Jack Birge Biography of BSU-1/MST-1



Bio for BIRGE, JACK L, EN2   March 64-Feb 67 


3/24/64—Arrived Coronado Amphib Base for duty in Boat Training Team 7, same day as returning from WestPac cruise aboard USS Oriskany, CVA-34.  Reported to a bare building with single desk being used as the Quarter Deck.  While waiting for rest of unit to arrive, was granted a short leave. 

5/28/64---Self Protection and Survival Training completed and ordered to Danang for duty with MST1-64.  Our team consisted of  Paul Sultaire, GMG-1   Jack Pratt, EN-1   James Warren, BM-2   Paul Harrell, EM-2   Budiongan, SK-2  along with myself.  I remember arriving in Saigon and we really had problems getting someone to help locate our unit in Danang.  During this tour, assigned to Engine Shop, performed maint on PTF 3-4-5-6, assisted in the training of the Viet Navy and made regular mail runs to the Air Force Base.  PT 1 and 2 were old gas burners from WW2 and due to heavy maint required to keep running, shipped to Pearl Harbor where they were radio controlled equipped and used for Submarine target drones.  I had the task of de-fueling prior to loading on the LSD for transport.  One day we were expecting a ship from Subic Bay with a replacement engine for one of the PTF’s and I remember thinking, being there was no American flags allowed, I didn’t want a trigger happy sailor on the supply ship to start shooting as I pulled the Mike boat aside.  To solve this problem, we found a regulation boat American flag in supply and after I pulled away from the pier, raised it to the top of our radio mast.  Must of worked, did not get friendly fire and being supply would not claim the flag, I kept it and still have that flag today. I like to say that I flew the first American Flag in Danang. 

11/64---Departed for home base (Coronado) with original team where I helped test and evaluate numerous type craft to see how they would fit in the Viet conflict.  Many a day spent in the back bay of San Diego testing the boats.  Those PBR’s were fun to play with. 

5/65---Headed back to Danang, this time the unit was Mobile Support Team 3, only in country a few days then off to Subic Bay to test two new PTF’s that had just been retro-fitted.  Did you know that the original PTF’s had a Mess area and Chiefs Quarters but was removed to add extra fuel tanks?  A good time running the boats through sea trails  and good liberty in Olongapo.  On the way back to Danang, the Navy had no scheduled flights, so we went to the Air Force base for a flight home.  Having to lay over, we decided we would go to the NCO Club for dinner but when we arrived, was told only E-6,7&8’s allowed.  Micheal Belding, EN-1 was our senior team leader and being we were in civilian clothes, he showed his ID and I don’t know what he told the doorman, but we were allowed to enter and treated like we were really somebody.  That was my first experience sampling the local sugar cane Rum and I might add, the last.   Back to Danang to complete our tour.  One event that really stands out that took place in Oct, one dark night we had a mission laid on for the Northern sector and during engine run-up, the mission was cancelled without a reason.  A couple of days later, we learned that was the night the USS Maddox had a shoot out with a couple of boats from up North and it was believed the boats were laying in wait for our boats and mistook the Maddox for us—this was when the war escalated and the prices for everything went thru the roof due to the Marines coming to the area.   It really was a sight to see boat loads of battle ready Marines storming ashore beside our base to be greeted by the local Mayor and even a band with school children handing out flowers, I don’t know what they expected, but I’m sure it wasn’t that type of reception. 

11/29/65---Departed for home base, left Saigon in short sleeves and our plane was re-routed to Long Beach due to fog in San Fran, had to wait a couple of hours for customs to arrive.  Here we are, midnight in Northern Calif, temp in low 40’s and we all still have on short sleeve shirts.  I had a bottle of Jim Beam (duty tax free) and we went behind the building out of the wind and passed it around to get some anti-freeze circulating in our system.  Three days, same clothes, no shower and on the red eye to San Diego with a plane load of business suit types folks who really gave us the stare.   Now the unit was called BSU-1.  

     A new shop had been build and really a choice assignment hanging out with fine folks like Chief Green, Tina Edwards, James Rose, James Thomas and my cousin “Reb” Lawerence, to name just a few.  During this period I worked primary with the Bertrams, even had one blow me in the water causing 2nd degree burns on my arms and face.  I knew the bilge blower fuse was blown and even had one on order, but the Operations Officer would not turn loose any funds to purchase local and ordered me to go to Point Loma to refuel anyway.  I’m glad I had entered this in my Engineer Log prior to the accident.  I often wondered why there was no accident investigation convened, maybe because the 1st Lt got caught with his pants down as the old saying goes.

     A little known fact regarding Chief Rose, he came to our unit from duty on the White House Staff.  One day he gets a call from DC and was asked to recommend someone to fill a slot that was becoming available.  He asked me if I was interested in transferring to the DC area for some outstanding shore duty but he could not tell me any details of the nature of assignment.  I couldn’t pass this up and after an extensive back ground check, received orders in March, 67, for Naval Admin Unit, Thurmont, Md.  If you haven’t guessed, this is Camp David, (White House Staff) and that starts another page in my 33 year career in the Military. 

Jack Birge CWO-2 (US Army Retired)

Crestview, Fl     850-902-3974