Dick Briggs has been a member and active work party volunteer since August 2018
Dick was appointed to the Board of Directors January 2021.
Dick served in Vietnam from July 1966 – August 1967 with the U.S. Marines.
During my tour in Vietnam, I utilized several modes of transportation that are not in our Air Park.
I flew in the CH-46 while in Da Nang to recover Air Force drones. I also flew in them while stationed at Khe Shan.
The C-130 was my main transportation from Da Nang to Khe Shan. Also, I had a beautiful 5 hour ride from Da Nang to Okinawa as I completed my Vietnam tour.
Even though the C-130 is not in our Air Park, the Air National Guard from Peoria can be seen frequently doing practice “touch and go” at the Central Illinois Regional Airport.
After spending several months in Okinawa, 1st Battalion/3rd Marines (1/3) boarded the USS Okinawa where we launched into combat zones with the UH-34, including once into the DMZ.
My Battalion 1/3 and Battalion 2/3 were the first Marine units issued the M-16 to replace the M-14.
My Longest Day:
I came to love the F8 – Crusader, a cousin of PAM’s A7 – Corsair, on May 10th, 1967. This was one of the longest days I had in Vietnam.
F8 – Crusader
A7 – Corsair
The day started out with my squad in the rear security position. As we were moving out, we could hear incoming mortar fire. We started to “recon by fire” in the direction of the sound of the mortar tubes. This is when I first had the experience of the M-16 rifle jamming. We were the first Marine unit to be issued the new weapon.
I felt like I was fighting in the Revolutionary War. That is, I had to break the weapon open, put together my cleaning rod and jam it down the barrel to knock out the spent cartridge. I had to do this for three times after firing the weapon.
We then moved on for about a half hour, still in the rear guard of Charlie 1/3. The point of the column came under heavy fire. We were ordered to take cover and wait. Well, I opened up my C-rations and started making a cup of coffee.
Move It Up!
Just as I was ready to drink it, we were ordered “move up”.
As we moved up, we ran into the command center with the captain holding his “45” and shouting instructions. If you know anything about “45’s”, you know you can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Therefore, I knew we were in deep dog doodoo.
Our squad was ordered over to a hedge row at the bottom of Hill 101. As we started to move through the gap in the hedge row, Killion was just ahead of me and was hit in the left arm, breaking it. Of course, he had to fall forward and I had to pull him back to safety. I do remember seeing dirt kick up around us from enemy fire.
I don’t remember much for the rest of the day, but Charlie 1/3 lost 22 Marines (KIA) that day.
End of Day
As the day wound down, we started setting up in our defensive position for the evening. We had not yet been able to evacuate the KIA and WIA (wounded in action). I was sent by my squad leader to the command post (center of our 360 defensive position) to get orders for the evening.
As I was returning to my squad, I heard this loud jet screaming and coming in low. I had about a 5 second memory of the incident. The jet, an F8 – Crusader was diving right in front of my squad, coming right to left. Who can forget that open nose?
I could see the pilot’s helmet and hear the enemies’ AK-47 rifles trying to shoot him down. I could see a cluster of eight bombs fall. My heart and stomach met, as I thought the bombs were landing right on my squad. What a cloud of smoke and noise. I then realized that the bombs hit just in front of my squad’s position.
Needless to say, the F8 – Crusader did its job, as we did not hear a peep or gun shot from the enemy for the entire night. I would hate to think what our evening and night would have been without the air strike.