WE SERVED: Kenny Kaiser proud to have served U.S. in Vietnam
Army veteran Kenny Kaiser served in Vietnam in 1966-67 with the 264th Transportation Company. His company’s main mission was to keep troops supplied with all types of ammunition. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee veteran Kenny Kaiser stands next to a supply truck in Vietnam where he served with an Army transportation company for a year. COURTESY.
OWASSO – A veteran of the Vietnam War, Kenny Kaiser, 74, of Owasso, served with the U.S. Army from 1965-67.
“I was in Fort Eustis, Virginia, and orders come down for us to go to Vietnam, our company, in September ’66,” he said.
His company, the 264th Transportation Company, was ordered to take 30 more days of bivouac or camping in the field. “Basically, it was just like boot camp…getting us ready for Vietnam. We left out Sept. 10, 1966.”
He said part of his company went to Vietnam on C-130 transport planes, and the remainder of the company took a ship with the company’s equipment, which took about 28 days to reach Vietnam.
“We landed in Cam Ranh Bay probably the 12th of September. As soon as we hit that makeshift runway we heard an explosion, and it was a tire that blew out on that C-130. Well, the pilot, he shut it down as quick as he could and got off the makeshift runway on the sand there. Of course, there was 50 of us around our equipment in jump seats, so we piled off as quick as we could, and asked that captain, ‘what would have happened if that other tire went?’ He said, ‘we would have rolled.’
Some of them thought we were getting shot, but I knew it was a tire that blew out the way it starting hitting the bottom of that plane.”
Kaiser said his unit’s main task was to transport ammunition – including 175-millimeter projectiles, palettes of gunpowder, 105-howitzer rounds – “just anything that would support and supply the infantry boys.”
“Our mission was to support and supply and unload the ships and truck the ammo in to wherever they needed it. We had to worry about road mines. The Air Force actually cleared the area when we left Cam Ranh Bay and went to Duc Phu,” he said.
Duc Phu is near the Pacific Ocean. He recalled one time a 2-ton truck caught on fire at the ammunition depot, which spread to ammunition stored near a beach.
“We finally got out down on the end of the beach, and they put us on a sea-going ship and we sat out there for eight hours and watched the 4th of July. Everything was going up. I don’t know how many pallets of powder we had there and how much ammunition,” he said. “The worse thing to happened was about 6 o’clock that evening, the mess (kitchen) sergeant asked for volunteers to do some KP (kitchen duty). We didn’t have much of the company area standing. Me and my buddy from Arkansas knew better than to volunteer. About dark we eased back to where the mess hall was looking for some chow and about that time it looked like the world caught on fire and knocked us to the ground, and what was left of the mess hall come down on us.”
Something had “cooked off in the ammunition dump” and exploded and killed five of the men who had volunteered to help in the kitchen. Kaiser said he never saw them again.
“It could have been several pallets of powder. We never knew for sure. Charlie (Viet Cong soldiers) might have mortared the ammo dump, too,” he said. “The hospital van came in with the red cross on it. I could hear some guys moaning. I said, ‘get in there, somebody’s hurt bad.’ We were in shock, and we’re getting as far away from there as we can.”
He said he suffered some shrapnel burns that “wasn’t nothing.”
He held the rank of E-3 when he arrived in Vietnam and was promoted to E-4 while he was in country.
“I turned 21 in Virginia and turned 22 in Vietnam. I came home in September (19)67.”
He returned to carpentry and concrete work after coming home and helped raise three kids.
“My heroes didn’t make it home, but to serve your country and learn the discipline – I think a lot more kids ought to go in. I wouldn’t trade it for nothing, to serve my country.”