Marvin Wolf, center, accepts the gold bar of a second lieutenant from Brig. Gen. Richard Becker, left, and Maj. John Phillips, right, in 1966. Photo courtesy of the author.
If There Was No Iwo Jima Airfield, I’d Have Been on My Knees Praying
It is August 1965 and I’m flying to Vietnam, a two-day journey with the First Cavalry Division’s advance party aboard an Air Force C-130. Twenty of us boarded the plane at Warner Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. We found the middle of the bird jammed with two jeeps, as many trailers, and a dozen pallets bulging with small-arms ammo, C rations, medical supplies, diesel generators, commo wire, rolls of barbed wire—and everything else required to build a base camp in the Vietnam jungle.
The front half of the cargo space is too warm. The back is too cold. Our veteran travelers grab seats in the jeeps. The rest of us slump on benches down each side of the fuselage. They are like lawn chairs, woven from some kind of plastic, and comfort is not their purpose.
There is a deep metal pan on one side, about three feet above the deck. A tube leads from its bottom through the wall and some valves and out into the slipstream. That’s the only place to urinate. Need to go number two? There’s a bucket half filled with sand. You use it, you clean it.
We cruise at 220 knots—roughly 250 miles per hour. Our plane is near the head of a sky train of 52 aircraft spaced out at 20-minute intervals—altogether we span more than 4,000 miles of the globe. It’s eight hours from Georgia to Travis Air Force Base, near San Francisco. Another eight to Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, then, another eight to Wake Island.
At each stop, we’re on the ground just long enough to refuel. There’s time for the latrine and a gobbled-down burger or some such...
From article in The War Horse
March 29, 2023 | Marvin J. Wolf
FROM Marvin J. Wolf
On this page are true stories, magazine articles, excerpts from books and unpublished works, short fiction, and photographs, each offering a glimpse of my life, work and times. Your comments welcome. © Marvin J. Wolf. All rights reserved.