Sky Marshal
Security Police "Sky Marshal"
BY: Kurt Carlson

What a wonderful tribute to the Security Police who served their country during the Viet Nam era.  I am a retired Security Police Master Sergeant who served time in Thailand from Oct 1974 to June 1976.  I made it to Tan Son Nhut, in April 1975 when it was again under attack, only this time by the North Vietnamese forces who would eventually take over Saigon and the whole of South Viet Nam.  This is my story.   It may be a common story, but it is special to me.

It was the end of April 1975.  The word went out amongst the Security Police Squadron at U-Tapao Royal Thai Naval Air Base where I was a buck sergeant that volunteers were needed to serve as "Sky Marshals".  The Sky Marshals would be used to provide on-board security for the C-130's that were flying into Tan Son Nhut to take out refugees.

I volunteered and the next day went through my flight physical.  After everything was completed and I was approved to go, I was placed on one hour stand by with the rest of the volunteers and sent to wait notification for our flight.  About 2 hours later, 10 of us were notified to report to the Security Police Armory and pick up our GAU5-A's and Smith and Wesson .38 cal. revolvers.  We were each issued our normal 120 rounds of M-16 ammo and 3 days resupply.  We were also issued about 150 rounds of .38 ammo.

I think it was then that the reality of the whole situation hit me.  I was going into a combat situation.  Being a young cocky 23 year old buck sergeant and thinking with the enthusiasm of youth, when I volunteered.  I didn't think that perhaps I could die on this mission.  I started to think about it after receiving my weapons and ammunition.

We were taken to base ops and assigned to our aircraft.  I was assigned to the 374th Military Airlift Squadron (I think that was the Squadron number) out of Tan Son Nhut.  I was taken to the flight line and dropped off at my assigned aircraft, a C-130.

There was no one there, and I stood next to the aircraft for a few minutes, caught up in my thoughts.  I started to get scared.  All I could think of was, "I've done it this time, I know I'm going to die."  I was so frightened, my knees started to shake.   I had thoughts of dropping my rifle to the ramp and running off into the night.

Just then, the crew showed up, and we loaded up.  The activity alleviated my fears somewhat, but not much.  Once I was settled in, I started thinking again.   I think it was then, that I found religion again.  Because I said a prayer, "Lord, I know you are there.  And I know that I am going to die, so please let me be with you."   I couldn't believe what happened next.  It was like Jesus Christ himself came and sat down next to me and put his arm around my shoulder.  I had this feeling of peace come into my heart, I never felt more calm in my life.  I heard a small voice whisper to me "have no fear, now is not your time to die, all is well."

I had never experienced such a calm.  We took off from U-Tapao and made about a two and a half hour flight to Nam.  Because of the closeness of the enemy to Tan Son Nhut, we had to make combat approaches to the air field.

As we were approaching, I was in the cockpit looking out the windows.  It was about 2300 hours, and you could see the rockets exploding throughout Saigon.  I went back into the cargo hold of the aircraft, the crew chief walked up to me with a flare pistol.

He said, "come with me."  We went to the side hatch of the aircraft.   He placed several restraining straps across the door hatch.  He then opened the hatch and told me to watch for surface-to-air missiles (SAM's).  He said, "just look for a red streak coming toward the aircraft and fire the flare at it.  The heat of the flare will draw the missile away from the aircraft, I hope"

As I was watching for the "red streak."  I could see tracers being fired toward us.  Miraculously we didn't get hit.  We made our approach, landed and taxied to the passenger pick up area.  When we stopped, a Marine came on board and said, "Man, I don't know how you guys made it in, it looked like you flew through a solid wall of lead."

It was then that the words that were whispered came back to me.  "Have no fear, now is not your time to die, all is well."  I knew of a surety then, that I would survive.  All in all, we flew three missions into Tan Son Nhut, none as exciting as the first.  They finally made us stop the flights when intelligence revealed that surface-to-air missiles were brought into the Saigon area to bring down the evacuation aircraft.

Author:    Kurt Carlson
                MSgt (RET), USAF