I was with the 70th Signal Detachment, the avionics repair unit for the 52nd Avn Bn and 119th AML. I was an E-4 and became unit NCOIC in 1964 when our E-7 was recalled to the states to be an instructor due to an MOS shortage. The Army later informed me they were extending my tour two additional months in a letter from General Delk M. Oden, again due to MOS shortages of trained personnel. I got addicted to flying at Camp Holloway with the 52nd Avn Bn Flying Dragons and the 119th AML Black Dragons. I always looked for opportunities to volunteer to go on missions as a gunner or crew chief substitute, or in any capacity on any mission I could volunteer to fill to be able to fly. I even flew on a combat sortie in one of the VNAF T-28s pictured below.
As you know, at Do Xa, many of our hueys got hit. I found myself reloading XM-6 2.75 rocket launchers on gun ships as they returned from Do Xa to rearm. Some of the pilots were so pumped, we could barely get the rockets loaded into the tubes fast enough before they were quickly airborne and hurrying back to provide air cover and help secure the LZ. When we later flew back to Camp Holloway it was at contour flying levels in case we had to make an emergency landing due to our huey's duct taped main rotor blades, damaged tail rotor, and other problems from the hits. I believe every aircraft involved was hit at least once. I had lost a bunch of weight and strained my back hustling those rockets and had to use some heat pads and a back support for a week or two afterwards until I got back in shape and put on some needed weight.
Below is a photo of a loaded VNAF A-1 Skyraider taken at New Pleiku AFB in 1964 the day I flew in the T-28 on a combat sortie with a VNAF pilot I got to know. A much different ride compared to hueys...every time we pulled G's on the bombing and strafing runs I got tunnel vision and then a momentary black out until the blood returned back up to my head...the effect surprised me and it was a new flying experience I hadn't had before.
Finally my E-6 replacement showed up to be unit NCO and I flew on a couple of other missions in Quang Tri, DaNang, and Quang Ngai. On my last day at Camp Holloway, the 119th HQ called me in and gave me copies of my orders for an Air Medal award. The 119th CO said they could forward the medal and the certificate. I decided to take it there, so we had an impromptu award ceremony which he graciously performed on the spot. I departed Camp Holloway in September via a 3/4 ton truck to New Pleiku AFB and caught my flight to Saigon. I did a little sightseeing for a couple of days while waiting for my flight home on a Pan Am 707. I was given a 45 and a holster just before boarding and was told I was selected to be the courier guard for the flight back to the USA. It felt odd...my flight home with a gun on a 707...like some twilight zone I couldn't escape. Hooah!
Regards...Carl J. LaMonica Sr.
Camp Holloway Aug 63 - Sep 64
As a side note, I read that Quang Ngai is plagued with an infestation of hundreds of thousands of rats now. Some say it is due to the people capturing and eating all the predatory animals and reptiles that normally kill and eat rats, upsetting a delicate balance. I seem to remember the rats had the numerous edge 37 years ago. I just can't imagine what it must be like there now with this rat plague.
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