For as long as there have been Marine helicopter squadrons,
there has been an associated problem of inadequate motor transport assets
to move squadron personnel from their billeting areas to the flight line.
In Da Nang it was the same. Marines have always been imaginative
and creative however and some times there shortages have been found on
another services' junk piles or satisfied by "midnight requisitions".
(Click Here for Another Picture of the Bus Stop)
"I just don't understand the transportation problem here. All the time, money and effort the squadron spends to provide transportation support for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). We fly their chickens, pigs, rice and cabbage to their outposts ASAP but we can't even get from our billeting compound to the flight line without a twenty-five minute wait and then, a bumpy, fifteen minute ride in a recycled six-by-six. The last time I rode in "Sweetlips" she almost quit completely. Why, an ARVN soldier pedaling his bicycle beat us across the air field!"
"Yes, but I like "Sweetlips" just the same. She
backfires so much the Viet Cong think we are shooting at them all the time.
She may be slow but she is safe!"
Warren R. Smith remembers the true genesis of "Sweetlips" and her final demise as a squadron asset (?). "We acquired "Sweet Lips 1" and "Sweet Lips 2" from the squadron we relieved for a "small fee". We were told it was a long way from our billeting area to the flight line and there were no busses. The former owners convinced us that the "small fee" was actually an investment that we could recover from the next squadron which relieved us. The big problem however was that these two old dump trucks were not part of our squadron's authorized table of equipment nor were they on any Marine Corps books as being assigned to HMM-364. These two small discrepancies made it impossible to order needed spare parts through the normal supply channels. When parts were needed we had to go through a "contact" in Da Nang using "greenbacks" instead of Military Payment Currency (MPC) which was our legal tender. I don't think we ever had tires of the same size at one time. When "Sweet Lips" got a flat on one of her duals she just settled down to the next size tire and kept going. We always had one of the vehicles in "hangar queen" status so that we could cannibalize parts to keep one running. We were Marine helicopter mechanics and we understood fully the process of cannibalization!"
"I remember riding back to the billeting compound one night with the truck loaded to capacity with crew chiefs and other maintenance personnel. Out of the darkness there was an explosion as someone threw a hand grenade at us. All us brave souls tried to be the first to hit the steel bed of the truck for the safety it might provide for whatever was to come next. I heard from the bottom of the pile, as "Sweet Lips" was being pushed to her maximum speed which seemed like a crawl, "Let's go back and get those SOBs". Thankfully, the driver had more sense or he did not hear the comment."
"When it was our turn to get our "small fee" back
from the next squadron, it was discovered that the two old old trucks had
been stolen from the Army Special Forces and had to be returned.
I guess we should have had the title checked, but you live and learn.
I also assume that each time our "contact" in Da Nang supplied parts, another
military organization had a "hangar queen" for a while"
Information provided by:
'63 - '64 Cruise Book
Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC
R. W. "Bill" Talmadge, GySgt. USMC(Ret)