Example of a personal story from an SAME member


I spent my full tour on S-3 Staff of the 36th Engr Bn (Const) at Vinh Long Airfield, Mekong Delta, South Vietnam, Jan 1971 to Dec 1971. The 36th was under the 34th Engr Group and the 20th Engr Brigade. We were later under Engr Command - Vietnam.

I was placed on S-3 Staff, as OIC of Surveyors, OIC of the Soils Lab and OIC of Quality Control. The 36th Engr Bn (Const) was finishing up work on QL-4, around Vinh Long - final asphalt pavement and one prestressed precast beam bridge. The bridge was 3-spans, each span was 81-ft long, with 11-concrete 'T' beams, which weighed 22-ton each. I believe that we were the only construction battalion in Vietnam to build prestressed precast concrete beam bridges. Other bridges of this type were built by the joint venture, RMK - BRJ (Raymond, Morrison Knudsen, Brown & Root and Jones).

The 36th Engr Bn (Const) mission was to build about 65-km of asphalt road, LTL-7A, from Vinh Long to Tra Vinh, and 22 concrete bridges, some of which were also prestressed precast concrete beam bridges. The beam were built by the Vietnamese in Saigon and barged to us in Vinh Long.

My first mission was to work with the Bn surveyors to make sure the abutments and piers were constructed at the correct location, distance and length, because the concrete beams could not be cut to fit the spans. When I arrived at Vinh Long the 36th Engr Bn had one portable concrete batch plant and one portable asphalt plant at the Vinh Long Army Airfield. The Bn had two rock offloading piers, one near Vinh Long and one about 1/4 the distance to Tra Vinh, near the Bravo Company Base Camp. All our rock was barged to us from north of Saigo because there was no rock in the Mekong Delta area.

As the road progressed from Vinh Long to Tra Vinh, we built Charlie Company Base Camp and rock pier on the Mekong River, near Tra Vinh. The Charlie Company Base Camp would have a portable concrete batch plant and a portable asphalt plant. Our sit at the Vinh Long Airfield would also get a second portable asphalt plant. As the work got further down the road from Vinh Long, we started running asphalt truck conveys, with Vietnamese drivers in yellow commercial trucks (we called yellow birds).

When we started on LTL-7A and jeep, 3/4 ton and motor scooters were the main mode of transportation. As we finished sections of road, city size buses and semis could use the road. We had the road for construction from 0600 to 1800-hrs, and anyone else had it from 1800 to 0600. We painted a 'red seahorse' in the middle of the white stars on our vehicles, and while we were on the road, everyone knew the vehicles with the 'red seahorses' on them were the Engineers. The 36th Eng Bn (Const) was the Seahorse Battalion (from WW II and the 36th Engr Division). I was Mustang 6, commander of the Battalion reaction force. The 36th Engr Bn (Const) was a meritorious unit in 1971.

Even though, I am service connected disabled due to Agent Orange, I would do it again. We dredged all the sand we wanted for construction out of the Mekong River, never thinking it was contaminated with Agent Orange.

As a licensed professional engineer, I used some of the road stabilization procedure in Kansas in the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's.