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Year of learning

In 1961 my social teacher, Mr. Flemming, looked at us draft eligible boys and stated: "you guys needn't worry about Germany. (The Berlin Wall) I'd be concerned about Vietnam." Vietnam? where is that? 

In four years, I knew, right under my feet!

After training at Fort Lewis, Wa., We boarded a troop ship, NELSON M WALKER at port of Tacoma. We sailed west, and after an overnight stop in Okinawa, we debarked at Vung Tau, Vietnam.

Now, the war was real, we were ready! until our first WIA, then our first KIA. We soon learned our enemy was very shrewd and a master at camouflage, our trusting attitude had to change, trust no one. Man, Woman, or Child. (It was very hard to NOT trust the children). 

We operated around Nui ba Den (Black Virgin Mountain) jungle, rice paddy’s, and rubber plantations. Became aware of the destruction of land mines, and Rocket propelled grenades, (RPGs) We learned of “booby traps” and “punji sticks” and their painful results. Places with names of Parrots Beak, Iron Triangle, Hobo Woods, and more.

Our daily routine, look for Charlie, nightly guard duty, one hour on, two hours off. 

We learned the different sounds of the M-16 and AK-47. We learned that "our" tracers were red, "theirs" were green.

We spent most of our time in the "boonies" returning to base camp at Dau Tieng, for two to three days every six to eight weeks. We learned of "friendly fire" when an F-105 released his bomb prematurely while supporting us during a firefight. We learned the different sounds of the M-16 and AK-47. We learned that "our" tracers were red, "theirs" were green. We learned of tunnels, and underground base camps and hospitals. We learned the wonderful sounds of the Hueys, and the crazy boys that flew them. We learned of the monsoon season.

We learned to survive.

An artistic rendering of 4 soldiers walking waist-deep through a swamp and under the canopy of the jungle.

SWAMP PATROL by Roger Blum, CAT I, 1966, Public Domain Courtesy of the National Museum of the U.S. Army.

Together, we were a great machine. We didn't learn how the enemy knew almost our every move. Although, I recently read where Gen. Westmorelands translator was a viet cong, and I can see where that could be possible.

Operating around Nui ba Den, near a village, Soui Da, a young boy, maybe 10, would talk to us in his broken English, saying his parents were killed by the V.C. As we were preparing to "move out" he asked where we were going and when would we be back? I told him I didn't know where we were going or when we would return to Soui Da. Because, I didn't, I went wherever my A.P.C. (Armored Personal Carrier) went, us peons didn't know, Platoon Sargent probably knew. To me it was just another search for Charlie. Anyway, this boy held up his hand and said "you back in five days" where were we five days later? Soui Da!!! How????? did he know this?

We now have reunions, reminisce, shed tears, but mostly laugh as we enjoy our good fortune of this brotherhood, and mourn those we lost through the years.

My company earned the PRESIDENTIAL UNIT CITATION for our actions on march 21, 1967. BATTLE of SOUI TRE.

A fire base was being over run in a rare daylight attack. We came and helped turn the tide. Resulting in the largest one day loss of the enemy in the entire war. 647 enemy were placed in a mass grave. U.S. Lost 42 Hero’s. 450 defenders on the fire base repelled several mass human wave attacks of 2500 enemy.

One enemy body we picked up had a nice little blue Panasonic transistor radio on the ground under his body. The type all teens in the U.S. were caring around. Only difference is this one was used for war, as it was tuned to the frequencies of the helicopter gunships supporting the fire base.

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At one point I was ”chosen” to go to tunnel rat training. At 6ft and 190lbs I put up a mild argument, wait, I reasoned, that means I go to Cu Chi, 5 days of three hot meals, not “C” rations 5 nights on a cot, not the ground, a hot shower, and 5 nights of no guard duty.. I'll go. Although I disobey orders and went to demolition training instead, I was never questioned or called to do any tunnel searches.. Thank God!

When I came home, my squad was intact. One has since passed, the rest of us are close. Our squads A.P.C. was the only original one in our platoon when we left. I feel that our training together, going to Vietnam as a group, was a very positive thing for us. We were already family, just needed to become "brothers”.

We were a bunch of boys from the Midwest and West Coast that grew up together. Became friends, and cried at losing friends. We now have reunions, reminisce, shed tears, but mostly laugh as we enjoy our good fortune of this brotherhood, and mourn those we lost through the years.

Worst year of my life? No! One of the best!, as I cemented friendships that are lasting my life. This is a camaraderie that can't be bought. You earn your brothers and their respect.


Biographical Details

Primary Location During Vietnam: Dau Tieng, Vietnam Vietnam location marker

Story Subject: Military Service

Military Branch: U.S. Army

Dates of Service: 1965 - 1967

Veteran Organization: VVA, AL, VFW, DAV, PH.

Unit: C/Co./2nd Bn 22nd Inf (mech) 4th Div - 25th Div

Specialty: 11 C 20 crew member 81mm Mortar

Additional Locations During Vietnam: War Zone 3, Central Highlands

Story Themes: Battle of Soui Tre, Black Virgin Mountain, Booby Traps, Brotherhood, Combat, Coming Home, Commendation, Dau Tieng, DAV, Death and Loss, Disabled American Veterans, Draft, Firefight, Growing Up, Infantry, Nue Ba Den, Presidential citation, Reflection, Relationships, Respect, Reunion, Soui Da, Tunnel Rats, Viet Cong, Vietnam Veterans of America, VVA

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