page 88 CHAPTER 7
On the other part of the ramp across from the tower, there was a new tower being built. It was being constructed by the Government and the Federal Aviation Commission. It was to be part of an upgrading of the airport facility. It seemed that An Khe was going to be part of a total upgrading throughout the country. There were other towers being built at other airports. It was part of the plan to make a totally new and efficient airport system throughout Viet Nam. It would probably cost the Government countless millions of dollars.
The towers themselves were constructed of wood and stood about one hundred and fifty feet off the ground. The beams looked like something out of the pioneering days of the United States. They were course but did the job of supporting the massive structure of the tower. On top of the pylons was a cab type structure. Inside was housed modern radios and the latest equipment that the F.A.A. had to offer. The outside walls were of an octagonal shape, with the windows being in a colonial style. There was one blunder made in the design of the tower. The windows were set on a perpendicular to the floor. When the sun shone at certain angles, the glare from the windows made it impossible to see outside. This at times made it almost impossible togain visual contact with incoming aircraft. Windows in most towers are constructed at a slant, in order to allow the light to reflect.
The tower was still a nice place to work. The new radios allowed for clearer listening and the reception range was of a greater distance. We were given to detail of painting the inside and outside of the tower cab. A dull grey color was chosen and sort of fit the tower, but black for camouflage would have been better. There was also one feature that was new inside the tower. Two air conditioners were placed in the walls. This was done to keep the radios at a constant cool temperature. Allowed to stay in the heat, the component parts of the radios would probably falter and fuse together in the heat. It also gave the guys working inside the tower some relief from the tormenting heat. This also allowed them to work more efficiently and keep their minds off the heat. More concentration could be placed on the aircraft arriving and leaving the airport.
The whole of An Khe and the surrounding area could be seen from the roof of the tower. You could go up on the roof and see the entire town. It looked more like a pin headupon green turf. At night the surrounding area was black and dark to all present. At times you could see fire fights going on at different points. They usually turned into a mind provoking experience.
At times you could see red and green tracers, flying all over the place. Then you knew there was heavy enemy action in the surrounding area. You would get a call from the gunships leaving Golf Course, to engage in the action. The call would come across the radio asking permission to cross the airport airspace. The replies were very fast and the urgency of the pilot would express this in the voice.
His own inner fears would be transmitted across the radio at times. Yet,, you knew that he knew, the needs of the man in the action, were of the deepest importance. The support that the helicopters could give, would mean the life or death of some guys. At times also artillery would be called in. The new hot fire zones would cross the runway. Within a short period of time, the booms of the howitzers, could be heard reeking out there fire. You knew the enemy was in strength, when there was such a build up.
Then looking over to the area it would seem like the Forth of July. There would be red streams of light, coming from the mini-guns that were upon the ships. They could shoot out thousands of rounds of death, within a short period of time. They were one of the new marvel weapons of the war. It was said, that a mini-gun could cover the size of a football field with lead, in a few seconds. The massive killing power of the gun was incredible. The rockets from the gunships, could be seen flaring away from the helicopter and striking the ground in flashes of light. The whizzing sound would reach and the crack of the explosion would follow. Next to the artillery landing area of impact of the incoming rounds, was a sight to see. You knew if there were any enemy in the area, that they were killed.
The ensuing fire fight would last for as long as the Viet Cong wanted to engage in it. Like ships in the night, they would sneak off and leave the remains of the battle behind them. Most of the times, this was the order of retreat. They knew the country side and would go to some quiet place in a short period of time. They had that quality of elusiveness. One moment they would seem to be pinned down, the next thing they would be gone. It could almost be said, that they were the "illusive enemy"
After the shooting had stopped, you would get another call over the radio. It was that of the medevac helicopter or copters. The pilot would also call in that solemn tone, that only meant one thing. One of our guys was in need of medical service. Another life had been altered in some way.
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