Larry Johnson PN3, BSU-1 DaNang
Hi Dan, I've been communicating with Alan Sandoval after not having talked to him in years and he said you're interested in what it was like for me at Danang. I was a reservist and received my orders out of Treasure Island in San Francisco. Everyone was getting the USS this or that. My orders say BSU-l, USNAV AMPHIB BASE, San Diego. I asked the clerk what the hell is that? He didn't know! So I joined the reserves so I wouldn't be going to Vietnam, and what do I get, a river boat squad! So, I check in as a Seaman and the PN says, I see you can type. I said yes, I'm pretty good. He says, come on back here behind the counter, You're hired.
Being the paper pusher of the outfit, it wasn't very exciting most of the time, but certainly memorable. BSU-l used to send it's guys by "bus" to Vietnam. I'll never forget going over to North Island and waiting for a plane with about 3 or 4 other guys. We finally boarded a 4 engine prop job that made about 4 layovers before getting to Saigon. I never knew they turned off two engines to save gas while flying! The first night in Saigon was a real eye opener. Apparently our B-52's were dropping bombs somewhere not too far away and all I could think about all night was I was sure glad they weren't dropping those bombs on me.
Anyway the next day, I hitched a ride up to Danang and was introduced to our group and it's unique situation. The small camp next to the Navy base, the different uniforms, our two man quarters that were pretty comfortable, the little dining room where you actually ordered what you wanted from the Vietnamese mess crew, a real nightclub with bar, that I later found out was actually all intended as a R&R spot for the green berets.
Our base where we kept the boats was, if I remember right, about 2 miles out at the mouth of the harbor. It was high security, but it didn't feel that way. Lots of RVN troops running around as they had their base across the road and down the street. We used to murder them in Volleyball, you know the SEALS, they loved to play volleyball. Besides taking care of everyone's records, I would occasionally go out on training missions with the boats. You've seen the descriptions of the night raids on the U.S. cruisers with the radar going down half the time.
Memorable times include our own little beach which was beautiful. I could picture a hotel in there some day, it was that nice. Let me say right here that I never was hard up enough to have anything to do with Goldie. I'll never forget learning to single ski in that little bay. Or the Vietnamese fishermen fishing by concussion grenades.
One of my tasks was to pick up and return the weekly entertainers to their quarters after coming to camp fay. The Aussies were the best looking by far and wore the shortest skirts I ever saw. Seeing the Bob Hope show at Xmas in Danang will always stay with me. I did go to Taipei for R&R and spent about $1000 on who knows what? The plane coming back from Saigon to Danang, a C-130?, made a really fast and hard stop to drop off a jeep in the jungle and burnt the motors. So upon landing in Danang, they lowered the back ramp, with smoke pluming in, and the Sergeant suggested we exit whenever we wanted, this with the plane still going about 25 mph! So, I put my hand on this little Vietnamese guy in front of me and said, "it's time!" The danger here was we were being chased by fire trucks and I thought we might get run over. I lost some personal things in the plane and a Lt. suggested I file a claim. I thought he was kidding, but damn if I didn't get re-imbursed.
We did do a lot of shooting, either at the range or off the boats. The m-16 is an awesome rifle, extremely accurate. Although, we did our own clips, and liked to put in tracers with the rounds just for the show. I did occasionally see some green berets coming through, but it seemed they worked with the Vietnamese soldiers and then went on ops with them. I only heard of one not coming back.
I've seen where the watch tower was described. It was unique as you had quite a view, all the way down the harbor into town almost. The guys were all memorable, but it was a long time ago. I remember one CO getting upset because during an air raid, he was the only one to go to the bunker. That was because we all felt safe at our location. The enemy would have had to go through the 101'st to get to us. Not very likely.
I live here in San Diego now and I see the new style river boats that come from the amphib base and they're quieter and faster than ever, very powerful.
Sorry I don't have anything that can be made into a movie or novel, but like I said, it was a memorable time, if that's the correct word, and I'll never forget it.
PN3 A. L. (Larry) Johnson P.S.
The trip home went from Danang to the Philipines to Okinawa to Japan where I couldn't get a ride. A warrent officer from the unit came through and he got us a MAC flight home, about a week total flying time.