Chapter 9 – Part 3

Captain Fiori arranged for a space for us in the partly empty warehouse. The next morning we walked over to inspect. It was indeed a warehouse, right down to the stacks of boxes and helicopter parts. It seemed like a repeat of our classroom in Saigon even down to the teaching of radar repair. There was plenty of room to work on the transmitter cabinet and it was clean enough but there was a faint musky odor. I wasn’t entirely sure I actually smelled it. Perhaps I imagined it among the rotting vegetation smell.

I walked back out to the artillery site to have another look at the radar set. My equipment was under a tarp weighted down with jerry cans full of hydraulic fluid according to the stencil on the side, white on OD Green. I hadn’t done this so somebody was looking after me and wanted the job done. It would take about two hours to remove the transmitter cabinet. Could I do that with it running? I thought so except for a few minutes to disconnect the waveguide from the drum.

Capt. Fiori agreed to have the fork lift truck with extra used tires out to the site later that afternoon. I started to work. I wasn’t quite ready for the forklift when it arrived not only with tires but a pallet-load of jerry cans with gasoline for the generator that hadn’t been fueled for several days. These were cached in random places around the site maybe ten or so in a cache. A direct hit on any one cache wouldn’t create a catastrophic fire but still it would be way more than you’d need for roasting hotdogs. The markings were stenciled 80/87. I was told that this was aircraft gasoline, a pretty good diet for a jeep engine. Other cans I saw in caches were labeled 100/130. I didn’t know what these were used for.

The driver left the forklift there and headed for the mess hall. I finished un-hooking cabling and the remaining bolts then headed for the mess hall myself. After lunch, the driver and I returned to the radar and he dumped a can of 80/87 into the forklift, started it up and carefully lifted the transmitter cabinet with the forks supported by tires. Then we slowly trundled it across the flight apron, down past the tower, around the mess hall and in among the banana trees to the warehouse.

“You’re going to work on it in this warehouse?” asked the driver.

“Well, yeah. This is where the captain said. Is that all right?”

“I guess so. If that’s what the Captain said. I’m just surprised is all. They usually keep it locked up tight.”

“So it’s secure then. That’s probably why he chose this one. So, open it up and we’ll drop this box.”

“I don’t have the key. I’ll have to get it from the Captain.”

“Oh. I’ll stay here with the forklift while you go get the key.”

I sat on the counterweight swinging my legs back and forth enjoying the shade and breeze. After about ten minutes, the driver came back with the key. In the meantime the breeze had shifted and I caught the distinct smell of hasheesh. I couldn’t be sure where it was coming from but I was now down-wind of the warehouse.

He unlocked the door and slid it aside, started the forklift and drove it, used tires and transmitter inside.

“Can you set it on that stack of pallets. That’ll make a convenient work height for five-foot tall mechanics.”

He deftly set the transmitter on the pallet stack, then moved the whole thing to left of center in the room.

“Gotta leave room to get around it if we need to.”

The warehouse was not well lit and I wondered where we could get enough light for close work.

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