I should paraphrase this one. Some of the guns I could legally bring back that I saw and had in Laos during my employ with Bird and Son Air, aka AirAm, aka Consolidated International Airlines, aka US Agency for International Development. So many names for something that metamorphosed more frequently than any butterfly ever conceived of. The list goes on into the 80s as Southern Air Transport and beyond. An airline for the ages as it were. A true Phoenix Air Services. It just keeps rising from the ashes like an energizer bunny.
First, most PICs would never admit to toting any hardware up country as they were truly neutral. If they got shot down or crashed, they were ostensibly just civilian pilots on USAID cargo hauling routes. It was all contract and we really couldn’t care less what the package was unless it was a dead tahann or two headed back to his/their village for final interment. I always carried Vick’s Vapo Rub for that exigency. Smear some of that up aside your nose or on a handkerchief and you were good to go. It sure beat gagging and puking for 40 minutes with all the Porter’s cargo doors wide open.
At Udorn RTAFB, AirAm’s Air Operations Center (AOC) had some huge warehouses left over from the Japanese hangers. Stacked inside were rows upon rows of all manner of guns and liquor. Pistols and SMGs were a dime a dozen. Pick your poison. You didn’t have to sign for them. No inventory. Bird and Sons Liquor and Guns was one famous nickname for the AOC. “Waterpump” was the “secret” official name.
AirAm’s taxiway ran across the road that allowed us to get from one side of the base to the other. Note the blue arrow points to the road. Sometimes you had to yield to Tangos and 123s taxing out to the active runway.
I love guns. Free guns are even better. The US Embassy where our mail came and went, had diplomatic immunity which we soon all discovered. If nobody was checking, the mice will play. I sent, well Hell, let’s say I sent a “few” back that I was fond of -to my girlfriend, to my friends, to buddies who asked, and a lot to my mom who dutifully placed them all in the attic as I asked. Here are a few I managed to keep. I got the Dear John letter from Gail E. when I signed up for my second tour. So much for our impending marriage. She sold my guns, too.
The Model 39s were a dime a dozen with the old 7 rd. vertical stack clips like a .45 ACP. With tons of Hipowers around, they pretty much were the oddball. This one has never been shot. The Inglis Co. in Canada made a ton of the Hipower knockoffs during the second world war under a Browning contract and most ended up in China after the war. How they turned up in such prodigious quantities at Waterpump might be because they were stashed in Taiwan for a few decades. The Brownings were all very low serially numbered and pre-WW2. Mine was in the 11 thousand range and New in Box. It was rumored that the Browning Babys were leftovers from all the SOG guys turning them in. I know lots of the SF guys used to carry them but somewhere along the line they fell out of favor or something better came up. When I showed up in July 1970, there were about 80-100 left. You could stuff two or three in the cargo pocket of your fatigues without having to tighten the two straps that held your pants up. You can’t see it on my left ankle but I had a shoemaker build me a cute little holster that strapped on the inside and was almost invisible. Fabrique Nationale. Don’t leave home without it.
My crowning achievement, just to see if it was possible, was this RPG 2. It’s down at the Veterans Museum in Chehalis Washington now. It took almost two weeks to make it to Mom’s in Alexandria, Va.