In the early 1960s, the United States began sending Marine helicopter squadrons into South Vietnam to train ARVN (South Vietnam Army) troops in helicopters and tactics.   I had been with the 1st Marine Air Wing at Futema, Okinawa for more than a year when I got orders to South Vietnam. Several guys in my outfit had already done their six-month rotation and the rest of us were eagerly awaiting our turn. I got my chance in January of 1964.
Demilitarized Zone Danang
I boarded a C-130 at Kadena Air Base, just down the road from our base, and tried to make myself as comfortable as possible in the web- bed seating hanging from the bulkheads (walls) of the aircraft. I and 20 other Marines seemed to be little more than extra cargo compared to the bulk of the plane loaded with supplies and equipment, including two Jeeps. The flight was cold and noisy with nothing to do but read or watch the cargo shift, ever so slightly, from side to side as the plane climbed and banked. The din from the four turbo props eliminated any chance of having a conversation with the guys next to me. Time went by slowly but eventually the pressure in our ears and the cargo, now shifting in a different direction, were indications that we were descending. As we touched down and taxied to a large hanger, the inside of the C-130 began heating up quickly. As the rear ramp was lowered, we were hit with a wall of hot, humid Vietnamese weather. I don’t know what other people remember as their first experience when they visit a foreign country, but mine has always been atmospheric. The heat and humidity of the Danang airfield was memorable. The air was heavy with the smells of rice paddies and fertilizer, mixed with fumes from aviation fuel and diesel oil. I was met at the hanger by two buddies from Futema, who already had been in Danang for a couple of months. We threw my gear into the back of a utility truck and took off for “mainside,” the barracks area of Danang. It was a short ride around the south end of the airfield to the compound.
Boarding pass included no suggestions for the trip. I guess I was to form my own opinions.
Mainside was an old compound  abandoned by the French in the early 1950s. Many of the original buildings remained usable. Centrally located were two mess halls; one for enlisted men and one for officers. Pictured above is the enlisted mess hall. A Marine baker and cook had arrived with us. When he walked into the old French mess hall he was amazed to find the bread ovens operable. The following morning, the entire compound was awakened to reveille and the unmistakable aroma of baking bread.
Calendar with which I kept track of my tour in Danang.  January 27, 1964 was just two months after a successful military coup. Captain Nguyen Van Nhung, of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam,  assassinated President Diem and his brother in the back of a military vehicle, as they were being taken to the presidential palace.
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Coup da Tante An unsuccessful coup and rumors of other attempts to overthrow the new government had followed the November 22 takeover of power, causing White House and Pentagon officials great concern about the strength and stability of the new regime. The United States had encouraged and sup- ported the original Diem coup.
Marine Air Group-16 Marine Air Base Squadron-16 SHUFLY United States Marine Corps Operation
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