Between 1965 and 1975, the conflict in Southeast Asia, which centered on Vietnam, dominated the history of Travis Air Force Base, Calif.
The war’s ebb and flow affected almost every aspect of life and operations at this ‘Gateway to the Pacific,’ as Travis was called. The Travis Aerial Port, always active, mushroomed into the nation’s busiest, as thousands of tons of military equipment and supplies were channeled through it each week on the way to Southeast Asia, and as a ‘jumping off ’ point for thousands of American service personnel bound for the battle zone.
In the early 1970s with the arrival of what was then the world’s largest airlifter, the C-5A Galaxy, Travis was chosen as the West Coast home for this aircraft, the newest addition to the military airlift fleet.
With the addition of C-130, C-135 and C-141 the Military Air Transport Service acquired the ability to deploy troops and supplies directly into combat.
The Vietnam War had another, more sobering effect on Travis Air Base. This base became the main West Coast terminus for aeromedical evacuation flights from the Pacific, and the principal receiving station for military fatalities who were flown to the United States for burial.
My squadron was the headquarters that ran the operations of all this activity on Travis. Most departments on base were working 24 hours, seven days a week, as was our printing department, of which I was in charge.
We did the printing for all the Military Air Transport Service of the West Coast and the Far East. Many tons of paper were printed by my department during the Vietnam War.
I only pray that America’s young men and women never have to go through another Vietnam. I’ve served through many wars, but I never had to fight on the battlefield.