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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 22,336

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South Arizona!



Know what I mean, Vern?


My Vietnamese friend, Kiem, stole a C-130 on April 28, 1975. He was a captain in the VNAF (Viet Nam Air Force), flying C-130s out of Tan San Nhut Air Base (Saigon). The Viet Cong (National Liberation Front) and NVA (PAVN – People’s Army of Vietnam) had surrounded Saigon, and the end was certain.

Kiem conspired with another VNAF pilot and flight engineer to get a maximum load of fuel (against VNAF emergency policies in effect at the time, because of defections), and takeoff at dawn for Long Than North (about 35 miles east of Saigon). During the night, their families had fled Saigon in cars, on motor-scooters, or whatever, headed for Long Than North, for a rendezvous with either destiny or disaster early the next morning. They actually drove through VC and NVA lines on the way to Long Than.

Kiem and crew departed Tan San Nhut, as planned, on ginned-up mission orders. They turned east, and landed at Long Than a few minutes later. Shortly after sunrise.

Long Than North was my battalion headquarters (509th Radio Research Group, 224th AVN BTN). I was driven there, by truck, with a group of FNGs (newbies), a day or two after arriving in-country. Scary shit, in a duce, for a very FNG! And I flew in and out of there on admin missions from Cam Ranh Bay, on occasion. So I was very familiar with Long Than North. It had a single east-west instrument runway, about 8000 feet long (IIRC). Large rubber plantation on the north side of the runway.

Kiem circled and landed to the west. He taxied the big C-130 to the runway end as the rear ramp was lowered. The 57 family members of the three VNAF airmen were waiting at the end of the runway. Kiem, did a quick 180-turn, and the waiting family members scrambled onboard the Lockheed Hercules.

Meanwhile, several Soviet-built PT-76 tanks (NVA) came crashing through the rubber plantation. Kiem slammed the power levers forward, and started a takeoff to the east, as the engineer raised the rear ramp. A NVA truck, with a 12.7mm (50cal) gun in the back, raced the C-130 down the parallel taxiway, firing tracers at the airplane.

Kiem got the C-130 airborne, and headed east for the South China Sea. They checked for battle damage as they climbed. Miraculously, none. Then they waited for airborne interception by NVA MiGs, VNAF fighters (what were left), or US Navy fighter aircraft. Again, miraculously, none.

Kiem turned south, and headed for Singapore (had a full load of gas, almost). They landed at Singapore’s Changi Airport, taxied in, and requested fuel (to fly on to Australia to seek political asylum). Singapore wanted cash for fuel. Kiem called the US Embassy (or Consulate) and explained the problem. “When I get to Australia, the C-130 is YOURS,” Kiem said. A courier was dispatched to the airport with an briefcase full of US currency, enough to get Kiem and his precious cargo to Australia.

They made it, and within a year or so, all aboard immigrated to the USA. The airplane ended up at the Smithsonian Large Aircraft display, near Washington, DC. Ten years later, in 1985, Kiem was asked by the Smithsonian Institute to round up all of those refugees that he could, for a photo in front of the C-130 at Dulles International Airport. He did. A few had died, but the number was greater with children and babies born post-escape.

Kiem was in my new-hire pilot class at Piedmont Airlines. We became good friends. Having flown 250 virtually useless combat missions in that war, Kiem’s story gave me hope. But it brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it, so I rarely tell it. But the story is nowhere near over, as are typical with the unbelievable things that have happened to me in my 67 years. It gets better.

A few years after getting hired by my dream company, Piedmont Airlines, I was based in Washington, DC, at Washington National Airport (DCA). We lived there when I was hired, so it was a perfect base. We went to a Vietnamese restaurant in Arlington, Va., one night: the Queen Bee. We put our names on the list for a table, and sidled into the bar for a beer.
The walls in the bar at the Queen Bee were plastered with photos of VNAF units in Vietnam. T-28s, F-5s, AC-37s, helos, and C-130s. Naturally, I gravitated to the wall and studied the photos. As I enjoyed the cold beer and the photos, and elderly Vietnamese gentleman quietly showed up at my side (elderly then, probably much younger than I am now!).

“You like my photos, sir?” he asked. Ended up, he was the owner of the Queen Bee. "Yes .. yes I do, sir,” I said. He had been a colonel in the VNAF.

We talked. I told him that I had served in Vietnam. He asked me what I was doing now. I told him that I was an airline pilot, and – at the last minute – threw in the fact that I had a Vietnamese friend at Piedmont who had stolen a C-130 during the last days of Saigon.

“Oh, yes!” he said. “Kiem. I was his commanding officer.”

Incredible where this story had gone to this point. The colonel did not make it out of Vietnam. He spent seven years in a Communist re-education camp. He seemed to love my friend Kiem, and wanted contact information. But I said let me get Kiem to contact you.

I called Kiem and told him the story. He wept. He brought his family to Arlington for a reunion with his former commanding officer, at the Queen Bee.

I haven’t talked to Kiem in a while. Need to ring him up. They had two daughters, I think. Medical and dental school. What a family!


"Put On 'Yer Tin Foil Hats!"

The proverbial "black" helicopter overhead the lookout this morning. But it was not really black. I rendered the shot in B&W so that you cannot see the real colors, and I "starred" out the "N" number, so that you cannot look it up, like I did.
The helo flew around the Miami Fire for a while, feinted a landing at the Sawmill Run LZ, then landed in a dusty parking lot above the lookout, near the very top of Mt. Lemmon. Then it took off about 90 minutes later, and made this pass over the lookout.
I Googled the registration number. It was a Bell 407, owned by a Texas company that is putatively a front for a US Government agency (not the CIA, presumably).
I figured that it was a mission to check their antennae on Radio Ridge after the fire on Saturday (which did not get close).
But with Pinal Air Park so close by, one never knows. I asked waaay too many questions THERE in 2013!
Oops, got to go. There is a knock at the lookout door ..

April 20, 2015
22:15 MST

Why all the "front" companies? Who owns them? Who PROFIT$?

"Vow of Poverty" - the $7-million beach house of Rev. Mike Huckabee

"Vow of Poverty" or "No Outlet"
(my names for it, not Huckster's)
Blue Mountain Beach
Florida Panhandle
February 9, 2015

($7-million is the figure used by the locals, most of whom despise the Rev Mr Huckabee)

"Differences" - The incredible story of Samir Madden (from Arizona Public Media)

When Hell Freezes Over: Upstate South Carolina. (PHOTOS)

Alternate title: "What About Your Global Warming Now (You Prius-Driving-Pointy-Head Liberal)?"

The alternate title, is, BTW

Woke up to an 8-inch "dusting" after a night of howling blizzard. This is on Caesar's Head mountain in upstate SC, near the NC line.

Fall or winter. How about "Finter?" Next week "Fummer" will be back.

Oh, look at the stand of White Birch! Wrong! These are mixed hardwoods, snow-blasted during the 0430-0630 blizzard. They got blasted from the east first, then from the northwest. Must have been wet snow that froze as the temp dropped, because it stayed around all day (even in our 50+ mph winds).

Color amongst the Rhodys.

My three best photos for 2014 (so far)

I don't often post photos in GD. But when I do, I usually get away with it.

Barn on the French Broad River (Middle Fork), Transylvania County, NC

Sunrise, Memorial Day: Arizona Burning

Sunset, With Friends

My PBS mini-documentary (eight minutes)

I did about 99% of the still photos and 60% of the video on this Arizona Public Media/PBS mini-documentary. It played Arizona last week. As my first involvement with PBS, I am very proud! My voice-over in the second half, or so, was done in the WCQS (NPR) studios in Asheville, NC. What a great group there!

Last sunrise of the 2014 fire season, for me (A Two-fer!)

I'm outta the fire lookout, today. Headed home. I hope to be on I-10 by 1PM, eastbound. It was a nice, short season (April 6 - August 9). If I were in Oregon, I'd still have about 2.5 months left.

This morning's sunrise was spectacular. The sun came up, then came up again! The first "sunrise" was a reflection of the sun (which was still below the horizon) in high cirrus clouds. Then the "real" sun came up, and both the sun and the reflection continued to rise together. Can't remember ever seeing that before. What a send off! Two sunrises for one early morning wakeup.

DUers': How weird is this and, also, WTF?

I don't do Twitter, but I did signup a couple of years ago. Cut to the chase: "stevedeshazer", a long dead DUer (an Oregonian with the rabbit icon) sent me a tweet a week or so ago. I know that after Steve's death, his daughter posted for a short period. WTF is this scam?
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