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Trip home… Leaving Vietnam.. 1972


I got orders for home some time in April 1972, and I was glad to get them. I ‘d had enough of Vietnam by then. I had recently been busted by the CO for stealing his jeep (I had just borrowed it for a while) and got an Article 15 for it. An Article 15 is one step away from a court martial. I left for the Hue/Phu Bai International Airport (!) to catch a ride south, I didn’t sign out or turn in my weapon. As far as I know, that M-16 is still leaning up against a wall in my hooch. I think I owe the Government 300 bucks for it.

I got to the airfield to find that all the available aircraft were ferrying troops north, as the Easter offensive was still going on. No hope for a fllight south, I took to the road. Some old wreck of a french truck picked me up. I sat in the back with a few black toothed papasans and barrels of what smelled like fish. We got along great till we got to this roadblock. There was a recent firefight there and you could still smell the fireworks. Those papasans were starting to look funny so I hopped off this truck and got on one full of ARVN’s as they were all armed. These guys took me to Danang, and one of them befriended me took me to his house for the night. His family was nice and they treated me to a Vietnamese meal but no one could speak english. The next morning I could see that my bag looked like it had been rifled thru, so I left in a huff. I still regret that, as they were really nice people. Nothing was missing and it was probably just the kids that had gotten into it.

I walked into the Danang airbase looking for a ride and the MP’s went crazy… I guess Danang proper was off limits to GI’s… They also relieved me of my AK 47… it was a nice Russian underfolder too… I think they were just looking for souvenirs… There was no way I could get it home anyway. Finally got a flight to Saigon… however, the C130 had more Vietnamese, pigs, goats and whatever riding along than GI’s… Then the engine quit… a couple of hours later and another airplane and we were on our way…

I spent a week in Saigon before I got a flight out. I hung out in this bar for a while, full of marines that were off duty. Then a bunch of Austrailian grunts wandered in. I could see things were getting tense so I left… It wasn’t 5 minutes before people were getting thrown out the windows and such…

To get on the plane, you and your stuff had to go into a little room with a marine in it. He decided whether to take you apart or not.. They didn’t want drugs or guns going home.. I made it thru… and off on the way home. The ride back was pretty subdued… wasn’t much chatter, compared to the ride there… about forever later we were above Oakland…. but couldn’t get down. They waved us off as some woman shot a GI getting off the plane ahead of us. Seems her husband got killed by friendly fire over in Nam. We finally did get down, though, and were greeted by a large group of hippie protestors. After the usual charge of babykilling… they went home and I was finally loose in the USA…

They had a welcome home meal for us at Oakland Army Replacement Station. It looked like a big pile of steaks so I loaded up and sat down for some chow. It was liver. Who were they kidding. So I headed for home. I don’t really remember why, whether I was short of cash, (The army had lost my records, so getting paid was sporadic) or still had some wanderlust left in me, I decided to hitchhike home. I got a ride in the back of some pickup truck that night, but the temperatures in the mountains were below freezing, and I had just came back from the tropics. Yikes.

Somehow I lived thru that and had a pretty uneventful trip home. I was picked up in Nebraska by the cops as they were always looking for AWOL’s. (They didn’t even look at the obvious criminal types hitchhiking along side me.) I found the truck drivers the best. They fed me along the way and even gave me money to complete my trip.

But I did make it home…. I had 6 months left to go at Fort Bragg… but that is another story…



  1. Bill

    I hope you are keeping copies of all these dispatches. These are really interesting. You should write a book.

  2. Greg

    Good idea Bill, Also, I think you’ve got some stories to tell…

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