Thursday, September 21, 2006

Central Highlands

The safest I've ever felt while flying was on board a C-130 Hercules flown by U. S. Air Force pilots.

We were in the central highlands of Vietnam which is mountainous jungle. We were guarding a dirt runway where engineers had excavated a mountain top. Bulldozers flattened the top to level a strip for landing fixed-wing aircraft.

We infantrymen dug foxholes in the ground beside the runway and stood guard around the perimeter a few days and nights. I saw many C-130's land and take-off on this short dirt runway. Some created the biggest dust cloud imaginable when these giant airplanes landed on the dry red dirt and reversed pitch on the props in order to brake their forward movement.

I saw some planes loaded so heavily as they raced down the runway for lift-off that only the front of the airplane was airborne when it crossed the runway's end at the mountain's edge. Some C-130's actually dropped below the imaginary horizontal plane of the runway before altitude was gained. I have flown and parachuted from this type airplane. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is known as a workhorse for the Air Force.

The four fellow soldiers in the above photo are heating a can of C-rations. We had heat tablets that were individually packed in a sealed foil-wrapper. They were about the size of a silver dollar, but thicker, and bluish in color. We opened cans of beef stew or ham, for example, set the can on small stones, and ignited a heat tablet under the can. The intense fire lasted about two minutes and warmed the contents. We heated coffee this way also. It took two or three tablets to get water really hot.

Once again, I don't recall the names of my colleagues here. I remember the one tending the fire was from Coats, North Carolina. Perhaps he will read this and email me.

The first below picture shows our tents along the runway. The bottom picture shows a newly created clearing leading away from the landing strip.

Return here on Saturday, September 23 for more about Herschel.

Have a good day!



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