We land in Bangkok, and it looks like it hadn't changed in 51 weeks since I landed here on the way to Vietnam. There is an Army Transportation Captain at the foot of the stairs, and I ask if he is the ATCO, and introduce myself. He said he was, and has me identify my bags and rifle as they come off.
"Let's go, " he said, grabbing one of my bags. He said there is one cancellation, and I am booked back on the flight. But, I have to get to the counter in a hurry, and to ignore the others in line.
We excuse ourselves, shoving through a small crowd, to the counter. "I have Captain St. Clair here," he said. "He is the officer I told you about, and needs a boarding pass." The Airman looks at my orders and flight authorization, and takes my bags and gives me a boarding pass for Karachi.
In their infinite wisdom, the Army and Air Force have given me space required from Saigon, west, a distance equivalent to the distance it would have taken me to go from Saigon, east across the Pacific Ocean, and the United States to Fort Belvior, Virginia. Going west, that is equivalent to flying to Karachi. After that, I would have to fly space available!
Back on the plane, we take off for New Delhi. When we reach cruising altitude, the pilot invites us up to the cockpit, and while I am up there, he points out the Golden Pagoda of Rangoon, Berma.
The embassy flight overnights in New Delhi, and we will be on our own for a place to sleep. As we near New Delhi, the crew chief announces that the few of us who have space required will most likely not get space tomorrow beyond Karachi, and suggests we talk with the Air Force transportation officer who will meet the plane when we land.
The Air Force major and I are both in this space required category to Karachi, and we both want to end up in Germany. The transportation officer tells us that we can go to Karachi tomorrow, and probably not beyond; and that the plane is booked solid out of Dhahran. No way do either of us want to get bumped in Dhahran and have to fly Mid East Flying Carpet to Germany. We find out that there is a Lufthansa flight leaving at 0100 for Frankfurt, and decide to buy tickets.
By then, all the other passengers have exited the terminal, for Lord knows where, and we have the Air Force grab our bags off the C-141. There are no baggage lockers at the airport, and the major said we could take them to the Embassy and ask the Marine guard to watch them for a couple of hours. Fine, good idea! Except.......
The Indian customs agents become quite agitated at my trying to take a rifle into their country. I tried to explain that it would only be for a short while, but they don't know what to do. Finally, the call the customs chief, who had just got home; and he comes back to the airport. By now, an hour had passed. It is 1900, and there is no place to get anything to eat, etc., and I tell the major to go ahead. But, he doesn't.
The customs chief returns, and finds out what was going on, and starts yelling. "Now, what," I thought. Turns out he was jumping his guys for not having any initiative. Simple he says, "Leave the gun with me, and pick it up just before boarding your Lufthansa flight!" So, I give him the Mauser, and the Colt 32, both of which I have with US import papers as War Trophies.
The 32 had been in my suitcase, and he yells at the customs guys for not finding it, and looks with a baleful eye at me. "Hey," I said, "they didn't ask!"
By now, it is 1930, and we grab a taxi and tell the driver to take us to the American Embassy. There, the Marine guard agrees to watch our bags, and recommends we go to an English Hotel for dinner.
We do, and the hotel has three restaurants; one English, one Continental, and one Indian. We go to the Indian restaurant, and order our dinner. Everything is curry, and I can't eat it!
By 2400 hours, we are back at the airport, waiting for the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.
I am tired; the major is tired, but we both have shit eating grins. Afterall, Vietnam is now in our past!