By now, I am tying up three airmen at the counter, and guys in the line behind me are muttering, and one even says, "Get your ass out of line!"
The Airman says, "Please step aside, and let me handle the rest of our customers!" I moved a mere foot over, just enough to let the next guy get up to process. He has no trouble getting a boarding pass. Neither does the guy behind him.
By now, the Army ATCO comes over, and asks if he can help. I am still so mad I am quivering, and literaly can't speak. I hand him my papers, and the next guy in line sez he is going to Bangkok. And the fucking clerk reaches under the counter and picks up a shorter manifest; a list of passengers going only to Bangkok. Me! There I am! On the Bangkok manifest! ST. CLAIR, Edward B., Jr, CAPT, Army; THERE IT IS! I can see it upside down, and grab the thing off the counter, and shove it under the ATCO's nose.
He looks at the manifest, at my orders, and tells the Air Force to give me a boarding pass for Bangkok! Then he tells me to come to his office after I get processed. My first instinct is the right one. Get on the plane, get to Bangkok, just get out of Vietnam! The Airman, who has kept his cool the whole time, takes my bags and Mauser, and gives me my boarding pass, saying be here at the gate at 1130! I apologize for blowing my stack, and the supervisor says he understands.
The Army ATCO offers me a cup of coffee, which I accept, not wanting to get on his wrong side. He says he doesn't understand what happened, but the main thing is to get on the way. He tries to call the Army ATCO in Bangkok, and doesn't get through. He gives me his name, and promises to keep trying, and tells me to contact him immediately upon landing in Bangkok. He says that is the best he can do, and I better head for the boarding area. He also suggests I consider getting space A from either Bangkok or one of the airbases, if available; or even flying commercial from Bangkok!
1130 hours. Comes the announcement, "Welcome to the Embassy Flight, for Bangkok, and New Delhi, today; continuing tomorrow to Karachi, Dhahran, Ankara, and Madrid. Civilians and officers may board at this time." The plane is an Air Force C-141, with only two windows. I can't stand flying without looking out the window, so I rush on board, and grab one of the four window seats.
1200 hours, the doors close, and turning slightly, we glide down the taxiway. "Welcome aboard, we are number 19 for takeoff," said the pilot. We are positioned such that I can see the action out the window. At that time, TSN was rivaling Chicago O'Hare for being the busiest airport in the world. Hueys, Cobras, C-130s, C-123's, a C-7, and a couple commercial 707s either land, or take off. Then it is our turn.
Faster and faster we thunder down the runway; the nose goes up and the tail drops down. Rotation, I think the airplane operators call it. Take off! Wheels up! We are in the air, in a steep climb. The pilot has sure lit the fire in the planes tail.
Soon, we level off, heading West. I look out the little window, watching the paddies, some of the pock marked from bombs. After about 20 minutes, I can see the coast, the blue waters of the Gulf of Thailand! Then the beach is passing directly underneath. The captain speaks (actually an Air Force colonel), "Ladies and gentlemen, we are now leaving the airspace of Vietnam, heading out over the Gulf of Thailand!"
Cheers! More CHEERS! Vietnam fades into the distance. With a grin from ear to ear, I turned to the right, and shook hands with the guy sitting next to me. He is an Air Force major, and he is grinning too.