Around 2009, I posted my Vietnam 1963 page to introduce my new photo gallery for my Vietnam tour of service in Ban Me Thuot from 1963 to 1964. There were a few responses from other veterans of the era. Ban Me Thuot, in the Central Highlands, never had a very large US military presence as far as I could determine. We were mainly advisory, Signal Corps and Air Force personnel while I was there.
And on October 3 of this year, Frank Hughes posted a comment on my page.
I enjoyed your photos. I was stationed in Ban Me Thuot 69/70. The compound burned completely to the ground Dec 17 1969. We lived in tents from then on. I was stationed with the BMT Signal Detachment, our HQ was located in Nha Trang. There were 17 of us living in BMT. I had about 200 slides…but they were destroyed in the compound fire. My second tour I took about 50 more that I have today. Thanks again, Franklin
Correspondence followed, and Frank sent me some photos with the thought that “maybe some Ban Me Thuot veteran might like to see the photos.” Frank also wrote,
“I hope these photos come through alright … The photos were taken with a small Kodak camera. Forgive the quality; I actually took the slides and put them on a slide screen, then photographed them with a digital camera so I could put them on my laptop.”
I did a little work on color balance in Photoshop. Any 40 year old slides or negatives are going to show some sign of color change or worse. Considering that these are irreplaceable photo archives, and Frank’s ingenious method of capturing them digitally, they came out amazingly well. I hope you enjoy them too.
I had two questions I could never get answers to. Frank had my answers!
- According to my web research the Grand Bungalow (where we were quartered) burned to the ground. I didn’t know whether it was due to enemy action or accident. It was an accidental fire, as Frank explains below, and he sent two remarkable photos of the actual conflagration.
- Whatever happened to our mascot dog “Tropo?” Five or six years later, Frank sends a photo of the same dog. He’s been renamed “Batman,” no doubt due to the black-and-tan fur on his face and paws.
In correspondence Frank also wrote:
Yes it is the same dog. The 155th was a assault helicopter unit that was stationed at the air strip you referred to. …
The Grand Bungalow was constructed of teak wood. Yes it was very old and dry. I heard the fire was started by a soldier cooking in his hooch. He was said to be using Sterno to heat something and he tipped it over. The place went up like a matchstick. I was out in the field at a Montagnard village at the time. By the time we arrived back at the compound it was an inferno. We lost everything we had except what we had on us. They brought in Seabees and bulldozed the place. My detachment moved out to the 155 site and set up our equipment. Tents were brought in and set up inside the compound walls. We ended up being mortared quite often. I worked a lot with the Rhade tribe. I was supposed to be teaching them the use of radios. Those poor tribesmen were mostly uneducated. It turned out to be almost a hopeless task. The Special Forces unit B23 liked to use the Montagnard as scouts … Our headquarters company was located in Nha Trang, 459th Sig Bn. I was only there a few times. There was a dog located at the 155 site. Black and tan, mid sized dog. At the time they called the dog Batman. I believe it is the same animal. I have a pic of him. I’ll be sure and send it. Frank