things floating in the water - well everyone probably remembers what the locals used the beach for every morning. Almost a year later while I was assigned to MPI, during an inspection at the CID office, I was detailed to drive the visiting SGM around that day. He wanted to spend a few hours on the beach, he never did know why I stayed out of the water.
I too remember the smell, especially downtown, and the size of the rats you'd see on night patrols. It was quite an education for me, not my first time away from home, but my first time in a foreign country. I can still remember the way the Vietnamese drove, especially at the traffic circles, and being amazed at how many people and animals they could stuff in a Lambretta or even a bus. Does anyone remember on convoys to Ban Me Thuot (?) along a narrow road, one side looking down 100 feet or so into the ocean and the other side straight up? We had to make Papasan back up his bus for a long way until he reached a place wide enough for the convoy to pass. Like most of us I guess, in addition to town patrol, I manned a M-60 on convoy escort, pulled guard duty at the BOQ, and in a tower at the port, one day I lucked out and was assigned to the power boats off shore (great food). Then one morning I was called to the CO out of guard mount. I had about a years prior experience in civilian law enforcement before the Army and was told that was why I was being sent to MPI. There were five MPs assigned there, SSG George Sato was the NCOIC, Terry Johnson, Scotty and myself. *I have since been reminded that Bob Wesley was also there at that time. We worked all kinds of misdemeanors and occasionally CID would use us because they were all too old to pass for anything other than an Officer or NCO. We worked a lot of money exchanges on the middle eastern merchants. We lived in a small plywood hut on top of the CID office downtown. For a long time we had a single 38 snub nose pistol and six rounds of ammo which we passed among us to the one who had duty. The villa was guarded by a Chinese guard with a shotgun. Everytime there was activity on the street he would hide under the jeep. At the end of my first tour I decided to re-up for that big (seemed like it then) $6,000.00 bonus. Tax free if you re-enlisted in a combat zone. That earned me a 30 day leave back home and at the airport I met SSG Lobrano who was NCOIC at Ban Me Thuot. He said everyone in his detachment was a volunteer and he was looking for an NCO, since I had recently been promoted to buck sgt I volunteered to go to BMT when I returned from leave. I think there was basically a squad of MPs at BMT. The compound was MACV and I believe we were the only USARV troops there. The guys I can remember by name there were Gerry Dewey, Danny Deke, Thompson, Coleman and Ramirez. SSG Lobrano was eventually replaced by SFC Earl Simpson. When I first arrived at BMT we had one day off each week and most of the guys had decided they would rather spend it giving the door gunners at the nearby aviation unit a break. Their 1SG really thought a lot of the MPs for that and eventually put one of our guys in for an Air Medal once he had enough hours in the choppers. This prompted a visit from our SGM to relay the message that either the 16th MP Gp or 18th MP Bde CDR did not want MPs in helicopters, we had jeeps and that was where he wanted us. Among other duties we had joint patrols with the QC and local white mice. One day the 1/17th Air Cav took over what had been the USAF airfield outside town. Their MAJ came to the PMO to ask us to fly "last light recons" with them. The QCs and VN police had refused to go unless our MPs went along. The MAJ was told to contact our higher HQ if he wanted us to fly. Strangely, within a few days we received word that we were to support the aviation company's mission. Several 218th MPs wound up with enough flying hours to be awarded the Air Medal. More than once I remember flying along the river near the Ho Chi Minh trail and seeing green tracers fired up at the choppers. Our real purpose for those flights were to check out the locals around the airfield for VC while it was still daylight. We had a pretty tight knit group and one night the MACV CDR ordered a shakedown of our billets. They finally searched our area under protest and confiscated a banana clip for an AK47 and a couple of other items. In 1969 (December I think) the entire MACV compound burned to the ground, the detachment moved to the aviation compound and the new PMO had just been completed by Feb '70 when I was leaving for home. My replacement was SGT Guin.
Around 2007 I started trying to locate anyone I served with in Vietnam. I finally made contact with Wayne Kirby, Dick Reiter and Ernie Rich. Our desire to find even more veteran friends has led to my working on this website and through this I have already been in touch with a few more. Hopefully our contacts will continue to spread. As you can see from the Reunions page some of the guys from 70-71 time frame have been getting together, this was their third. I hope we can arrange an even larger get together soon. Hopefully this website and the Letters page will cause more 218th members to correspond. If nothing else just send a note to let everyone know you are still around. I've thought a lot about the guys I served with in the 218th and wondered what has become of them. I wonder if anyone ever heard from Ramirez after he was medi-vaced from Ban Me Thuot? Sadly in the process of all this I have found that several of our number have already passed away. All the more reason for those of us remaining to get together every time we have an opportunity.
Hope this finds you in good health,
*Edited June 2010
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