Wayne Salisbury 1
7th AF Patch Salisbury Logo 

Tan Son Nhut II, By:  MSgt. Wayne D. Salisbury, USAF (Retired) Tan Son Nhut Association

Puppy, Tan Son Nhut II
Tan Son Nhut II

When I first saw him on February 6, 1974, I knew he was going to be a great friend.  At 79 days old, he was small, all but his paws.  His paws here huge and his ears were already standing straight up.  He knew, even at that age, he was a German Shepherd and had to look the part.  We were buddies right away.  I had a winner.

But, I am getting ahead of myself.  I must take you back to my service at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, South Vietnam in 1966 and 1967.

The initial explosion shook the barracks.  It was around 0100, December 4, 1966.     Someone yelled in the dark, “Damn, we are under attack!”  I didn’t argue the point since he had been there longer than I.  I was a newcomer, so to speak.  The lights came on and men hurried to get dressed.   They streamed out the door, headed for the bunker right next to the barracks.  Our barracks was H-shaped, right next to the NCO Club and Heliport.

I had been there a little over two months.  I already had my “Battle Plan”, which was to head for the bunker if there was evidence of incoming mortars or rockets.  But the initial explosions got me thinking.   I decided not to head for the bunker.  My reasoning was I’d rather face a Viet Cong head on rather than to have a satchel charge thrown into the bunker.  Not the most logical reasoning, but that was my immediate thought.   I just didn’t want to be on the receiving end of a surprise package.

Through the night of the 4th and into the next day and evening the base defenders held their ground successfully.   The 377th Air Police had done their job.  They were my heroes.

Later, I had the chance to make a jeep tour of the base perimeter with my boss Chief Elmer Maloney and his barracks buddy, who was, I believe, a Chief in the 377th.

During the trip we ended up at the K-9 kennels.  We were given a grand tour of the facility by an unknown Staff Sergeant.  He directed our attention to one of the kennels.  Here we were introduced to NEMO, the hero.  He was an historical sentry dog.

While looking at NEMO and listening to the story of his heroism from the Staff Sergeant, I decided someday I’d own a German Shepherd.  This is a picture I took that day:


Eight years later, 1974, I fulfilled my dream of having my own Shepherd.  But now that bundle of fluff, with the big paws had to be named for the American Kennel Club Registration.  I didn’t have a choice –  I named him Tan Son Nhut.  The proper paperwork was fulfilled and sent to the AKC.

Within a few weeks the Registration Certificate came back to me.  They named him Tan Son Nhut II.   Someone had beat me to it.

American Kennel Club

We called him “Tan”, as in Tan Son Nhut.  He was an incredible dog.  He had all the attributes that any Shepherd could have for duties as a sentry dog.  I didn’t know anything about training him, but he took it upon himself to understand what I wanted him to learn.  His uncanny intelligence was absolutely exceptional.   As you can see by this picture, he had a composed nobility about him.

Tobey and Tan Son Nhut II

Tan and my wife, Tobey

When Tan was an adult, I’d admire his presence and sharpness.  I’d remember NEMO, and all the other sentry dogs at Tan Son Nhut.  And I’d remember their handlers, some of whom gave their lives in the line of duty.

On February 28, 1987, at the age of 12 years, we laid our best friend to rest.  They were 12 years of wonderful companionship, compassion and love.

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