Friday, February 5, 2010


Tom's Journal.

I spent a short time, perhaps 2 months with Pipesmoke Recovery in Phu Loi in my 1st tour of Vietnam from early 1968-69, TDY [temporary duty]. And also time at Cu Chi, and Bien Hoa Air Base working in Army Aviation Companies. Piplesmoke sent me back to Cu Chi after they found out that I 'didn't have the MOS they wanted...' That was a hairy,scary job anyway, going into the bush to recover shot up/ shot down aircraft, rigging them and then hooking them up to the Chinook flying over head. You didn't know what to expect. I was low man on the totem pole in that detachment and took a lot of 'hazing' / cheerful harassment by those who had been there for a while... but maybe they were just 'testing my steel.' I was also relatively "new" in-country, and still had a lot to learn. It may sound strange but I saw more blood and guts in my first tour than my 2nd-- flying everyday as door gunner with the 240th AHC.
I am a bit guarded about what I post concerning my time in RVN, because there is always some 'tough grunt' who thinks he was some kind of hero or authority on war and combat questioning my own personal out look, perspective about my time over there and job description. But those are USUALLY the ones who are 'less articulate', very myopic, and just don't have gonads enough to post their real names and web sites... lol. My heart to heart stories and mindsets are only for those few close friends whom I trust --real biblical Christians who don't have any ulterior motive or reason to bash me. What is really important now is: what's going to happen shortly and how best to be ready and right for the Lord.

I was just searching the Net for the history of my old, first unit in Nam, USARV.... and hey-- in the Army they send you where they need you, and you take orders, or else. I learned what I needed to know and figured that some of my old Army buddies might want to read it too. Hey, someone who used to work right next to me on the Chrysler assembly line contacted me today! It's time to "Net Work" and build friendships and resources.

I wrote an email to the guy who posted this article, in hopes that he might like to hear what I have to say about my time in the same company.


Pipesmoke Professionalism

from George Arzente

Although the 34th Group, as a maintenance and supply organization, performs a vital but rather unglamorous mission, it does include one unit that is involved with a very exciting job day after day. The "Pipesmoke" recovery team of the 520th Transportation Battalion is responsible fox. most of the field and maintenance extractions of downed Army aircraft in Military Region 3, many of which are performed under the adverse conditions of enemy fire, darkness, and bad weather. -Traditionally, recovery of aircraft in Vietnam has been a coordinated effort between the direct support company, supplying a rigging helicopter with crew to prepare the downed aircraft for recovery, and the general support unit providing the CH-47 "Chinook" for the lift. The "Pipesmoke" recovery team is a unique(.' unit in that both the rigging and extracting elements are under unified operational control. This is made possible due to the close proximity of the 520th Battalion units and results in the most efficient, best equipped, and most highly trained recovery unit in Vietnam.

Recoveries are categorized in two ways. Routine Maintenance evacuations involve the aerial transfer of aircraft that are not operational due to mechanical failures, repairable combat damage or accidents. These aircraft require airlifting from one secured area to another for repairs. The second type of recovery is known as a Field Extraction and involves disabled aircraft that have been forced down beyond the safety of base camp perimeters. To keep these aircraft out of the hands of the enemy, immediate extraction is essential.

Averaging approximately 45 maintenance evacuations and 40 field extractions a month, the men of "Pipesmoke" have made more than 3,500 recoveries since April 1967.. This figure represents not only recoveries made - for maintenance and supply customers of the 520th - Battalion, but all other aviation units within Military Region 3 that require assistance During the recent Cambodian operation the Pipesmoke team followed aviation units across the border and recovered aircraft for both the United States Army and the Vietnamese Air Force.

Late last fall, "Pipesmoke" achieved a notable first when it recovered a fully equipped CH-47 "Chinook" by using a "C" model CH-47 and airlifted it from Phu Loi to Saigon. This recovery marked the first time a "Chinook" had been recovered in Vietnam without having been first stripped of all detachable components, and demonstrated that the valuable helicopter could be moved out of danger much faster than was ever thought possible.

Requests for recovery missions come to the "Pipesmoke" operations center in Phu Loi by telephone from the owning unit or by air-to=ground communication from an aircraft at the scene. The "Pipesmoke" crew members are briefed on the mission and prepare the necessary rigging gear and Once on the scene, the recovery is made swiftly and carefully. Each man has a specific job, and in coordination with other members of the team, performs with long-practiced skill.

The personnel of "Pipesmoke" are drawn from the 520th Battalions resources. The enlisted personnel are all volunteers and hold highly sought positions The men of "Pipesmoke" are considered to be the finest and most knowledgeable maintenance personnel in the 520th Battalion and hold a prestigious reputation throughout the 34th Group.


Item contributed by Bob Morris

Here is a some history about the 605th Transportation Company (ADS) as I remember it. Also, I'm was not a transportation MOS soldier, I was 34D2 (EDP Repairman), which is a Signal Corp MOS.

605th TC (ADS) - The (ADS) was Aircraft Direct Support. When I was with the unit, we were station in Phu Loi (about 25 clicks north of Saigon). I believe the unit moved into the delta area in 70 or 71. The unit had three functions, salvage, repair and parts.

Salvage - This is where the Pipesmoke name was used, it was the unit's call sign. We had (I believe) four UH-1 "Hueys" and 4 CH-47 "Chinooks". The "Pipesmoke" platoon was responsible from recovering any aircraft wreckage from the field. The word "Pipesmoke" was painted on the roof of operations shack.

Repair - The unit has a repair and maintenance hanger. The was quite a few civilians from the LSI corp. that lived in our company area and worked in this area.

Parts - Unit had a parts warehouse and serviced all the near by units. This where I worked. We had a NCR 500 computer system that was mounted in two 40 foot van trailers next to the warehouse. All the aircraft parts that we had on were inventoried on this system and I was the repairman.

As with any Army unit, we were always short on people for different jobs, so one of my "other" jobs with the unit was truck driver. I OJTed on a 5 ton tractor and flat bed trailer for a couple of weeks, then was cut loose making the twice weekly trip to Saigon/Ton Son Hnut.. That was a lot fun (I hated working on the computer system).

Another interesting fact about my unit, about 25-35% of the unit from Oct 68 to Oct 69 was made up of Army Reservists from Greencastle, PA. I don't remember the unit's name, but they were activated, training for a year at Fort Lee (I think) and then were deployed to RVN as fill ins to the 520th TC Bn. Thats about all the history of the 605th that I remember, hope it helps. And again, thanks for the ATA page.


Aerial view of the 605th Transportation Company (ADS) at Phu Loi, take sometime between April and June 1969. The unit was located between the tow roads that intersect at the bottom of the picture and let out the west gate onto highway ??. The large building at the top right center was the maintenance hanger. The buildings in the row below the hanger was the billets that the civilians from LSI lived in. The next row is the company's HQ building (white roof), officer and senior NCO billets. Building below the HQ building is the mess hall. The next row down were troop billets, then the "Club" with it's outdoor movie screen in front, volley ball court and supply/arms room on the right. The next row of buildings were troop billets (mine was the middle one). The next row was an empty building and another troop billet. The last small building by the road on the right was one of the most important buildings around (especially late Monday mornings), the crapper. The circle at the bottom left was the shit pit, were Papa-san burnt the barrels from the crappers.

The large building was the parts warehouse, building on the right was the warehouse office and the trailer behind the barrel blast wall was the computer van (this was my primary work area). Photo was taken from the motor pool.

Inside the computer vans. This was a NCR 500 computer system, which was a magnetic card ledger system for tracking parts from the warehouse. There were also 3 IBM keypunch machines and a card sorter.

A "lift", Pipesmoke at work.

The Army's Navy

USNS Corpus Christy Bay, The Floating Aircraft Maintenance Facility

Photo from Bob Morris

"The most unique unit assigned to the 34th was the USNS Corpus Christy Bay, also known as the 1st Transportation Battalion (Depot)(Seaborne). In actuality, this was a floating aircraft maintenance facility which arrived on 12 April 1966 carrying 370 Army maintenance personnel and 130 civilian crewman. Thirty seven maintenance functions were consolidated aboard this ship, allowing it to function as a depot level repair facility capable of doing complete overhaul and of fabricating components. Additionally, it carried a library of 180,000 engineering drawings on film and could broadcast over closed circuit TV drawings to satellite maintenance facilities. The Corpus Christi Bay arrived in Cam Ranh Bay in April 1966. She moved out of Cam Ranh Bay on 21 Sep 1966 and sailed to the harbor at Qui Nhon to be near the 1st Cavalry, the unit she primarily supported. The majority of support performed by this vessel was in open rice paddies and jungle clearings.[The U.S. Army in Vietna

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