A VIP Goon at Tan Son Nhut

Former crew chief Curtis Mann sent the following account of his experiences with Gooney Bird 44-77284.

Thanks Curtis!

284 was affectionately referred to as "The VIP Bird." The only straight-up C-47 in the bunch. Had airline seats and whatnot. Well, being one of the best, if not the best, crew chief on the line without a bird of my own, they gave her to me.  At first it was just used for training and so people could get in their hours in. Then one day Capt. Marshall (Buddah) Collins invited me along and I got to fly it. 

After awhile, they also gave me a mission--moderately refurb her for a 3 day trip to Thailand with some brass. A conference of some sort at NKP, and then an overnight stay in Bangkok. If I got it done, I got to go along. Needless to say, being the go to guy to get things done, I got it done. The maintenance officer got me my own flight suit with a Crew Chief patch. I was cool. I played flight attendant, serving them coffee and donuts and such on the trip over, which was second nature as my first job at 15 was filling orders at a delicatessen. 

Had a good time. Hooked up with some friends from The 552 AEW&C Wing from McClellan, and went exploring downtown. Next morning, off to Bangkok. I will not share all of the things that I did while there.  Suffice it to say that I had a time! I had my own personal driver, "Toon" that showed me around town. Fifth floor room with a balcony and piped-in music to the headboard. [Further info along these lines has been redacted!] Also hooked up at the hotel with some guys that were TDY from the unit at Cam Ran Bay where I was supposed to originally go, until they changed my orders to go to TSN. They knew another couple of friends of mine from CA.



More on 44-77284: This Gooney Bird rolled off the Douglas Oklahoma City line in July, 1945, as a C-47B-40-DK. After rotating through various stateside bases, she was converted to VIP transport  (VC-47) configuration in 1951. By 1955, she was in Korea, where she remained until being assigned to Tan Son Nhut and the the 460th Tac Recon Wing, the daddy of the three TEWS, in 1971. When the 460th stood down, she remained at TSN until the 360th TEWS departed in 1972, at which time she was briefly turned over to the VNAF. In January, 1973, she was back with the USAF at Clark AFB, Philippines, where she was "reclaimed" on 8 July 1973. 

Curtis also sent along some photos of the base and surrounding areas. Click to enlarge.