Bill Patterson - Sandbag Filling Detail--First Day in Country.
This attached photo shows some of our 319th Transportation Company
members filling sandbags to be used for bunkers in our company area.
The picture was taken by one of our members while we were in Vietnam
September 1968-August 1969.
I was assigned to a similar detail on the first or one of the first few days
after we got off the plane in Vietnam. I remember being jet-lagged and
not knowing what to expect on that day. We had arrived the previous
night and got little or no sleep before facing the heat of the tropical
environment and the fear of the war zone. That morning I was told to
join about six other men on a truck similar to the one pictured. We
were supplied with MANY empty sandbags and shovels and drove to an
open field near the Bien Hoa Air Base where we had landed the night
After seeing we were in no immediate danger (Long Binh and Bien Hoa
probably had 50,000-100,000 men stationed there), I noticed the heat
was overwhelming. Our work site was completely devoid of shade. We
had inadequate water I'm sure. We were not at all acclimated to the
intense heat, humidity and direct overpowering sunlight. We were
exhausted from our twenty six hour flight. I was still dressed in the size
triple extra large jungle fatigues the army had erroneously issued me. I
thought I would faint and just not worry about it any more!
Then our lives were saved. We had been watched by Vietnamese
civilians as we drove down the beaten path to the sandbag filling area.
They cautiously approached us. One of our entrepreneurs asked if they
would like to earn some money. They said yes. We gladly surrendered
our shovels. In little time, all our MANY sandbags were full, tied and
loaded on the truck. We rewarded them somehow. I doubt if we had
converted our U.S. currency to Military Payment Certificates (MPC)
yet. I certainly do remember the immense relief I felt at seeing those
bags on the truck! Of course the Vietnamese were used to hard manual
labor in the ever-present heat of the coastal plain near Saigon. They
barely broke into a sweat.
We hated filling sandbags but really appreciated them during the next
year. Often we would receive incoming enemy fire and have to scoot to
our reinforced bunkers in the middle of the night. Some of our truckers
lined their truck floorboards with sandbags for land mine protection.
When we landed in Vietnam in the middle of the night I fully expected
to be in an immediate firefight. Instead my first action was filling
sandbags. This did serve the purpose of getting us somewhat acclimated
and recovered from the flight before we began the grueling work ahead
of us on the roads of the war zone.....