Kenneth Binam, Vietnam era veteran
Fruita, CO, USA
In March of 1975, I was stationed onboard the USS Durham, LKA-114. The task force had been ordered to help refugees fleeing Vietnam. Operation "Frequent Wind". The crew had spent several days preparing for refugees to come aboard. We arrived in Camh Ranh Bay late in the evening. The other ship we were with was fired upon and we moved further away from the coast.
The refugees didn't start arriving until late morning. It had taken a while for word to spread that we were there to take them aboard. A few boats came along side and the people came aboard, they and their belongings were searched and then taken to a cargo hold.(We did what we could to make them comfortable). They were scared,confused and uncertain of their furtures. Soon the boats returned bringing more people and many more boat started showing up. Soon they were six or seven deep along side my ship. We were told that the price for transport out to our ship was $1500.00 apiece. There was an old man in a small round boat made of reeds who had paddled the 3 or so miles by hisself to reach us. There was a woman who had 7 kids with her. Only 2 or 3 were hers. The refugees kept coming all day long. After a few hours of helping and watching this people I had a sudden realization. "These people have just left their home and can never go back." I hadn't thought about it until then.
We saw the good and the bad in people. A group of ARVN soldiers in a corner of the cargo hold splitting up a hugh roll of money. we had heard that they had been payed to fight. A sailor jumping over board the save a child who had fallen into the ocean. A Vietnamese chopper pilot "dumping" helicopters into the ocean time and again.
There were approx. 4500 refugees taken aboard my ship during that operation. During a second operation about the same number of refugees were taken aboard. I've often wondered what ever happened to them. Where they were taken after we off loaded them to Merchant ships.
Guess that I really had to re-evaluate how luck I was as an American to never have been made to leave my state, let alone my country.
Kenneth A. Binam