Road Stories from NKP
** Click here for "The Cricket Lament" and "The Nimrod Song" **
OK Guys, here is what you sent around the 'net about "the road". Enjoy.....
should be able to recognize this "dangerous" road in the above picture. the
thick red dust covering the trees on both sides of the road will provide you with a good
clue. Answer tomorrow if you do not have it already...
John, The most dangerous road that I recall other than the "Trail" was the road to downtown NKP --- but I don't recall it having that heavy a forest along it.
After two trips to town, I decided that driving IFR in the dust was more dangerous than combat! We took off on a mission once in the dry season and passed over a bad wreck about half way to town. A westbound pickup truck loaded with Thais passed another vehicle in zero visibility dust and hit an eastbound, large bus head on. There were a half dozen bodies strewn in the road as we passed over. I don't think I ever made another trip into town!
that is indeed the road to downtown NKP. As you remember the bus had wire covering the
windows and the dust on the trees on side of the road indicate how dusty the road was.
some of you guys who were at NKP in late 70 will remember about the TSgt who (so the story
goes) never went to town. But on the night B-4 he was to DEROS he went with a couple of
others to pick up some local stuff for his kids. On the way back the local bus was crowed
with guys standing and the door open due to the heat. As the Thai driver slowed to turn up
by the gate he hit a chuck hole or whatever, the TSgt standing by the open door was thrown
out and the rest is history. Even 100 meters from the main gate could be dangerous.
I really enjoyed the picture of the road to town. Made many a trip down it in 69. Only two come to mind though. One afternoon a bunch of us were headed for town and just missed the bus. So we decided to splurge and take a taxi, it was a Holden. I'll never forget the ride! We sure needed that first drink when we hit town.
The second trip that comes to mind was after an evening sampling the beverages offered at the Cricket Club. I just made the last bus headed for the base (don't remember if it was (9:30 or 10:30 that town went off limits). There had been a washout on the road about midway between NKP and the base and they had graded a path around it that looped off into the trees and returned to the road. Well on this very dark night, just as the bus was about half way around this loop the engine died.
You wouldn't believe how dark and how
quiet it was. Everyone on the bus just slowly got on the floor. I've never seen anyone
move as fast as the driver did as he jumped from his seat and headed for the door. Of
course we thought he was leaving, but he crawled under the bus, pounded on something real
hard a few times, said what must have been a prayer or a few curses then jumped back in
the bus. It ground a few times and fired. If you can burn rubber in dirt, he did. As we
pulled back on the road we all cheered. The driver got a real kick out of it.
One mid-morning, during the dry season, a buddy and I hitched our way back to NKP. It was windy, and our ride was a U-10. After we ceased bouncing and the driver parked the beast, it was time for a cold one in town.
We caught a taxi in to Monte's, and the Mugs and the Beer was cold. Tiring of cold beer we headed for the Cricket Club. They had a new record on the Juke Box, Daniel, My Brother, and it was played over and over and over. Finally couldn't take that any more and headed for Johnny's Bungalow.
By this time we weren't feeling any pain, and not really even feeling the ground under our feet. So, decided it was time to head for home. Going back, we each took a taxi. The race was on with the wining driver getting an extra 500 Baht.
It was only early afternoon, still light, and I was in the process of loosing the 500. Being behind also meant that the driver and I were both eating an awful lot of dust. About 3 klicks or so out of town the road makes a lazy turn to the left. A house sits on the right and a water buffalo lived on the left. The lead taxi went by, leaving a huge cloud of dust that seemed to upset the water buffalo. Being that the perpetrator was long gone, we became to focus of the beasts anger. That sucker charged us. I was sitting in the front really thought the buffalo was going to ram us. At the last instant he veered off and we passed.
We made it back to the Base covered
with red dust, spitting mud. I paid up to the driver and vowed never again to play the
Ugly American role.
Oh, what stories that road did contain. My most memorable trip was one night during the monsoon season that a bus load of us GI's were returning to base, and met another bus heading to town. Problem was, the road was flooded. Not too much to stop a bus, but enough to stall a small pickup right in the middle of the road in about 2 1/2 ft water. Neither bus could get around it, so we both sat. The bus with the guys heading to town were obviously more desperate to get there then we were to get back to base. Several guys on the other bus promptly got off and were attempting to get the pickup unstuck, pushing this way and that.
Everyone on our bus sat quietly and
watched. Finally, a voice said, "those guys need some help out there". Silence.
Then, "Yea, they sure do." No one moved. Finally one of the guys out wading
water shouted to our bus, "If you all don't help us get this truck out, you'll never
get back to base!" To which the reply came," So!" Anyway, after a good
laugh, and realizing that the truck wasn't going to get moved, we all got off and waded
through the water and switched buses, and we got back to base and the others did get to
And to think that some of us weren't ever happy enough with the baht cabs that would only do 60 mph on the trip into the ville. "Lao, Lao, Kraup" I remember saying to drivers that seemed to take great glee in being asked to go faster yet, thinking it okay just because a "farong" said "No sweat, pope en yong, doc!" And those nights when the cab had only one windshield wiper with the monsoons fully dumping on us. At least the wiper was on the driver's side. Whew! What a road.
Regarding those too often bus accidents, Woody Freeman, one of our newer TLC brothers, arrived on scene just in time to help save a life as I recall. But I'll let humble Woody recount that episode. Woody. . .?
Anyone remember the NKP hotel on the
river with the outside patio? I know Woody Freeman remembers it. (No tales Woody!) Great
for watching Taket across the river get pounded by the gunships. Or, how about wading to
Laos from NKP on an inner tube during the dry season?
I missed the bus one day and took a Baht-Mobile into town. At the time I spoke very little Thai. The driver spoke very little English. One of the doors was tied shut with a rope and the Datsun was not in what we would consider working order. The tires were bald down to the cord, the shocks were both broken, the muffler was gone, and various other indications that there was no repairs at all done to the car.
I was told by his "friend" at the gate that the whole family and many other relatives had invested their life savings to purchase the car, and they really needed to make money for the family - so I should rent the taxi to get to town. Well, the next bus was not for a long time and I had an appointment at Monties Ice Cream Parlor....so I took the ride.
HA - it was going just fine - No Problem - Can Do GI - except he started passing everyone he came up on and was speeding. So I figured to hell with it and urged him to go even faster as I was running late.
Well.....that went fine also until we got about a couple of miles or a little less from downtown. Then he started slowing down. No matter what I said he just kept slowing down. Now with my lousy Thai and his lousy English we made no headway. I kept yelling Lao Lao Pu - Chi and he kept yelling something I could not figure out.
Finally coasted to a stop a block before where I needed to get out. I told him to go another block. He told me mi I and slammed his foot onto the brakes. There were no brakes - none at all - that is why he passed everyone....it was pass them or hit them....no way to slow down.
I paid him....and a little extra as
well. Then I was damn glad to get a drink at Monties. When I was back last August....never
rode in a Taxi at NKP!
Hi, Everyone, I don't have many stories, or such entertaining stories, about the road to NKP. When I wasn't flying, I played 23rd TASS admin officer. My typical duty week was about 55-70 hours, so I didn't make many trips down town.
I flew over the road many times going to and from Steel Tiger, but usually my mind was on things beyond the River. Those of you who read A Certain Brotherhood will recall a fictional reference to J.D., a motorcycle, and that Road, a story which I now realize may have been more real to many of you than to me. Larry Hughes' story about the taxi race reminded me of another fictional race in a chapter of ACB that I didn't include in the part I published. I hope to add it in if I ever get a New York editor interested. That fictional race involved J.D. on the klongs of Bangkok.
Anyway my contribution to the Road stories involves a tragedy at our end of those 8 - 10 miles of potholes. Back in 1967, the base was supported by many Thai workers who bused out to the base each day from downtown NKP. The buses turned around out by the main gate, and the workers got on and off there. One afternoon during the beginning of the monsoon season, probably April or maybe early May, many were gathered at the gate awaiting the bus back to town. Lightning struck the crowd and killed three or four of the Thais.
A side note to that tragedy involved the driver of the 23rd TASS shuttle bus. We were the only 7th AF unit on base and had a certain amount of independence from the 7th/13th Air Force headquarters structure that was over most USAF units in Thailand. We had our own maintenance and support equipment, and the early 23rd TASS commanders had decided to use one of our authorized step vans as a shuttle bus (which the base commander tried on more than one occasion to make one of his assets.) The van had a fairly set route that came down by where the FACs lived below the Harley-Smith-Wolfe amphitheater up to the TUOC where we briefed and north to our headquarters building, which was about half way up the runway on that main road that ran north/south. So the bus passed many of the base facilities, and people could get on and off wherever. It was helpful to many and not limited just to 23rd TASS personnel.
Anyway our usual driver, a young Thai about twenty, had been standing in the crowd when the lightning struck. He wasn't killed, but I understand he was burned from under one arm all the way down his leg. The net result was that he ended up with what I would accept as a rather justifiable fear of cloudy days. So, after that, he didn't come to work except on sunny days - of which there were going to be very few over the next three months of monsoon rains - when we needed the bus even more than in the dry season.
As I recall on many of the rainy days
that followed, one of our fatigue-clad maintenance troops would be behind the wheel of the
shuttle bus. I never knew if being dragooned to play bus driver was considered better or
worse than roaming the flight line that day in the rain.
My memory of the "dangerous road" is returning from NKP one night and about half way back to the base there was a small cluster of hootch's...a village....and on this particular night a Thai was trying to get the bus to stop for him and as the bus sped by leaving him in the red dust....he opened fire with a 45 on the bus! Let me tell you....I never hit the floor so fast nor did anyone else!! We were all laying there wondering if we were under a Thai Cong attack or what and the bus driving kept on flying down the road! When we got to the gate someone got off and told the SP's what had happened and a security patrol was dispatched to check things out.
When the bus finally stopped...and all
of us got off at the NCO Club....we looked at the back and there were bullet holes all
over and it's a wonder no one got shot! Later on we learned that the "shooter"
was a drunk Thai soldier who was pissed off because the bus didn't stop for him!! Let me
say in closing....that may have been a bad stretch of road but the road from Korat to
Bangkok in 1964 was truly scary!!! I had to take once to see an eye doctor in Bangkok and
if it weren't for the survival kit stay awake pills I probably would have been killed!!
Regards to everyone in TLC!
Hi guys, In response to Tom's comment concerning the dangerous road. I'll relate one of my experiences. I was on one of the busses enroute to downtown one dark night. The weather was overcast with no moon. Anyone familiar with NKP (liberty hounds) knows about the ammo gate to the ammo dump and of the caravans of bomb trucks parking along the road at night waiting for the gate to open the next morning. I got on the bus and sat down three or four rows back on the right side of the bus. The bus then proceeded to downtown. A mile or so down the road (DAAARRRKKK Road).
The bus hit the last of fifteen 6X6's loaded with pallets of 500lb bombs. This peeled the left side of the bus back to the rear wheel well. This also tore up the wooden floor to the bus exposing the left front tire, wheel well and tie rods. The whole left side of the bus was mangled. (seats , windows, etc.) This caused the last bomb truck to rear end the truck in front of him and in turn it hit the truck next in line. I think four or five trucks was rear ended. This caused the bombs to fall out of the truck beds and roll into the ditch beside the fence around NKP.
The fuel tank on the bus ruptured as well as the fuel tanks on the last two or three trucks in the line that was hit. This caused the fuel to drain into the ditches the bombs were in. The bus driver was thrown through the windshield and was never seen again. (I think he hit the ground running and never looked back.) The engine on the bus was racing full throttle and was throwing a circle of sparks (radiator fan) around the front of the bus. One of the pax (an USAF Officer) had his wife (round eye) with him. Her foot was severed at the ankle. A Thai guard that had finished his shift and was on the bus was intermixed (stuffed) between the left front tire and the frame of the bus. His right arm was severed above the elbow. and several people had other injuries. Myself and two other GI's had minor injuries. I was able to get to the front of the bus (climbing through where the windshield used to be) and was able to shut off the engine by tearing the battery cables off the battery ( Why this worked I have no idea, it shouldn't have, but it did). I found the Thai Guard and got him out of the wheel well, using my belt I made a tourniquet to put on his arm to stop the bleeding, one of the other GI's used his for the officers wife. One other person was severely injured. The three of us helped as much as we could. People were running around the crash site with lit cigarettes trying to see what was happening. We had a time trying to get them to put out their cigarettes so the whole thing wouldn't blow up on us. When base security came and took over the site the ambulance's still hadn't showed up. We put the Thai guard and officers wife in taxi's and went with them to the base Hospital emergency room. I found out at the hospital that I had a shred of glass about two inches long imbedded in my chin through my gum. Needless to say I didn't get to town that night.
Several months later I was summoned to
the orderly room and presented with the Airman's Medal. I take great pride that I was able
to save a life that night. I have always taken pride in the fact that I went to Vietnam to
save lives, rather than take them. True I may have had to kill to do it, but that's the
name of the game. Stay tuned for later stories of Tom and Woody's. exciting adventures in
downtown NKP. (just kidding, Tom) I would never tell all the things we did. Tom's trying
to live that down. hehehe. I'll sign off for now. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Later I'll tell you the one about the final party when the 37th Jollys closed down DaNang.
Fun was had by one and all. But that's another story.
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