Thursday, October 19, 2006

Homecoming



















At Tan Son Nhut airport in Saigon I boarded a charter Trans World Airways Boeing 707 jetliner staffed by a civilian crew to begin the trip out of South Vietnam. The plane was fully loaded with GI's who had completed their tour of duty. All the flight attendants were stewardesses and the first American females I'd seen in a year. The date was some day past the middle of December 1966 and soon enough to get home by Christmas.

After takeoff, the jetliner circled Saigon in a steep ascent to gain altitude quickly before crossing the countryside where missiles or gunfire might reach the aircraft.

We flew to Tokyo where the plane landed to refuel. We did not deplane at that stopover. The flight continued from there to Anchorage, Alaska. I was amazed at the way the giant plane landed without skidding on a runway that was covered by a deep layer of ice. We deplaned there for a couple hours as the aircraft refueled again and probably changed to a fresh crew.

We departed Anchorage and headed across Canada. It was night as I looked out the airplane window and saw mountainous terrain completely covered by snow. I remember thinking that if this plane crashed in the desolate landscape below that our bodies would never be found. The plane flew for hours across snow covered mountains which was in contrast to the ocean we flew across first. The white snow was visible below even though it was night.

After flying 9,500 miles for 22 hours on a quiet flight of sleeping GI's (I didn't sleep much), we landed at McGuire Air Force base in New Jersey. After a day and night of processing through the center there, I purchased a plane ticket to fly on Piedmont Airlines from New Jersey to my hometown of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

After a couple stops along the way from New Jersey, I landed at Smith-Reynolds Airport in Winston-Salem where I called a taxi to take me to my father's workplace at the road intersection of Patterson Avenue and 5th Street. The first picture is a current photo of this intersection and the next photo is a current view of my destination at that street corner which was the dispatch office at that time.

The window on the dock was the truck dispatch office for R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company where my father worked. My father did not know exactly when I would arrive in town. I identified myself to the dispatcher who then radioed my father's truck.

I stood around the dock and parking area shown in the picture for several minutes until my father drove up. I remember that he got out of his truck, approached me, and gave me the biggest embrace and hug that I had received since I was a child. It lasted a long time.

My father drove us home where I received other family welcome home hugs.

It was only a few more days until Christmas 1966 which was a joyous time.

Return here on Saturday, October 21 for something different.

Have a good day!

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