A1C Larry Sutherland Part II: The Attack on Phan Rang
Airman First Class Larry Sutherland joined the Airforce at 17, and signed up for the Security Police training program. In Vietnam, many Air Force bases were completely surrounded by guerrilla forces, so the USAF Security Police were specially trained to protect them from direct attacks and sabotage.
During his training in North Dakota, Sutherland and some fellow soldiers wanted to “get even” with some missile security personnel that they took issue with. To do so, they broke into missile silo, but they were caught. Two members of the group went to prison, but Sutherland was found innocent of sabotage, and avoided being court martialed. Sutherland was then given a choice: Stay in North Dakota, or train at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, and then head to Vietnam. At that time there was a rumor that 75% casualties were expected in the unit he would join in Vietnam, but Sutherland wanted to get out of North Dakota so badly that he didn’t care. So, he went to Schofield.
According to Sutherland, the Security Police training at Schofield was worse than Vietnam. He said the instructors were “the most sadistic, mean bastards I've ever seen in my life or since. I could not believe that anybody could be so mean and hateful, in all ranks, from two stripers up to the officers. They just hated us. They treated us with such contempt...And when you fell out, and guys did, because guys were dying of heart attacks, they went over and pissed on them. That's the kind of people they were. They were pissing on dying people. I saw it with my eyes. I can see it till the day I die.”
After completing his training, he was sent to Vietnam, where, due to the high casualty rate, he was sure he was going to die. He was stationed first at Pleiku Air Base, and then Phan Rang Air Base. Both bases were surrounded by guerilla forces.
One Sunday night at Phan Rang, the Viet Cong launched a surprise attack. Alcoholism was a serious issue in his unit, so many of the Security Policemen at Phan Rang Air Base were intoxicated when the attack began. A few of these intoxicated men were in a bunker with Sutherland during the attack, and no matter how much he kicked and screamed, they wouldn’t get up to fight. They just rolled over and went back to sleep.
Upon returning to the states, Sutherland was tasked with monitoring protests in New Jersey.
Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices