A Minnesota PBS Initiative
ONE SOLDIER'S TALE 1966-68
Within a few days of leaving Minneapolis, I was in a plane circling above Tan Son Nhut Air Base near Saigon, waiting for clearance to land. Word got around that a firefight was in progress below. Looking out the window, I saw flecks of fire and tracers from M-16s, real shit goin’ down, at the edge of the base.
After we touched down, the first step off the plane, full of worry about flying bullets, was wicked. At 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity, the wall of heat I hit was like walking into a car wash.
Right away I knew I had to wake up fast and learn how to survive.
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Lucky, I got assigned to the 40th Army Postal Unit at the 90th Replacement Center, easy duty, even got to see Bob Hope on Christmas Day.
But then Tet happened.
We had orders to report the nest day to a small air strip in Bien Hoa, fighting going on all around us, explosions, fire, families running in the street, no idea who was firing, bombs going off everywhere. We drove into the center of it and found this small airstrip.
On the runway were 100 or more captured Viet Cong, all cuffed with hands behind them. 6 US Army guys with machine guns guarding this group.
Bullets were flying overhead, we were given orders to run to the belly of the cargo plane, the giant doors opened and we ran in, the plane took off immediately.
The battles of Tet were still going on all around us. We waited till 10:00 and our plane landed to take us up north to An Khe to be reassigned to the 1st Air Cav.
Bullets were flying overhead, we were given orders to run to the belly of the cargo plane, the giant doors opened and we ran in, the plane took off immediately. No seats, all cargo strapped down, we found a small place and looked out the windows at all the fires down below.
I finally relax, and realized that there were 20 German Shepards on board, guard dogs, scout dogs, they were beautiful.
One came up to me and smelled my pant leg and looked up at me with peace in his eyes. I laid down and fell asleep.
When I arrived at An Khe, it was confusing, soldiers coming and going. The commanding officer asked me to be night guard at HQ. He told me some GI's were safe crackers, and had opened up the safe in his office and took all the money there and he wanted to catch these guys. I remember him telling me he thought it was some GI's from jersey who were close to going home.
For three months I guarded the HQ, quietly, trying to capture safe crackers. War is nuts.
Story Themes: 1966, 1967, 1968, 90th Replacement Center, An Khe, Animals, Army, BIen Hoa, First Impressions, Mark Odegard, Minneapolis, Read, Tet Offensive, Viet Cong