This Site is Primarily Dedicated to Those Airmen Who Participated in
Aerial Port Mobility Operations
"The 8th MOB"
Aerial Port Mobility Team (AMT)
We, the men of 8th MOB
salute you who carry on the tradition of the original 8th Aerial Port MOB
in the Mobility Airlift Command Units of today's
United States Air Force.
The MOB Shack Courtesy of Jerry Brown
Gerald Bickford in the MOB Shack Courtesy of Lester James
Lester James Coordinating MOB activities Courtesy of Lester James
"THE FLYING FORKLIFTS"
an integral part of Tactical Airlift in Vietnam, 1965-1975
(III Corps & IV Corps)
This site is also just as much about all those of the 8th, 14th, and 15th Aerial Port Squadrons and their Dets and OLs.
Because, called out from those very units, was a very unique group, all volunteers (and since not all volunteers were accepted),
many times these individuals were chosen to join by other
MOB Team Members themselves.
They, those selected volunteers, came to be known as...
"The Chosen Few"
"These guys were airmen living a soldier's life at remote air strips deep in the VC-infested jungle... "
"Some of us saw more than the average Air Force guy" - Mike Warren '68-70
In June of 68, Mobility unit was called
CMT/Combat Mobility Team
It was sort of the disciplinary unit for the "bad boys" of the 8th Aerial Port Squadron.
We were somewhat uncontrollable, ragged looking, not always in sync with the brass, so we were sent out of sight and out of mind of the main base at Tan Son Nhut.
But today, we are known for what we did - by the people that mattered - The Special Forces teams we served, the air crews we augmented, and others who needed our help
to get the job done.
SSgt Dick Hageman - Mobility and Det. Tay Ninh, 1968-69
Courtesy of Lester James
|There is no doubt about it. Since our mission included tactical airlift support in areas which could not be easily - or safely - reached by road, since many of our missions were classified as "Combat Emergency" and each takeoff and landing was counted as a "Combat Assault", and since many of our men were wounded - and some died - by enemy fire, and we were often targeted specifically as we worked our aircraft...
|And since we were armed and equipped and actively contributed to camp defense where ever we were and since we often spent days and nights - and sometimes weeks - with the Army in their little jungle firebases and with The Special Forces in their jungle camps, Mobility Operations was quite often close to or involved in direct combat, and was by no means the typical 'safe' rear-echelon sort of Air Force assignment some might otherwise assume.
8th APS MOB TEAM AT WORK
8th MOB team member A1C Runfeldt carrying M-102 (105mm) howitzer on one of our famous USAF 10K Adverse Terrain "Flying" Forklifts.
Ssgt Roy Shinley approaching C-123 about to be loaded. Location: Djamap (aka FSB Snuffy/Bu Gia Map) spring or summer, 1970.
See Caribou pilot Ken Fillmore's aerial photo of this airstrip. This scene took place in the bottom right corner of Ken's photo.
Click on image above to see original full scene. By the way.. who snapped this photo?
For that matter, many of the Detachments experienced just as many attacks as we did in the field.
That's why they call this "Combat Airlift".
And we were all volunteers, proud to be part of - and accepted by - our Mob Teams.
According to documents published by Maxwell AFB, official doctrine was as defined below:
"Air transport in major warfare should be used when practical for the supply of combat units, for evacuation, and for emergency troop movements..."
That's what we did.
Our equipment included just about everything required to create an 'instant cargo center' in the jungle - 10-thousand-pound-capacity Adverse Terrain Forklifts - the famous "10k AT", designed specifically for missions such as ours, the smaller "6k RT" Rough Terrain forklift, the PRC-25 "portable" radios and our personal gear - M16's for the team members, plus revolvers for the team chiefs, as well as other weapons collected in our travels... and, of course, the ubiquitous military clip board - although maintaining paper records was always a challenge under our working conditions...
In both cases, the planes handled by these 8th APS teams typically included C-7 Caribous of the USAF, US Army Special Forces, and the Australian AAF, USAF C-123s based within Vietnam and many C-130's manned by crews based outside of Vietnam, but on 30-day rotating tours "in country". We also occasionally handled - and traveled in - Chinook CH-47 Cargo helicopters of the US Army. Sometimes, our teams had to be transported - or evacuated - by UH-1b "Huey" choppers as well.
These locations were typically at remote Special Forces camps or 1st Cav artillery bases, although the 8th Mob also supported the Vietnamese & U.S. Marine Corps at times, and some Mob team members received commendations from the U.S. and Vietnamese Marine Corps.
The Special Forces camps at Bu Dop, Tonle Cham, Katum, Rang Rang and others along the Cambodian border were frequently visited by the MOB teams for 1-3 day stays. U.S. Army Fire Support Bases such as Bu Gia Map (FSB Snuffy, aka Djampa on Air Force maps) and others were also familar to these traveling freight handlers.
While much of the time, things were quiet and the only dangers were accidents, sunburn, heat exhaustion, homesickness and malaria, there were also many times when the Viet Cong added to the danger and attacked these teams at work.
During the siege of Khe Sanh
in 1968, volunteers from the 8th APS were sent TDY to augment 15th APS' airlift support of Khe Sanh. At least one of these 8th Aerialporters wound up at Khe Sanh with the 15th APS mobility team and lived with the US Marines in the trenches and bunkers of the besieged camp. Their purpose was to load and unload the C-7's, C-123's & C-130's that made it through the NVA fire to land at what was quite likely the most dangerous airfield in the world at that time. Not all of the planes that took off from or tried to land at Khe Sanh made it. (We are currently getting information about their time at Khe Sanh from 8th APS' Neil "Brownie" Brown, 15th APS' Ted Winkelman & Bob Byers and LT.Col (army) Ron Parsons, all of whom were there during the seige.
In June of 1970, 8th APS Mobility and Combat Control teams assisted the US and Vietnamese Marines in their efforts at Kham Duc, a Special Forces camp near Khe Sanh. CCT Sgt Dave Gfeller was wounded during that mission.
In 1972, a large 8th APS MOB team supported Lam Son 719 from Khe Sanh during the last major offensive of the war - the drive into Laos. Their story and photos will be added to this site in the future. For now, we have the Vietnam Airlifter report as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file. Vietnam Airlifter
- Bu Dop - Special Forces Camp A341
Correction: Through the fog of long-past memories (and, since I was not there myself), three "incidents at Bu Dop" (circa Nov-Dec, 1969) had been erroneously merged into one. There were many bad times at Budop, both before and after Nov-Dec 69. But few match these two particular incidents, which have been clarified through the help of former Mob Team members Sgts Neil Brown, Lou Cox & Paul Appel, the SF Medic who treated our wounded - four who were there and Sgt Jim Wade who was at HQ that day.
Here's the update as we have reconstructed events as of 2006.0208, with further updates after the reunion 2006.0929:
- November, 1969 - Special Forces Camp A341 Bu Dop. Sgt Neil Brown, operator of the 10K Adverse Terrain Forklift designed specifically to be used in such environments, became trapped between exploding munitions and burning fuel as he was trying to separate them during a rocket attack. Sgt Brown was forced to abandon his rig, which was burned to a crisp. A dramatic photo of this incident (which many of us may have already seen hanging on the wall outside the Squadron Commander's office at 8th APS HQ in Saigon over thirty years ago), is now in our posession and will be posted on this site in the future.
- December 1969 - Bu Dop. (updated 10/06) In two seperate incidents, an entire MOB team was effectively disabled, with 5-6 WIA during during one of the increasingly frequent rocket attacks directed at the dirt airstrip near the SF camp at Budop.
- According to recently-re-connected Team Members Paul Appel, & Lou Cox (and soon to be corraborated by Ssgt Jim Greene who were all among the WIA list of that morning), the team was leaving BuDop Special Forces compund on their AT Forklift when a round landed in front of them.
The blast sprayed the forklift and all mounted members with shrapnel, wounding Paul Appel, Doug Cave, Scott McCoy, Jim Greene & Lou Cox. A Vietnamese Irregular soldier who was with them apparently bore even more of the blast, since, according one of the survivors, "he simply disappeared".
- On a seperate mission on December 7. 1969, Ssgt Webb Layton was killed by a single mortar round. Jim Wade recalls returning to the MOB HQ that afternoon and being told by TSgt. Allen that we'd "lost a team member"...
- At Tonle Cham in May, a 5th SF C-7 Caribou came under motar attack during offload, and in their haste to escape, dropped their cargo load on the ground as they taxied away and took off "like a bat out of hell." At this time, the Tonle Cham camp already had a few planes laying in wreckage on the side of the runway. Their quick takeoff kept this crew alive and their plane intact and flying.. but it did cost us the fresh fruit and vegetables A1C Runfeldt was trying to offload when the plane moved out of reach of our AT...
- In the spring of 1970, an 8th APS team member at Song Be jumped into a foxhole during a particularly devasting VC attack and manned an M-60 machine gun for hours, warping the barrel by the heat of continued long bursts at the attacking VC. Not at all a typical Air Force experience... and one not easily forgotten.
- During a May, 1970 communications mission at the infamous northern base at Kham Duc (see Kham Duc (search on "Kham Duc" at Google for more), CCT Ssgt Dave Gfeller was wounded by shrapnel from a VC RPG rocket. Although wounded and medevaced to an Army hospital, Dave made it back to Saigon - on his own - by late that evening and was warmly welcomed by his friends who had simply heard a radio transmission earlier that day requesting "We need a replacement controller at Kham Duc". Since the transmission was by SSgt Charlie Brown, we all knew it had been his regular teammate, Dave Gfeller who had been wounded. We were all happy and relieved to see him in bloodied hospital garb, but alive and home with his teammates. A photo of Charlie making this radio transmission is in the official USAF history of tactical airlift in Vietnam...
- During the 12 months beginning in the summer of 1969, we lost one man KIA, with 14 Purple Heart medals and at least a half-dozen Bronze Stars awarded to the 21 members of the 8th APS Mob and dozen or so Combat Control team members who worked with us - for their wounds and brave action under the combat conditions of the 8th APS MOB missions. This was not a typical "safe job" for USAF personnel...
- The above commentary chronicles only those events during this webmaster's tour (and shortly before I arrived). But now, with the input of MOB team members who served after 1970, the story is being expanded. Prior to 1969, the MOB unit was more loosely organized and after 1970, as the US Army stood down and left Vietnam, combat support at remote airstrips dwindled, leaving MOB teams quite literally alone on the air strips where they worked. As the war wound down, many detachments were closed and became operating locations with no permanent staff. See Cary Louderback's letter.
- During Operation Lam Son 719 in 1972, the MOB team went back to Khe Sanh - oddly enough, where the MOB team story began in 1968 with a "TDY" to Danang which sent 8th APS mobility volunteers into hell for the three month Seige of Khe Sanh.
In 1972, a formally organized and well-trained and well-equipped Mobility Operation served at the same location in support of the US and Vietnamese forces which attempted to stop the NVA. See the Adobe Acrobat .pdf file copy of the Vietnam Airlifter with their complete story of the 8th MOB at Khe Sanh in 1972.
In 1971, there were plenty of missions to Kontum - with some hairy stories to go with them. Some of this story is recounted on Cary Louderback's page
There were many other incidents such as described above. The hope of this site's webmaster is to provide a chronicle of the history and personal stories of these men and the others who, although enlisted in the USAF, lived and worked with the US Army & US Army Special Forces organizations thoughout some of the most dangerous territory in the war zone.
- Alan Runfeldt, USAF 1968-72, Vietnam 1970, Thailand, 1971.
Note: The above accounts are personal recollections (after 30 years) of one Mob Team member. We welcome your comments, additions and corrections.
See our "Member Pages " links below for member's own stories.
Photos - we need photos - of any of the places mentioned within these pages. Photos of the places we worked at provide a verifiable link between our often-fogged memories and the reality of our lives 30 years ago. Thank you for any photos you can provide us with.
THE PHOTO WE'D BEEN SEEKING FOR ALMOST TWENTY YEARS
Sgt. Neil Brown and his 10k AT - Budop
Sgt Brown had been separating Fuel Bladders and Pallets of Live Ammo during a mortar attack when an incoming mortar round ignited a fuel bladder right behind him. He could not move forward; he could not back up. He was trapped in the blaze and had to abandon his forklift and escape on foot. The ensuing fire and explosions continued for hours, effectively destroying the entire supply of both fuel and ammunition - from small arms to howitzer shells, as can be seen in the foreground.
After the fire was over and explosions had died down, this was what was left of the 10 K Adverse Terrain forklift.
This is the photo we have been trying to track down for many years.
A framed copy of this photo was on the wall outside of 8th APS Squadron Commander Col. Lisec's office at TSN and was the first photo many of us saw of the MOB teams at work in Vietnam when we arrived there in January of 1970.
photo courtesy of Connie Lisec from the collection of Colonel Victor Lisec.
Here is another photo of this AT as it was burning.
players and unit and organization names may have changed, but the
mission's just the same.
Then it was 10K AT's
and C-130's... and now it's 60k
loaders and C-17's
A Thanksgiving Day Song of the 60's...
for those of you who remember a song from long ago....
a special song...
(30 years later)
Listen and enjoy, courtesy of The 8th MOB Teams