Eighth Aerial Port Squadron, USAF in Vietnam

Juan Silva

8th APS
Mobility Song Be Detachment, 1968

Some information on myself. I was born 1/27/36 grew up around Bunkie Louisiana.
Married a lady from Uvalde Texas in 1953. After stay in Uvalde I enlisted in
the Air Force in January 1954. After my routine training, my assignments before
Vietnam were Barksdale AFB, Athens Greece, Carswell AFB, France, Galena Air Station
Alaska, Charleston AFB, SC, Turkey, McChord AFB, and then Vietnam, and twice at Kelly AFB.

All of my tours were as an air freighter. I retired at Kelly AFB in 1974.
I don't remember who took the photos below, but I'm glad to have them.
I arrived at TSN Vietnam during August of 1968 and volunteered to go to Song Be
in November. I boarded a C-130 and headed north. On arrival at Song Be, I was met by SSgt Cummings. On the way to the Detachment office he gave me a quick briefing on what to do. Being a air freighter in the Air Force since 1954, loading and offloading all kind of aircraft was nothing new.

As we approached the little office, I noticed a
sign above the entrance with the words HOME OF THE DIRTY DOZEN. That was strange because I only saw four individuals. That first day was quiet. At lunch time, we all piled into the six pax blue pickup and headed to the Macv compound not far down the road from the air strip.

After finding were I
would be bunking and with whom, it was time for lunch. The mess was in front of the sleeping quarters. It was nothing fancy, nor was the food.. It was ok if you like sea ("C") rations.

After lunch someone put on one of those flicks. All was ok until some one called out
"Incoming" I never heard the incoming rounds, but Sgt Wells (8thMob Team Member) told me to follow him to our assigned bunker. It was located near the mess area to the left of our sleeping quarters. After things quieted down and we came out of the bunker, Sgt Wells noticed that my forehead was bleeding. He told me were the medics were located. They looked at it, cleaned it and that was all. How that bleeding started I'll never

That was my first day in Song Be, Vietnam.
Next day, traveling the six miles to the air field was quiet - nothing unusual for
our small team. But for me, well, I didn't know what to expect. At the air field we checked
and warmed up the two RT (AT?) forklifts and got ready for the first aircraft to come in.

Offloading and loading C130s & C-7 Caribou was just routine work except when incoming 
mortar rounds started coming our way. Then you see aircraft moving around on the 
ramp and some times speed offloading. During my short stay there, none of the aircraft
were hit. I only saw one Caribou come in with a bullet hole through the floor. A crew member said it almost hit one of the passengers.
Most of the material off loaded was ammo artillery projectiles for the 9th artillery 
unit located a few yards from the 8thmob working area. As I remember, twice a week we off-loaded a conex with food for the 1st Cav located across the road. That's where they parked the gun ship(s).
At the airfield we were constantly harassed by VC firing a 75mm recoilless trying
to hit us. One time, I was standing next to a soldier when a round was fired hitting the
ramp. A small piece of shrapnel hit this young soldier's back pack but did no injury.
Back at the compound it was ok other than mortar rounds were always letting us know that the VC were always around. One night an AC-130 Gunship was called in because of incoming mortar rounds. The AC-130 came and peppered the area making things quiet once more.

One thing I didn't really care for was pulling guard on the perimeter, but we all took our turn.
Our guard time was four hours. One morning, while I was pulling guard duty, I heard a shot and a swissing sound go by and glad it only went by. I hit the ground, but there were no more shots.

There were two perimeter bunkers facing the river which was
down hill from them. That area is where the mortar rounds were coming from. One of Chris Hartley's photos shows him standing on one of the perimeter bunkers facing the river. That's the same bunker I stood on.
Some time in January, Ssgt Cummings returned to TSN, leaving me in charge. Nothing
changed and the work kept going on as usual. Mortar rounds always trying to hit our aircraft...

After Sgt Cummings left,  I (?) flew back to TSN for a conference. This gave me a chance
to replace a couple of airman who were not performing, in other words, they were a little lax on what they were required to do. I got two replacements but one was sent back because of his inexperience and carelessness with his M16. He let a round go off inside his sleeping quarters - almost hitting one of his buddies.
On 25 February (1969)(?) all hell broke loose. Around 3pm (3 am?) we were attacked with mortars and gun fire. Our team made it to the bunker and prepared for the worse. It sounded like we had had it. We could hear steel flying. Most of the action was down by the rear perimeter but it sounded like it might get to us. At about 5:30 am, the 1st Cav gun ships arrived firing down upon into the area where we were getting hit from. That probably saved us from getting overrun. At day break, we came out of our bunker and saw some of the damage. Our water tank (which I'm standing in front of) was damaged with shrapnel, but was repaired.

Later on, we heard that the compound CO and the compound communications officer were killed while the were running
towards the communications building. That was sad news, but they were the only ones killed that morning. The CO Col whose name I didn't know had 5 children and the young communications officer had just made Capt also name I did't know.
Because our communication was also knocked out TSN thought we had been overrun, so for three days we didn't go to the air field.  I decided to go back to TSN for personal reasons.

I was replaced by TSgt Synder.
The only names I can recall from those days are:
Ssgt Cummings (Commings?)
Tsgt Synder
Sgt Wells    (Walking towards the 8thMob office in the photo below)
Airman Russel
Call me if you have questions. I do have a DD214, but not much on travel orders. Since Vietnam, and still on active duty, I moved around a lot, so some records are probably stil packed away in boxes.

I was awarded 40% disability from the VA, and I am trying to get that increased. Seems like I started too late going to the VA. I'm 82 still in pretty good shape.  I had double knee replacements, but no help from VA.  No records. 


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Song Be, 1969

  Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer - Song Be, Vietnam, 1968

Song Be, 1969

2 USAF Staff Sgts kicking back with a brew...
SSgt on the left in standard stateside fatigues with blue & white nametags,
SSgt on the right is wearing Vietnam-issue jungle fatigues with black patches and stripes.

Santa-Boo - C-7

This looks like the C-7 "Santa Boo" that would visit airstrips all around Vietnam during Christmas season...

Song Be 10K AT

8th APS Driver atop one of our 10K Adverse Terrain Forklifts
This 36,000 pound machine could pick up a 10,000 pound cargo pallet and put it anywhere it needed to be. This machine was the workhorse - and the signature machine of the 8th MOB and each 8th APS Detachments

Juan Silva at Song Be 1968

Thumbnail of photo of Juan Silva at Song Be in 1968

This is the water tank that was damaged in the attack. They were a common sight near artillery outposts.
But, being dark green, they absorbed solar energy and the water was often quite warm..

But, when hoisted up in the air with an Air Force forklift,
could supply water for a nice, warm shower - with some water pressure!

On the Ramp at Song Be - C-130's, 2 10K AT forklifts

On the Ramp at Song Be - 2 - C-130 E-Models, 2 - 10K AT forklifts

Sgt Wells walking towards 8th MOB office at Song Be

Sgt Wells walking towards 8th MOB office at Song Be Airfield

Village near the MACV compound

Village near the MACV compound (?)

Land surrounding Song Be

Song Be River and surrounding landscape down the hill below the airstrip.

Nui Ba Ra - Song Be

Cargo pallets stacked on the Ramp at Song Be Airstrip - Nui Ba Ra in the distance