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Kirk Ransom, 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squaron flight line.  Waiting for some maintenance work to finish.

The 16th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was the first Air Force unit sent PCS to Vietnam.  The first wave of nine RF-4Cs landed at Tan Son Nhut on 31 Oct 1965, on a High Flight from Shaw AFB, SC.  The second wave of 12 aircraft arrived in December.  Since most of our flying was at night, our breakfast was during the evening meal, and our evening meal was at breakfast at the O’Club.

About Sam’s Inn and the French Seminary.  When we first arrived at Saigon, the whole squadron was housed in an old French Seminary.  There were five or six multi-story buildings.  One served as a club / bar.  One housed the Nuhn (Air Force) security forces headquarters.  Two were the enlisted barracks.   The flying crews stayed in the second floor of the main building and one small single story building beside it.  There were no screens or glass in the windows.  They just opened onto the street.  The street noise and lack of curtains or shutters made it impossible to sleep and get decent crew rest between the night missions.

After five or six weeks of trying to fly the night operations, the aircrews were aborting missions because they were just too fatigued.  This rapidly became so bad we could not fly.  The flight surgeon said we had to have better sleeping conditions.  So our supply officer (also an aircrew member) found a facility in Saigon that we moved into.  This was what we called “Sam’s Inn.”

Sam’s Inn was a very large old three story fenced and gated house where the owner had constructed a motel or dormitory like building in the back yard.  This building had two floors with 14 rooms to a floor (seven to a side of the hall), and each room had its own bath with shower, and HOT WATER heater.  And not only were there glass windows, each room had an air-conditioner.  It was the VIP quarters before we took it over.  Even the Ritz Hotel downtown did not have hot water showers.

One thing I remember about the O’Club was the personal weapon storage.  At the BX, you had to remove any personal weapons before entering the BX but there was a rack of cubby holes to put your weapon in.  At the O’Club there was no such rack, and the weapons (holster belts) were just piled on the floor.  When you went to leave, you had to sort through the pile to find yours.  It is a wonder there were no accidents.

One thing I remember about Tan Son Nhut was the bread.  All of it was baked by the Army somewhere and whether it was sliced white loaf bread, dinner rolls, breakfast biscuits (with creamed beef), raised donuts, whatever, all tasted the same.

That was a long time ago.

Kirk Ransom



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