Warm water and waves lured many of the younger guys to the beach. Body surfing was a big hit. Like many of the young guys I was an excellent swimmer. (Thanks to my Mom and Dad, I don't remember a time when I didn't know how to swim.) I completed the Red Cross Life Saving course in my first two years at college. Had it not been for a lack of gills, I might have qualified as a fish!

Noah... how long can you tread water?

Another aspect of my Vietnam service

I have seen many beaches in many parts of the world, but none were more beautiful than the beach at Company C, Da Nang, RVN. Even though this was the height of the surfing music (mid-60's), the Army did not allow us to bring our surf boards with us. The fact of the matter was that this surf was not prime for surfing. As you can see by this picture, the waves just didn't have the size required for more serious surfers. The gentle slope of the beach and the modest (3 ft.) waves did make for some excellent body surfing, though.

On one particular afternoon approximately sixteen or twenty of us were enjoying the combination of bigger waves, warm water, and warm temperature. I swam out a little ways to catch a wave, but... with my typical luck... couldn't get it quite right for that big 'torpedo run' back to the shore on one of the waves. I was getting thirsty... I knew my first cold beer was trapped inside a cooler on the beach. I leveled off and began the swim to shore. Strange, I thought... after four minutes of swimming, I'm no closer than I was before. I began to swim more intently now, remembering all the tricks learned during years of swimming experience -- keep your fingers together to form a cup, get full up-down motion on the scissor kicks, etc.

Three minutes later the beach was further away than before. I have a problem. Stealing a quick glance around between swim strokes, I noticed that the guys were getting out of the water. All except a couple others like me. I realized that I was starting to get tired... I had been swimming hard for about fifteen or twenty minutes. I was being pulled out into the South China Sea by the currents. Mindful about breathing patterns I managed to call towards shore... I needed help. One of the other guys came out.

His name was Concannon. I was bone tired by now, but I knew what he was doing. I flopped over on my back and let him get his arm around me in the preferred life guard carrying hold. What little strength I had was in my legs, so I tried to help by kicking. Three minutes later and another hundred feet away from shore, I knew the truth: we both were in deep shit! Concannon and I were the only ones left in the water. Everyone else had gotten out or had been helped out of the water by now. The guys on the shore were worried; I was scared to death.

One of the guys in the group knew that this was a worsening situation. He trotted over and picked up the airmatress somebody had been sunbathing on. It was the old fashioned kind... the long rectangular kind intended to be placed on a cot. Without hesitating he headed for the edge of the water and within a couple minutes was by our side.

Although both Concannon and I were dog tired, we knew that it was "hold on or drown". As the three of us clung perpendicularly to the airmattress, we started kicking. Forty-five minutes later we were on the beach. It took the three of us, kicking for all we were worth, forty-five minutes to make it to shore! I collapsed in a heap... not knowing if the weakness in my body was due to fatigue -- or fear. That was another very close call with death. Those men risked themselves to help me. In the end only a team effort overcame the danger.

I went back to the A-Team within a day or two after the beach incident. I have never seen or heard from Concannon again. I was so tired, I'm not sure I thanked him! I don't even know his first name. But I'd sure like to buy him an ice cold beer!

There were many ways to die in Vietnam!
Headquarters eventually banned swimming. Before I left for the States they were forced to use choppers to pull guys out of the sea on several occasions. To my knowledge nobody drown at the beach at Company C... but I can tell you there were several close calls! For a somewhat better look at how rough the surf could get, go to the Company C page and click on the large image of the Northwest View. This photo does not present the surf at it's worst. The worst surf occured when the coastal area was hit by a storm. The waves were so big that it looked like someone was dropping aircraft carriers into the water just offshore.