|Army Air Cargo Terminal and Camp Red Ball
from Andrew Ansenberger
300th Transportation Company
An Air Force fleet of forklifts brings the cargo and chaos to Army Air
Cargo. This happens through out the day and night.
My name is Andrew R. Ansenberger. I was drafted 3 weeks after graduating from high school and went in the Army in September of 1966. After basic training at Fort Campbell and AIT at Fort Polk, I was sent to Vietnam in March of 1967 with an 11B10 light weapons infantry MOS. My first three weeks in-country were spent in a security platoon on the Bien Hoa air base perimeter. When the 173rd Airborne moved to Bien Hoa, the security platoon, part of the 537th Pers Svc Co. was disbanded and I was re-assigned to the 1st Log Command, HHC USASUPCOM - SGN, and began an 11 month assignment as a member of Army Air Cargo. Our working days were spent at the Tan Son Nhut air base. Our billets were located a few miles north of Saigon in Gia Dinh province, in a compound known as Camp Red Ball. Army Air Cargo joined with the Red Ball express on and off for the 11 month period that I was a member. We were never an "official" detachment to a company, but were a sub-group of the US Army Support Command - Saigon Support Command, and later under the 4th Transportation Command, 71st Transportation Battalion, 300th and 368th Transportation Companies (I only knew about being in the 368th Transportation Company because it was listed on my going home orders. I must have been transferred the last couple of weeks in-country.)
Other than the drivers that went back and forth to Long Binh for administrative duties, we had no connection with our company. None of us met our First Sergeant or Company Commander that I know of. We all lived as a happy family at Camp Red Ball with other transportation units, mostly truck transportation units, post office, and the mortuary personnel. I was at Long Binh when I was processed into the unit, to get promoted to Sergeant, for a one-day “r&r” after the Tet offensive, and to process out of the country at the end of the year as the last stop before the 90th Replacement Battalion.
We worked two shifts, day and night, 6 to 6 each day with a day off every month or so. Our job duties included getting the Army cargo from the Air Force, sorting and loading it on trucks, both military and civilian, for distribution around the country. We handled most everything except food (we did handle a pallet of pizza sauce for the officer’s club and a load of rotten pineapples once. The sergeant had the pineapples shipped anyways. He said that we needed the tonnage numbers.) or ammunition. Normal cargo included hospital supplies, coffins, engines, swamp boats, artillery gun barrels up to 175mm size, clothes, fork lifts, and just about everything else.
I learned words like PSP, TCMD, Stevedore, conex, ETS, nomenclatures, 54-Hotel, short-timer and others that I still remember to this day. I still know how to say the alphabet from Alfa to Zulu, use terms like 1ea to describe 1 item and can count from 1 to 100 in Vietnamese (Mot Hi Ba Bone Nam Sow Bi Tom Chin Mui, etc.)
I was fortunate to have worked in an auto repair shop after school before entering the Army. I knew how to fix tires, change oil, and to figure out how the unit’s fork lifts and light trucks could be maintained and fixed.. After showing the sergeants that I could set points, clean battery posts, clean air filters, tell the difference between a dead battery and a bad starter, break down truck tires with only a crow bar and hammer, etc., I was relieved of the duties of writing TCMD’s and driving forklifts. I was made the unit’s mechanic and in the January, 1968, I was made the unit’s Motor Sergeant E-5, with a 63C40 MOS (even though I couldn’t recite any of my “General Orders” that I was supposed to know at the promotion ceremony).
We had a very poor or usually non-existent phone system between our unit and our home unit, the 300th Transportation Company at Long Binh. I was told in unofficial terms to fend for ourselves when in came to obtaining automotive parts for our fleet of forklifts and light trucks. I got most of the parts from trading with the Air Force. They always seemed to have plenty, and as the year went by, I got pretty good in the art of bartering.
Since I was a one-man motor pool for 4 or 5 months, I owe a lot of gratitude to the Air Force and the civilian mechanics that worked for Pacific Architects and Engineers , on information on vehicle repairing. One of the civilian mechanics told me to sign up for PA&E after my tour of duty and I could earn up to $18,000 a year working as a civilian mechanic in Vietnam. I never did take him up on the offer. After the first 4 or 5 months, another mechanic joined me and things got better. I was on the job about 6 or 8 months when I learned that I was supposed to keep log books on all vehicles and perform ESC’s. The Lieutenant and I then went to what I think was the 4th Command Headquarters at the Le Lai Hotel, for a crash course in log books. I then spent a few days in writing log books back to the beginning of time.
The fleet consisted of civilian type forklifts made by Hyster, Clark, Baker, and Towmotor. We had a dock mule made by Chrysler, a military jeep for our commanding officer, 1st Lt Maurer, an Econoline van for the messengers, Schu and Clamp (nobody knew anyone by their first names), and a flat bed Ford F-500 truck that transported us back and forth between Tan Son Nuht and Camp Red Ball.
I don’t remember too many names, since about 35 years have gone by, but do remember Lt Maurer, Sam The names; Burrows, Lt Zumwalt, Sergeant Mathes, Gerald F. Gunyetty, Dave Distahoerst, Dave Belwaneamy, Kivel, Jesse Canals, Gerald Williams, Jim Herrel, Charles Long, and Sp4 Price and many more. If I think hard, a few more names might come to me in the next few days. Sp4 Price was the only member of Army Air Cargo/Red Ball Express that was KIA in the Tet Offensive at Camp Red Ball. I had only known him for a short time. I was assigned to crate up his personal belongings to ship to his family. We heard that others from other units at Camp Redball were also killed but not for a fact. He and an old sergeant were behind a wood pile that was blown up by an artillery round. The South Vietnamese had an artillery battery up the road in Gia Dinh. Their compound was over-run by the VC and the VC then trained the 105’s on us. Many were injured and some had to be hauled out by medic helicopter. I was hit in the shoulder by shrapnel but wasn’t put out of service. When going to Long Binh for a one day r&r, I was cleaned up and sent back to work the next day. Later, when I got back to the US, I received a Purple Heart.
Tet 68 at Camp Redball
were given time off during the days to rest, but nobody really did.
home is located north of our position at Camp Red Ball. The father
its family reported the next day that his wife and his five children were
killed in it the first night of Tet, when a round went through its roof.
All burned to death.
quarters at Camp Red Ball.
Camp Red Ball Church was hit during Tet. It was so new that I don't
think services were ever held in it until a service was held for SP4 Hubert
Price, a member of our 300th TC (Terminal Service), who died from a shell, the first night of the Tet offensive.