It appears there was some general rule with the United States Air Force at Da Nang that their base, and facilities, would be better off if they could keep an airstrip between them and all Marines.
On or about March 10, 1964 the Air Force had made arrangements for a USO show visit to their side of the airfield. The secrecy involved would make a person think the visit had something to do with their clandestine flights which possibly were not in accordance with rules set forth by the Geneva Convention at the time. Actually they were quite successful in keeping their secret until about 20 minutes before show time. One of HMM-364's young intelligence gathering Marines was successful in learning of the show and spread the word. "Sweetlips" was cranked up, Marines loaded up and chugged off to the other side of the field, emitting a trail of exhaust smoke and resounding backfires, to check it out. When they arrived at the door of the club hosting the USO show they were given various excuses such as, "We don't know if you can come in." or, "We don't think there is enough room for Marines." or, "You aren't dressed right for this place." and, "This is our show, maybe they will do a show for you later." Being the gentlemen that Yankee Kilo Marines were, they responded, "If you had only given us a few more minutes and advised us of the requirements, we could have shown you what "spit and polish" is all about." All the time the proud ugliness of "Sweetlips" was growling and backfiring at their front door and more Marines and more vehicles continued to arrive. Soon it was apparent to the Airmen that they were becoming outnumbered (which doesn't take but a few Marines in some peoples minds) and reluctantly the Airmen allowed the Marines to enter. Once inside their gracious "hospitality" continued to be evident with statements like, "We will be watching you so don't think about making trouble."
What the Yankee Kilo Marines saw when the entered the club made them stare and gawk as if they were "country bumpkins" in town for the first time. They saw a real theater with a hard floor (not dirt), there were windows with screens, why there were seats - seats in rows and there was a stage with electricity and a curtain. Their heads simply rolled from side to side for they had just left their open air grass hut club. There were a few tense and quiet moments as each group looked at each other wondering what was going to happen next. The Yankee Kilo Marines simply did what was expected of them, they established a "sense of presence" which the Airmen noted and when the show started both groups folded into an audience with a common focus.
The show had a four or five member band, a comedian Master of Ceremonies and a couple of older gals that tried to sing and dance. None of the Marines had ever heard of the group, but work was where you could get it. As the show wore on, most were wondering why they had made such an effort to gain admittance. At about the lowest point in the show, when it appeared all in attendance were on the verge of leaving, the MC said, "Gentlemen, I would like to introduce our drummer, as she would like to sing a few songs for you." Throughout the room heads popped up and eyes again became alert because the MC had said, "she." It was the first time anyone had noticed she was a she while the MC continued, "she is just starting, this is her first tour and she needs some practice." The drummer arose from her position partially hidden position and headed toward the microphone. What had been momentary alertness within the the theater turned again to boredom. The drummer wore a long nondescript dress, her hair was rolled into a bun on the back of her head and she wore big ugly glasses which actually hid her face. She stopped in front of the microphone, nervously shifted her weight from one foot to the other, scratched at her stomach and made a few faulty starts at singing. There was more talk of leaving throughout the room and muffled groans of disbelief for they all knew this was going to be worse than the older gals who had tried to entertain them with their "heavy hoofing".
The drummer, actually showing signs of embarrassment, announced she couldn't sing in her drumming outfit and reached back over her shoulders with both hands, unhooked the long dress and it fell to the floor. Again heads popped up but this time there was a quiet form of disbelief that permeated the room. Under that dress was a red sequined body suit covering the most gorgeous body the servicemen had seen in a very long time. She stood there with those long beautifully proportioned legs coming out of 4" heels and said, "There, that's better isn't it?" as a unified roar of satisfaction and whistles of approval rose from the crowd who had now lost all thoughts of inter service rivalry. Ahhh, but she still wasn't through with them, she threw the big ugly glasses away and again reached behind her head removing the pin which held the bun allowing beautiful soft and long flowing auburn hair to cascaded down over her shoulders. The audience had been sucked into an ambush and had been figuratively been blown away! The nondescript drummer had metamorphosed into a home grown American girl put together in absolutely all the right ways.
The band commenced playing and beating on a pipe which lead to a rousing rendition of "Steam Heat" which was followed with an equally spirited version of "The Fever". She had a very well trained, deep and sexy bar voice. The temperature in the room had risen 10 degrees and was still climbing. The rest of the evening offered the Airmen and Marines a brief escape from their "war zone" environment as she presented many other songs which were received with sincere appreciation.
The show was over and all filed out in a hushed atmosphere. The Marines loaded up in their various vehicles and except for the whining of the engines and the belching of "Sweetlips" it was a quite ride back across the airfield. Most were thinking about home and those wonderful American girls, wives and sweethearts waiting for their return. That night there was a lot of tossing and turning on both sides of the Da Nang airstrip as both Airmen and Marines thought of at least one American girl that could really sing "The Fever".
Information provided by:
Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC