The day a roll of 8mm film saved my life. It was Oct. 15,1967, at the Air Force Base in Da Nang and a platoon of us Parachute Riggers were TDY from the 109th AD company in Cam Ranh Bay. This was our second TDY to Da Nang in two months to rig heavy loads of construction material for the Marines at Khe Sanh FOB including SSP for a new runway.
We would send at least one rigger on the C-130's to help the Air Force Loadmasters rig release gate, and check the containers and parachutes before dropping them into the Marines.
We were using LAPES and CDS systems to rig and drop the supplies, but rigging supplies were in short supply, so when a plane load of sandbags was requested, it was decided to Free Drop the sandbags without parachutes.
I and Charles Baney were scheduled to fly on the sandbag load. I thought it would be cool to film the sandbags going off the ramp of the C-130 and rolling onto the ground at 100+ MPH. After Charles and I ate lunch at the Air Force mess hall, I made a stop at the base PX to get more 8mm film for the shoot. Because most of the PX film was out of date, I had to search through all the rolls of film for some fresh film.
When I returned to the ramp, the C-130 plane load of sandbags and Charles had flown off to Khe Sanh without me. Later that day we received word that the C-130 had crashed into the runway on approach to dropping the sandbags.
All but two of the crew members were killed during the crash and fire, including Charles.
In memory of Charles Baney, each year the Parachute Rigging School at Fort Lee, Va., awards Rigger of the Year Trophy to a deserving Rigger.
Charles is buried in the Military section of the town cemetery in Warsaw, Ind.