CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES

Vietnam War

Carlos R. Lozano

Vietnam War Oral History Interview
US Air Force, 483rd Civil Engineer Squadron
Date: February 24, 2003
Interviewer: Carol Fowler
Summarizer: Macartan McCabe
Veterans History Project

Summary

Carlos “Carl” Lozano was born in New York City in August 1949 and was raised in North Bergen New Jersey. Prior to his enlistment in the military, he was working for a bank on Wall Street. Lozano followed the news and, observing that the American involvement in Vietnam was expanding, believed he would be drafted and probably end up there. Many of his peers were deferred from the draft because they were married, but he was not. Lozano decided to enlist in the Air Force after being convinced by a friend to do so. Two weeks after passing his entry exam, he was sent to Amarillo Air Force Base in Texas for basic training. His official entry date into the service was August 16, 1968.

Carlos Lozano, Left

Lozano recalled that he realized civilian life was over when his head was shaved, and that he deeply missed his family while in Texas. He believed his basic training was like that experienced by those in other military branches. After completion, he was assigned to Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, for technical training, and then to Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara, California.

Lozano enjoyed being stationed in California, where he was able to visit his cousin who lived in San Francisco, as well as he would often go to Los Angeles while on leave. His job at Vandenberg was to maintain generators, and he was promoted to Sergeant during his tour there. The base was a site for guided missiles, including the Jupiter, Titan, and Minuteman. Lozano’s only worry while stationed at Vandenberg was that the Cold War might get hot.

Cam Ranh Air Base as seen from the air.

After spending two years in California, Lozano received orders to go to Vietnam. Before departing, he returned to New Jersey for two weeks to spend time with his family and friends They were able to spend Christmas together and have a farewell party. While flying into Vietnam in January 1970, all Lozano saw was dense jungle, which did not ease his anxiety. He arrived in Vietnam during the monsoon season, and he remembered the terrible odor from the pervasive rain-induced mildew.

Carlos Lozano and aircraft at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base.

While in Vietnam, Lozano was assigned to the 483rd Civil Engineering Squadron. He initially worked on a runway at Cam Ranh Bay, a major port and base, supervising a small team. The team’s job was to ensure that damaged aircraft landed safely. It was imperative to save the aircraft, and they were successful nine out of ten times. Lozano communicated with the control tower via radio, using codenames; his was “Mr. C.” To save a damaged aircraft, the pilot had to land dead center on the runway, so that cables caught the plane and acted as a brake. On a typical day, the team saved several aircraft, and the pilots were always thankful for the work of Lozano and his crew.

After two and a half months at Cam Ranh Bay, Lozano was transferred to a small forward air base near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Vietnam. Rockets would land on the base runway at night, necessitating repairs the following morning. On one occasion, the North Vietnamese tried to overrun the base as well; there was an alert system triggered when attacks occurred. “Red Alert 3” meant that the base was being overrun.

Carlos Lozano (second from left) and his team at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base.

At the end of his twelve-month tour of duty, Lozano returned to the United States. He recalled being sprayed with an anti-parasitic chemical on the plane trip back. After the plane landed, his friend got down on his knees and kissed the ground, which Lozano counted as the most memorable moment of his military service. Before returning to civilian life, he was briefed to not share most of his experiences in Vietnam, due to the political climate at the time. Lozano was also asked to re-enlist but declined the offer, since he wanted to move on with his life. Honorably discharged on August 4, 1972, Lozano was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Vietnam Service Medal for his service.

Researchers

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