Vietnamese Style WPA
(WPA, Our Works Progress Administration of the '30s)

The Vietnamese government used projects like the building of the parking apron for Air Vietnam (the airline of South Vietnam) as a way to provide work for refuges.  I believe they were paid approximately 35 cents (US equivalent) a day and this just kept them from starving.  The rock was blown out of the side of a mountain about 10 miles away and brought to the area next to our hanger by dump truck.  It was broken up by hand and carried in baskets to the apron area.  It was place individually by young women as directed by a male supervision.  The leveling was accomplished by sighting across the top of 3 T-bars set on a base about 18" off the ground.  They kept moving the 3 units around the area and if the T-bar in the center was low the would run over and throw a couple baskets of crushed stone on that spot.  The area was wet down for compacting by young women filling 5 gal. cans with water and  then running across a dry area. The cans had holes punched in the bottom that allowed the water to spray out the bottom. They got the water from a water truck that had a spray boom on the back for this purpose, but the idea here was to provide work for many.

When it came to the asphalt, the tar was ladled out of a pot with a small dipper on a handle.  Sand and small sized crushed stone was then spread on top of this.  The process was repeated until the proper thickness was built up.  All the equipment was in place by USA contracting firms to do the job mechanically, but the job got done in about the same length of time using the force of many hands.  The roller in the background is compacting each layer was the only piece of modern equipment used in the process. We should have learned something from this when all the bombs couldn't stop the flow of material down the trail from North Vietnam.

One noon hour one of the workers took a nap in the shade under the construction roller. He was still asleep when the driver started up and drove off.  The force pushed him right into the ground and killed him instantly.  What amazed us on the flight line was that it was hours before someone in a pickup came along, peeled him from the ground, threw him in
the back and drove off.  Not only were the wages cheap, so was the value of life.

Information provided by:
    Warren R. Smith, former Cpl. USMC

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