366th Security Police
Da Nang Air Base
Republic of Vietnam
PCS to Vietnam – OH GOD!


1964 was a good year. I married Gail at Cannon AFB, NM. Cannon was a TAC base that was subject to recurring TDY's. Since K9's weren't sent TDY, I didn't have to travel. That was good thing for a just married guy. 1965 started out good. I finally got my orders cut to attend Eastern New Mexico University full time to continue work on my degree. I was one of only two people on the base that year to be released full time to attend the University. Unfortunately, that fell apart when one day I reported to the kennels and George Vobornik, the day kennel man, greeted me with “Guess what! You're going to Viet Nam”. The whole K9 Section was being transferred PCS to Viet Nam, except for a few lucky short timers. Our Orders indicated that we were to leave immediately, but our 1st Sergeant got us two weeks leave before we were to report to Travis AFB. Thanks Sarge.

So in Nov 1965, off we flew in a C130 with our K9s, arriving in Saigon at Tan Son Nhut AB, where we nervously waited permanent assignments. Getting off the plane on the flight line in the oppressive heat, and being greeted by a jeep patrol with a machine gun turret didn't exactly raise our spirits. After a week or so at Tan Son Nhut, we were split up, with Gary Knutson, Joe Amadei, Gerald Sterns and I going to Da Nang. Our friends Bobby Skimmerhorn and Frank Carrillo went on to other bases. We would later learn that Da Nang Air Base was the busiest airport in the world, with combat flights arriving and departing almost continuously 24/7. Since it was only about 90 miles from the DMZ, it was a major source of flights to North Vietnam, and provided air support for the Marines in the Region. We were the second wave of K9 Handlers to arrive at Da Nang. The initial 15 K9 Handlers had arrived shortly before us as part of operation Top Dog. King 6F61, arrived at Da Nang fearless; I arrived scared to death.

We started out living in tents, which we set up ourselves. We immensely enjoyed cold outdoor showers, mosquitoes, rats, and an endless number of unknown bug species. We were drenched by the monsoon rains. Our clothes had a sickening smoked smell because during the monsoon season the Vietnamese laundry people would smoke our clothes dry because it was too wet to dry them outside. After a couple of months we moved to wooden hooch's, which seemed like a Hilton after tent life.

The kennels were primitive when we arrived as the K9 Section was in its early stages. Our 15 K9 predecessors worked hard to establish the first kennels. We took it the next step by spending long hours on our off time building new kennels, under the strict leadership of Lt. Col. Phillips, TSGT Rice and SSGT Campbell.

Our posts included the flight line, bomb dump, napalm storage area, Vietnamese Morgue, and a munitions bunker at the end of a dark road. Why a Vietnamese Morgue post? Maybe because it was near the Marine perimeter and a source of entry, and maybe because no one else wanted the post. We all hated that post. The dogs didn't like the napalm post because if they stepped in the napalm it would burn their feet. Nobody liked the munitions bunker post either because the K9 Team was vulnerable walking down the road getting to it. In the bomb dump I would sometimes eat C Rations while leaning against a 1000 lb bomb, hoping that a mortar wouldn't land too close. The reality was, there was no such thing as a good post.

I went into Da Nang city a few times, but after a couple of months the city was declared off limits except for official business due to an alarming influx of VC. I remember going into town early one morning in the infamous blue bus. The bus had wire on the windows to prevent our friends from lobbing grenades inside. So there I was early one morning on the bus headed for town. I was the only one on the bus. We were warned to stay in groups. As I got off the bus looking for others of my kind, I quickly realized that there were no other GIs around, and I was now a group of one. I spent a very nervous hour or so until the next bus arrived with a load of the only guys around who spoke English. What a relief. I resolved to be more careful. The rules for a healthy visit to town – Stay in groups, don't eat at the Vietnamese markets, and don't drink anything from an already open bottle or can. If it wasn't pressurized, you didn't drink from it.

About 2500 Vietnamese civilians worked on base we were told. They worked in house keeping, as bus boys in the chow hall, and in other jobs around the base. Some of these people were presumed to be VC or VC sympathizers. Just who they were, no one knew. But here's a tip. The K9 Handlers worked at night. There were two shifts. The late shift would usually go to midnight chow before going on post. When the Vietnamese kitchen workers didn't show up for work, we figured we were in for trouble that night. Somehow they seemed to know when the base was going to be attacked. Imagine that.

In Nov 1966 our tour was over. We flew from Da Nang to Saigon where we departed for the States on Tiger Airlines. With mortars going off in the distance, as we took to the air the cheers of relief were exceeded only a few hours later by the cheers of joy as we saw the lights of the California coast.

If some of my facts are a little off, my apologies to my fellow AP's who were also there. After 40 years my memory for facts has waned a little. Wait a minute! Was it Da Nang - or did I go to Cam Ranh Bay?


Sadly, when I left in Nov 1966, King 6F61 remained at Da Nang, doing what he did best. Joyfully, Gail and I are still happily married after 41 years. And I am still searching for lost K9 Handlers and Air Police buddies.

Don Jones 

  "History does not entrust the care of freedom to the weak or
timid." - Dwight D. Eisenhower