A Minnesota PBS Initiative
My tour in Viet Nam 1967
I arrived at INSHORE UNDERSEA WARFARE GROUP 1 WEST PACIFIC DETACHMENT UNIT 1 in San Diego, CA on Thanksgiving Day, 1966. I underwent survival training in the San Diego area and also in Long Beach, CA.
Arriving at Saigon airport on 3 Feb., 1967 we boarded a C47 for a flight to Vung Tau where we then were transported to our base, located 587 feet on the side of a hill referred to as VC HILL, overlooking the harbor.
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Our patrol boats were based at CAT LO naval base about 6 miles north. Our mission was the safety of cargo ships anchored in the harbor waiting their turn to proceed upriver to Saigon and also to stop and search fishing vessels returning to port. We would approach and board the boats looking for explosives and/or infiltrators. We did apprehend some infiltrators and illegal cargo.
I was very aware of where I was and was probably overcautious. I had about 200 feet to walk to the showers and was always dressed in greens, carrying a clean uniform and weapon. After about two weeks, I grew more confident and decided to just wear a towel and shower shoes. Wetting down, I started to soap up when a shot rang out.
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'He almost shot me'' was yelled at the same time the machine guns started firing and the alarms went off.
I ran to my battle station, a trailer that allowed me to take control of the LCPL's in the harbor, wearing only the towel and shower shoes. After a few minutes the ''ALL CLEAR'' sounded.
I then found out that one of the younger men, carrying his rifle with a round in the chamber, safety off, dropped his weapon causing it to discharge, the round hitting the ground next to his companion who was the one that yelled. The round then hit a rock outside the perimeter, causing a spark that then caused the machine gunners to think that there was a shooter hiding. Changes were made.
A few weeks later, three of us senior Petty Officers decided to take a jeep and drive around the base of the mountain. We did. And on our return we were met by the OinC who asked what we thought we were doing. We told him and he then he informed us that the other side of the mountain was off limits.
The village we passed through was the Viet Cong R and R center. No more sight seeing tours.
Three weeks after my arrival I received a radio message from the Red Cross that our fourth child had been born. Three months later I celebrated my 37th birthday and our 13th wedding anniversary. I was issued my DREAM SHEET. My choices were to be transferred to the service force or small ships. I received orders to the USS RANDOLPH (CVS-15). Figures.
I was scheduled to depart 28 Jan, 1968 and arrangements were made to ride a cargo ship upriver to Saigon. Never happened. The TET offensive started and all air and surface transportation was cancelled. The river was closed due to enemy action, as was the airport. I received a call the morning of 4 Feb. that one plane was going to make the trip to Saigon and to get to the airport ASAP.
On arrival, I was issued a boarding pass, number 572. Looking at the number of people and the plane, I knew I wasn't going to make it. The loadmaster then began to move people, by numbers, and I watched as the plane filled up.
On arrival, I was issued a boarding pass, number 572. Looking at the number of people and the plane, I knew I wasn't going to make it. The loadmaster then began to move people, by numbers, and I watched as the plane filled up. He approached and pointed over my shoulder and said "O.K. Lieutenant, get your sailors aboard." I'm a sailor, too. I fell in line and was the last to board.
Arriving in Saigon, I checked in with the dispatcher, worried that I would have to wait quite a while as the terminal was packed with troops going home. But, as it turned out their orders were for a specific flight and mine was space available.
Thirty minutes later I was on board and taxiing down the runway. Homeward bound.
Story Themes: Career Military, Close Call, Coming Home, Family, Firefight, Friendly Fire, Operation Specialist 1, Tet Offensive, Veterans of Foreign Wars, VFW, Viet Cong