Fireworks at Binh Thuy Ammo Dump
After we moved to Long Binh in March, 1972, we sent a crew to the Delta each week to support the few Americans that were left in that part of the country. We found an abandoned shack at the south end of the airfield and used this for staging the remote Dustoff Operations. We had four bunks, a radio, a telephone, and a card table.
The VNAF were now flying their own missions day and night and the US activity had really tapered off in the Delta by this time. Consequently, we spent many nights playing cards until it cooled down enough that we could get some sleep.
The night of April 17, was a typically quiet night until we were awakened sometime around 2:00 a.m. with what sounded like World War Three. The entire sky west of us seemed ablaze. We didn't know whether to crawl under our bunks and pray for survival, or to jump in the helicopter and get the hell out of there. We did the only thing that was left and went outside to see what was going on.
Navy Binh Thuy, which was eight or ten miles west of us had a big ammo dump. It was obvious that the ammo dump had been hit and was exploding. I have no idea what all was stored in that ammunition storage area, but it was the biggest fireworks display I have ever seen.
We knew there were some Americans left at the engineering compound, and they might need some help, but we felt helpless when it came to figuring out how to help them. Flying over there would be like flying into an inferno. We decided to wait until things had quieted down before we went over to see what aid we could offer.
That didn't happen until daybreak. We flew over and landed on the airstrip. A jeep came out to meet us. Fortunately, the news wasn't so bad. The ammo dump had done a fairly good job of containing secondary explosions. Most of the personnel had stayed in the bunkers throughout the night, so there were few injuries. We loaded up the few injured men we could find and flew them to the 24th Evac hospital in Long Binh. The Third Surg was still at Binh Thuy, but had been turned over to the Vietnamese and was no longer operating as an American hospital.