"Sharing can be a way of healing. Grief and loss can isolate,
anger even alienate. Shared with others, emotions unite
as we see we aren't alone. We realize others weep with us."
~Susan Wittig Albert

Through our writing, we walk out of the darkness into the light
together, one small step at a time, recording history, educating
America, and we are healing.
~CJ/Todd Dierdorff

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My First Detachment: by Jon Sampson

Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One
CJ, I love to read your blog. The first time I visited, I was deeply moved by your story and have been reading Memoirs From Nam ever since. 

My First Detachment

“Dad, I got my orders today.” I had joined the Navy just eight months before and was about to complete my Aviation Electronics ‘A’ school at NAS Memphis at Millington, Tennessee.

“I’m going to aircrew duty with VQ-1 out of NAS Atsugi, Japan.” There was a moment of silence.

“You’re aware that they have a detachment in Da Nang, Vietnam, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir!” I replied.

Dad knew about the squadron, because he was stationed at Da Nang for a year, himself, in 1968.

“I’ll let your mother know.”

I finished ‘A’ school and went to San Diego for another two months of training, before departing for Japan on November 22, 1970.

My first trip to Da Nang was March 1971, at the tender age of nineteen. Over the next two years, I made many more excursions to our "time-share in that seaside resort" with my flight crew, as well as for one ground-pounder det.

I don’t recall which night it was—only that the night sky was clear and the temperature tolerable, as I lay in my rack, trying to get some sleep, before our mission the next day. 

Sound asleep, I was suddenly jolted awake by explosions and sirens wailing. As I thrust my now wide awake body out of the rack, I heard someone yelling, “Rockets!”

In the dim red light, I quickly grabbed my utility trousers and tried to put them on while running to the bunker just outside the center hatch of the barracks. [Running is an inaccurate description of what we were doing.]  

What we were actually doing was more like an ordered panic—run, crawl, trip-and-fall, roll, jump—we got out to the bunker by any means and all of it without trampling anyone, either. If anyone had been watching from the sidelines, we might have appeared to be a company of Keystone Cops.

After that, I either slept in my trousers, or left them hanging on the rack -- they were just not that important.

Experience truly is the best teacher ...

Jon Sampson
Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron One (FAIRECONRON-1)
AT-3 (Aviation Electronics Technician Third Class)
Vietnam 1970-1973

“I am only one, but I am one. I can't do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do, and by the grace of God, I will.” ~Everett Hale

Feel free to comment on this post. You are also invited to write about anything you want to share. Memoirs From Nam is YOUR blog. You are writing America's history.

Send it to me in an e-mail and I will be proud to post it for you.


  1. Sometimes our own artillery was "Danger Close", which was for us, just about the same as being within hand grenade range.

    Mortars were the 60 mm, the 81 mm, and 4-deuce, and all of them worked with charges attached and stripped away to obtain the range needed. Those charges sometimes got wet, and sometimes the humidity soaked them up.

    Most all the time, the missions were so close that the tubes were nearly straight up in the air, which meant, if all went well, the round was going up and coming right back down, just a short distance from the tube.

    If those charges failed to ignite, the round was going to hit somewhere between us in the bush -- and the tube it came out of. That definitely got your attention quick. Everyone was yelling "Check Fire! Check Fire!”

    Once in a fire base, with a battery of 105 guns on perimeter and assorted mortar pits scattered around the inside of the perimeter, we were sitting around the pit watching the mortar guys do their thing.

    The next thing we heard was a thud. The round did not fully ignite. We all knew it wasn't going far and we dove into the sandbag pit. It hit and exploded about 20 meters away. On the perimeter, everyone was yelling, "Incoming!” and we were all laughing.

    Fortunately, no one was hurt, but we all felt safer as we headed out on night ambush that evening. ~~Dannie Watkins

  2. It's no wonder that a car's backfire, even this many years later, can send a grown man scrambling for cover. Thank you for sharing that, Dannie.


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