Bill Comrey


Hello 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.

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

My Story:

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 great time.

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 me.

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


1st Signal Brigade
United States Army
Republic of Viet Nam
Updated 05/26/2003

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