"Jungle Jim" was a code name of the original 4400th CCTS and Air Commandos. The Air Commandos deployed to Laos and South Vietnam in October 1961 as part of "Operation Farm Gate" during the beginning of Vietnam war. The unit moved to Soc Trang airbase in South Vietnam and was redisignated the 1st Air Commando wing in June 1963. The unofficial name of the unit became the "Soc Trang Angels."
Soc Trang was originally a World War II Japanese fighter base. It was a strategic location on the Hau River mouth of the Mekong Delta. In 1962 it became the first USMC airfield in South Vietnam. The HMM-362 squadron flew UH-34 helicopters. After the marines relocated to Da Nang AB, they were replaced by the US Army's 93rd Transportation Company and 121st Aviation Company (T-28's and A-1E's). They were known as the "Soc Trang Tigers." "Tuffy" a tiger cub was their base mascot.
President John Kennedy directed all branches of the military to develop Special Operations Units. The Air Force combined the Flying Tigers and the Air Rescue Service to make the Air Commandos. My unit was commanded by a former Tuskegee Airman. His boss was Bob Gleason who was a Flying Tiger from WWII fame.
Our first T-28's were not painted, not until we found some paint. Then we painted Tiger Teeth on the cowling and a lightning bolt on the tail. At first we didn't have uniforms and wore our civilian clothes. Later we became known by the distinctive Australian slouch hat we wore.
On 24 March 1964 Captain Edwin G. Shank and an unknown VNAF observer died when their T-28D (serial 53-8362) lost a wing during a dive bombing run near Soc Trang. Two weeks later T-28D serial 53-8361 lost both wings during a strafing run, killing Captain Robert N. Brumet and his VNAF observer. It was apparent that the older T-28Ds were being overstressed during use in a combat role and the five remaining T-28Ds that had been flying in combat for several years were withdrawn. The newer T-28Ds were placed under flight restrictions that reduced their operational capability but eliminated the wing fatigue problem and the aircraft went on to prove itself to be an effective, durable, and easy-to-maintain close air support aircraft.
I bought an Argus C-3 35mm camera from a guy leaving to go home. Used the 500' reel of film from the machine gun cameras to cut the film to fit the camera. Wound my own canisters. The guy in this photo ran the photo shop in town. If I had known more about photography these would have been much better. Took about 1,200 photos while there.
William Verebely Photograph Collection
Soc Trang T-28's
Helen Murphy © 2009-2016 All Rights Reserved