At Danang, I was part of Marine Air Base Squadron 16, or MABS-16. A small group of us in that squadron made up the Utilities Section. We were the carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and heavy equipment operators who were responsible for keeping the base functioning. Our work shop was located in one of only two grass-roofed buildings on the base. The thatched roof keep us cooler than we would have been working in one of the many metal-roofed buildings on base. Another feature of our shop, and most of the buildings at Danang, was the absence of windows. Everything was screened to let in as much air as possible, while keeping out mosquitoes and other bugs. In Vietnam, cockroaches were much bigger than the common American variety. They flew like locust. Next to our shop was a small lumber yard where we stored the wood used for any construction. What was different about our lumber was that most of it was hardwood, like mahogany and teak. We had very little pine, since it had to be shipped in from the United States or Canada. Our utilities shop was small for the number of people working in it, and we had to keep some of our bigger equipment outside. You can see the trailer-mounted radial-arm saw being operated outside the shop. You do not have to look too closely to notice that the the two men operating the saw look more like golfers than Marines. At Danang, many South Vietnamese civilians worked on base. We had several Vietnamese carpenters working in our shop. Some of the older native carpenters worked bare-footed. They built their workbenches low so that they could sit and stand on the lumber while they worked. This low profile allowed them to hold the wood with their toes and feet as they they drilled, hammered and sawed. There was nothing these Vietnamese carpenters could not build. They even made some of their own tools. I watched one of them make a buck saw (illustration in left column) out of nothing more than a length of steel banding strap and some wood. Banding strap was simply a ribbon of flexible steel about an inch wide that was used to securely bundles of lumber for shipment. The carpenters would cut off about three feet of this strap and secure it in a wooden, buck saw frame. Then, with a very small file, they would sit on their workbench and, holding the saw with their feet, file teeth into the steel band. A finished saw would have about 12 teeth to the inch. Then, with a small notch cut into one side of the same file, they would set the teeth by alternately bending each tooth, a little to the left or right. The end result was a saw so sharp and accurate that a carpenter could cut a one-quarter inch strip of wood, 10 feet long, from the edge of a 1 inch by 12 inch mahogany board. Also, we helped built a special weapon for Degar warriors. These mountain people, called Montagnard by the French, were brave and fierce fighters who had a long-standing hatred for the Viet Cong. A favorite Degar hunting weapon was the crossbow, and our special weapon was a crossbow on steroids. The stock of our “super” crossbow was fashioned from very dense tropical hardwood. The bow was fabricated from a single leaf off a light truck’s rear leaf spring. To handle the torque of the bow, piano wire was used for the string. The improved crossbow was smaller than the typical Degar bow, but a steel arrow or bolt, fired from this weapon, could penetrate a four-inch wooden post from 25 yards. I have no idea if the Degar ever used this super crossbow against the Viet Cong in combat.
Utilities was only one of two buildings in the Danang compound with a grass roof. The other was the en-listed man’s club, named the Bamboo Room.
Combat engineers planning the day’s work. I am second from the right, with my back to the camera.
Vietnamese carpenters are preparing to cut some lumber on a field, radial-arm saw. The saw was trailer-mounted and came with its own generator.
Construction lumber was mostly hardwoods, like mahogany and teak, because they was readily available and cheaper than shipping in softwoods from the States.
Photo taken outside our shop, shows me with one of the Vietnamese carpenters. His less than pleasant look may be because I had not yet learned that in many Asian cultures, people do not like to be touched. Too often, we impose our cultural traditions on indigenous people without first learning their ways of doing things.
The Degar (referred to by French colonists as Montagnard) are the indi-genous peoples of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The term Montag-nard means "mountain people" in French and is a carryover from the French colonial period in Vietnam.    The Degar have a long history of tensions with the Vietnamese majority. While the Vietnamese are themselves heterogeneous, they generally share a common language and culture and have developed and main-tained the dominant social institutions of Vietnam. The Degar do not share that heritage. There have been conflicts between the two groups over many issues, including land ownership, language and cultural preservation, access to education and resources, and political repre-sentation.  The 1960s saw contact between the Degar and the U.S. military, as American involvement in the Vietnam War escalated and the Central Highlands emerged as a strategically important area, in large part be-cause it included the Ho Chi Minh trail, the North Vietnamese supply line for Viet Cong forces in the south. The U.S. military, particularly the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, developed base camps in the area and recruited the Degar, roughly 40,000 of whom fought alongside American soldiers and became a major part of the U.S. military effort in the Highlands.  Thousands of Degar fled to Cambodia after the fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese Army, fearing that the new government would launch reprisals against them because they had aided the U.S. Army. The U.S. military resettled some Degar in the United States, primarily in South Carolina, but these evacuees numbered less than two thousand. In addition, the Vietnamese government has steadily displaced thousands of villagers from Vietnam's central highlands, to use the fertile land for coffee plantations.  Outside of Vietnam, the largest community of Montagnards in the world is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. Edited from a Wikipedia article “Degar”. Buck Saw Banding strap filed into saw blade
Degar (Montagnard) guerrillas being trained by a US Army Ranger.
Utilities Shop
One Person’s Trash...
At least once a week, we would load our utility vehicle with wood scraps and trash and drive the load out to a remote dump on base. Villagers would chase the truck, on foot or with bicycles, to be first to go through our latest load of “treasures”. Eventually, armed guards were placed on the trash trucks to prevent “hitchhikers” from jumping on board. In the photo above right, it is not villagers but South Vietnamese army troops grabbing the “loot” first.   Everything went to the dump, including unserviceable vehicle batteries. Those were grabbed up first, and trotted off to the village by kids who could barely carry them. We would joke that the lead from the batteries was being melted down to make bullets for the Viet Cong. After the generator shack incident, we stopped joking about the dead batteries and started to think about better disposal methods.
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Degar traditional crossbow. 
SHUFLY United States Marine Corps Utilities Section Operation
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Every job in the Marine Corps is assigned a Military Occupational Specialty, or MOS. My MOS was 1371, Combat Engineer. We could build just about anything and, if the mission required, blow up just about anything.