In , the Howze Board, a Pentagon study group, recommended creation of an Air Cavalry Combat Brigade as well as development of new rotary-wing aircraft specific to the air mobility mission. As the Vietnam War escalated, Bell Hueys were deploying in increasing numbers, mainly in transport and medevac roles. Interservice rivalry was part of the reason, says Roger Connor, curator of vertical flight at the National Air and Space Museum. Providing close air support to ground troops was a traditional Air Force role. Any functions other than that are purely an Air Force responsibility. Connor notes that when the French mounted weapons on U.
So did Bell. By , a confidential Bell project culminated in the D Iroquois Warrior concept. In an era of clunky workhorse helicopters, the D, with its slender fuselage, two-place tandem seating, and nose-mounted gun pod, looked futuristic. The buzz generated when Bell began shopping a Warrior mockup around to Army decision-makers, however, rankled other helicopter makers, who complained that the company was circumventing competitive rules.
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Seven aircraft companies, including Bell, responded. The specs called for a to mph attack helicopter with overwhelming armament capacity. I know, because I worked on it. Meanwhile, the lives of U. At his drawing board, he began with a company photograph of a UH Folse explained his rationale for the design. However, the military could buy a modification of a pre-existing helicopter model—no contest required. It was a stretch. It is, instead, a stark expression of speed and menace.
Huey DNA is discernible in the tail rotor, but boom and tandem seating are Warrior-esque. Most everything else—from the main rotor forward—conjured a new world in rotary-wing warfare, not tweaks to the status quo. Since the s, Army helicopters had typically been named after Native American tribes. The serpent-specific call sign quickly caught on as shorthand for armed helicopters. In the field, the new aircraft became simply Cobra. Enough to call it a model G—sort of.
Pay no attention to the radical inch-wide fuselage a spec Folse got by measuring a Royal Air Force Spitfire , the novel retractable landing gear, or the accommodations for advanced integrated armaments. Ignore the mph dive speed and flush rivets to reduce aerodynamic drag. Basically the closest thing to the way guys flew fighter planes in World War II.
Front seat or back? Both had flight controls. On the other hand, the front seat gave you that superb visibility. All Cobra pilots were volunteers, qualified in the Huey. But not all Huey pilots aspired to fly the Cobra. We were the ones who wanted to shoot. We had the most responsibility, day to day, of any other helicopter pilot in the Army. Folding-fin 2. Cobras would launch with twice as much ammunition as Huey gunships, would get to the target in half the time, and could linger there three times longer. Approaching the release point, he held fire while the back-seat pilot launched rockets.
The idea was to keep enemy heads down with the mini-gun, get rockets into the target, and get out. Cobras also worked in hunter-killer teams. They had to trick them into shooting. Then Little Bird got out of the way. The Cobra shared vulnerabilities with every helicopter type: Hits to the tail rotor drive shaft and to the main transmission—between the engine and the rotor—were fatal.
Enemy troops accustomed to the slower, wider-profile Hueys, however, were notably unskilled at targeting a razor-thin, mph helicopter. Bell president Duke Ducayet visited daily. After engine run-up tests, Bell test pilot Bill Quinlan pulled back the cyclic and lifted off one week later. I hope that I eased their pain a little because it was the most responsible and rewarding job I have ever had, and I tried my best to be good at it.
All I knew was trust in everyone I was around. We lived together 24 hours a day and lived as one. Oh, what a black-out in my life.
Seven Firefights in Vietnam (Dover Military History, Weapons, Armor)
I was discharged at Travis AFB and told to put my civilian cloths on for fear of trouble and go home. They asked me a few questions and then asked if I had just returned home from Vietnam. I said yes, and the man quickly told me, "We are not hiring Vietnam vets. One night about 9pm I was called to company headquarters, I was told that there would be a plane at the dark end of the runway warming its engines at 11pm, the door would be open.
I was in Vietnam from November through October My duties involved supervision of the load crews for all tactical airlift originating and terminating at TSN during my 12 hour shift for around flights daily. This was a dangerous and demanding duty, operating in often very difficult weather conditions, heat, and rain, where oppressive humidity was the norm, and often in blackout conditions on what was, at the time, the world's busiest airfield. We were occasionally fired on by mm rockets and large mortars. These remains were usually in a body bag or wrapped in a rubber "poncho", neither of which were barriers to the blood, gore and smell of recently killed humans.
I helped handle over 2, such remains during my tour. In that capacity, I had the fortune of working very closely with many wonderful people who still influence my life even today.
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I owe my very life to many who were not as fortunate as me. Six of the commanders I worked directly with became four-star generals. The War Gods had essentially called a "time out. The three gals and two guys slaughtered the Christmas carols we knew and remembered but we all joined in, never-the-less, in a surrealistic celebration of Christmas Eve. Weapons, helmets and flak jackets were hung on the pegs in the wall by the door and the evening was transitioning to a pleasant state of melancholy. All of a sudden the familiar sounds of M and M machine gun fire broke out in the northern sector my sector of our compound.
The officers scrambled for their weapons and gear and returned to their respective sectors of the defensive perimeter. I'm sure the Filipino band hit the deck, but I didn't turn back to check. By the time I reached my company's position, the sky was lit up like the 4th of July. Flares hung in the sky everywhere. Tracer rounds streaked out over our wire into the valley between our compound and the FLC compound a half-mile away.
My Battalion S-3 was shouting over the radio asking where the fire was coming from. Nobody knew. All of the fire seemed to originate from our side of the barbed wire and no fire was being returned. A call out for a report of casualties was made. No casualties. I've seen many people suffer the horrors of war, yet at the same time, I made life-long friends. We as SeaBees were largely made up of skilled building tradesmen that did a lot of construction work that still is in use today, such as bridges, airports, roads, powerlines, railways and water systems. We were lucky in that much of our service in Vietnam was a contribution both to the U.
Military and to the people of Vietnam. Nupen was awarded his first Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement during the Tet Offensive of On Feb. He was able, along with another gunship, to lift-off and see that an entire city block, containing Marines, was completely surrounded and was sure to be overrun. With extremely accurate rocket launches and repeated mini-gun passes, through heavy automatic weapons fire, Nupen and the second gunship were able to drive the enemy from the area and were given full credit for saving the lives of the U. Nupen's second Distinguished Flying Cross was awarded while flying in support of a long range reconnaissance patrol.
The patrol came under heavy attack by hostile forces. Nupen didn't realize that the mini-guns were malfunctioning until in full attack position. Despite the malfunction, he flew in over the enemy making it look like he was going to fire and drew the attack towards him. These dry firing passes diverted the attention of the enemy away from the patrol. Learning that the hostile force was within meters of the troops, Nupen made a highly accurate rocket pass that disorganized the hostiles and allowed another helicopter to rescue the patrol. Nupen completed over sorties, including assisting in a rescue of a downed F pilot in Cambodia.
In , the Nupen brothers initiated a memorial scholarship fund at SDSU honoring the school's graduates killed in Vietnam. This scholarship is still in existence today. Nupen My South Vietnamese friends had next to nothing in material goods, but enjoyed life and loved their families and friends.
I'm happy that we were able to help them, but they already had the most important things in life. One of the guys who knew I was from Rapid City brought me a copy right away. Since my family lived next to Rapid Creek, I immediately sought help from my Commanding Officer to find out if my family was okay. The Red Cross in DaNang was notified by my unit, and two days later they relayed the message that my family had lost their home, but survived the flood by clinging to the roof of our house.
I wanted to go home to help, but we were in the middle of the Eastertide offensive and no one was going anywhere. Looking back on this, I sometimes wonder if I cheated death by being in Vietnam. Overby, Tracy, CA These memories are still hard today: Mud, mosquitoes, red ants, hot temps, humidity, rain, mud, sweat and more mud.
Three weeks prior, we had been notified that Dave was missing in action. The Army was there to tell my parents the news they had dreaded: Dave had been killed. As long as I live, I will never forget the grief my parents suffered over the loss of their son. They taught my brothers, sisters and I to honor and respect the sacrifice of the American soldiers and their families. My family and I are very proud of Dave and all veterans that answered their call to duty and served this great country of ours.
You will never be forgotten. Scott also happened to be the TB control center of the AF. I trained as a , to work beside the RNs. As a , we could apply for flight status and go on the flights supplied by our base. Our unit was part of the Operation Baby lift at the end of the war. At MAC headquarters, we had a very large runway to accommodate some of the larger planes. Some tincluded the C5 Starlifters, Cs, and, towards the end of my stay, Harriers, which while living on base, we definitely knew when they landed and taken off.
Scott has a large hospital, and it wasn't unusual at that time to deliver up to 12 babies in 24 hours. Midway through my years, we were assigned one of the AF's neonatologists in our nursery. Needless to say, we got a lot of problem pregnancies and dealt with a lot of very small, critical newborns.
The smallest newborn I assisted with was 1 lb. I thank God everyday for my own healthy children. The oldest, Jamie, was born at Scott. After getting out of the service, I had Buck, Sammie, and later Zane. I still think about these years and the experiences yes, we saw the Thunderbirds every year. I still use the "chain of command", can still tell military time, have a memorized social security number, and still use my medical training even on the ranch animals.
After having a TB test every six months for four years, still to this day, I react to the standard TB test. Schaffer We arrived in Vietnam in the middle of the night and the aircraft shut off all its lights. Upon disembarking from the plane, we were instantly under a mortar attack.
We were instructed to get low and run for the bunkers besides the runway. That night, I heard rockets, mortars, gunship fire, and jet aircraft taking off and landing. Flares lit up the night sky. I was scared to death. I was sure I would die my first night there. After my one year in Vietnam, the flight out was such a relief. There was total silence on that plane until the pilot announced we were out of Vietnam air space. Then there was a roar and applause. Yes, that night and others I will never forget. Schmidt , Tehachapi, California I had the honor of being a pilot of a Huey helicopter, the old B and C model gunships, and the H-model.
We flew the two corps area in the Central Highlands. I spent one tour from Apr to Apr It was the period of "Vietnamization" where we got to train Vietnamese pilots. Very interesting. I saw much in that short year, but only a few occasions seem to have remained with me over the years. We were covering a convoy one day, the trucks were going one way and Vietnamese refugees were headed the other way.
Everything they owned was on their backs or on their bicycles. I suppose either the Viet Cong or the Americans had torched their village. The image of all those poor souls going down the road has stuck in my memory. Another occasion was when the Koreans were involved in combat. A sister helicopter was hauling back dead bodies from the combat area and unloading them at the little landing zone where we were.
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Rigor mortis had already taken place and the bodies were in different positions. They simply pulled them off the helicopter onto the ground. It was a stark reminder that there were actually people losing life. One of my crew chiefs was wounded on a mission that I was also involved in. He managed to live for several weeks.
I visited him several times in the hospital at Quin Honh. I took him some letters one day, but he was unable to read them. He asked me to read them. I remember that large quonset building filled with guys that were not expected to make it. Paul Nolen died the day I left Vietnam. Vietnam was a very beautiful country. We actually had good times too. We saved lives as well as took lives. It was much better when we could save them. The task, it seems, is to remember the good times and not dwell on the bad times.
Sometimes we manage to do that. Other times we are not that successful at not remembering the bad. I was told at that time that I was their first Vietnam veteran. I took a job in Spearfish, SD and received my notice to take a physical within 30 days. All my friends were enlisting in the Navy or Air Force. I said two years would not be too long, and let myself get drafted. Benning, GA. I then got orders for Vietnam it then seemed like a bad dream until I returned to Ft. Lewis and received an early out because my time remaining in active service was less than five months.
I did not get called up for reserves and did not have any contact with the Army until I received my discharge. I did not look back on my experience or talk about it until I attended a Vietnam veterans' reunion in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The City of Rochester gave us a real "Welcome Home" celebration that really made me feel like that year in Vietnam was something I should be proud of. I went back to college when I got out in and did not feel comfortable with the protests and demonstrations, but accepted the freedom that those people had to express their views.
When I was drafted, I believed we should be patriotic and do our duty. Today, I have two sons that are of draft age and I hope to Hell they do not get drafted! I think it is time for this nation to take care of business at home and get rid of the war mongers that want to fight for oil. The National Guard should be at home to deal with the hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes and the flu crisis that faces this nation. Then, most of the time, we would sit off the shore for days and then go pick up what was left. The Marines were always glad to see us and were glad to get hot food and a warm shower.
Our mission was rescuing downed pilots. After that, I went to Memphis, TN for electronics schooling. I was part of four cruises on the ship. We usually stayed on station for four weeks, then went to port for about six days. We flew combat missions about 12 hours a day and our shop worked 12 hour shifts, night and day. This routine continued for the next four years.
During the first two years at Dakota Wesleyan University, the secretary for the local draft board, Sylvia Krick, told me that as long as I had a 2. Then in , the routine changed and I was told they were giving four years of deferment for college and that would be it. It seems there were a whole lot of guys with 2. She told me that if I didn't have my draft notice by a week from Thursday I wouldn't go in until August.
I received the notice a week from Thursday and was told to report on 23 July I had made up my mind long ago that I was going to take the draft, get in my two years, then get out and on with life. No regular Army for me. This proved to be a dangerous decision. I learned later that I was lacking in wisdom. Growing up in rural South Dakota with a strong deference for authority and a patriotic spirit that was instilled by participating in the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance each day in school, and by attending the American Legion Memorial Day Programs, the thought of going to Canada or even voicing objection to the war was not even considered.
If the Commander-in-Chief, Richard Nixon, said that "if Vietnam falls, there will be a domino effect all across Asia" who was I to question such wisdom? So off I went, naive about the possibilities that existed. McGovern brought his views to campus, but they were not accepted there or anyplace else, except Massachusetts—the only state he carried in the election.
Morale among this group wasn't particularly high, to say the least. The one person I knew when I got there was Richard Rasmussen, another hometown boy. His stint didn't last long. I met one guy, Chuck Gorman, who had just graduated from college that spring and knew some of my friends at South Dakota State University. Our friendship lasted until tragedy struck later. At the beginning of basic training, we went through a place called Classification and Assignment.
Here they reviewed all your test scores, education, experience, etc. When I reached the final station, the guy told me, "With your test scores and education I don't know where you will be placed but it won't be infantry. After several weeks, my friend Richard Rasmussen was having big-time difficulty with the physical training aspects of Basic.
He was born with a foot problem which hampered his athletic career all through school. Why the induction center in Sioux Falls didn't catch it during his normal physical can be attributed to two things: One, Uncle needed anyone he could get, no matter their physical condition. Two, Richard really wanted to join the Army and gain from the experience, so he didn't call attention to the problem. Richard was sent home, much to his chagrin. The rest of us were jealous.
At about week seven of basic training, our orders came down. Every time we marched by the Classification and Assignment Building I wanted to go in and strangle that guy who had told me otherwise. What was really depressing was that there would be 12 more weeks of combat training in an Advanced Infantry Training Company right there at Fort Lewis. I didn't see how I could take 12 more weeks of this stuff. At the beginning of AIT, another friend from home had been drafted. Bob Whites was a high school friend that I kept in contact with during college. He was in a basic training company at Fort Lewis and I was able to visit him in his barracks on several occasions.
I felt bad for anyone who was going through this with a wife at home, as Bob was. Anything to delay the inevitable assignment to Vietnam. This was a new fast track program to get people trained to lead 81" and 4. Upon graduation, you earned the rank of E-5 buck sergeant. We were placed in a casual company because our cycle wasn't starting until January. In the casual company we pulled KP and guard duty. We could either have off Christmas or the week after. We had a great week in Florida during the Orange Bowl festivities. I visited my cousin, Dave Knight, who was going to graduate school at the University of Miami, along with his parents and sister who were also visiting.
Chuck Gorman's brother was killed in a car-train accident near Tyndall. Chuck went home for the funeral and that was the last I saw of him. Upon return to Fort Benning, we got back into the military groove. The time at Fort Benning was pretty much uneventful. The highlight was meeting a couple of guys that I have stayed in contact with over the past 30 years. I recognized him and his car immediately. We spent the day touring Vicksburg, a civil war battle ground. That turned out to be quite a reunion for Jim and I while Bill and Mark sat by in disbelief that I was able to recognize Jim and flag him down.
We actually had a pretty good time leading the platoon. We took on the leadership style that we wouldn't ask the troops to do anything we wouldn't do ourselves. We led by example and the troops respected us for that. We led the forced marches carrying the same load as the trainees while the officer types' load was a canteen on a pistol belt.
One of my favorite duties was leading the physical training exercises. I picked up a lot of hardcore activities from one of the Basic Training drill sergeants I had at Fort Lewis. At Fort Polk, we visited a college friend of mine, Jim Jensen, who was stationed there. He had a place off post that was what appeared to be at one time a slaves' cabin on a large plantation. This was a great retreat for Bill and I as we would bring food and beverage on occasion and relax from the rigors of infantry training. On Memorial weekend , Bill and I went to Galveston to hit the beach.
We had a great time. Bill sunburned the tops of his feet and couldn't wear his boots, therefoe spending the first three days back at Fort Polk in bed with his feet propped up. He may have had a cold pack on his head also, but that wasn't from too much sun. Our tour of Fort Polk ended in June, and we had a couple weeks of leave before heading off to Vietnam.
Bill was already there when I arrived and he shipped flew out a day or so ahead of me. I caught up with him at Ben Hoa Airbase in Vietnam. Bill thinks to this day that I know everybody in South Dakota. We were standing beside each other when he got assigned to the st Airborne and I was sent to the 4th Infantry Division.
We were both sent to units in the Central Highlands, as was Dave Whelan. Dave was also assigned to the 4th Division also. While the three of us were all in separate units, our trails did cross while in Vietnam. The 4th Division was headquartered in Pleiku. The first night at base camp, I was put on perimeter guard duty. Three of us were assigned to a bunker. Two had to be up at all times during the night while the third one could sleep. The other two volunteered to take the whole night and told me I could stay in back and sleep.
Sleep doesn't come easy your first night on duty. It soon became apparent that these two guys were dopers and spent the whole night shooting up on meth. I was glad to see the sun rise. E, 1st Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division's 12 Infantry's heavy mortar platoon was operating. I was assigned as squad leader to a 4. One of the first things I did when I knew my assigned unit was to write a letter to my high school friend Bob Whites, who had been in Vietnam a while by now.
He got bored with his assignment as a clerk typist and volunteered as a door gunner on a Huey. My letter came back a few weeks later informing me that Bob had been killed in action. As I said, my first assignment was as a squad leader of a 4. We had a team of five or six guys. Our first priority was to keep the gun in firing condition and take care of the ammunition.
We usually dug some kind of bunker for the ammo to keep it dry and safe.
Most of our firing missions were at night against suspected enemy locations SELS. He would plot these locations on a map. Often, these locations were fields or gardens that were thought to provide the Viet Cong with food. Other times, there may have been evidence of enemy movement in these locations or enemy ammo caches. Then we would shoot at these map locations at night.
The next day, the Battalion Commander would usually report that we hit the spots, but never really knew if we had hit anything significant. Cottum, our platoon leader, complained to the Battalion Commander that these fire missions were like pissing in the ocean. There was a time when we would get dozens of map locations to drop a single round on.
You would have to get almost a direct hit on whatever it was that was there to do anything. It was a whole lot of work to compute the data and aim and fire the guns at these locations and we never really knew for sure if we hit anything. Once in awhile we would have a live fire mission, which meant we were supporting troops who were in direct contact with the enemy. The 4. Whereas artillery had a lower projectory, and if the target was on the other side of the mountain, artillery couldn't hit it. We were usually located on a firebase with an artillery battery.
It got pretty noisy at times when we were all blasting away. We could really light things up at night, and often did, so that troops farther out from our location could see the enemy at night. The FDC received the map locations of the suspected enemy locations or direct observations from forward observers.
We plotted these locations on a chart and then determined what direction and angle the mortars needed to be set at. We also calculated how much charge had to be put on each round in order to propel it to the target. We then communicated the data to each gun squad. This was usually done by a phone system that we had rigged up between the FDC and the gun squads.
Meyers, FL. Somehow, he had brought along an always-out-of-tune guitar to Vietnam. Many nights were spent listening to him sing Glen Campbell songs: "Wichita Lineman" and his all-time-favorite, "Ann. I still have the one I sent home and recently sent Inky a copy. I always thought he would be playing alongside Glen Campbell when he returned to the world, but I didn't see him when Glen was on Letterman one night. Inky went on to become a professional musician and has his own recording company, Ink-Write Productions.
Be sure and check out his original recording, "Island Dreams. We were usually in a protected bunker that we constructed with sandbags. We were better protected from the weather, especially during the rainy season, as well as from any stray bullets that might have been flying around. Sometimes we made the FDC bunker big enough for several to sleep in because we were always on duty ready to receive a call for fire. It was about this time that I suffered my greatest wound of the war—an impacted wisdom tooth. I was sent to the rear in the first available helicopter and had the tooth extracted.
I was suppose to stay in the rear for a week or so, but after about a day, I couldn't stand the sitting around and requested to return to the field and the FDC. I was gung-ho. The highlight of most days for the infantryman was mail call and chow. We were suppose to get one hot meal a day. On some firebases, a field kitchen was set up and food was prepared right there. In other cases, we had meals shipped out to us in insulated containers. I later used the same concept in shipping food from a central kitchen to other school buildings.
When we didn't have hot food we ate C-rations. Sometimes they were a welcome reprieve from the hot food that wasn't that great. Whether we got hot food or mail depended on what fighting was going on. We were always supplied by helicopter as we were, with one exception, in the field where there was no access to roads. The first priority for the helicopters was to take care of the fighting.
The next priority was hot food, mail, and clothes. We were suppose to get several changes of clothes each week, but again, that depended on the priority of things. You always tried to hold on to an extra shirt, pants, underwear and socks. The one time we did have supply access by road, we were securing an engineering unit that was building a road. We got all kinds of things when we had this duty. They would ship out huge pieces of ice that were about 8' x 2' x 2'. We would chip off enough to fill an ammo can or sand bag and cool pop and beer with it.
This was the only time we ever had anything cold. One night things were getting a little dull so Sgt. Tom Wood decided he would start up one of the caterpillars and reminisce about his days back in the world working road construction after having some of that ice cold beer. There was no law against drinking and driving in Vietnam. I went to Sidney, Australia for a week of rest, relaxation and high living. I spent time at the beach, the zoo, and the pubs. Spending time in the pubs was really interesting. This was where the men went to do their drinking—no women allowed.
Sidney is a great melting-pot of people. In the pubs, I met men from many different European countries who had immigrated to Australia. They were very interested in asking about America and the war in Vietnam. It was interesting to hear about their reasons for leaving England, France, Yugoslavia, etc.
After Sidney, it was back to the platoon and the downside of my year in Vietnam. Most guys counted the days they had left. I didn't do that. Today students and some teachers count the days left till school is out. I don't do that either. It was now and the negative public attitude about the war at home began to drift to the troops in Vietnam.
Morale was never great, but it was now declining fast. The 4th Infantry Division was gradually pulling back to the coast of Vietnam and was supposedly scheduled to leave the country at some point in the near future. Troop morale in my unit was declining as many of us were on the downside of our tour. Most of us didn't see much point in what we were trying to accomplish. Objectives were unclear and we just wanted to get by with doing as little as possible and then "see-ya! This would have been a good time for the Viet Cong to hit us because our state of readiness was suspect.
The week in Bangkok was interesting. This was a whole different culture and probably similar to Vietnam. Even though I spent a year in Vietnam, I can't say that I really experienced the culture because I was out in the boonies all the time. I saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Bangkok, where they served beer by the quart in the theatres.
I had an interesting river cruise and spent time in the shops, which loved to see American GI's with money. I had some sport jackets custom-tailored for me and sent home from Bangkok. The day I left for Bangkok, my unit got orders to go to Cambodia. We were really sweating going to Cambodia as this was the action that Tricky Dick said would hasten the end of the war and we were expecting a lot of action.
When I got back from Bangkok, my unit had already returned from Cambodia. The whole campaign was really a farce. The Cambodian campaign brought out the troop protestors. I witnessed one guy sitting in the road facing off with an armored personnel carrier. He was physically removed and probably dealt with under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. I don't know what the penalty would be for a soldier to protest a war. From here on out, morale was in further decline.
On 27 June , I received orders to return to the "world" and prepare for ETS estimated time of separation. On about 8 July , I left Vietnam and returned to Fort Lewis, Washington and was relieved from active duty "not by reason of physical disability. Sam wasn't going to recognize my impacted wisdom tooth either.
On 10 July —one year, eleven months and seventeen days later from the time I stepped on that very ground for Basic Training within sight of that Classification and Assignment Building. Upon separation, I was awarded the following: the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force; The Air Medal for meritorious achievement while participating in sustained aerial flight in support of combat ground forces in the Republic of Vietnam from 2 August to 25 May ; The Combat Infantryman Badge for participation in armed ground conflict while a member of "The Famous Fighting Fourth Infantry Division" in the Central Highlands of the Republic of Vietnam; a Certificate of Appreciation from General W.
Westmoreland and another from the Commander in Chief, Richard Nixon; a plaque from the "Officers and Men" of the 4th Division this always made me wonder if officers were not men ; and in , I received a Certificate of Recognition which I applied for over the Internet "for service during the period of the Cold War 2 September - 26 December in promoting peace and stability for this Nation, the people of this Nation are forever grateful" from William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense.
So as far as wars go, I am one for one—won one and lost one. There, I spent a day or so visiting friends, Meredith and Jan Wilson. During my time in Vietnam, our unit suffered no serious injuries or casualties. To say we were fortunate would be the understatement of the 20th Century. That wisdom tooth I suffered from turned out to be no good at all. It provided no wisdom whatsoever when I chose the draft over whatever the other alternatives were.
Be that as it may, and the way everything turned, out I am proud to have served and say I am a Vietnam veteran. The military experience made me a stronger and better person. I feel a special relationship with others who have served. Everything is small stuff compared to war. Ted Voight was the catcher in a game at Lake Preston in when I was brought in to pitch in the bottom of the 7th inning. The score was tied with no outs with the basis loaded. Ted had never caught me before and I wasn't sure if he could handle my curve ball.
I struck out the first two batters with fast balls. I shook off several calls for curve balls but when I was up on the third batter and Ted called for a curve, I threw it for a called third strike. Ted couldn't handle it and the winning run scored from third on the passed ball. I was a little upset in By I learned not to sweat the small stuff. Bill Biever played second base that game. These three and the others from the Iroquois area that served during the Vietnam era deserve a monument for answering the call of their country.
They didn't protest and they didn't take other measures to avoid serving. I have a quote from a company that makes monuments and I am going to start talking it up with others. If I don't it, it doesn't look like an ungrateful society will. In , I was recalled to active duty and assigned to an infantry national guard unit out of Seattle, WA and told to report to Fort Lewis, WA for two weeks of summer training.
I couldn't believe this was happening. It was deja vu all over again—my worst nightmare was going back into the Army. I went through the same procurement building to secure the same equipment I had been issued in basic training. And that Classification and Assignment Building was in sight again. We were recalled because National Guard Infantry units didn't seem to attract much attention from people wanting to join the Guard to avoid Vietnam, so they called us up to get up to strength for summer training.
After the first formation, one guy from South Dakota went in to Yakama and checked in to a hotel. He never showed his face again until the final formation two weeks later and was never missed. When we went to the field, another Vietnam veteran and myself fought over who would get to sleep in the cab of the truck all day. The loser would lay in the shade underneath. It was here that I met my bride of 33 years, Barb. And from then on I lived happily ever after After that statement, I spent quite a few hours on the gun mount. I held the position of 1st loader and eventually gun captain on the same gun mount.
Should I have kept quiet and not opened my mouth? I volunteered and was chosen to stand guard at the church where the service was to be held for the deceased. Our ROTC unit also assisted with the service at the gravesite. The somber memory you can never forget Thomsen, Pierre, SD Mike survived with a few an ambush.
He was watching an orphan and a stray dog, both were killed. Vinson No story, but I am still in the military. Just returned from mobilization at Fort Hood, Texas for one year. Will retire 4 January 06 with rank of master sergeant with 31 years of service. I had a choice of advance training or continuing to teach at Fort Sill. I chose to go to Germany on tour. The entire duration was spent in southern Germany, thus out of harm's way in Vietnam. I had college friends who entered the service to be home in less than year, either shot up or K.
I have plenty. What I would like to comment on is the young men and women that served our country during the Vietnam conflict. We were told it wasn't a war yet. We put forth our best effort with what we were given to us by our government and carried out our mission with the orders given to us by our leaders. Sometimes with regret and loss of life, but we stuck it out, served our tour of duty and came home to "what". Our country lost a lot of good soldiers over there and I hope that this memorial gives us all a little closure so we can finally put this behind us.
It's not going to heal everyone's wounds, but it's a step in the right direction. It's time for the Vietnam vets to finally stand beside our fellow comrades from other wars and be proud of our service to our country. Thank you, South Dakota, Governor Daugaard, and all the people who took the time and effort to put this dedication together. God Bless the USA! Three of us constituted the draft group for Custer county that month. As I recall, two of us showed up to catch the bus to Sioux Falls. Whoever the third man was, we never saw him.
The war was the major campaign issue that fall, and it had been the flash point for highly-televised unrest at the Democratic convention in Chicago that summer. With riots going on in some of the inner cities, and lots of radical rhetoric, it seemed that the country was in serious internal trouble and that trouble was now affecting me on a very personal level. Not reporting for the draft had never been a real consideration in my thinking. I knew one college classmate who had declared conscientious objector status, and he was currently being prosecuted in federal court.
It seemed we stopped in one town after another, picking up a few people with each stop. By the time we arrived in Sioux Falls, the bus was full. Those who passed the physical the next day were sworn in, and I recall making that one step forward to take the oath Oct. We flew out of Sioux Falls to Seattle-Tacoma before the day was out.
Our basic training was done at Fort Lewis, Washington. Stepping off the buses from the airport was a culturally disorienting experience—there were about 25 of us from South Dakota—and it looked like a thousand people came shoving off the buses from the Oakland-San Francisco area. I remember the distinct thought that they must have emptied the tenements and found the street people to fill out their draft quota from California, because those people did not look healthy or law-abiding! Later in Basic, it became obvious that California draft boards did not collect anybody who had family, means, or excuses to avoid the draft.
So they took the poor, the minorities, and the uneducated to fill their numbers. As I recall, it was seven weeks from start to finish. Initially, the training was intimidating and depersonalizing—intentionally so. Later it became a matter of teaching combat and survival skills. Despite the fact that I was a college graduate and had an idea of the conditioning process, I gained esprit de corps just like everyone else, maybe with a little more self-preservation into the process.
During our time in Fort Lewis, I think the sun shone three days, and the rest of the cycle it rained, morning or evening, or sometimes all day long. I remember two other South Dakotans from Basic—most of us ended up in the same company because we were so few—John Elston from Rapid City and another college grad, Rops, from the eastern part of the state. Being home had been wonderful—leaving again was tough. In January, , there was no doubt where draftees were going to be posted once they had finished AIT. At Fort Sill, our training battery had a large contingent of National Guard recruits.
We were housed in World War II-era barracks re-opened to handle the training needs of the Vietnam build-up. The battalion area featured barracks squared around a parade ground with a communal bath hall at one end near the headquarters. We trained hard at Sill, and with more awareness of where most of us were headed. It was a two-week course to develop squad leaders, and when I figured out the calendar, I took the opportunity. Two additional weeks at Fort Sill would be time off an extension of the TDY if I went to Vietnam and wanted to get the early-out—the option of being discharged if you were within six months of your normal two-year discharge date when you got back to the States.
Hardly anyone took the bait—the rumors of the high casualty rates for new-minted Second Lieutenants in Vietnam were widespread.
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Our training battery commander was wise enough to just ignore that anything odd had occurred, since everyone showed up for reveille in the morning. However, when the next timepasses were issued, they came along with a whispered warning that anyone not back in time would be spending time in the brig.
We trained on mm Howitzers at Fort Sill, the workhorse cannon that was prevalent at fire support bases throughout Vietnam. The basic design had to be 40 years old. These guns were simple to operate, easy to maintain, and versatile. The other major thing I remember about Fort Sill is that it was cold and clammy all the time.
Eventually, though, we finished our eight-week cycle, and on the last week, we received our orders. The National Guard men were going home, of course. All the rest of us, the draftees, were posted to various battalions in Vietnam, and had earned about a week-and-a-half of home leave before reporting to Oakland, California.
I flew out of Lawton on a little commuter airline which took about eight hours to get to Rapid City with smalltown stops along the way. The next thing I remember is being back in Rapid City to fly out to Oakland. I reported in at Travis AFB, where they had warehouse-size holding barracks with hundreds of bunks and not much to do while you waited. As soon as I had checked-in, I called some friends who lived in Stockton and spent the next day and a half with them before reporting to the transient center at Travis about 12 hours late and spent two days on KP as a result.
Our group of left Travis on a United flight in the late afternoon on April 14, The military chartered civilian passenger jets to fly the troops to Vietnam. A similar flight was about 1and a half hours ahead of us, and another flight was about 1and a half hours behind. The stewardesses were real. So were the nerves that began to show over the Pacific. We stopped for about 45 minutes to refuel in Honolulu, and I had time to call Bill Honerkamp, who was stationed there, and then down five beers. I slept all the way to Wake Island. We stopped again at Kadena in Okinawa, and it was April 16 and dawn was arriving with us when we flew in over Saigon.
I remember that dawn because the sun was coming up huge and red over the misty jungle—I had a window seat—and you could hear a few of the fellows throwing up. We landed at Bien Hoa, as I remember, and as we newcomers in our wrinkled fatigues got off the plane, there was a line of dusty men in worn and faded fatigues waiting to get on our plane. It struck me that they all looked old. It was intended to familiarize green troops with the realities of Vietnam, but mostly it was just catching details while waiting to go to a unit. I remember a few lessons from those first two weeks: 1 it was incredibly hot and muggy all the time, and western skin burns quickly and painfully in the tropical sun, 2 underwear is useless and just leads to severe jock itch the old-timers said to just pack it away , and 3 the enemy was skillful and everywhere.
While a company of us watched disbelievingly, he stripped to his shorts and then crawled in through perimeter rolls of razor-sharp concertina at least 20 yards deep in about 30 seconds. Once inside he stood up, smiled and took a bow, unscratched. The officer putting on this demonstration assured us that the Viet Cong could do this sort of thing while fully-armed and in the dark. It was an unnerving thought. I reported to my unit at a place called Nui Dat, where I saw that I would be in a battery of mm self-propelled howitzers. A is about a six-inch gun, and while it superficially resembles a tank, it is not one.
An SP is a ton aluminum skinned tracked heavy gun. Its hull offers no protection. I remember my section chief saying an AK round would go right through the aluminum plate of the M, the official designation for the mm. There were two good parts of being assigned to a self-propelled battery.
We would only go where we could drive. For a young fellow from South Dakota, Vietnam was total weather shock. It is unlike anything out here on the prairie. Thick, wet, fermenting, the air reminds you that the jungle is a huge living thing, but it is also a huge dying thing, and underneath the fresh green smell is always the scent of decay. There are only two seasons in Vietnam—the dry season and the monsoon season. The monsoon season began a few weeks after I joined my battery at Nui Dat. It is incredible; day-long sheets of rain, unending rain, with brief intermittent periods of heavy overcast and roiling clouds before there is more rain.
It was possible to soap up, shampoo, and finish a shower just in the rain. Along with the monsoon, of course, came the mosquitoes and the other insects. You learned to be wary and shake your boots in the morning. Sometimes a scorpion would drop out. Insects grow to immense size in the tropics—I saw a pie-plate sized scorpion one time, and a foot-long two-inch wide centipede another.
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I was oriented to the gun by the chief, Sgt. I quickly fell into the routine of our firebase, which had, apparently, been in this one spot for almost a year outside occasional excursions into the boonies. Guard duty, KP, latrine duty, working on the gun, etc. I was trained into driver duty on the M cargo carrier, which is the ton vehicle that hauls the powder, shells, fuses, and miscellaneous cargo when the battery moves.
There was a for each gun. I quickly got used to fire missions while at Nui Dat. No one used the power ram to seat a shell in their gun tube. The biggest, beefiest guy in each section threw the shell in by hand because it was faster. Our section had a husky young Californian, Benson, who was able to get a pound HE shell seated when the tube was up to a degree angle. Before I left Vietnam, I could do that too. I remember I used to think we were shooting up a lot of taxpayer money. We had a good reputation with the Aussies for speed and accuracy of fire when it was meaningful.
On one occasion at Nui Dat, the Aussie FO kept calling battery fire in closer and closer to his unit as they were under heavy pressure. Charlie kept trying to close with the Aussie company under attack in order to avoid close support artillery, until the FO called in the last round within 15 meters of his position.
The Aussies later told us that ended the ground assault; they added that the VC had apparently been led by a white soldier—was it a Russian advisor? We never found out. On May 10, , we finally had marching orders, and left our safe haven for Xuan Loc, a provincial capital north of Saigon. During my TDY, I would eventually be at 24 different locations in South Vietnam, most of them fire bases carved out of the jungle.
Xuan Loc was a real city though, small but populous. I remember we drove through old rubber plantations on the way, and settled into a well-established base camp with two other batteries. One was a battery which faced the jungle on one end of our compound behind a high perimeter berm. We were on the other end of the compound facing a row of businesses along a Xuan Loc street. We kept busy building up the defenses, including laying extra rows of concertina outside the berm and beyond the road encircling our compound.
Rumor had it the countryside was lousy with Charlie, so we were motivated. When a left the compound to make a run to the trash dump less than a mile away, it went with armed guards. Rumor proved to be accurate on May About 1 a. The explosions seemed thunderous in the dark with sudden red flashes and fire.
Our five or six men gathered at the entry of our bunker to make a run for our gun which had only two men staying in it at night as emergency crew. Mortar shells blossomed in inverted white pyramids out in the battery area. There would be a quick whistle and then a shell burst would go up. As our men ran one by one for the gun, sniper fire came from the tops of the dark buildings across the perimeter road in Xuan Loc.