In the very earliest days of the Intruders, as in the 145th Aviation Platoon "Mardi Gras" assigned to Nha Trang in xx 1965, even before the luxurious 2-story barracks adjacent to the 5th Special Forces Group compound, there was "The Villa."
This is the story of the "Iroquois Villa" as told by those who lived there.
(Photo by Jack Green)
After my requested transfer from excess Aide De Camp of General Larsen of FFV, I had the pleasure of moving from a GP Large at FFV Hqs to "the Villa". The villa was located about 6 to 8 blocks from the airfield but not quite to the center of town. It faced north with the main entrance on the northwest corner and under a covered drive-thru. Situated on a corner, the street in front ran eastward to the bay and westward, who knows. The side street ran to the airfield to the south but formed a tee at our location. The property was enclosed in a classy cut stone fence with an iron gate at the corner main entrance.
Someone had placed a nicely engraved stone sign proclaiming this as the Iroquois Villa. I suspect this was the handi-work of Bob Laya or some of his characters. Bob was the Mardi Gras 6 that moved the 145th into Nha Trang. The north side front sported a concrete fish/flower pond shaped like a rounded star, but never was used in its intended purpose. Continuing south in the driveway you came upon a "L" shaped garage/servants quarters that housed the cooks and guards, the average age being mid-seventies. The guards were of the "Nung" tribe of Chinese descent and carried M-1 carbines. I never had the nerve to ask if these weapons were loaded, the answer of which might keep me from a secure nights rest.
The front/living room had sofas all around one end and had a very spacious bar at the other end. I don't remember ever buying a bottle of liquor, except when we went to the field. Somehow the bar remained stocked and all one had to do was put your name on a bottle once it appeared. This room served as a meeting place, movie theater, dance hall and war story birth area. I remember the movies being show every night if someone would go over the airbase and get them from the zoomies. I don't remember who operated the projector, but whomever it was had to be very fast at film repair and be accustomed to physical and verbal abuse.
There was one bedroom situated of the first floor to the left rear which housed myself and Vic Donnell in very tight quarters. Vic was a hardcore nose picking Aggie who went the entire year sleeping in his uniform pants and tee-shirt. His desire, he later told me, was to never be caught in an attack on the villa with just his shorts on. I suspect the untold truth was that he came from an all-male school at A&M, need I say more about sleeping clothed. Immediately behind the Great room was a beautiful marble staircase to the second floor and all the other sleeping accommodations. Continuing on the first floor past the stairs would bring you into the dining area and into the kitchen, which very few of us ventured.
(Photo by Jack Green)
Upstairs is where my memory really starts to fade as to the locations of bedrooms. I do know that Major Murphy, the CO, occupied one large bedroom
on the south side. Two senior captains, I think Turston and Fraizer had a bedroom to themselves. There was a very large room that slept 4 or 5 people
that opened onto the porch on the west side and was used a sun bathing area during the hot summer months, usually 365 days if it wasn't raining. There
must have been another room or two to account for the other pilots, maybe someone else can add to the missing facts here.
(More to follow.)
John W. "Jack" Green, III
Captain Herb Degner lived at the villa. All of the officers and warrant
officers of the 145th ALP lived at the villa. Jack Green mentioned in an earlier e-mail that there was always free booze. That was because of casino
night that we held once a month. After we paid our liquor bill and stocked up for the following month the rest of the money supported a Catholic
orphanage on the outskirts of Nha Trang.
Everything you say seems accurate to me. When the 6th Platoon joined the 145th in early 1966 I moved into the room you described as "There was a very large room that slept 4 or 5 people that opened onto the porch on the west side and was used a sun bathing area during the hot summer months...." As I recall the room was shared by; me, Rick Bouck, Fred Phillips, Darv Flanders and others Gary O'Connor, Ron Palascek(?). I believe Major Murphy may have moved into that room for a short time before DEROS - after Griffith and others came in.
I remember the dining room on the first floor where the House Boys served meals at a large table. Seems we each contributed our supplemental ration allowance (or some part of it) so they could purchase some thing other than the mess hall rations. Of course many of us only stayed there off and on between trips to the C Teams. I vaguely recall Monte Carlo nights at the Villa?
I arrived at the 281st in 1967 and moved into the Villa which was a two-story structure located on a semi busy street in downtown Nha Trang. It was a typical French designed house that had been modified to accommodate as many individuals as possible. Unfortunately the septic and water systems were not designed for maximum occupation. My room was on the second floor and there were at least four other bedrooms on that floor and an equal number on the first floor. The first floor also had a large living room, dining room, kitchen and rooms for the cook and maids. The rest of the rooms on that floor had been converted into bedrooms. The outside servantís quarters had been converted to quarters for the "Nung" guards and their families. The guards, provided by Delta, were individuals who were recuperating from wounds received during Delta operations and having their families there made them the best guards in the city.
(Photo by Jack Green)
The villa was located just off the main street that ran along the sea. It faced a fairly busy street with a large open lot on the side facing the road that ran along the sea and an ARVN army barracks on the other side. Another ARVN unit was housed immediately behind the villa. Across the street from the front of the villa was a line of small wooden shacks that housed various small businesses. When I moved in the villa I recall that there were about fifteen or so individuals living there the. Among them was Bob Moberg, MAJ. McMillan the Maint. Det. Cmdr later replaced by Don Ruskoff, Fred Mentzer, Pat Sheely the Ops officer, the Signal Det. Cmdr and several other individuals. Moberg was the landlord and ran the place. I recall that life in the villa was rather easy going and thanks to Forest Hall and Bob Moberg the food was excellent. However, I recall that we took most of our meals at the SF dining hall. Fred Mentzer and I spent most of our time with Delta living in a tent, but I must say that when we were in the villa one of major evening treats was Fred playing his classical guitar. I donít recall us having much of a social life there but there the bar was always open.
most vivid memory of life in the villa is of the night of TET 67-68. In December
of 67 we were working Delta out of Kontum when, on Christmas Eve, without
notice, the ARVN Ranger were pulled out and returned to Nha Trang
to help protect the city. Delta
was shut down and as we had lost most of our security we returned to Nha Trang
the following day. On the evening
of TET we had been told to stay out of town so most of us had dinner in the
Villa and spent the remainder of the evening there.
I recall going to bed around eleven PM and waking up at midnight to the
sound of the ARVN army troops celebrating TET by firing ever weapon they could
find into the air. The celebration
lasted about a half hour or so and then all was calm.
Some time around three AM I woke to the sound of gunfire and thinking
that the troops were celebrating again, I went back to sleep.
At about daybreak the door to my room flew open and Bob Moberg's adopted
son, Sei, burst into the room shouting over and over, "the f------g VC
come!!". (Considering his teachers you can imagine that
his instruction in the English language left something to be desired and
therefore his vocabulary was a bit colorful)
I grabbed my trusty AK-47 and went out on the upper deck to find Bob
organizing the troops and the Nung guards firing down the street toward the ARVN
barracks. The street in front of
the villa was clear with exception of a few NVA bodies that had been shot by the
Nung guards and our ARVN neighbors. Moberg
and a few other members of the 281st may have fired a few rounds but the Nung
guards did their job extremely well. We
stayed on guard for several hours but the NVA was busy in other parts of town
and left us alone. Around mid-day
we were able to travel to the 281st compound where Fred and the Wolf Pack went
about helping free the city of the NVA who had infiltrated most of the city.
Later that day we were informed that the young ARVN Major who commanded
the Delta ARVN SF Rangers and was highly respected by all of us had been killed
in a firefight along the beach.
When I left Nha Trang in July of '68 the Villa was still in the good hands of the 281st. It must have been put off-limits after Don Ruskauff left. After TET we were too busy watching Fred & Company try to burn up the city to think about getting out of the villa. I spent a considerable amount of time trying to explain to LTC Crooks (10th BN Cmdr) and Col. Bill Smith ( 7th Gp. Cmdr) why the ESSO station was blown up but the high point was trying to get a NVA sniper off of the H2O tower without blowing it up.
John W. Mayhew (COL, Ret.)
I think we may have resupplied the NVA and the VC at the Bhudda that night because it changed hands so many times. I also remember a radio transmission on FM, "Do you have anybody by that tin building?"........."Yeah, do you have anyone behind that low wall?" .......... "Yeah, that's me."........" Okay I'll stop shooting at you if you stop shooting at me." I was so new that I didn't know which end was up but then a whole lot of other people didn't either.
Norm "Fat Albert" Kaufman
I remember some of the OLD GUYS telling stories about the Villa downtown, but it was long gone when I got there in May of 1970. I understand that it became off-limits after TET of 68. Some well meaning MAJOR made everyone move on to the SFOB from what I gather.
Bob "MOP" Mitchell
The Villa was still in use when I arrived in early Sept. 68, but only the guys already living
there were allowed to stay. I tried to move over to the Villa just after I got assigned a room on
the upper floor of the barracks next to the revetments, but Maj. Miller refused to allow any of the
new guys to move off post. I was told that those living in the Villa would be moved on post as
soon as rooms came available . I am not sure when the last folks moved out. I was told by
some of the old guys that it was purely Miller, and not Tet that caused the closing down of the
Villa. I will have to defer to the guys before me on the reasons.
I was also told that before Miller became CO that the flight crews were wearing colored baseball caps, but he went to regulation caps only. Everyone was in OD caps when I arrived, so I don't know if the company ever wore baseball caps with platoon colors. Anybody got an answer for that one?
It was Miller; Had nothing to do with Tet. I was there & remember it well! Miller was determined to make us like any other AHC in the 1st AVN Brigade.
Kenneth D. Smith
Once they moved everyone out of it and into the barracks they called it
Lived in the Villa cause no one would let me out of Nha Trang . . . they hadn't had a maint officer
in so long, there was no way in hell I was going on the road. The Villa info is the way I remember
it and yes we did have Monte Carlo night once a month to pay the Villa expenses. Some of the "House"
take went to the Catholic orphanage run by Father Mott.
Louis "Lou" Lerda