My arrival at Tan Son Nhut airport brought mixed emotions. The scene was not what I expected. There wasn't anything at the airport to indicate that a war was going on. A rainstorm had passed over the area, but it did little to abate the heat and humidity that pressed in on me and caused considerable discomfort.
Men and women, Occidental and Oriental, moved about, some in native dress and others in uniform. I saw several air force people in their blue outfits and army soldiers in fatigues. There were a few Vietnamese soldiers in "no see me" suits strolling about; the local police were easily recognized by their all-white uniforms. Civilians were milling about seemingly unconcerned about the war; they outnumbered the military until our aircraft unloaded.
We were directed to a corner of the terminal, where we took seats in a fenced-off section for a short orientation. We were told that a week ago the Viet Cong (VC) had set off a Claymore mine nearby and killed about a dozen civilians. An army sergeant put the finishing touches to the presentation and welcomed us to Vietnam. After the briefing we boarded buses that would take us to the replacement depot.
Bob French looked at me. "Was this the way it was in the big war, Mike? I can't believe what I'm seeing. All sorts of people walking around a terminal that's supposed to be in the middle of a war zone and no security worthy of the term."
"It does seem weird," I answered. "I don't know what to think myself. Let's be patient; we're new to this war. Things might make more sense later on."