Those of us at the Naval Air Facility in Cam Rahn Bay have a rather good life when compared with most American soldiers in Vietnam. The area, after all, is a beach resort and used an in-country Rest and Relaxation center. Men who lived through horrors of war are asked to please forgive me for this war story.
The Naval Facility seems almost luxurious compared with the local Army camp, for example. Sailors enjoy paved roads, live in barracks with floors, doors, windows, flush toilets, and air conditioning. The Army camp is hot, gritty and dug into the dirt. Men live in tents, use latrines and have to burn their sewage. Only the local Air Force base out does the Navy in the area of creature comforts. Entering the air base with paved roads, sidewalks, and green lawns is like visiting a typical state-side base.
Still daily life at the Naval Facility can be rather boring and confining. Base Commander Henderson is said to be a religious man who doesn’t approve of his men visiting ladies at the local village of My Ca. He’s doing his best to control Venereal Disease one supposes, but in short order I feel imprisoned. One can only get away from the base on special assignments or by volunteering for sometimes dangerous missions.
While men living in the boon docks of the war might not have much pity for our life at Cam Rahn, too much free time brings our own problems. A routine develops where one works, eats, sleeps, and drinks at the Enlisted Men’s Club. There is an outdoor movie screen where the films change weekly, and there’s even a base swimming pool. The beach is close and there’s great snorkeling and surfing. Still, I look for diversions.
One Sunday at the beach the base Parachute Riggers brought a parachute. At first we fly it like a kite and almost become airborne. We also find we can float in the water, inflate the chute, and sail it out to sea. It was a great day but a tad dangerous as it was easier to sail out to sea than swim back to shore. In this process I become acquainted with the men of the parachute loft. Soon I have an unlimited supply of strong thread and rip-stop parachute material.
With this new supply source, I decide to build the world’s largest kite. Finding some bamboo at the beach, I make cross sticks about six high by four feet wide. On the floor of the darkroom, several of us glue rip-stop nylon to the frame. Using parachute thread for string, the kite flies like an enormous white bird. Cam Rahn sea breezes are so strong that gloves are required to hold the taunt thread. The kite soars over My Ca Village, and I try to dangle the tail low enough for children to chase. Finally the thread snaps and the kite falls into My Ca. This is so much fun we go into kite production and keep a tethered craft in the air every spare moment.
We lose so many kites women from the village arrive for work with garments made from rip-stop from our handy work. I bring the whole kite mania era to an end one breezy afternoon when I catch the tail of my kite in the concertina wire that provides a tangle of razor sharp barbed wire around the Naval Air Facility. The concertina barrier is rigged with hair-trigger wires connected to trip flairs. I try to gently free the kite as it struggles like in the wind like a trapped eagle.
I get finally get hold of the kite and pull it close enough to use my knife to cut the tail free. Unfortunately freeing the tail makes a spring-like action that sets off a trip-flair. The soaring flair signals an attack and this brings the whole area under Red Alert. I crush the kite into a small bundle and run to hide in the barracks as jets are launched and Marines are deployed. In that moment, I’m not bored. I run for cover like a sand lot baseball player who had just busted a window.
Cam Rahn BayVietnamkite flyingMy Ca VillageNaval Air FacilityPhoto labCaptain Henderson