fellow Signal Corps veterans....
Was anyone with the 21st Signal Group from 1966 to 1972, in Nha
Trang and Tuy Hoa, Viet Nam? If so, please contact me, we've got
a website going. You're invited to join the Roster. http://21signal.com
Name: Bill Comrey
City: Harrisburg, PA
Served: 43rd Signal BN HHD Co., Tropo Hill, Pleiku, 1968
21st Signal Group Aviation Co., Nha Trang Airfield, 1969
Oh boy, where do I begin... I switched from a full time to part
time college student in the Fall of 1967 and was promptly
drafted on December 23, 1967 (Greetings from Uncle Sam and Merry
Xmas..!!). I completed my basic training at Fort Benning,
Georgia. While there I resigned my Draft status and re-enlisted
for a 3 year term to obtain a Critical MOS. This action assured
me I would not go to Infantry AIT School. I completed two
Critical MOS classes at the Quartermaster School at Fort Lee,
Virginia. I obtained E4 from the first school and obtained the
rank of E5 from the second school.
I was six months into the U.S. Army they slapped the rank of SP5
on my shoulder. During my 3 year enlistment my 180 day E5
program made many career military guys upset with me and/or the
Army. Many E6s and E7s had to serve 4 to 5 years to get the rank
of E5 prior to the Vietnam War buildup and it's acceleration
program (Critical MOS).
After I obtained the rank of SP4, during my AIT, I drove home to
Harrisburg, PA, and married my high school sweetheart. Since I
was married I was allowed to move off base. Which my new bride
and I did. We rented a trailer. Many things were going on in our
lives then. In 1968, President Johnson decided not to run for
re-election, Martin L. King and Bobby Kennedy were killed, and
some cities in the USA were rioting. Some troops from Fort Lee
were sent to Washington, DC for guard duty. I was lucky enough
to stay in my AIT school.
I went to Vietnam in August of 1968. My stretch DC8 nearly
crashed on takeoff at Anchorage, Alaska. It was too heavy, and
we just cleared the 10 foot tall chain link fence at the end of
the 2 mile runway. Got to Cam Ranh Bay, got my first breath of
Vietnam's humid putrid air. I asked for my weapon and was
informed I'd get one in Pleiku. I was also told not to worry,
Cam Ranh Bay never gets any pressure from the V.C. That night
the Korean R.O.K. base next to the CRB Replacement center took
mortar rounds and they killed several V.C. on their perimeter.
This was the first V.C. contact CRB and the Rocks had in the
past 6 months. That was my first day welcome to Vietnam.
I spent the next 4 months at the 43rd Signal Battalion HQ CO on
Tropo Hill, just north of the Pleiku Airbase. My MOS was 76T20,
and I was sent to the 43rd to set up a spare parts supply
division for 4 Hueys that were on their way to the 43rd. Just as
I got all my parts order forms authorized, I was informed our 4
Hueys were diverted to the home Aviation base at the 21st Signal
Group in Nha Trang. It took our Commanding Officer 3 months to
get my orders cut to transfer me to Nha Trang.
On December 28, 1968, I transferred to the 21st Signal Group.
What a bummer, we had a great New Year's Party planned at the EM
club at the MACV and II Corp Compound on Tropo Hill. When I
arrived at the Aviation Detachment of the 21st Signal, I was
assigned to be the new Aviation Parts Supply guy. Everyone
called me the Tech Sergeant, but I was only a SP5. The slot I
worked in was an E6 slot, but I declined to go to the board for
consideration of promotion to Staff Sergeant. I knew I wasn't
going to stay in the Army, so I told my First Sgt. to keep the
promotion for a career man.
The unit's Supply Officer and I did a great job in reorganizing
the Supply Division so that we could have adequate parts on hand
for our 8 Hueys, and 4 airplanes. Both of us got Army
Commendation medals for our work.
Several months before I arrived we lost a man from our unit when
one of our Hueys went down on Pr'Line Mountain. He had a desk
job for the 21st Signal HHD Company, but volunteered to be a
door-gunner. He didn't want to go home and tell his family that
he had a desk job during the Vietnam War. He died within 30 days
from his transfer to the Aviation Section. How tragic.
I took my R&R in Hawaii. My wife flew over and we celebrated
our 1st wedding anniversary on the beaches of Hawaii. That was a
I got to fly (as a passenger) many times to pick up parts with
my Supply Officer. We used to fly fast and low so that Charlie
wouldn't shoot at us. On two occasions we hit trees by flying
low and failing to pull up in time as a row of trees came upon
us. We didn't crash both times, but I got to understand what the
phrase "pucker factor" was all about. On my last day
in Vietnam, I had my most dangerous and nearly fatal Huey crash.
It was August 12, 1969, and I was on the flight line of the 21st
Signal Aviation sitting inside one of our Hueys. The night
before we had a great going away party, but I made sure I didn't
get too looped. I didn't want to oversleep and miss this flight.
We loaded our gear and my duffle bag, and I strapped myself in.
The pilot was revving up the Huey engine and just before lift
off the pitch change link control rod (a critical part of the
rotor) broke. The main rotor blade went out of control and
oscillated wildly, nearly hitting the tarmac and the tail
fuselage. Somehow the pilot got the RPMs down and got the blades
to slow and then stop. He told me later that had we been in
flight, we would have rolled over and went in nose first.
So I'm happy to be here. Welcome Home has a special meaning to
I made my connection to my Freedom Bird at Cam Ranh Bay, flew on
to Fort Lewis. and was home within 2 days from my final aviation
mishap. I was a nervous wreck. My wife and I thought about going
to the Woodstock Concert that was only a few days after my
arrival. But I was too tired and just happy to make it home in
one piece. I thought I'd catch the next Woodstock Concert..!!!
I finished out my 3 year enlistment at the Presidio of San
Francisco, at Crissey Army Airfield; right next to the south
tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. On January 3, 1971, I was
honorably discharged and my wife and daughter (she was born in
SF) drove home to Pennsylvania.
I've worked for the past 30 years in the financial world. I was
a CEO in the credit union industry for 24 years. I gave up the
pressure of being the top dog. Now I'm an Account Executive for
a mortgage banker company.
Welcome Home to you all. Best Regards.... Bill Comrey