Name: William (Bill) Taylor
Home State: TX
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 06/13/1966 to 06/12/1966

Saigon June 1968

Landed in Cam Rahn Bay, sent to Long Binh, new orders to 69th Signal Battalion, Ton Son Nhut Airbase. Drank my way through my year. Lost 2 stripes. Sent home June 69. Inactive Reserve until June 1972. Honorable Discharge.


 

Name: Michael Tyler
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 05/30/1973 to 05/30/1976

Caring For The Wounded

I first off, do not consider myself a hero in any sense of the word. My Vietnam brothers who were wounded and killed are the real heroes of this war. I was a very young man at the time of my service, only 19 years old, and fresh out of high school. I was sent to Ft. Ord California for my infrantry basic training, went on to advanced training at Ft. Sam Houston Academy of Health Sciences , in San Antonio Texas. I was trained as a medic-surgical technician-pharmacy technician. I was sent after graduation to the US Army Hospital, in Okinawa, where I worked in the Pharmacy, and ICU critical Care Unit. This was one of the largest Critical Care Hospitals in the Far East at the time of the Vietnam War. We received many of the critically wounded service members. I remember one Sunday, As I was working in the ICU Pharmacy unit, and the ICU Nurses asked me to help with a patient, a young LDS man from Utah as they knew I was also LDS and from Utah, who had severe schrapnel wounds from the inside of his right ankle all the way up to his lower right jaw. He must of had over 200 stiches and 30-40 wounds to his legs, arms and body. It was hard for me to hold back the tears, as he was about my age. I sat with him and we talked of our families back in Utah. We also talked of our religion, and the comfort we both took in our beliefs of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the gifts of the Atonement and Resurrection, so we could all overcome sin and death. I remember he started failing fast, and probably knew he would not live much longer. Then he asked me to hold his hand and say a prayer with him. I don't remember all the words of that prayer now, but I do remember the feeling of peace and comfort I felt, as he slipped away while still holding my hand. I could not hold back the tears and I sat holding his hand for awhile longer, thinking of his sacrifice for all of us, what his family would be feeling as they received the news of his death. I was asked by his commander to write a letter back home to his parents and family sharing those last few hours we had together before his death. It was one of the most humbling and spiritual experiences I had ever experienced in my life. I know we all needed hope, during the Vietnam War, as it was not a popular war back home in the United States. I will never forget this young man or the thousands of other men and women who lost their lives in Vietnam. I think of them often, and am honored by the sacred sacrifice they have all laid on the altar of freedom for all of us and the people of Vietnam. I was able to visit the Tomb of The Unkown Soldier at Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC this past September, as I accompanied 18 WWII Vets and 2 Korean War Vets on an Honor FLight from St. George, Utah. We also visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, and the Vietnam Memorial Wall. I was able to finally lay some flowers at the Vietnam Memorial Wall to honor my fallen brothers from that war. I cannot express the feelings of patriotism, reverence, and honor that I felt knowing of their ultimate sacrifice for our Country. I feel priviledged to have stood with them, and served with them during the Vietnam War. I will close my story by sharing a quote from President John F. Kennedy, given at his inaugural address Jan. 20th, 1961. He said the following which I think describes very well all the Vietman Veterans and other veterans of other wars, and their devoted service to our great country. "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility---I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it----and the glow from that fire can truly light the world." Know the light of your service will forever be a light to the world and an inspiration to those who knew you, loved you, and served with you.

Photo: Mikes_Military.jpg


 

Name: William "Jack" Lewis
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 09/22/1963 to 12/16/1967

My Tour with the 13th Tactical Bomb Squadron, the "Devil's Own Grim Reapers"

In May 1966 I received my orders to transfer from Aircraft Maintenance Officer of the 91st Field Maintenance Squadron of the 91st Bomb Wing (SAC) at Glasgow AFB, Montana, to the 6200 Materiel Wing, 13th Air Force at Clark Air Base, Republic of Philippines. I was told I could await my final orders and transportation instructions at my then family home in Daly City, California (I have called Utah my home since 1986). It was a long wait. After many calls as to where my orders were, they were finally received and I departed Travis AFB in mid-June for Clark AB, via stops in Hawaii, Guam and Okinawa. After my arrival at Clark, I reported to Lt. Col "Mac" McDonough. I had known Col "Mac" at my previous assignment in Glasgow when he was the Squadron Maintenance Officer of the 91st Organization (flight line) Maintenance Squadron. The 6200 Mat Wing supported many types of aircraft and organizations. Colonel Mac assigned me as a Maintenance Officer to support of the 13th Bomb Squadron whose inventory consisted of Martin B-57B, C & E, Canberra tactical bombers. I was also excited to find out that one of my childhood (and lifetime) hero's, Colonel Charles "Chuck" Yeager was the Wing Commander of the 405th Fighter Wing of which the 13th Bomb was a part. Col Yeager also had another B-57 Squadron at Clark, the 8th Bomb Squadron, as well as an Air Defense Squadron at Da Nang, Vietnam, fighter detachments in Thailand, a nuclear armed fighter-bomber squadron in Taiwan and I'm sure the logistics headaches staying up with his far flung command.

I found out that the 8th and 13th Bomb Squadrons alternated two month deployments to Viet Nam. When I arrived the two B-57 squadrons flew out of Da Nang. They previously had used Bien Hoa, outside of Saigon, and near the end of my first tour to Viet Nam, we would leave Da Nang and set up operations at a newly opened base, Phan Rang, on the Viet Nam coast, about 80 miles south of Cam Ranh Bay which was also on the coast. The 13th would become permanently assigned to Phan Rang in 1968 after my tour ended, and until they were deactivated late that year. (the 13th would be reactivated a year later as the B-57 aircraft were evolved into the G model that would serve in Thailand) Initially I would directly report to a Major, Col Mac's Squadron Maintenance Officer for B-57 Support, and also, initially, I worked with Lt. Joel Champion, who supported the 8th Bomb Squadron. A few weeks after my arrival at Clark, the Major was reassigned or retired. Col Mac then made the decision to assign Lt Champion as Squadron Maintenance Officer of the 8th, and me, to the 13th. I was assisted by 2nd Lt. Phil Penry of Ohio and my top NCO's for the 13th support SMSgt James Duncan and Master Sergeant Kenneth Stepherson. Both of these NCO's were experts on the B-57 and had served years in B-57 operations. I was very fortunate to have them and they contributed to a record efficiency rate of one of our two month tours of 1408 combat sorties without a maintenance abort. Another key player on the team was Tech Sergeant Lester Russell, another B-57 maintenance expert to include tours at the B-57 Depot base at Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah. Chief Master Sergeant Edward McCreary and Master Sergeant Charles Hultsman were the key NCO's who remained at Clark at all times to provide continuity of support to both B-57 squadrons and were invaluable in their support to me and the B-57 Mission as well.

As the B-57 squadrons evolved to their own maintenance support, I also would be charged with munitions support and key officers here were first, Lt. Carl Casterline, then Captain Sablan. The key Munitions NCO was Master Sergeant Roy Badger. These folks were dedicated in their support of the B-57 mission as well. Our combat mission with the B-57 was to interdict VC and NVA troop, materiel and supply movement on the Ho Chi Minh trail, other discovered convoy routes as well as hard targets of petroleum, oil and lubricants. Our secondary mission after target elimination, due to the great range of the B-57 was in support of our ground forces, the USMC and Army Infantry who loved the firepower of our great tactical bombers (depending on model, armed with 6 50cal machine guns or 4 20mm cannon). Champion, Casterline, and myself, were all graced with promotions to the rank of Captain (permanent 1stLt) before our tours ended. I was also fortunate to serve two 13th Bomb Squadron commanders, first Lt. Col. William Amos, who had been the commander for some time before my arrival, and when his tour was up, he was succeeded by Lt. Col. George Cap. Both excellent leaders, fearless fighters, and both appreciative of the maintenance efforts of my group. I am deeply honored to have been given the privilege of serving my Viet Nam tour of duty with such brave, dedicated and honorable men as those who made up the 13th Tactical Bomb Squadron. The end of my tour in SEA also coincided with the end of my USAF active duty with discharge upon my return to Travis AFB in Fairfield, CA in December 1967.

Photo: IMAG0007 (1).jpg


 

Name: Robert Sproul
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 06/15/1967 to 01/17/1969

Scout Dogs

Shortly after my arrival in Vietnam I volunteered to be a member of the 42nd Scout Dog Pltoon. My request would be honored but it took about 45 days for it to happen. My first assignment was to B Co. 1/501, 101st Airborne Div. as an infantry soldier. The time frame was about Jan. 28 to March 12, 1968. Many things occurred during that time. I became attached to the fellows in my squad and we worked well together. One evening my platoon sergeant came to me and wanted to know if I still wanted to go with the dog platoon. I said yes and the next day I was on my way from LZ Sally just outside of Hue and north of Camp Eagle to Phan Rang where the dog unit had its kennels. I spent about three weeks training with my dog and then myself and three others headed for the forward area at Camp Eagle. It was difficult breaking in a second time.

Our assignment was to walk point for infantry platoons of the 1st. Brigade of the 101st Airborne Div. and the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Div. Each mission was from 5 to 7 days, depending on the resupply cycle of the unit we were walking point for. We rotated every other week. We could only keep the dogs out for one week due to the cut in rations for them. They were used to eating at least two cans of dog food and 5 to 7 packs of prime (semi dry dog food). In the field the dogs got one can of dog food and 5 packs of prime. The dog handlers had to carry all the food for the dog and for themselves. Water was also a prime consideration. The normal load that the fellows in the 42nd Scout Dog Platoon carried was; one and a half cases of C-rations, 7 LRP rations, 8 quarts of water, 10 to 15 clips for their weapon, poncho and poncho liner, 7 cans of dog food, 35 packs of prime and a few other personal things that they carried to try and make life a little easier.

There were many long days and nervous moments in those days. You had to be alert at all times. You had to control your thoughts and concentrate on your dog. His body language would be your key to the danger ahead. If you missed the twitch of his ears or a darting glance you were putting yourself and everyone behind you in danger. You had to be careful about calling false alerts. If this happened too many times those behind and their leaders would loose confidence in you. It was like the little boy who carried wolf. Every decision you made could bring usable information to help over come ambushes, booby traps, trip wires and other dangers. If you missed, it could cost you and others injury or life.

My first mission to the field with a dog was with a recon platoon (Recondos 2/501 or 502 can't remember for sure). We made an air assault into a small valley adjacent to the A Shau Valley. It was a hot LZ(meaning in coming fire). We spent several hours on the LZ. Additional companies came in after. During the time we were on the edge of the LZ three choppers were shot down by the NVA. As night approached we moved off and set up for the night. Normally we would have circled up but there was no time. We simply laid down in place. All night we received mortar fire, 5 to 6 rounds every 30 minutes or so. The shrapnel from the mortar rounds crashed through the canopy above us. The next morning came the moment of truth for me. I knew that the NVA were all around us. I didn't know how close. It was now my job to keep everyone safe as we moved out. I did my job. There would be more missions similar to this one and I got better with each mission. Not all missions resulted in contact with the enemy, however, each trail, each day had to taken with the same seriousness as if contact were imminent.

It was my honor to serve in this capacity when I was 19 years old.


 

First Name: Terry Hoecherl
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 09/06/1967 to 10/06/1970

My Vietnam Service

I served in South Vietnam as a medic with the 1st Infantry Division, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, from February, 1968 to August, 1969. Some of the NDP's I was in include Heurtgen, Aachen and Junction City.

I was awarded the Purple Heart, Airmedal, Combat Medical Badge, Combat Infantry Badge, Bronze Star with V and 1 OLC and Army Commendation Medal with V and 2 OLCs.

I am very proud to have had the opportunity to serve my country.


 

Name: Mary Fran Draisker
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 10/1966 to 04/30/1975

Out-Country Intelligence

I was in the Support Branch of Out-Country Intelligence, 7th Air Force, Tan Son Nhut Air Base, Saigon, Vietnam. We were responsible for intelligence on all countries in Southeast Asia except South Vietnam. We compiled daily reports on AAA firings, SAM firings, radar pings, hit and downed aircraft, MIAs, KIAs and SARs for briefings to the General Staff of 7th Air Force, weekly roundups also for briefings, and contributed to monthly, quarterly, semiannual, and annual reports. We also estimated possible enemy future actions for war plans.

Photo: 150) 1-7-67 Mary in uniform.jpg


 

Name: Aldon M. Nance
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 10/09/1963 to 08/02/1965

My Vietnam Service Experience

I served on active duty in the United States Army from October 1963 to August 1965. At Fort Polk LA on the 1st of Aug 1965 I received orders to go to Korea. I reported to the Oakland Army Terminal in California and a couple days later I boarded a ship to Korea. After boarding the ship my name was called over the loud speaker to report to the Troop Information room. My orders had been changed and I was to report 10 Aug 1964 to Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon Vietnam. I was assigned to Head Quarters Military Air Command Vietnam (MACV) My MOS was Subsistence Supply Specialist, Consolidated Supply Activity, better know as Ration Brake Down. On Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays my regular duties consisted of picking up food rations in a refer van from Cholon, a suburb of Saigon, and hauling them back to our unit on Tan Son Nhut Air Base. At our unit we would break food orders out into individual unit size orders to be flown by C123 aircraft the next day to units in: Da Nang, Hue, Phu Bai, Pleiku, Kontum, Dak To, Bien Hoa, Nha Trang, Can Tho, Vien Long, Vung Tau, and many other places I can't remember the spelling of. I was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Medal and The Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters. 

On thanksgiving day 1964 we had just left Tan Son Nhut Airport and about five minutes into the flight we started receiving ground fire when one engine was hit. One round hit the prop and it froze up stopping it from turning. Another round hit an oil line and the hot engine started the oil on fire. The plane dropped a thousand feet or so until the pilot made adjustment to fly with one engine. We returned to base where the ground crew was ready and put out the fire. We loaded the rations on another plane and took off, this time it was just another day; however, we did miss Thanksgiving Day dinner. 

The year I was there, at least half the flights I was on took small arms fire while landing and taking off. I missed a flight one day by letting a Special Forces friend take the flight so he could get back to his duty station on time. Unfortunately for him the plane was shot down. The same day our unit commander came driving up to tell the rest of our crew what had happened. He had been notified the plane went down and my name was on the manifest. As he was coming toward us my Sargent told me to go around back and hide because i was supposed to have been on flight; we had no idea the plane had been shot down. After hearing what had happened to the plane, that I should have been on, my Sargent sent one of the crew to come find me. I got a good chewing out and my unit commander was good enough to let it go at that. I was grateful the Lord was looking out for me. There were other times that were unpleasant, but that's part of being in the military. 

The return home was not what it should have been. The American citizens did not receive us well but I was grateful for a safe return home.

Photo: Saigon (8).jpg


 

Name: Gary Kite
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 10/27/1967

Went though 7 mortar attacks, lost 33 men out of 36 in our recon platoon. The vc had snipers in trees at nigh and when fired on the troops went for cover in trenches and the vc had machine guns I them killing our men. One the saddest nigh I have ever spent. We lost men on every field operation. Those men that had killing vc were never the same again. I remember watching these men and they would just stare and keep to them selfs. We love your country and we're proud to serve. I have many stories I could tell but I won't today. I am proud of all our service men and women and thank them for their service.


 

Name: Arnold Lilly
Home State : MD
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 03/05/1972 to 03/29/1973

My Vietnam Experience

I served on active duty in the United States Air Force from 31 January 1955 to 31 March 1978. My orders to Vietnam sent me to DaNang AB. Upon arrival there I was directed to Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon. I was assigned to the 377th Security Police with duty as Flight Commander, C Flight Law Enforcement and worked the night duty shift (10:00 PM to 6:00 AM) my entire 390 day Vietnam tour. There was a time during the Easter Offensive when our squadron was tasked to work 12 hour shifts from 20 April until 22 May 1972 because of the threat level and the need to cover additional posts with a manpower shortage.

The base experienced four standoff attacks during my tour in Vietnam. Dates: April 14, 1972 - four rounds, September 10, 1972 - 3 rounds, December 6, 1972 - 28 rounds, January 28, 1973 - 11 rounds. In each attack the Security Police troops defended the base successfully. The base hosted the last Bob Hope Show in Vietnam in December 1972. My flight worked the last Law Enforcement shift in Vietnam and left our vehicles and facilities for the Vietnamese Air Force. I departed on the next to last flight of combat troops. The command element led by Colonel David A O'Dell, Base Commander, was the last flight. Col O'Dell cradled the United States flag that had been taken from the base flag pole, folded and presented to him as he boarded his departure flight. A North Vietnamese delegation led by Lt Col Bui Tin observed us boarding our departure plane. He stood at the boarding ramp and etched a mark on his notepad as each American passed. It was a difficult concept. Our plane was airborne at 1:00 PM, 29 March 1973 and the United States involvement in combat with North Vietnam officially ended. Our arrival in the US was at San Francisco where we were met by a large group of protesters. We were called vulgar names and intimidated but our military discipline prevented an ugly confrontation. I traveled across country in uniform to meet my family with two other stops where I experienced the same disrespect. My family greeted me respectfully and I never discussed my duty tour in Vietnam with anyone for 39 years. I was simply a warrior and never participated in planning the war. I had no shame about my participation in the war. I did what I was tasked to do and all of those in my supervision and control returned safely. Pride and joy prevailed.

Photo: Arnie 1.jpg


 

Name: Charles Bonsall
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 02/19/1963 to 08/16/1966

My Service Experience

I served in the United States Navy from February 19, 1963, until August 16, 1966. My service number was 904-18-73, and when discharged I held the grade of Electronics Technician (Communications) Petty Officer Third Class (ETN-3). I served on two destroyers, the USS Ingersoll (DD-652) and the USS Hull (DD-945). The home port of both ships was San Diego, California. On board the USS Hull I served in Viet Nam, the Philippines and the Western Pacific. I was authorized to wear two medals: the National Defense Service Medal and the Viet Nam Service Medal. I received an Honorable Discharge.

In addition to the regular duties of an Electronics Technician which included equipment maintenance and electronic intelligence collection (a euphemism for electronic spying), in Viet Nam I was on the USS Hull shore fire control and search boat crews because I understood some of the French used by the native Vietnamese and I operated the portable radios. Also, on both ships I volunteered to be the ship's librarian, since this allowed me first look at the books received by the ship periodically and a chance to get to know more of my shipmates. For a short period on the USS Ingersoll I served under Commander Marcus Aurelius Arnheiter, whose colorful but disgraceful career was outlined in the book "The Arnheiter Affair" by Neil Sheehan (ISBN: 0-394-47363-9). In general, I enjoyed being in the Navy and at sea, but I was anxious to return home to my new wife, so I declined a re-enlistment bonus of several thousand dollars in 1966. I am indebted to the Navy for providing an excellent technical training that became the foundation for my career. Also, I used the veteran's benefits to get a BSEE degree after I was discharged.


 

Name: Tom Dogonski
Home State: MI
Service Branch: Marines

Served in USMC from 1963 to 1967. Spend 13 months in Vietnam. From 1965 to the first part of 1967. Was in country in the areas of Da Nang, Hue, Phu Bai, Quang Tri and DMZ. In 1965 Marines were the first U.S. ground troops to enter Vietnam. Was awarded the Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal and National Defense Service Medal. My MOS was 0351 Anti tank and M60 machine gun.


 

Name: David Powers
Home State: CO
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 07/29/1970 to 07/29/1976

My Vietnam Service

I served as a door gunner and crew chief on UH-1H helicopters for the 1st Platoon of the 129th Assault Helicopter Company based on Lane Army Heliport near An Son, Vietnam between February 1971 and January 1972.

Photo: pic017.JPG


 

Name: John Cunningham
Home State : NY
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 09/08/1969 to 09/08/1971

Surrender Was Not An Option
www.capveterans.com (copyright 1989)

When I first arrived in California after boot camp at Parris Island, I received orders for the Combined Action Program (CAP) of the Marine Corps. Up to this time the unit was an all-volunteer force that lived within the peasant farming villages. (24 hours a day, 7 days a week.) Usually a Marine was assigned to one village for his whole tour. When Marine Vets returning from Vietnam Vets heard that we were assigned to CAP they told us to get out of it any way we could. Although CAP was nicknamed "A Peace Corps with Rifles"…CAP was considered a suicide squad! The reason Marines were being assigned to CAP units was there weren’t enough volunteers. Too many CAP units were getting wiped out. Eleven Marines and one Navy Corpsman living in a village of thousands can get a little hairy at times.

Once my buddy George Dros (New Jersey) and I (NYC) arrived in Okinawa, we heard again about CAP units always getting wiped out. I was getting a little nervous; what did I get myself into?

As soon as we arrived at the special CAP training school near China Beach in Da Nang, communist rockets slammed into a Village just outside the walls of our compound.

Two weeks later, in one of my first nights back at 2nd CAG headquarters, while I was on guard duty in a forty foot tower, a communist sniper opened fire on me from a village across the river. My orders were to keep my head down and not to fire back into the village for fear of hitting a friendly peasant. I was very frustrated and nervous. I was getting shot at, but I could not shoot back.

About a week later, I was sent to my village of Phu Da (the Duc Duc Resettlement Village) about 20 miles southwest of Da Nang. It was in An Hoa Valley, three miles from the 5th Marines Combat Base.

My first night in the village an intelligence report said that over 200 communists were coming to wipe us out. There were about eight Marines, one Navy Corpsman and twenty Vietnamese Militiamen called Popular Forces (PFs) to hold them off. A Marine, who was there a while, started telling George Dros and I how scared he was. He really thought this was it; and even started talking about our deaths. (We were actually figuring out when our parents would be getting our bodies for burial.)

When the communists did hit the village they started to probe by firing aimlessly into the village. This they did in the hope that the PFs militiamen would panic and return fire, thereby giving away our ambush site. (Surprise was our best weapon against much larger enemy units.) Since this was the first of many times that I was told we would be wiped out, I was scared shitless. I knew I had to fight like a Marine, but I was so scared my chest felt like it was going to explode from my pounding heart. Finally, with God’s help, it started to pour rain. The PFs militiamen held their fire. For whatever reason the communists left. After that Marine combat veteran had really gotten me going about dying, it took me a while to calm down,

A few nights later, I heard something as we were walking around our village on the way to our night’s ambush. I almost shot a little pig when it came running toward me. Everybody laughed, but seconds later grenades were thrown into our line of march, badly wounding our sergeant and two or three PF Militiamen. Rifle fire opened up from near the village back gate. We went after them immediately and drove the Viet Cong terrorists into the jungle just outside our village. We didn’t think the sergeant was going to make it. The grenade blew right next to him. For almost two weeks we were without a sergeant, which is the highest rank in a CAP village. The CAP was led by a senior Lance Corporal (E3). (The wounded sergeant never returned to our village.)

Soon after arriving in the Duc Duc Refugee Village, George and I were already included in the dinner invitations the other Americans were receiving from peasant families. Around this time my best buddy, George Dros, a Marine I went through training with, and I, started volunteering for the many Civil Action Programs our CAP was involved with around the village; Digging wells, fixing fences and huts, and helping the corpsman treat the long lines of peasants and their children. The First Aid training that we learned was a great help. Also, for whatever stupid reason, George and I volunteered for patrols and two man night killer teams. I guess we still thought we were fighting for the good of our country and democracy.

Over the next few weeks we came under fire a number of times during the day and night. (The communists were constantly trying to instill fear in the peasants.) On a number of occasions we received intelligence reports from our peasants. The Civil Action Programs within the village created a lot of trust of the American boys. We also received intelligence that we were going to be wiped out.

These reports caused some of our Popular Forces (village militia) to disappear at night. They felt why fight today when there’s always tomorrow. Some PF militiamen even took off their uniforms and hid them, along with their rifles, so they could blend into the peasant population.

(We could not!!) A few times we almost shot a few of them to prevent them from leaving.

Since the communist activity against the village was getting worse, the 5th Marines sent a company (150 boys) of grunts and two tanks to work our area outside our village. Even with them, we were getting hit with sniper fire. Not far from me one of the 5th Marines got his legs blown off by a booby trap. We found a tunnel where we captured three Viet Cong (terrorists), $5,000 in American green money, $3,000 in American military money and boxes and boxes of clothes donated to the Viet Cong (Freedom Fighters) from a student union from Berkley University in California.

That really hurt and frustrated everyone. We were fighting for our lives (and peasant lives) for what??? We already had heard about all the demonstrations across America. But now, they (students) were even helping our enemy. (I learned to hate.)

The day fighting continued and I received two minor shrapnel wounds on different occasions; once in the back and the other, in the hand. (I received no Purple Hearts for them, but the shrapnel is still in me.)

The intelligence reports of us getting wiped out were still coming in. Our own peasants and village boys supplied many of these reports. (Boys who did odd jobs for the Americans and also served as interpreters.) One day a report was so strong, a staff sergeant came from our company headquarters to set up with us. (He was an office worker and didn’t really understand day-to-day combat tactics.)

When darkness came the CAP Team was split into two and each patrol went their separate ways around the village for about an hour. After combining back together, the Staff Sergeant set us up in a good ambush site. However, he set me (M-79 Grenadier) up with the M-60 machine-gunner.

He ordered me to send up an illumination round as soon as the fighting started. About an hour later, the communists attacked by throwing grenades on some talking PF Militiamen. Immediately, I sent up the illumination round from my M-79 grenade-launcher and placed a high explosive round into my weapon to prepare for the combat action.

The next thing I knew, there was a huge flash and I was flying through the air and slammed against a cement well wall.

I was completely dazed, bleeding from my head, chest, arms, stomach and legs. (My flak jacket was completely torn up.) There was a tremendous ringing in my ears and my body was shaking. At first I was bleeding so badly I thought I was dying. But my bleeding was quickly stopped by all the bandages that my buddy, George Dros placed on me.

The fight raged around me and the machine gunner, who was also wounded from the bomb blast. Finally, our CAP Team drove the terrorists from our village. The Viet Cong left four dead and many blood trails

Immediately the 5th Marines up at their An Hoa Combat Base sent trucks to take out our wounded. I was not one of the four wounded Marines taken out. (There were only about four Americans left in the village that night.)

I went out the next morning. A Navy doctor up at An Hoa 5th Marines Combat Base tried to take out some shrapnel from my leg, but stopped. He left my other shrapnel in as well. After bandaging me and giving me a hot lunch, I was back in my village within hours.

The CAP Team was down to only four Americans in the village of thousands. That’s how it stood for about another two weeks. Our company commander said that it was hard to get replacements.

The communists played even more with our minds. The terrorist threats got worse during these periods of few Marines in the village. It was bad enough when we had a full unit.

Thank God for the intelligence supplied by the peasants. Although the communists loved to use the peasants to create false reports, the peasants did supply us with a great deal of valid information. Around this time we started to hear about communist moles living in our village and serving amongst the PF militiamen.

It was ugly. We couldn’t tell who they were. We could only guess. And we could not act on a guess. Too many Vietnamese would get upset if we were wrong and that’s not what we needed. We needed our peasant support.

About this time we heard about bounties on our heads. The communists hated us living in the village, so they did everything they could to motivate the peasants to turn against us. However, a large number of the peasants loved us living with them.

A lot of booby traps were being laid in the hope one of us would step on one. The communists also wanted to inflict terror in the peasants working their fields and rice patties. One afternoon, a water buffalo with a young teenage girl riding on its back, stepped on a large booby trap, instantly killing the both of them. I remember it clearly because a number of peasants were rushing from the fields to our village’s market place with large chucks of water buffalo meat.

Things got bad, anyone could be working for the communists. The pressure on us never let up.

During the daylight hours the communist movement outside our village became more and more brazen. One day on patrol in July 1970, when the temperature was over 100 degrees, our new sergeant wanted to go after a few Vietnamese that he saw with his field glasses. He witnessed them entering a known terrorist jungle stronghold, which was an area restricted to our village peasants. That area of our responsibility was what was called "A Free Fire Zone." A month earlier, it was the same area where our whole CAP Team, a 5th Marines Company of 150 Marines and 2 tanks got pinned down. (I wasn’t the smartest Marine, but I knew what we were about to get ourselves into.)

Since originally it was only going to be a short patrol, we each only took one canteen of water. (It was a major mistake we learned, as the long day taught us well.)

Our sergeant called it a perfect artillery mission, supplied by the Fifth Marines at An Hoa on an entrance to the communist jungle stronghold. (It also wasn’t the last time we would use their expert mortarmen that day.)

Immediately following two missions of 10 rounds of high explosive rounds each, our CAP patrol of five Marines (dispersed with six PF militiamen) headed out through about 600 meters of open rice patties (much of them dried-up) towards the enemy sanctuary. At times, the rice patty dike that lay before us was only a little over a foot wide on top.

It wasn’t too long before five of the six PFs started panicking. "Beacoup VC, Beacoup VC" was their answer. At a small knoll they completely stopped. We were scared too, but we had to go on. We were doing our job as Marines. We left the five PFs on the knoll and continued.

After the sergeant ordered me to put some high explosive grenades into the jungle face, the five Marines and one PF militiaman entered the heavy jungle.

Once inside we spread out and found food stashes, thatch huts, earthen bunkers, documents, and maps of our village and the makings of a booby trap factory. I started taking pictures with my Instamatic Camera. We were all excited.

Suddenly, the Vietnamese communists hit from what seemed like every direction, yet we couldn’t see one. Our sergeant called in mortars on what we all thought was a concentration of enemy fire. Although the Willie Peter round hit perfectly, the mortar’s base plate must have shafted because the ten high explosive rounds impacted towards us. The last round exploded a short distance in front of us, covering Marines with dirt.

For two hours we fought back in that intense heat, hoping our fire was hitting them. During which time, our sergeant called in air support and helicopter gunships.

CAP Team 2-9-1, the CAP Unit on the other side of the large combat base at

An Hoa, rushed to our aid, only to get pinned down themselves before they could enter the Viet Cong jungle stronghold. We started wondering how long we could keep it going. We were running low on ammunition.

The remaining five Marines from our CAP Team arrived from our village along with a few PFs that they persuaded to come along. Once CAP 2-9-1 was able to reach us, our sergeant continued to call in mortar, helicopter and air support. With the Marines spreading out into a better defensive position, the communists broke contact.

George Dros and I, being our team’s demolitionmen, destroyed what we could with the plastic explosive C-4. Everything of intelligence importance, which was much, our team carried off.

Out of fear of an ambush, our sergeant didn’t want to return to the village using the same route as we came, so he set up security and we crossed a neck high stream. The muddy water destroyed the film in my camera that I was carrying in my bag of grenades.

Once all the Americans and PF militiamen reached the other side, CAP 2-9-1 left to return to their own village. Not long after, my CAP 2-9-2 stopped on a small knoll for some much-needed rest. The five Marines from our original patrol were without water for hours. We were frying under our helmets and flak jackets, especially our brains. Three of the original Marines went off to fill up canteens. The bad thing, they did was to not take any weapons; an M-60 machinegun and two M-16 automatic rifles.

After about ten minutes of resting, our sergeant jumped up saying he wanted to get back to our undefended village and that he had to get the intelligence documents up to our CAP Company’s captain. I informed him about the three, weaponless Marines and I volunteered to stay and wait for their return.

After waiting and worrying for about twenty minutes on the open knoll alone with the weapons, I heard the three laughing Americans as they returned with full canteens. They were out in the open when the communists opened up on them with automatic fire and rocket propelled grenades (RPG).

Immediately, I returned fire, switching from the M-60 machinegun, to an M-16 on automatic and my grenade launcher. All I could think about was getting my three friends back to their weapons. I had no time to be scared. I wanted to draw the enemy fire towards me in the hope that my friends could make their way to the knoll. (My buddy since training, George Dros was one of them.)

Since the new attack started, the three Marines drove into the rice patty that separated us. Lying flat, they started moving by grabbing on the young rice plants and pulling themselves forward.

Although the enemy’s rocket propelled grenades were hitting short of me, many of their bullets hit around my position or buzzed by my head. (Remembering the sound of the passing bullets is still vivid and clear.) In what seemed like hours, (but was probably close to fifteen minutes) a few of the Marines, who left with the sergeant, returned and added some much needed covering fire. The first Marine back was DANIEL F. GALLAGHER . Immmediately, he dropped next to me and starting firing the M-60 Machinegun. He was soon followed by two other Marines. One by one the three Marines pinned down in the rice patty before me reached their weapons and opened up. It wasn’t long before the communists pulled away.

That day, although, the CAP Team fought for hours, there was not even a single casualty. Also that day the communists did not attack either the village belonging to CAP 2-9-1 or CAP 2-9-2. The intelligence that was gathered during the operation laid the foundation for a major assault on the communist jungle stronghold a week later.

One night on an ambush outside our village mortar rounds and rifle fire started to rain down on our positions. Some PF Militiamen, who were clustered in the middle of our perimeter, panicked and started opening fire from where they laid. Most of the Americans could not pick up their heads. Even the PFs rounds were hitting all around us. Minutes seemed like an eternity. I felt that at any second a round was going to hit me in my side. We were helpless. Finally, two Marines crawled into the perimeter and started hitting the P Fs with their rifle butts.

On two separate days, three peasant friends of ours were killed while they worked in their rice patties. Their children witnessed it. The Viet Cong were trying to instill more and more fear into the people, hoping they would lose trust in us to defend them.

About two weeks later, two peasant women notified our CAP patrol that a group of Viet Cong were setting up an ambush a few hundred meters from our village. Our sergeant called in another one of his accurate air strikes on the communist position. Once the jets were finished, we went out and found about four wounded Viet Cong. Also a 500 pound bomb that did not explode during the strikes. Since my buddy George and I were the on-the-job trained demolitionmen it was our responsibility to dispose of the unexploded bomb.

Once the helicopters took the wounded communists to Da Nang, George and I went to work with our C-4 plastic explosives. We were both scared. This was by far the biggest dud we had ever blown. You could have cut the intensity with a knife. We thought it might blow anytime. We laid two sticks of C-4 plastic explosive on it, lit the fuse and ran to a knoll. After we waited past the two-minute fuse time with no explosion, we started walking slowly back to the bomb. Suddenly, it exploded. We jumped to the ground. When we started walking back we were laughing nervously. It seemed like a joke. We almost blew ourselves up

Suddenly, my foot went through the ground. I took another step and looked back at a booby-trapped M-60 mortar round. I could not believe it. I was in a state of shock. I called to George and pointed. When we blew the M-60 canister in place, the booby trap left a huge hole. If the booby trap had gone off by me stepping on it, the device would have probably killed the both of us.

We didn’t know whom to trust. Again, we heard that kids were being paid to plant booby traps to kill us. We were always reminded about the bounties on each of our heads. Everyone was concerned.

Over the next few days, the Marine sergeant got our captain to call a meeting with the Vietnamese district leaders and the village elders to go over why the CAP was getting ambushed and why so many of our peasant friends were getting killed. We (Americans) discussed the recent events amongst us and we felt that too many things were happening under the noses of our P F Militiamen. They lived in the village and should know a great deal more. Since their sergeant knew in advance all the CAP’s movements, we decided to set up some kind of trap for him. Our captain and sergeant worked the details.

Two days later, all the P Fs along with some peasants were taken from the village. The next day we had a new P F platoon that was just as bad. Being a bunch of cowards, they refused to go anywhere. Many times they disappeared as soon as it got dark. Usually, in the morning we would only have half them around once we broke our ambush site. The tension between the Marines and the PFs was very explosive. Even among our so-called allies there were few chances to rest. Rifles were being pulled on both sides. I had one pulled on me as I walked towards a militiaman. I was in such a rage I yelled for him to shoot as I continued walking towards him. Finally, Marines grabbed me and other PFs knocked the rifle from him. I was going to kill him with my bare hands. I had enough PF crap. I had enough of the whole fucking war.

There was never a let up. We had no one to turn to but each other. Even the people back home were against us, our allies, and at times it seemed even our own superiors. We became very close with each other (like brothers).

It was around this time that I received pictures from a friend showing my hometown’s Vietnam Veteran Memorial getting desecrated with red paint. I was so proud of that memorial, I though every town had one. Now, this!! Twice this happened in a two-month period. They never caught the scum that had done it. They attacked at night when no one was around. Just like the terrorists and cowards we were fighting. (The memorial was dedicated May 1968. My hometown’s Vietnam Memorial was one of the first in America).

It was also around this time that I heard about the Kent State deaths. This was all tearing me apart. I was exhausted from all the intelligence reports about us getting wiped out. I was tired of seeing friends get hurt. All for nothing. No one really cared!! They hated us back home and people were trying to kill us here. Why were we fighting?? Everything sucked!! The fear of dying for nothing…is the ugliest fear of all. I hated the people back home more than the communists who were trying to kill us. I wanted to be left alone.

It wasn’t long before we got another PF militia platoon. All together, we had three different ones in the village of Phu Da.

Rumors of the 5th Marines pulling out of An Hoa started flying around all the peasants. Soon the rumors of the CAP leaving Phu Da added to it. Many peasants stopped talking to us. Some didn’t even look at us. Even some of our civic action programs within the village were turned away. We all felt our problems were just beginning, needing the peasant support and now it was drying up. They no longer trusted us.

One night, a twelve-year-old boy threw a grenade into the CAP unit as we clustered around ready to move out. Four Marines and about six P Fs were wounded and our Vietnamese scout was killed instantly. The grenade landed between his legs. There wasn’t much left of him. He was a good friend.

Again, we only had five Americans living in the village, and this was the worst time. As usual, the reports of being wiped out became stronger. The communists made sure we always got them. They wanted us on edge.

Some of the older children would bring in dud rounds for rewards. This was done in order to prevent the Viet Cong from getting the explosives to booby traps. Since this was almost everyday, George and I were always working as demo men. Fuse problems were common. A number of times, they almost got us killed.

Finally, official word came down that we were being pulled out of Phu Da in a month. Since the 5th Marines were pulling out of their nearby An Hoa Combat Base, it was decided that there were too many communists in the valley and surrounding mountains for the two CAPs to handle. We were already having trouble with the 5th Marines still there. Some of the boys were to be sent home while the newer boys were assigned to other villages out of the valley. George and I were two of them. We were looking forward to it. We were assigned to 2nd Company, a couple of miles west of Dai Loc. A fairly secure village, so we were told.

By this time I felt completely exhausted, frustrated, betrayed, and cheated. So alone. This was not the way I thought wars should be fought. I didn’t have any answers how one should be experienced. I felt very confused. And at times depressed and scared. Were we going to get wiped out before the pullout??

Once the peasants heard we had a date to leave they turned very cold toward us. We lost most of our friends and it wasn’t even our fault. They were sure the communists would move into the village as soon as we left. They had no faith in their militia platoon. Some peasants even started helping the Viet Cong; they wanting to get on their good side before it was too late. We received orders from our captain to watch out for more terrorist attacks and booby traps.

The CAP started taking longer patrols in and outside our resettlement village. Our night ambushes were 100% watch all night long. We did our sleeping whenever we could find the time. Sometimes, it was days. Now it felt like a race. Were we going to get pulled out or wiped out??

During a blocking force another Marine and I saw two Viet Cong on a distant knoll watching us. After days of frustration we went after them without telling anyone. Me shooting my grenade launcher, and Fox shooting his M-16 rifle. One of them fell and the other picked him up and dragged him off. By the time we got to their position, they had entered a jungle tree line. Suddenly a Marine came running waving his arms and shouting to us. We found out that our sergeant called in mortars onto the enemy’s position, which we were now standing on. We took off running as fast as we could. Moments later, a Willie Peter round exploded where we had just stood. We kept running. My heart was ready to explode through my chest I was so scared. George, who was the radioman, spotted us out there and cancelled the ten high explosive rounds from going out. Once we got back, our sergeant screamed at us for leaving the line without orders.

Days later, during a long patrol miles from our village, the communists set an ambush and caught us in a crossfire between two jungle tree lines. We were pinned down in an abandoned rice patty bed. The sergeant called in mortars and a helicopter gunship, which drove off one side of the enemy. However, they continued fighting from the other tree line. A few militiamen were wounded and one Marine slightly. Our sergeant had us advance towards the Viet Cong on line, firing as we walked slowly. Most of the militiamen refused to go. The Viet Cong must have thought we were crazy because they broke contact. We called in a helicopter to take out the wounded PFs.

On the way back to our village some of the PFs decided to take a path back to the villages rather then walk along the rice patty dikes. A few of them actually swung their rifles over their shoulders. We told them to get back with us but they only laughed and joked with each other. (I guess they thought the war was over for the day) About a half-hour later, one of the Marines spotted some boys running before the PFs on the path. We tried to warn them that something might be up but again they laughed. We thought they were so fucking stupid. Seconds later there was a loud explosion and a cloud of dust where the militiamen were. What was left of them took off running in all directions, shooting into the trees that lined their path route. When we got there PFs were laying all over the place. Two dead and about three wounded. George and I had to drag the two bodies from the rice patty. We couldn’t believe how stupid they were. How were they ever going to hold the village once we left the valley?

With about two weeks left before the pull out our captain came out to talk to us about an intelligence report that was being followed by the 1st Marine division high command in Da Nang. This time it wasn’t about our CAP getting wiped out, it was about the communists planning a major attack on the Fifth Marine Headquarters at An Hoa.

They estimated that there would be around 5,000 enemy troops involved in the attack. Since the base was only tree miles away from our village, we thought we would be called onto the base to fight along side the Fifth Marines. However, we were wrong. The captain told us we had to stay in our village. The main enemy drive was through our village. He wanted us to set up in the best place to give An Hoa a warning and some extra time to get ready. We were pawns in a chess game. After the captain left, we cursed him for not staying with us. Later, our gunny sergeant volunteered to be with us in the village.

Although I was scared, I was also more at ease than other nights. It was strange. I felt there was going to be no more painful thoughts, no more fears. I actually wanted to get it over with. So did some of the other Americans. How could ten Marines fend off thousands?? We knew we didn’t have a chance. We prayed in small groups and read the Bible (we read the Bible on many nights). When it started to get dark my life history went through my mind. I was even wondering about my funeral.

Once we moved to our ambush site I was ready to fight like hell. I knew I was going to die but I wanted to take as many communists with me as I possibly could. I was even fantasizing about it. Dying, and all.

Around 1AM, rockets and mortars hit the village and An Hoa. "Here they come," I thought. We stayed to our positions and waited and waited. My eyes started playing tricks on me. I kept seeing them moving in the darkness. It was the longest night of my 19 years of life.

For whatever reasons the land attack never came. (The damage was done in our minds). An Hoa got a few more rockets. At first light we went to the area where the rockets hit the village and found 15 dead peasants and a number of wounded. We did what we could and helicoptered them out. The next few nights, although there were no reports, I still feared the attack would come at any second.

The Navy Corpsman and a few of the Marines continued medical treatment of the peasants. Although we were leaving, there was still work to do where it was accepted by the peasants. However, every chance we got we would sit in-groups talking about going home. One of the Marines, Robert Pierce, who always kept to himself, picked George and I to talk about his home near Albany, Georgia. He was going home after the pullout and that’s all he talked about. He was so happy he was gong to see his mother and family. He wanted us to visit him when we got back to the States. Every night he talked with a big smile and it was always fun to hear. Every night his stories brought us home with him.

With about five days left, the Captain ordered us to make two long patrols during the daylight hours. He wanted the American Marines to highlight to the communists that we were still determined in protecting the people of our village. He hoped it would prevent the communists from attacking the village. He ordered each patrol to have a checkpoint on one of two knolls that we had nicknamed "Twin Tits." Since they were the highest points in our area, the captain felt the communists would see us. (The same area where I stepped on a booby trap months before. It wouldn’t be long before the communists had the idea to plant fresh booby traps.)

I was scared, but I never told anyone. I couldn’t. I was a Marine and I felt Marines should not get scared. My fears of getting killed by a booby trap started coming back.

For the first two days I led the morning patrols and Robert Pierce, the Marine from near Albany, Georgia, led the afternoon patrols. They were quiet but very hot. Usually everyone was in a bad mood. We were totally exhausted and we all thought these patrols were crazy.

One morning George came back from patrol and went to the marketplace to buy four batteries for his tape player, so we could listen to some music. An old woman, who was probably not from Phu Da, tried to sell the batteries at a high inflated price. Since, we lived in the village for almost six months; we knew what the prices were in the marketplace. George took the batteries, laid them on the ground outside the market area and shot them on the automatic with his M-16 rifle. The crowded market panicked. Although no one was hurt George was told he had to see the captain the next morning for a punishment.

That night I had an intense nightmare that two Marines died while on patrol. During my nightmare my body was trembling and sweating. I was yelling out. Robert Pierce, who had set up with me, woke me up. (I didn’t tell him about my dream.)

After that I couldn’t sleep. Nothing like that feeling ever happened to me before. I never felt a death was going to happen. I feared for death, but this was different. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It took complete control over me. I guess the anxiety, associated from my stepping on a booby trap, was finally hitting me.

I felt that I had to get out of the morning patrol. Strangely I was not scared about the afternoon patrol, just the morning. I asked Robert Pierce to change patrols with me. I gave Pierce the excuse that I wanted to hear what the captain did with George over the marketplace-battery incident. Although my statement was true the main reason for not taking the patrol was that I was still upset over the nightmare. The dream was too real!

Soon after, the patrol went out. And I prayed.

Being the only American left in the village, I stayed by the radio the whole time. About an hour into the patrol, my lifelong nightmare started. The radioman on the patrol screamed "Incoming… Incoming. A Marine down!"

I heard an another explosion in the background. I felt like my heart stopped. I asked the radioman for more information. My body started shaking. I was afraid of what was happening out there. I started placing my combat gear on. I had to go. I couldn’t take not being there. I grabbed the radio and ran to the back gate of the village. I left before I had the location of where the patrol was down.

George and the sergeant were on the way back to the village by jeep when the first radio transmission came. The sergeant radioed me to stop once I reached the back gate of the village.

As I waited for George and the sergeant to reach me, the patrol’s radioman corrected his initial transmission by saying the two explosions were from booby traps two Marines were down and the patrol’s position was on one of the knolls of Twin Tits. The nightmare was just getting worse. I wanted to go out to the patrol, but the sergeant continued to order me to stay where I was. (I think I was having a panic attack. I was afraid that the sergeant would notice something in me. I felt like a coward.) I damned God for allowing this to happen after all my prayers.

I felt so alone. I was a coward and someone got hurt because of it.

Donnie Asbury stepped on the first booby trap. After he stepped on the Bouncing Betty, Donnie’s M-79 grenade launcher fired and caused the second explosion. Disregarding his own safety, Robert Pierce ran to Donnie’s aid, triggering another Bouncing Betty.

Donnie Asbury died moments after tripping the mine. Robert Pierce was still alive, but he had lost large parts of both legs. Our U.S. Navy Corpsman worked feverously to keep Robert from falling into shock from his heavy loss of blood.

The sergeant had George and I set the PF militiamen into security around the base of the knoll. I begged the sergeant to let me see Robert Pierce. He said that he needed me more on security. All I could think about was the nights Pierce, George and I would sit talking about going home. Robert was so excited to see his mother in a few days again.

Over and over again, I begged God to let Robert live. I even begged God to take my life instead.

After about an hour and a half, a helicopter finally came the 20 miles from Da Nang. Within two minutes the helicopter was back on its way to Da Nang with Robert and Donnie. Once they were gone I ran up the knoll to the corpsman to ask him about Robert.

The corpsman said that Robert was alive, but he was in shock from a heavy loss of blood. He also said that Robert was asking for his mother, saying, "She thought I would be home next week." He kept asking about his legs and if he was going to die. He also said that he loved all the Marines on the CAP Team.

About two hours later, back in the village, I was on security with George. We were promising to visit Pierce when we got home. That’s all we kept talking about. While we were still there, word came over the radio that Pierce had died on the way to the Da Nang hospital. An U.S. Army doctor on the helicopter did all he could for him.

(I can’t put it in words how I felt.) I cried along with George. He cried for his reasons and I cried for mine. (I kept thinking about his mother.) Pierce died when I should have. Everything sucked! I felt that even God let me down a second time. Robert Pierce only had three more days of combat left.

The captain pulled us out of the village in two days. At our Duc Duc Company Headquarters we had a memorial for Pierce and Asbury then got drunk for two days. That’s when we went our separate ways. George and I went to our new village

CAP 2-2-2 and I was never the same. So much of me died on that knoll. About three weeks later I developed cramps and what was nicknamed the Hershey Squirts. I was hospitalized for them two months after Pierce’s and Asbury’s deaths and then again two months later. I was later diagnosed with Irritable Bowel.

During my stay in the new village combat was light. A month into our stay in the village, I lead a patrol where a new guy (Marine) stepped on a booby trap. Only a few times did we get reports of being wiped out. We got hit with two major floods. One of the floods was caused by a typhoon that almost caused the CAP Team and PFs to drown, crash in a helicopter, and me almost getting bit by a poisonous snake. (The bamboo viper two step. Nicknamed that because after you got bit you lived for two-steps.)

In Febrary 1971 when I returned home, besides the lame questions of how many babies did I have to kill and how many villages did I help burn down, I had a little incident on a NYC bus. Wearing my Marine uniform with my ribbons from Vietnam (including my Purple Heart), the bus driver said that I could get on the bus for free, but I had to sit in the back of the bus. He didn't want me to cause any trouble.

I never had anyone spit on me upon my return from Vietnam. However, my hometown of Rosedale, Queens had its Vietnam Veteran Memorial attacked by Anti-War Protesters. In May 1970, while serving in my peasant-farming village of Phu Da/Duc Duc, I received copies of the below pictures.


 

Name: Not Given
Home State: AL

Story: Both my father and my husband served during the Vietnam era. In 1966 my father served in the USAF, and spent 10 months in various locations in Vietnam as a radar and communications technician. His life was at risk every day, and he survived at least one attack at a base I can't remember the name of because I was 9 years old.The same year my husband, after turning 18 in March joined the USN , served 4 years, completing 2 tours patrolling the coast in SAR missions and providing maritime support for our troops in country. My father returned home in June, 1967, as a soldier who couldn't proudly wear his uniform on the way home due to the hostility and protestations against the war in Vietnam. My husband remembers the bitterness and confusion he and his shipmates encountered after each deployment, the dark side of the cause they earnestly served. He also gave away all his uniforms and was able to escape "you baby killer" and other painful accusations; or getting "beat up" as some other less fortunate service men experienced. Although his service was only 4 years, the time he spent in the Navy changed him from a boy to a man, and he shares his memories and stories with family often as a special time, with special bonds for the brothers he served with. He has a deep sadness for the story-book-homecoming they never received, and until the Wall was completed, believed the dead and living servicemen who served in Vietnam were shunned and forgotten. He is very excited about this memorial gift and asked me to "get on that site and put me on the list." He has no idea I'm also writing a small part of his story. I too am grateful, and hoping this will help heal the wounds of his past. Thank you, sincerely, his loving wife.


 

Name: George Shelburne
Home State: IN
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 07/1966 to 07/1968

I Made It Home

I had been married for 2 years and I was 23 years old and we didn't have any children. They started drafting married guys with no kids and I got my draft notice July of 66. It was tough leaving my wife and headed to Fort Knox Kentucky for Basic training. After Basic training I was sent to Fort Wadsworth, Staten Island New York where I saw Mickey Mantle hit his 500th home run in Yankee Stadium. I had 1 year left to serve when I got my orders for Vietnam. I was sent to Can Tho Airfield in the Mekong Delta. I survived the Tet Offensive and a lot of the guys did not. I have had 47 bonus years which I think about a lot and I am so thankful for. I will never forget one of the guys had just received word his wife had a baby boy and he was so happy. He was killed that night of the start of the Tet Offensive. I have never been able to forget that or get over it. I felt so lucky to "make it home." Exactly two years later from my discharge on July 16, 1968 we had a baby girl we named Nadine, we were so blessed.


 

Name: Freddy Velez
Home State: PA
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 04/14/1970 to 12/13/1971

Life Experience

To difficult to explain. Life in infantry is difficult to explain to someone who never served in combat.


 

Name: Stuart Olson
Home State:
VA
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 08/13/1970 to 02/15/1972

Willy Pete on the Line

I graduated from high school in the spring of 1968 and headed off to the University of Minnesota that fall to pursue a degree in electrical engineering.  U of M was not a hotbed of dissent at the time, but the ROTC had their corner and the SDS group was on the other side of the campus.  I tried to ignore both and focused on my studies.  I wasn't opposed to either group, but just ambivalent.  Young men were fighting and dying in some far-off land and the SDS radicals shouted for attention as I made my way through their lines in order to get to my classes.  I don't think there was ever any question that I would go if called, but I just wasn't ready to drop everything and enlist.  I enjoyed my student deferment and let the world activities go on without me.

Then in 1970 the lottery was instituted, student deferments were pulled, birth dates for call-ups were chosen, and I was part of the pool.  "Greetings.  You have been chosen to represent your country . . . ."  And just that quickly I was drafted, inducted, through basic and advanced training, and on my way to that far-off land to join the young men who were fighting and dying.  I was assigned to Company B, 2/8th, 1st Cavalry Air-mobile and became part of a long-range recon patrol squad.  We were dropped into the jungle with our rucksacks and weapons, charged with interdicting North Vietnamese supply lines, and picked up weeks later for short stand-downs. 

February 7, 1971 we walked into an ambush and were involved in an extensive firefight that lasted several hours.  One of our guys had been hit and was bleeding out profusely.  Doc was busy further up the line and I was crawling up to get fresh bandages for our injured guy.  Shooting was intense and I stopped for a minute to return fire.  Just then a Willy Pete (white phosphorus) grenade landed on our line right in front of me.  The concussion knocked me out and when I came to I was a human torch with WP spread across my face, down my back, arms, and legs.  I spent the rest of the day in a shallow river bed covered with mud to reduce the burning. 

We were eventually extracted and I was evacuated to start the next phase of my army experience.  After various hospitals and five months, I went back on active duty stateside to complete my commitment.  Looking back, the military was a great experience, taught me a lot about myself, and showed me what I could endure.  I am better because of it. 


 

Name: Jeffrey (Scott) Lyon
Home State: CA
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 05/08/1967 to 05/07/1971

Operation Dewey Canyon

It was Tet 1968, one year after the legendary holdout of Marines at Khe Sahn.
I was a assigned to LZ Cunningham, radio communications for Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major operation of the war. Located on a ridge top in the jungle above the Ashau Valley.
I was on watch, at midnight, inside the transmission camper, when all hell broke loose.
I opened the camper door to a firefight, as NVA soldiers were attacking and over-running our perimeter. The NVA were repelled and sent scrambling back into the jungle surrounding our position.

Days later, the operation was concluded and dismantling of the LZ began.
Then the weather changed and we were enclosed in a thick fog for many days. Two seperate bands of volunteers were sent to the bottom of the hill to get water, never to return. We were down to one C-Ration a day and all the dew our ponchos could capture to drink. After countless days, the weather broke.
Everyone knew we were surrounded by countless NVA and probably Viet Cong troops. They were waiting for the choppers to come and rescue us.

We loaded all the gear we could possibly carry on our backs and waited.... The mid-morning calm broken by Cobras rocketing the jungle surrounding us. Followed by incoming 105 Howitzer, and 106 recoilless rifle rounds landing in the jungle beneath us.
Then came the CH-47s, piloted by 19 year old Warrant Officer volunteers, who knew they were flying into a hot zone.
Then came the enemies rounds, artillery from guns hidden in the surrounding mountainsides, mortar and small arms fire.
The first chopper lowered his tail door and hovered above the LZ, the first chopper taking on wounded and ill and lifting off.
The second chopper followed the first, and I was ordered to board.
Running full speed with probably 100 pounds on my back and not even noticing the weight, I leaped onto the tailgate.

As we lifted off, looking out the window I saw the first chopper going down slowly, smoke pouring from it's engines.
It looked like it was going to land hard on a lower ridgetop.
We managed to get away without a hit. We all sat motionless and in silence for the entire trip to safety.


 

Name: James Morrison
Home State: CT
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 09/09/1969 to 08/31/1973

LAX

I arrived at LAX in 1970 after graduating from bootcamp I was so proud of my uniform and having survived Paris Island. When I arrived at the airport I was greeted by a group of "hippies" complete with beads and wild clothed. I was spit on and had a liquid thrown on me I hope it was water. What bothered me the most was not the act of these people but the other "normal" people that walked by and did nothing even when they saw what was going on. I was not alone and had other Marines with me. If we had reacted we would have been in trouble with the Marines so we did nothing. I remember that day as if it happened yesterday. 

Photo: chinabeach.jpg


 

Name: Mark Lyon
Home State:
CA
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 05/19/1969 to 06/21/1973

Bewildered

I joined the Marine Corps to serve my country.  That's it.  Plain and simple.  My father was a Marine and so was my brother.  Much of the country was in turmoil with all kinds of issues so being in the service at that time wasn't looked on so fondly by the public.  When I returned home on my first tour of Vietnam we landed in San Francisco, Ca.  I had just turned 21 yrs old in Vietnam.  I went to the airport bar and asked the bartender for a glass of beer.  His comment to me was, "We don't serve your kind here!"  Perplexed by his demeanor I went ahead and grabbed my luggage.  On the way outside the airport complex there were a lot of demonstrators yelling at my fellow servicemen and I screaming obscenities and making hand gestures.  One woman came forward out of the crowd with what looked to be about a nine year old girl, I'm assuming it was her daughter, and spit in my face telling me I was a baby killer and that she hoped I'd die.  It's at this point that I decided I was going to go back to Vietnam on a second tour because evidently it was a lot safer there and it was in my homeland. 

To this day I still can't comprehend why my own countrymen would give me a reception like that?  Over the years I just learned to except it and move on. 

Now-a-days I'm happy to see servicemen being honored the way they are.  They should be.  They've earned the right to treated well by the public.  Many gave some...some gave all.
Semper Fi!
                                                Mark L.

Photo: SATS and me.jpg


 

Name: E. Gordon Stump
Home State: MI
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 06/07/1965 to 01/31/2003

Vietnam Service

I flew F-102''s with the 509th Fighter Squadron from July 1967 till July 1969. We flew out of Danang SV, Bien Hoa SV, Bangcock, Thailand and Udorn, Thailand. We stood 5 Minute alert and flew Mig Cap for the tankers refueling the strike force A/C. We lost three F-102 due to mechanical failures and one shot down by a Mig 21.
I returned to the US to pick up a replacement F-102. I went to Perrin AFB to check out in refueling then flew the F-102 to Clark AFB Philippines Solo across the Pacific ocean.
I flew 241 combat mission with 41 over North Vietnam. I finished my career as the Adjutant General of the State of Michigan. I flew the T-37, T-38, T-33, F-102, F-84F, F-100, A-7, F-16 and C-130. I was able to fly during my entire career.


 

First Name: Donald Turner
Home State: CA
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 1968 to 1969

I arrived in Viet Nam in June of 1968 and was assigned as a rifleman in Company A, 1/12th infantry, 4th Infantry Division. Our base camp, Camp Enari, was near Pleiku City in the Central Highlands of South Viet Nam. I saw base camp very little once I was assigned to my Company. In fact, I believe I saw it less than ten times during my tour. I lived in the mountains and Jungle along the Cambodian border. Life as a combat infantryman was a dirty, sweaty, hungry, and exhausting way of life. We never had enough sleep,
water, rest or food. What we did have lots of was patrols, ambushes, guard duty, LP, OP, mosquitos, snakes, creepy crawlers, heat, humidity, leeches and boredom. But I wouldn't have traded it. A combat infantryman makes lifetime bonds with his brothers in arms.
One time on a patrol in the Dak To area my squad came across a gigantic statue in the middle of the jungle it probably stood twenty feet tall and appeared to have been made of marble. It was covered with vines and other foliage and was in the middle of nowhere.
One night ambush in the mountains West of Kontum City found us scratching our heads. The Sgt. in charge placed us in an L type ambush. After everyone was placed he whispered for us to count off. It was pitch black, one of those nights where you couldn't see your hand in front of your face. There was supposed to have been ten of us on this particular ambush, but the count ended at nine. He told us to count again and this time the count ended in eleven! It became very quiet after that count and everyone was extremely alert for the rest of the night waiting for it to get light enough to see who that eleventh person was. Night turned to the early light of dawn and as we looked around we only saw nine of us. Then to our front a figure very slowly raised its hands and after identifying himself as one of us, stood up. It was an FNG who, while placing a Claymore mine found he had made an FNG mistake and took the charging handle and cord with him, got turned around and couldn't figure out which direction the rest of the ambushes were, so he stayed put the entire night praying he wouldn't make any noise at all. We never did find out who the eleventh person was.


 

Name: Anthony Roslund
Home State: CA
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 09/01/1969 to 08/01/1973

Vietnam Veteran to Vietnam Era Veteran

Aside from enduring the same issues of not being able wear a uniform etc. on retuning from service, an added insult of being reduced from a Vietnam Veteran to a Vietnam Era Veteran was really demeaning. Having earned a Vietnam Service Medal with Bronze Star for flying combat missions off a carrier in the Tonkin Gulf as a crew member to be reclassified as a Vietnam Era Veteran for the purpose of denying benefits leaves me totally disgusted.


 

Name: Richard Hudak
Home State: FL
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 10/10/1967 to 01/01/1970

Time to Serve

Following graduation from Harvard, like my Father in WWII, it was my time to serve my country. I enlisted with the Marine Recruiter, Summer Street, Boston, MA. Reported to Officers Candidate School, Quantico, VA on October 10, 1967 and went thru ten weeks of hell. Thereafter, reported to The basic School TBS 4-67 memorialized by "The Boys of Quantico".

Between graduation from TBS and Communication Officers School, we were assigned two PLC Platoons for training at Camp Upshur, Quantico, VA. where we learned how to lead NCOs and PLC recruits. Communication Officers School resulted in a 2502 MOS and orders to Third Shore Party Battalion in Phu Bai Vietnam in December 1967.

Upon arrival, the Marine Intelligence determined that the Tet Offensive would occur in January 1968 and one likely target would be Quang Tri Air Field. On January 29, 1967, I volunteered to command two platoons of Marines in transit to Quang Tri. Another Lieutenant transported two additional platoons on January 30th and got caught in the Battle of Hue. My platoons dug into the sands around Quang Tri Air Field and took command of the southern gate along Route #1.

During the next several months, we reinforced our position, ran day and night patrols in front of our wire, and collected intelligence. Our group successfully interfaced with the villages along our perimeter, and collected enemy ordnance and intelligence data.

Toward the final months of 1968 I was reassigned to Third Marine Division Communications in Dong Ha. During this assignment, I provided support for Third Shore Party helicopter resupply units at Khe Sanh, Rock Pile, LZ Vandergrift, LZ Sheppard and Cua Viet locations.

Finally, reassignment orders came for transfer to Camp Pendleton where I served as Communications Officer for 3rd Bn 5th Marines completing my tour of duty in California.

God Bless the Marine troops with whom I served. Great Americans all.

Photo: Photo Lt. RGHudak.pdf


 

Name: James Bowers
Home State: OR
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 03/12/1968 to 04/03/1973

There isn't much I remember from my service in Vietnam, other than what comes back in my dreams at night, but I do remember the smile of my closes friend from Jamaica. We always had each others back. It was during the time race relations were not in good shape back home and we showed how brothers in arms can overcome every battle. I remember his face, but not his name. That is what bothers me the most, not remembering names and still seeing the faces. It helps knowing I am not alone. I love all my brothers.


 

Name: Robert Costello
Home State: FL
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 01/23/1969 to 01/10/1970

Brothers For Ever

Though the return home was difficult, wounded and despised by my own countryman. Till this day still have two dear friends from Vietnam. John Sullivan from Boston Ma and Rich Carlson Long Island NY. We still see each other every two years or so , been to each others homes came to my son's wedding. And attend USMC 1st Marine reunions together when possible. Unless you suffered the indignities when returning home you don't understand the pain that I still carry today along with the damages to my body by a booby trap.


 

Name: John E. Mathews
Home State: TX
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 08/31/1951 to 08/31/1971

I flew AC47 spooky (puff the magic dragon) in Vietnam and Laos from Oct. 1965 through Nov1966.


 

Name: Robert Gigure
Home State: CA
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 12/07/1957 to 10/31/1977

WONDERFUL CAREER!!!

Plenty of ups and downs during my career, but would do it again in a heartbeat. I have no regrets. With respect to returning to America after my tour in Vietnam: My own observation of the rag-tag, unwashed mobs holding up signs and yelling obscenities at our service men coming home , from a very nasty conflict were to me, nothing more than a pathetic distraction, organized by the clueless leading the clueless. They should have been demonstrating against Politicians who promoted that debacle, instead of embarrassing themselves by haranguing our servicemen who had simply did their thankless duty at the direction of their Government. I have no regrets for my participation in that certain adventure. By the way, I have been diagnosed with a 60% disability due to the exposure of Agent Orange.


 

Name: Mike Kivel
Home State: TN
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 1967 to 1968

Mike in the air transcargo unit night of Tet

My father is Michael "Mike" Kivel from Memphis tn. His selective service number came up for draft when he was in Cleveland Ohio in school. he was in basic training around the beginning of summer 1967 he went to Vietnam he was with the air transcargo unit Andy was the one in charge. The night of the tet offensive daddy faught 50 hours straight til he was evacuated to Japan they only lost one man that night. then he was sent to ft Sam Houston. in Vietnam he sustained a severe arm injury that he almost lost his arm so when he got home he was the third in the world to have a tendon transplant at the time which thankfully was successful in addition to loosing a lot of his hearing he also had gotten ptsd now today we know this term but they didn't know it then. Daddy also received a Purple Heart and an honorable discharge as well. I'm glad my father survived and he's looking for anyone else that was with him back then we thank you so kindly. And I'm ever so greatful for us all coming together for our Vietnam vets and their families they are heros to us all and an inspiration to me daddy hardly ever talks about the war when he does in greatful sorry for the vagueness but this is all I know and I asked permission first.


Photo: image.jpeg


 

Name: Lawrence Warzynski
Home State: IL
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 10/14/1968 to 06/02/1971 

No Big Deal

My service was less than spectacular just doing what I thought was expected just like ww2 and korean vets before me it was only upon my return that I was made to feel ashamed and to never talk about it. My country made me feel like a sucker and 50 years later it still affects me. Thankfully because of Vietnam veterans like me WE will never allow future veterans to suffer the rejection we experienced.My Vietnam service was no big deal but my (welcome home) was indeed a big deal.


 

Name: Kenneth Michael Otte
Home State: NE
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 10/01/1966 to 01/11/1967

At age 19 my brother volunteered for the army. After basic training he was deployed to Vietnam Nam. In a letter to my mother he told her he had volunteered to carry a type of machine gun because it was dangerous and many of the other guys were to afraid (life expectancy for carrying this type of weapon and walking point was less than two minutes in the field). One day on patrol as he walked point he stepped on a land mine. He was still alive and conscious at that point. Eventually when his sergent came to visit our family he told us that after being wounded by the blast Mike to told his Sargent not worry about and to keep moving forward. A medic came to pull my brother to safety and the enemy threw a hand grenade and the medic was killed. My brother was eventually taken by helicopter to a mash unit where he bled to death because their was not enough blood available. His unit had been ambushed by a much larger group of Vietnam Cong than they anticipated. Over two hundred dead Vietnam Cong were counted when the battle ended.


 

Name: Dan Brodt
Home State: MD
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 12/27/1967 to 12/20/1969

2 Combat Tours and Worse Experience Was Arriving in the USA

I was an Army Airborne Ranger Recondo serving with the Long Range RP of the 1/7 1st Cav Div, "E" Co 52Inf,HHHQ-75th Rangers LRP, CCN-1967-1968. Seige of Khe Sanh, Operation Pershing, OP Bright Light and so on.

Extended tour to take position with the 5th Special Forces Study and Observation Group CCN-Lang Vei. CIB, PH w/ 2 OLC,BSM w/ "V" w/ 1 OLC, Army Air Medal, 5ea Vietnam Military Merit Medals, Vietnam Civil Action Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal(2), 2 each Presidential Unit Citations, 1-1st Cavalry Div, #2- 5th Special Forces-SOG.

Worse realization was arriving at Seattle Airport to fly home and bus met by protesters spitting on us, calling us "baby killers" telling us to go back that we were not wanted here, to go back to RVN and die....jeered in ticketing line for plane ticket home after not seeing family for 2 full years! Being denied a job by Hewlett Packard because I was a combat veteran and HP doesnt hire combat vets. Being told by VFW, that Vietnam was NOT a war and being denied admission.
Total oblivience to the Vietnam Vet until 2015.


 

Name: Joseph Bushel
Home State: FL
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 03/17/1963 to 09/06/1967

I was pulled out of the 21st infantry Admin outfit in Germany and relocated to Ft. Campbell. I was assigned to the training center as part of assignment group sending trainees to new assignments, mostly in Vietnam. While I was never in country, I did get to know many who were and grieved their losses many times. Hearing Taps still brings tears to my eyes for my fallen comrades.


 

Name: David Tucker
Home State: OR
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 03/23/1964 to 03/22/1968

I remember the night that the hospital compound in DaNang was mortared. The VC came down the other side of the river, set up their tubes, put a dozen or so rounds in the air, packed up their tubes, and went home. Then the rounds started falling. I never felt so helpless in my life, before or since. I don't remember the exact date in 1966 that this happened. If anyone can tell me what the date of the attack was I would really appreciate it. President Johnson announced the attack in a news conference a day or so later.


 

Name: David M. Brown
Home State: NY
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 12/08/1972 to 01/01/2004

Duty Aboard The Command Ship - Evacuation of Saigon

Joining the service on 8 December 1972 and after 12 weeks of boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois. I was in boot camp when they announced that the draft was over. The announcer laughed, clicked off the microphone and all I heard was crying in the barracks. It didn't bother me at all. After a short three weeks visit at home with my family, I found myself 10,000 miles away on the USS Blue Ridge LCC 19, moored pier side in White Beach, Okinawa after requesting to be stationed on the east coast of the United States. It was 29 March 1973. I left her 28 December 1976. The rest of my Naval career consisted of a short period of broken service the reentry into the Naval Reserve. I retired with 26+ years of service.

March/April 1975

Serving in the ships’ print shop, in the role of Lithographer and having advanced to Third Class Petty Officer, I soon found myself sleeping in a helicopter on the main deck during the evacuation. I had volunteered as a “searcher” on the main deck of the ship. This luck was preceded by my active involvement in creating the book of photos for use by the rescue pilots in Vung Tau, which was cancelled, and another one for the city of Saigon. Over 100 photos were turned into halftones, plated, printed on the 36” Miller, and then GBC bound. Both publications were Top Secret. The purpose was to provide the rescue helicopter pilots with a reference point to land their craft in order to evacuate personnel. The photos had landing “bulls eyes” superimposed on each photo.

After the pleasant experience of almost 24-hour days to complete the second of two OPORDERS, requiring many hours of prep, plating and printing of 300 page manuals for fleet operations, we printed large placards of instructions for the Vietnamese refugees to read upon embarking on the ships. One example, which was printed in English and in the Vietnamese language was, “Do Not Defecate On The Deck”. These were delivered to all the ships in the area.

Our ship received the evacuees, US military /government civilians and their families, while the other ships took on the refugees. During the time spent on the main deck as part of the inspection/search team, I saw things that are not so easily forgotten. The amount of weapons, gold, silver and paper money I saw was staggering. One evacuee was troubled that he couldn’t keep his unopened bottle of whiskey, so he walked to the handrail of the ship, opened the bottle, drank half, lifted it to observe the amount left, closed it and threw it overboard.

On another occasion, at night with the helo pad lights off (not expecting any inbound flights), a helo sound was heard over the side of the ship near the water. Running lights were seen but not the shape of the helo. All of a sudden, after hovering over the water, the helo rose and landed right on the proper spot for a landing. This took place in the dark. All the people leaving the helo had wet legs from the knees down. Apparently, the helo was taking on water; and was about to sink. It was reported the pilot said he couldn’t see, was on fumes but he prayed to God for help. The next thing he knew the helo lifted up and plopped on the deck just in the right spot.

On another occasion, while one helo was unloading passengers, another helo landed. This was a single landing pad. Needless to say, the rotors clashed, spewing chunks of metal everywhere. No one was injured. The pilot stated he was out of gas and was worried about crashing into the sea, killing all aboard. He gambled and won.

I saw many weapons thrown overboard, along with two helos. Tossing the helicopters overboard stopped once it was realized two of the ships’ antennae were broken off. We are a communications ship and couldn’t be without them. As a result, one helo operator volunteered to fly each subsequent machine, on its last trip to the ship with evacuees, off the ship, over the sea, set the controls and jump out then to be picked up by the ship’s motor whale boat.

One such “helo-dump” attempt ended with the helo flying on its own around the bow of the ship to its starboard side where it crashed, its rotor slashing a three-foot gash in the side of the ship just above the waterline. At that time, “hit the deck, hit the deck” was announced over the 1MC and as I looked around to see what was happening, I observed a Vietnamese lady and her young child sobbing, crouched under one of the inspection tables. I crawled to her, putting my arm around both her and the child to try to reassure their safety.

Many nights I remember seeing multiple rockets coming through the high clouds from the north, arching very, very high in the sky then down through the clouds in the south, but never hearing the explosions.

CBS, NBC, ABC and a girl from Rolling Stone magazine were on board for both operations Eagle Pull and Frequent Wind. Being the command ship and evacuating all the dignitaries from South Vietnam must have been the reason for their visit to our ship.

Twenty-five years after the event, I saw the evacuation documentary on TV for the very first time. I saw myself crouching next to the Vietnamese Mother and her child. It seems like only yesterday, but it will be forty-one years ago this year, April 2016.

Photo: DMB.JPG


 

Name: Darrel Mathews
Home State: OR
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): November 1962 to May 1968

Served in TACRON 11 in Nam I corps above Da Nana in 62, 64, 66, and 68. Tactical Air Control calling in close air support to cover Marines landing.


 

Name: Thomas Meng
Home State: CA
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 12/05/1961 to 04/30/1975

I was a crewman on P3 Orion, we flew patrols around the Mekong Delta


 

Name: Gary Garnett 
Home State : AZ
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 1967 to 1971

Gary served in the Navy and died in 2014 from cancer due to agent orange. He never talked about his service. In 2010, we went to visit the Vietnam Memorial in Wash. DC and Gary could not go up to the Wall as it brought back too many horrible memories.


 

Name: Not Given
Home State : AL
Service Date(s): 01/14/1969 to 01/05/1971

Served in Vietnam in HHN Divarty during incursion into Cambodia in 1970.
Made it to the rank of Sergeant E5.


 

Name: T. Hill
Home State : CA
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 1970 to 1972

My Return To "The World"

I served as a rescueman with 334th AHC and "E" Trp 3rd/17th ACR. Army flew us home from Saigon area on private contract airline, arrived at Travis Air Force base, Army O.D. green buses with wire mesh over windows and door, Driver told us not to open windows. after we exited Air Base gate hand full of anti-war demonstrators (hippies) lined both sides of road, they threw waded up peeled bananas and poached at bus, on arrival at Oakland Army Base buses pulled up to a fire hydrant with pre-connected fire hoses and buckets with brushes so we could wash the buses; Welcome G.I........... 


 

First Name: Garry Wilson
Home State: PA
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 07/16/1968 to 09/11/1969

I served with 85th Evac Hospital


 

Name: George Dzyacky
Home State: IN
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 12/01/1966 to 12/01/1972

VAT 3 (Village Assistance Team 3)

A true story of two teenagers, a 19-year old American sailor assigned to US Naval Civil Affairs, a 13-year old Vietnamese schoolboy who translates for the sailors, and how these two boys became brothers for life

This is the story of YOUNG NGUYEN, a Vietnamese boy who had a dream to come to America, and what he and his ten-year old sister endured to get here. Young, a precocious 13-year old used his charm and broken English, to latch-on to three sailors assigned to US Navy Village Assistance Team 3, and who needed an interpreter. It was the summer of 1968, following the tumultuous Tet Offensive, and President Johnson was still trying to convince a disenchanted American public that we were winning the Hearts and Minds of the Vietnamese people. 

Living with Young for a year in VAT 3, my stories of home, pictures, and audio tapes of my fiancée Susan were unknowingly inspiring Young with a dream to make a life for himself in the US. 

Young, Nabb, Lambert and I worked out of VAT 3, a small flat in Bin Tuan village near downtown Danang. There were 17 Civic Action VATs around Danang. In military theory, Civic Action was a counter insurgency tool - a weapon of war. In practice, it was more like the military version of the Peace Corp. Our mission was to live with the people in their villages, and provide them with medical assistance and building material to improve the quality of their lives in simple ways. I was assigned to VAT 3 from August of 1968 to August of 1969. Young and I grew to be good friends over those twelve months. But eventually my tour of duty came to an end, and I returned to “the world”. What I did not realize until decades later was that I had fulfilled our mission; I had unknowingly won Young’s heart and mind.

The last time Young and I spoke was in the fall of 1969. Young gave me a picture of him, which I kept in the box of my Vietnam memorabilia. Every now and then when going through my Vietnam paraphernalia, I would come across Young’s picture and a picture of my Indiana State flag that hung in VAT 3. That flag flew over the Indiana State Capital. The late Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana sent it to me, with a letter saying he was proud of me, and my service in Vietnam. 

Every time I came across the Senator’s letter, it reminded me that I did not know what happened to that flag. It was very important to me, and it made no sense that it was not with the rest of my Vietnam memorabilia. But more often I wondered what happened to Young. I knew that after the fall of Saigon, anyone suspected of being a friend of the Americans, would have been “reeducated” at best, or executed at worse. As I did time after time, I closed the box and put aside my thoughts of Vietnam. 

It is January 13, 2003. I am fifty-five years old, Susan (yes the Susan to whom I was engaged in Vietnam) and I will celebrate our thirty-third anniversary in four days. Susan and I have two boys and live a comfortable life in Indiana. It is 9:00 PM when the phone rings. 

“Is this George Dzyacky?” 

“Yes, this is George.”  

“George, this is Nabb from VAT 3.” 

“Well --- ah --- hi. How are you? It has been a long time. What are you up to?”

“I’m helping Young. He is living America; he’s been looking for you since 1975.” 

The journey Young and his sister undertook to get to the US, took them from a harrowing escape out of Danang, through the fall of Saigon, a commandeered fishing boat, a sea rescue by a US cargo ship, an Arkansas refugee camp and eventually to a loving family in Chester, Virginia. Immediately upon settling in with his adopted parents, Young embarked on yet another odyssey. He was determined to bring a few more people into his life in order to fulfill his American dream.

While enduring a series of life-altering upheavals escaping Vietnam, Young somehow managed to keep track of his childhood sweetheart, Nancy. As did tens of thousands of Vietnamese Boat People, Nancy too endured her share of life altering events. Nancy’s path to freedom took her from Danang to Saigon, Subic Bay, Guam, Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, New York and eventually to Los Angeles – where she was attempting to begin a new life of her own. She was unaware she was about to face one last life altering event.

Not to burden his adoptive parents with the cost of a long distance phone call, Young walked to a public pay phone to talk to his childhood sweetheart for the first time in years. 

“Hello, this is Nancy.”

“Nancy, it’s Young. I’m in America too.”

In his first conversation with her in years, Young proposed to his sweetheart. Nancy, the American name she assumed after arriving here because she found it easy to spell, had to break the news to Young that she was engaged. 

“But I love you more than him,” he said. “I’m coming to Los Angeles.” 

Thirty-six hours later, Young who had no job and almost nothing to his name, stood in the home of Nancy’s foster parents, and boldly informed the entire family that he did in fact love Nancy more than that fighter pilot - and Nancy believed him. She broke her engagement and left the next day with her new fiancée, for Chester, Virginia - having had her heart and mind won by Young.

Only after they were married did Young and Nancy realize they had both been processed through the Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas refugee camp at the same time - just a few buildings apart.

It is January 14, 2003. Young found me. When the phone rang and I knew it was Young on the other end, I could not imagine what we would say to each other. Would I recognize his voice? Did he grow up to be kind man? Does he have a family? In the first words he spoke to me after 34 years, he said, 

“Did you marry Susan?” 

“Yes,” I said. 

The second words were, “Are you still married to her?” 

“Yes,” I said. 

Over the next several weeks, Young and I spent hours on the phone catching up on the last thirty-four years. In addition to him and me marrying our childhood sweethearts, we each had two children, all having graduated or about to graduate from college and starting successful lives of their own. Eventually I got around to asking him how he found me. He said he put a few personal ads in the Indianapolis Star, the Gary Post Tribune and few other papers. I asked him how he knew to look for me in Indiana. “You gave me your flag,” he said. 

Young had no idea how to spell my last name, and his pronunciation of it was not very helpful. He lost the flag along with all of his and Tammy’s belongings while being rescued at sea off the fishing boat, but he remembered that the flag was blue with gold stars. So he went to the library and found a book on state flags. Among the fifty flags, he recognized the flag of the State of Indiana, and thought to himself, “That is where George must be.”

In a 2007 interview with a feature writer at the Gary Post Tribune, the writer asked Young why he spent so many years looking for the Navy seaman who he met in 1968. “When I was a boy,” Young said, “George cared about me. He was kind to me. He was nice to me. George treated me like his little brother. I’ll never forget what he did for me.”

Young thinks “the story” is about him finding me. In fact, in our very first conversation, he said he wanted to go on Oprah and tell the story of how he found me. Humility has left him somewhat blind to the fact that the real story is about him. The real story:

Is about the perilous journey Young and his sister undertook, leaving their family, home, and country behind to escape the Communists and certain death for Young

Is about Young being drafted into the Army of South Vietnam, sent North twice, wounded each time and sent back again

Is about Young and his ten-year old sister escaping Danang but in the process having his sister pulled from his arms out of a cargo plane full of refugees

Is about Tammy’s perilous 10 days alone in the company of strangers, who’s only connection to the ten-year old was that they too were escaping south to Saigon

Is about Young and Tammy being reunited in Saigon

Is about Young’s idea to buy a fishing boat and practice navigating it at night so as not to draw attention to his secret motive

Is about the fall of Saigon

Is about Young and Tammy being plucked out of the South China Sea onto a US cargo ship, the day they and 60,000 other Vietnamese decided to risk their lives in open seas for a chance at freedom

Is about arriving at the initial processing center for Vietnamese Boat People in Guam

Is about being airlifted to the US processing center for Vietnamese and Cambodian refugees in Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas

Is about Young and Tammy being sponsored by a Presbyterian Church in Chester, Virginia and eventually being adopted by a retired Army Surgeon and wife with nine children of their own 

Is about Young achieving his American Dream, and how much I like it that he calls me “brother”

On the 18-hour plane ride home from Vietnam, I thought about all the stories I would tell family and friends about my 16 months in Vietnam. How cool it was to be assigned to Civic Action, to be the only servicemen allowed to walk freely in the villages, to live and eat with the Vietnamese and have them as neighbors. 

But in December 1969 the majority of Americas opposed the war in Vietnam. In an unprecedented societal display of emotions, Americans who opposed the war took out their hatred on those of us who served our country. 

When I got home, no one wanted to hear about Vietnam – no one. Outside of Susan, no one was interested in my Vietnam experience. Now that Young has found me, EVERYBODY wants to hear my story.


 

Name: Daniel Kawahara
Home State: AZ
Service Branch: Marines
Service Date(s): 07/30/1968 to 07/30/1974

Marine Corps Buddy Plan

July 1968 I've always wanted to be a Marine to serve my country as a 17 year old. But I did not want to take this journey alone - so I painstakingly continued to convince and connive my best friend Frank R Gilchrist to join with me. Frank was 18years old and just graduated West Leyden High School in Northlake, Il.

We got out of school in the summer of 1968 and that is when I started my campaign of getting my buddy to sign up for the Marines. It took from early June to mid July before I finally convinced Frank to join the Marines with me on the Buddy Plan. I've been down to the recruiter a couple of times and talked to the Gunnery Sgt on duty at the recruiting station located at the Post Office in Oak Park, Il. Btw, it also took a night of drinking beers and hanging out with friends and girlfriends. He was unsure about going in the Marines only because he knew he would be leaving his younger brother and sister alone with his alcoholic parents. He grew up in a tough environment as his mother and father worked factory jobs and would head to the local bar as soon as they would get off work, leaving Frank to tend to his siblings.....Cooking dinner and making sure they got there homework done before there parents came home.

When his parents got home it seemed to me it was a daily ritual of what Frank didn't do and he would always get in trouble or would get a fist or two thrown at him from his drunken Father. This use to really upset me as My parents never laid a hand on any of us kids. So the decision of joining the Marines and getting a chance to get away and see the world sounded like a great idea. I could see the day we got sworn in that Frank was very silent and unsure of the decision he made. He kept thinking of his baby sister Dawne who was only about 4-5 years old and worried about her so much as his brother Tim was a couple years behind Frank in age.

We left for Boot camp on July 30, 1968. Sitting at the airport was a difficult day for both of us as we have never been on a plane or away from home. As we waited our parents and siblings were there to see us off. That was the first time I realized what we were about to get ourselves into. 

We landed in San Diego and took the Bus to MCRD Depot. As soon as we got off the bus with a Drill instructor screaming at us the whole time we were trying to line up on the yellow foot prints. I knew we were in trouble right then.

Boot camp was tougher than I thought and I soon learned what respect meant and also the word Quitting! They pushed us to the limit and when we felt we could not take another step or do another push up, they would be right over us screaming there heads off to not ever Quit on them. Looking back at the training we received definitely came in handy when we went to Viet Nam.

As Graduation day approached we knew we would be receiving our orders for our next Duty. Out of 80 something Marines in our Platoon, there was only 2 Marines that did not get orders to go to Viet Nam. Yes, I was one of them along with Pvt Holzafel from Michigan - we were both 17 years old and could not go into a combat area until the age of 18.

I was so bummed out when I found out Frank was going to Nam and I was headed to Camp LeJune for further training. Frank was leaving for Nam in February of 1969. We both went to ITR (Infantry Training Regiment) where we spent the next month training. after ITR Frank was transferred to BITs or Basic Infantry Training and was given leave to go home before flying out to Nam. When he came back from his leave we spent our last weekend together in Los Angeles. We got a room in Hollywood and made sure we stocked up on the Beer and Whiskey - and yes, of course a couple of girls we met earlier in the day. We had one hell of a night and got so wasted. Our last night was spent alone with just Frank and myself. I knew he was leaving the next day and I really didn't know how to act or what to say to him as the night was going on. Finally after a few drinks and plenty of shots, we finally had out heart to heart talk. I felt so guilty because here I talk him into joining the Marines and now he was going to Nam and I would have to wait u til I turned 18 in July of 69. 

As the night went on and the drinks were poured one after another - reality started setting in and we talked about Nam. I remember asking him if he was scared and I remember him joking with me saying - Shit Bro I'm headed to the Nam and they better stand the "F " by because The Northlake Boys would be coming to town to kick some Viet cong ass! We laughed and drank some more, but our conversation took a turn to what if??? I told him not to even think about that because if you weren't 100% ready, you would never be ready! He asked me to watch his girlfriend and kick anyone's ass that messes around with her. Then we started talking about family and how much we miss them, but at the same time, we knew they were so proud of us. As the night went on we became sadder and sadder - I was so pissed I wasn't going with him as I promised him I would, but told him that night in LA that as soon as I turned 18 on July 6 I would be submitting a request to volunteer to go to Viet Nam.

The night ended with us both passing out and never ended up going out to party one last time. Plus we promised the girls we would meet them later at this club. I remember looking at Frank as he laid on the couch passed out - I wanted to say so many things to Frank but didn't know how to say them. I know he felt my anger and hurt that I wasn't going and he never made a big deal about going alone. As he layed there on the couch with a cold beer next to him and our shot glasses and whiskey was on the table, ash tray was full of cigarette butts, I could clearly see where the tears on his face were starting to dry up. I sat there and watched him and prayed for his safe return. I actually cried my self to sleep - holding tight with the pillow pressed to my face so he wouldn't here me and wake up. That was our last night out together ever! We woke up early next morning as we had to get a bus to take us back to Camp Pendleton. We were both hung over, tired and very quiet on the bus ride back to Base. Saying our final good byes was probably one of the toughest thing for me to do.

At this time I was watching more of the news from Viet Nam and was well aware of all the casualties we were taking over there. I couldn't figure it out as I thought we would go over there and just wipe these little VC off the map. I was concerned for Frank once I found out where he was headed. Fox 2/3 3rd Marine Division. They were operating out of Dong Ha in Quang Tri Province. This was right by the DMZ - the border between The North and South.

Frank would write me often and always tried to talk me out of volunteering to come over to Nam when I turned 18! I told him I'm coming no matter what so you better prepare for the Northlake Boys being together in Nam...

As time went by and my birthday was getting closer and closer, his letters started to really sound like things were not going well up North. He got sick for awhile but he always went out on Patrols with his Squad. This was just the way Frank was - no backing out just forward with the mission and hoped to get back to do it all over again.

On July 6, 1969 I turned 18 years old and I immediately put the paper work in requesting a transfer to Nam. A few days later I got my orders to go to Viet Nam. I was happy, excited but definitely afraid. They gave me a 30 day leave to go home to be with my family before going over to Nam. I want to say I left for Chicago on July 15th and I was excited to go home to see everyone but I had to figure out what to tell my Mother. She never wanted either Frank or myself to go to war....Just being a loving mother wanting to protect her son.

I was home for about 15 days into my 30 day leave when I saw a Green sedan Official Military car pulled in my drive way. I was sitting in the front room with my mother and sister BONNIE when we heard screaming and crying coming from the car in our drive way. I looked out the window and saw 2 Marines and Frank's Mother and sister approaching our front door. I told my sister to take my mother out of the room because I could see she was starting to freak out hearing Frank's Mother yelling and screaming out Frank's name. They killed my baby - They killed my baby over and over again. I was in shock and could not get it together to realize that my best friend was dead. I remember taking the guitar that I was playing for my mother and sister and I went outside to the back of the garage banging my guitar against the walls of the garage crying my eyes out. I was so numb and thought I was dreaming as the reality of this all was overwhelming for me. The Marines that came to the door asked me if I was Lance Cpl Daniel Kawahara in which I responded yes sir. He then went on to give me some paper work with orders to be a special escort to Bring Frank's Body back home. They stopped my present leave and I was active again until I could bring his body back home and they gave me an additional week before my leave started again. 15 days and I knew I would be going to the same place my best friend just got killed.

I remember flying off to Philadelphia and checking in at the Roosevelt Hotel in downtown Philly. I was just a kid who just turned 18 and here I was in Philly and headed to Dover Air Force Base in Dover Delaware the next day. I don't think I slept at all that night as I was still in shock and just really going through the motions like Marines do. 

I got to Dover Air Force base the next morning and had a meeting with a couple of Marine officers attacked to the Base. They told me what to look for once receiving the body to see if his casket would be open or closed. He said there would be a "V" for viewable or "NV" for Non viewable. As I stood there I can still remember hearing the fork lift driver going through this big line of caskets that were stacked 3-4 high. There was so many caskets that I could not believe we were loosing this many men in the war so far. The fork lift driver came around the corner and there was the casket with an American Flag draped over it and on top of the casket was a yellow envelope that had Frank's name rank and date of his death. On top in big red letters read "NV" my heart dropped to my feet and I had this awful feeling inside of my stomach. I stood there and tried to be a Brave Marine, but the reality that I just lost my Best friend who didn't really want to join the Marines - Now he's lying in a closed casket and I will never get to see him again. The last time Frank and I hugged each other was the day we got back from LA. I'm so thankful we got to spend some time together but not so Thankful for the Lord to take my best buddy. He was only 18 years old and just a kid. This was one of the most difficult times in my young life - I didn't know if I was coming or going. Just felt numb - almost like I was not experiencing all of this tragedy. I was scared and worried about my Mother who was now in the hospital after collapsing and being rushed to the hospital via ambulance. She kept begging me not to lie to her about where I'm going and please don't go to Nam. She even had all her heart specialist and other Doctors writing letters to the Marine Corps requesting a change of orders to stay state side. In my mind, I really didn't want to go to Nam now, I was afraid to go and maybe the same thing will happen to me. But, it was a promise I made to Frank and if I didn't go, I would look like a big coward to all our friends and families back home.

When my leave was up in August I said my good byes to my Mother, Father and all my siblings. This was a very difficult day for all involved because We all started to realize that this was not going to be as easy as we thought. The Marines prepares every Marine before sending them into a combat zone and we were convinced, some say brainwashed - that there was no way that this little country we never ever heard of before, was actually a pretty good force to reckon with. We were not prepared for the type of war we trained for. We never knew who the enemy was as the VC dressed as the civilians did. The NVA which operated mostly up North in the early part of the war, did wear uniforms.

In Mid to late August 1969 I was finally on my way to the Nam. I was so scared, sad, lonely and scared again. We got off the plane in Danang where we waited to be transported to our new units. I was assigned to an artillery Battery up on Hill 55 Quang Nam Province. My first memory of Nam was the awful dreaded humidity and heat. Getting off the chopper I was completely soaked and wet from sweat. I probably lost about 10-15 ponds my first week from sweating.

I made it through my tour and even gave up my R&R so I could come home 12 days early. I was sadden the day I left as throughout my entire tour I would always be looking for Frank. I never got to see if his body was really in that casket that I always held on to the hope he was still alive. Every deuce and a half that went by I would search hard and long staring at every Marine on board to see if Frank was one of the Marines. Every chopper that landed I would always look to see who's coming off the birds hoping I would see Frank. He was always on my mind, regardless of where I was or what we were doing. Always felt his presence and I knew he would do his best to get me back home safely.

The Freedom Bird took me from Danang to Okinawa where we stayed 3 nights. When we were getting ready to board our flight back to the States, I could see another plane being loaded with a bunch of FNG's boarding the same plane we just got off and yes, they were headed to the Nam. I can remember when we were boarding the flight from Okinawa to Nam - I remember looking at all the Marines that were coming back from Nam. They all looked tired, rugged and you can tell they were happy they were out of the Nam. Now here I was headed home and I see all the new guys getting ready to go over to Nam. My heart and prayers were with all these guys and I kept thinking - They only have 13 months to go....Poor Bastards!

Leaving Okinawa was getting me more excited as I knew each flight was getting me closer and closer to home. From Okinawa we made a quick stop in Anchorage Alaska to refuel before making our last leg of the trip to El Torro Air Base. When we finally landed at El Torro air base a bus was waiting for us on the Tarmac. A young lieutenant came aboard the plane before we started to get off, giving us instructions and what we can expect on our way off the base. The bus had all these cages over the Windows. It felt like we were in a prison Bus instead of the freedom bus that would take us back to Camp Pendleton. As we were passing the guard shack at the end of the base - we noticed hundred of protesters outside of the gate. They were shouting out at us waving stupid signs that called us Baby Killers and Murderes! They threw eggs at the window along with rocks and bottles. We wanted the driver to pull over so we could kick these hippies asses! I was so pissed! Here I thought we would have some people thanking us for our service and welcoming us home, flags flying in the air and the sound of the Marine Corps Hymn playing - NOT! Instead we were welcomes with a bus splattered with eggs and people giving us the finger and spitting at our bus. Wow! Welcome home Marines....This was not what we expected from so many people.

When we arrived at Camp Pendleton we were given sleeping quarters and most of us couldn't wait to hit Oceanside for a little fun and a few much needed drinks. But then we hear from our Commander on the base telling us if we do go out on Liberty - please do not wear your uniforms or medals to town because of the protesters. BecUse I never went on R&R I had no civilian clothes. All I had was Jungles in my sea bag so I definitely wasn't going into town. For the 3 days we spent at Camp Pendleton, we had some time to slowly start to digest what the heck was going on here in the States? It just never seemed right! Left Viet Nam on the 22nd of July went to Okinawa for 3 days and to Camp Pendleton for 3 days. A total of 6 days from being in Nam to being back in your little bunk bed that I shared with my brother since we were little.

I was completely lost and had a difficult time asimilating back to Civilian life. I was a loner and most of my friends were in there own world doing drugs having long hair and could give a shit about us returning home.

All throughout my life after Nam, holding a job was extremely difficult. Dealing with people and not knowing where my future was headed was so disheartening! I struggled with relationships and got my sisters friend pregnant within a year of my return home. I was not ready to be a Father and take on responsibilities that I was not ready for. I didn't have a job or anything and was starting to worry how was I going to be able to afford and provide for my child. My Father is old school and once he found out I was going to become a Father, he took us both down to City Hall to get married. He told me he would not allow me to have a child without giving that child my last name. I was married for 5 years and just before we separated she became pregnant with my second child. I was always there for the kids and tried to be a good father. But my drinking and doing drugs and going out to bars and meeting womentp every night got me a divorce real quick. Being separated from my kids was probably the most difficult part of the process. I felt so much guilt leaving my children who were age 6 and 1.

My life had a string full of ups and downs after my divorce. The drinking and doing drugs were starting to consume my life. My guilt of loosing my best friend was always on my mind. I use to have so many bad dreams that I would wake up and I would still be in Viet Nam. My coming home and getting married and having kids must've all been one big dream I was having. I was stuck in Nam for the rest of my life - or so it seemed.....

Bottom line is I'm 65 now and my life has been swallowed up by guilt, nightmares and I started seeing myself become more distant with my kids and grandkids. I moved from Chicago to Michigan in 1997 and then moved here to Phoenix in 2012! It seems I move further and further away from family and my precious grandkids. I'm missing out on so much of there lives and I will never get that time back with them. It seems the older I get the more difficult my depression and anxiety gets. It's harder to hide now as I use to be pretty good at. But as time goes by, I feel like my life has taken a wrong turn somewhere. My wife of 12 years just left me and moved back to Michigan. I can't blame her - she was living a life of being alone, being ignored, being yelled at, blamed for this and that. I love her with all of my heart and I always thought she understood me the most. But there is only so much a person can take and I've lost my Best friend ever!

No Veteran should ever come home the way the veterans of the Viet Nam era have. It was a slap in our face and we all felt like we let our Nation down by not winning the war. Once again History will reflect that the Politicians in DC were the ones who ran this war. They made the crucial decisions in not letting us do our job and held us back from winning the war. How many times can you take a Hill over and over again and we loose so many lives only to go back and do the same thing months later. Let the Military take charge instead of politicians. Our Generals hands are tied and they have to abide by the rules and conditions set forth by the Commander in Chief - which knows nothing about what it's like to fight for your country.

So when we have Troops that come home after doing 2 3 or 4 tours of duty in a combat zone - Lets welcome them home as the heroes they truly are. Not ignore them or help them like the Veterans of the Viet Nam war.

RIP PFC FRANK R GILCHRIST 2494638
Fox 2/3 3rd Marine Division
KIA July 30, 1969

You will Never be Forgotten! Never!
At ease Marine - Until we meet again Brother! 

Photo: image.jpg


 

Name: Richard Hamel
Home State: FL
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 1966 to 1967

1st Infantry Div, Combat Engineer

I served 20 yrs in the Army.  Retired 1986.  Vietnam 1966-1967.  No I could wear my uniform home.  I was a Drill Sergeant for 6 yrs. training recruits to fight in Vietnam. Elpaso, Tx, Fort Hood, Tx and Ft Cambell, Ky.  I live in Jacksonville Fl.


 

Name: Wayne Kee
Home State: GA
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 07/02/1966 to 07/01/1990

The Wrong Bus

I joined the Air Force at age 17 and was in country Viet Nam at age 18. I landed at Cam Rahn Bay RVN about 11:00 pm, I was frightened beyond life when a huge Army Sgt. told me to get on the bus. Remember, I was Air Force. They took us to a replacement Battalion where I spent the next day filling sandbags until that same Sgt ask me, "what the hell are you doing here flyboy"?  He told me to get my things and get on yet another bus, which took me to the air terminal and I caught a plane up country, eventually arriving at Tuy Hoa AB RVN, where I spent the next 366 days. It was a sad time for my mother and father, you see, all three of her sons were in Viet Nam in 1966. Me, my brothers Jerry and Jim; either one of us could have went home because of the Sullivans, but we all choose to stay. My brother Jerry was a gunner on a Huey, and Jim was a Combat Engineer, pushing roads around for mobile troops Both were injured, Jerry was shot down and survived a helo crash and 6 gun shots to the legs; Jim ran over a mine and had both ear drums busted.  I was a firefighter on the flightline and saw lots of planes return all shot up and on fire. Our base at Tuy Hoa was over-ran during the TET re-offensive of 1967. Charlie blew up several airplanes and a B-40 rocket blew up our fire department, lucky me. I left on November 3, 1967 without a scratch, except too much drinking and fighting other branches of service.  Lost 2 friends that year, and grew up. I too was told to take my uniform off in San Francisco Airport Port and put on civilian clothes, if I didn't want to get spit on or cursed. So I did.......I spent 24 years in the Air Force...don't regret a day.....I now work for NASA at Kennedy Space Center.


 

Name: James Piazza
Home State: NY
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 08/10/1966 to 06/06/1973

First time I saw 23 millimeter

I served from Sept 68 to Sept 69 as a GIB in the back seat of an F4 Phantom. My rank was a First Lieutenant. I was a pilot. I flew out of Danang AFB with the 366TFW out of the 389TFS. Finished with 229 combat missions which included 22 into North Vietnam.

I was part of test program to determine if navigators could fly in the back seat of the Air Force version. Back seaters were pilots since we had all the controls to fly the plane from there. So I was lucky enough to go straight from pilot training to Vietnam right after F4 training. Since the Air Force was running short of back seater my orders were cut for one year. Up to that time one could go home after 100 missions North which normally took only 6 months to complete. The 22 missions I flew North kept a few back seaters having to complete a year tour especially after Johnson stopped the bombing of the North, Nov 1 1968. My first couple months of flying were with Korean War vets which leads me to my story with Major Miller, my flight commander, who was a flight commander during the Korean war. We had flown a few missions North together and this flight was after the bombing of the North stopped. It occurred the second week of Nov 68. We had 12 500 pound bombs along with the Vulcan cannon on center line. We had finished dropping the bombs when we got a call from Cat Killer needing help to stop troops from crossing the DMZ near route 1. We told him all we could do is strafe which was ok since they were in the open. I directed the flight to his coordinates and we dropped down to 2000 feet and started strafing. On the first pass I had my hands on the throttles and stick flying along with Miller and calling out altitudes. On the first pass I noticed these white balls all around the cockpit and asked Miller if he noticed and if we were getting ricochets from our 20 milimeters. Since he was concentrating on the troops he had not noticed. On the second run the same thing happened and he saw them. He says it wasn't ricochets. I called the FAC, Cat Killer, and he said we were being shot at by a 23 milimeters gun from North Vietnam. The white balls were tracers. The gunner hit our tail 7 times in a lovely star pattern. Cat Killer was willing to mark the gun for us but Major Miller was close to going home so we made one last pass and emptied the gun on the troops. I was used to seeing red tracers so that day I learned what 23 milimeters looked like. I attached a picture of myself in July 69 at Pu Kat South Vietnam where I flew my last 60 days in the F4

I decided not to upgrade to the front seat and switched to a refueling tanker where I served another year in Vietnam.

Photo: 20151115_230452.jpg


 

Name: Morgan E. Smith
Home State: NY
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 11/16/1959 to 11/30/1979

My Military Memory

When I joined the Air Force in November 1959, it was a time to be proud to be in our nation's service. I served for 12-years with a lot of time in schools and three years in Germany before being called upon to go to Viet Nam. Prior to my going into the war zone I had already observed a difference in the attitude of our countrymen toward me whenever I traveled in uniform. In my early years, whenever I traveled I wore my uniform. By the late 1960's, however, there was a distinct change in the attitudes of people traveling on the same planes with me. It got so bad that, with the open seating then in practice, I could watch people nearly fill the plane before someone had to sit beside me. As a result I stopped wearing my uniform when I traveled.

It was late 1971 when I went to Viet Nam. I really don't remember any difficulty as I traveled there. My job at Tan Son Nhut (Saigon) was to train a cadre of Vietnamese Air Force personnel in the maintenance of an electronic system installed on EC-47 aircraft. There was a single memorable incident during that time when a Vietnamese Airman came up to me and laid a note by my side. When I opened the note it said, "Uncle Sam wants you to burn the women and children of the peaceful orient." As those words smoldered in my mind I became very angry and ultimately reported him. He was removed from any area where I worked after that.

My most penetrating memory came when I landed in San Francisco or Las Angeles (it has been long enough that I cannot remember the port I arrived at). It had been a very long flight from Saigon and I felt scruffy from the travel. With some time before my connecting flight I went into the bathroom to clean up a bit. I had carried a change of underclothes and my shaving gear in with me. The bathroom seemed empty as I took off my shirt and began to shave. Just as I was finishing, my shirt was still off and I was just drying my face as two rough looking hoods came in. They took one look at me, spent a few seconds in discussion, then turned toward me with what appeared to be no good intentions. I began pondering what I was going to do when I heard a commode flush and a GI came out of one of the stalls. As soon as he appeared and the hoodlums realized the odds were no longer in their favor they turned around and scurried out the door. I quickly got myself dressed and left the bathroom on the heels of the other GI. So, nothing happened to me physically at that time but I have never gotten over the feeling of hatred toward myself and my other military cohorts. The remainder of my trip home was with a sense of rejection by my fellow Americans.

Other than immediate family there were no thank you's for my service in the war zone. Nothing bad happened to me during the year I spent there and I came home unscathed. My service, however, was marred and is marred by that one year span of time in the war zone and the years before and after that. Time has removed most of those scars on my memory but the one remaining scar is that of "no thanks" for me and my brethren for our service in Viet Nam. Of all the good things that occurred during my service years that one black mark stands out even today some 44-years later.

Photo: morgan sergeant (2).jpg


 

Name: Jerry Walker
Home State: WV
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 07/31/1964 to 07/30/1968

My Time at Bien Hoa

I arrived in country at Tan Son Nhut. After one night, we were put on a bus and taken to Bien Hoa. It seemed Strange to be riding on a bus in a war zone with no weapons, but we made it okay.

After reporting in and getting assigned to a hooch, I went to the armory to have a weapon assigned to me. As I stood there, I looked in and thought the guy there looked like someone I knew. When he turned around and I saw his face, I knew it world after all. Half way around the world, I found Jim McClure, a guy from my high school that I knew well. It was nice to find a friend, someone I knew who could show me around.

Of the three of us that came in country together, I was the only one to ask to be put on the night shift. One went to law enforcement and the other was assigned to day shift security. You can read stories about him. He was Robert Bridges. Robert was a guy that everyone liked; he had a great personality and you just lover to be around him. We lost him way too soon. He was killed by lighting while in a guard tower.

I was told that Bien Hoa had not been hit for many months, which nice to hear. The first night I was put on a jeep manning an M60 to get a feel for the base and to learn where the posts were. Around 0100, as we were driving down the taxi-way toward Bunker Hill 10 the sky lit up in front of us. I was wondering what was happening as the radio got very busy and the sergent started driving the jeep very fast. Then I heard a sound like rolling thunder. I said "Sarge, what is happening?" He told me that the Long Binh ammo storage had just been hit.

we drove by Bunker Hill 10 and checked the perimeter from the MP gate at the 173rd Airborne to the main gate, and back to the taxi way. When we got back things had calmed down, Sarge said we had cut a wire with the wire cutter angle iron on the front of the jep. I never knew what the angle iron was for until then, but I sure was glad someone had come up with that idea since I was up in the back of the jeep and the wire would surely have found me. we were told sappers had hit Long Binh and it was still going off when we got off shift. That was not a nice WELCOME to Vietnam and was a real wake-up for me.

One night I was put on post inside the napalm storage area. I was told to check out a 12 gauge and a .38 revolver which were the only type of weapons I could use in there. "You have got to be kidding me!" I thought, "On post in a war with a shotgun and a .38? I don't think so." (I took my M16 anyway)! I had one side of the area, someone else had the otheer side and there was one guy at the entry point. Think of a rectangle with barb wire about four feet high. On my side, the short side there was Vietnamese officer housing about five feet from the wire. On the other part of my side just across the wire, where were Vietnamese clubs. As I was checking the wire, I found that some of the boxes had fallen on the wire behind the clubs and they looked like they had been there for awhile. I reported this to flight NCOIC. A few nights later while I was on post behind the parking revetments for the planes there was a flash and an explosion. The napalm storage went up. I sure was glad I was not in there. I found out later they had pulled the two guards and put a K9 in the area. The K9 handler had just arrived at the entry point for a smoke when the storage area went up. I never found out who the K9 handler was but the entry point guard was my friend, Dennis Kanode. Neither one was hurt.

On May 12 1967, I was on an entry point behind the revetments on the base side. I could hear on the radio that the K9 at the end of the runway near Bunkeer Hill 10 was on alert. He asked for and received permission to release his dog. Then all hell broke loose. We were hit with 189 rockets and mortars. I jumped into the sandbag fox hole at the entry point and tried to get under the concrete. At that time, the rain had washed the sand out of the bags and mine was about 18" tall. After the explosions stopped, I raised my head and looked around. The radio was very busy and there was a K9 on the loose. As I heard what was going on, I loaded a round and stayed where I was. Then I saw something moving. As I kept looking down the road in front of me in the dark, I could see movement. I kept watching as the movement turned into figures and they were coming toward me right up the road in the dark. They looked like they were carrying weapons. They were about 100yards away. I could not get on the radio so I took aim, took off the safety, then waited and watched as the two figures approached. As thy got closer, I could see that they were not trying to hide; just walking up the road> Finally, they were close enough that I could see they were not VC. As I watched them, they walked right up to me and said, "We are Augmentees; where do you want us to go?"

I didn't know we even had augmentees! I didn't want to sound like I didn't know anything and since I didn't know them. I told them to go down between the next two posts and they left.

Those two guys don't know how lucky they are to be alive today. To this day I can only say God did not allow me to pull the trigger. I would like to meet them now.

My flight NCOIC was in my hooch and was real nice guy. He would give us a choice of post the last 30 days in-country. When it was my turn and I had less than 30 days, I asked for and got the chow wagon. We had one of the big blue pickups. After Guardmount we would go get the V-rats, open the boxes take out the can of meat and put them a pressure cooker. After the cans were heated we got a large pot put the cans of meat in and covered them with hot water. Then we went to each post and gave them a box and they picked a can out of the pot. You got hot food, but you got what you got or you threw it back in.After we got to the last post we always had at least one jeep there, The NCOs would want what was left (they were on rations) and they were about the only ones that would eat the eggs. After we finished taking the pot back to chow hall we went to the sand pile and loaded all the sandbags that had been filled during the day. We took the sandbags out to the posts to replenish each one. At that time Bunker Hill 10 did not have any sandbags. Most of the posts were pretty bad.

One night in November 67 just before I returned to the World, the guys on Bunker Hill 10 said they saw someone cross the road between there and the MP entry point at the 101st Airborne that had previously been the 173rd entry point. We went down and used slap flares, looked for foot prints but never saw anything. This kept happening every few nights until I left Bien Hoa. The big attack on Bunker Hill 10 occurred during Tet 68 two months later.


 

Name: Robert T. Reed
Home State: PA
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 9/1966 to 1/1970

I was one of three grads. from AIT not on orders to Vietnam. Instead I was sent to Stuttgart and Heidelberg Germany. I could have spent my entire enlistment there. But I received word one of my best friends was K.I.A. when the embassy in Saigon was overran. That event made me come to the decision that I too needed to volunteer to serve in Nam.

I eventually ended up stationed with the 101st M.I. Det., 101st Airborne Division. At Camp Eagle outside of PhuBai. I also spent some time at Dong Ha near the DMZ. My M.O.S. was 96B.

I was in country from January 1969 to January 1970.

I still think of my buddies.


 

Name: Thomas Vaughn
Home State: TN
Service Branch: Army
Service Date(s): 12/05/1958 to 06/01/1988

A Tale of Two Tours In Vietnam

My first combat tour in Vietnam was from November 1964 to November 1965.

I served as an advisor to a Vietnamese Infantry Battalion in the Delta for nearly 8 months, then as a 25th [ARVN] Infantry Division G-3 Advisor for nearly 5 months.

My second combat tour in Vietnam was from March 1969 to March 1970, with the U.S. 23rd[Americal] Infantry Division. I served as 3rd Battalion, 1st infantry Regiment S-3 and XO from March until September, then as Division Deputy G-2 for the remainder of my tour.

The difference in my first and second tour was like the difference in lightning bug and lightning. I saw more combat action in three months the second tour than I did in a year my first tour. I also witnessed the "Americanization" of the war, which, in retrospect, was both a tactical and strategic mistake of major consequence for the direction of the war.

Cest la guerre & cest la vie...


 

Name: Richard Jensen
Home State: UT
Service Branch: Air Force
Service Date(s): 12/20/1950 to 01/01/1980

Flying and Serving in Vietnam

I began flying in and out of Southeast Asia from Hickam AFB, Hawaii in 1959 this included flights several times each month. We flew in and out of Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the countries in between. I was the personal pilot for the CINCUSARPAC, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Army, Pacific for awhile. This continued through 1962.

My next experience was a continuation of those flight from 1966 to 1972, During that time I was assigned with Army units in the Central Highlands of South Vietnam from 1968 to 1969,

I flew a variety of aircraft. The last one was the C-141. I retired as a colonel.    


 

Name: Robert D. Hammond
Home State: GA
Service Branch: Navy
Service Date(s): 01/04/1960 to 01/04/1980

Viet Nam service

I was a PBR boat captain 1979-80 I spent a year in River Divison 532. I made 165 combat patrols, received Bronze Star with combat v. I also made two viet nam crusies 1971- 1973 on U.S.S. Decatur DDG-31. I spent 20 yrs. & 23 days in the Navy & retired in 1980


 

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