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I came into country at Cam Ranh Bay.  I had been in country for a few days and had been through Cherry School.  On the 9th day of September 1969, my name was called out as being assigned to E, 2/8, 1st Cav Div.  We left for Tay Ninh.  When we got to Tay Ninh we were told where our company headquarters was.  When we got there I thought this is not so bad.  I saw lots of sand bags and plenty of places to take cover.  About the time I decided on what looked like the place I would want to be during an attach, we were told to come pick up our gear.  We were shown the supply room where they gave us a pack, an M16, 10 empty M16 magazines, a poncho, a poncho liner, a soft canteen, and some bug juice.  I packed the stuff into the back pack in the same order that it was given to me.  We were then told that a Chinook would pick up in a few minutes.  By then it was probably 4:00 pm.  We loaded on the chopper. That big chinook flew a great distance to take me and Sgt Huggins out to LZ Ike.

    After the chopper had been in the air for quite a while, it started to circle.  I looked out a side window.  There were people running around in what looked like a field of mud surrounded by a mud berm.  It looked like a creek ran through the middle of the mud field.  The chopper started a decent.  Huggins asked the rear doorman what was down there.  He said, “Your home.”  Huggins turned and looked at me as he said, “No, Man!”  Well sure enough, they made us get off the chopper and wade through mud into the LZ.  We were met by Sgt Brown.  He was a real jolly guy who started out by showing us a Chinese hand grenade.  He said don’t be like the dumb ass we sent home yesterday.  He pulled the string and blew his balls off.  Brown never smiled.  He said, “Now this is serious so you always listen to what I tell you.”  We were all ears.  I had been trained in mortars in AIT and in NCO School.  I’m not sure Huggins had ever been in mortars.  Brown told Huggins that he would be in mortar FDC and that I would be going out with the Recon Platoon the next day.  I said, “But all my training was in mortars.”  Brown responded, “I don’t need any mortar men.  You’re going with Recon.”  I asked, “How many of these men have had mortar training?”  Brown snapped back, “None of them, but that don’t matter cause I spent a lot of time in artillery.”  I was reminded of the term “military intelligence”.  Sgt. Brown showed us a small metal hooch that had a poncho on each end with a couple of sandbags laying on each poncho to hold it on.  Brown said “now put 3 layers of sandbags on this hooch then you can go to sleep.” We looked at each other in complete amazement. Sure, we thought. Where’s the damn sand?

  We put a few bags of mud on the hooch and then gave up, crawled in, and laid down to try to sleep. Shortly after we got in the hootch, all hell broke loose. We figured out that we were having a mad minute. Tried to go back to sleep, but I just laid there listening to the sounds on the LZ.  Some time later, I don’t know what time, explosions started going off way to close to us.  We sat up and looked at each other.  We decided it had to be incoming.  We started digging in our back packs to get the empty magazines that had been issued to us.  About that time shrapnel came through the poncho and cut a large hole in my air mattress.  I plopped down on the pallet.  Someone yelled from outside, “Is somebody in that hooch?”  We reluctantly answered in the affirmative.  He said get out on the berm and start firing.  I told him we didn’t have any ammo in our magazines.  He told us there was plenty of ammo at the berm.  I crawled out and briefly met Sgt Kilgore.

    I crawled toward the berm.  On my way, I crawled right into what had looked like a creek from the air.  I thought I was going to drown.  I hung on to my M16 and scrambled out on the other side.  I crawled up to the berm and asked for ammo.  Somebody threw several magazines to me.  I loaded my rifle and looked over the berm.  Right there in front of me was a gook about thirty feet from my location.  On the trip to Vietnam, I worried that I would not be able to kill someone when faced with the need to do so.  It had really bothered me, but I did not tell anyone about my concern.  As my eyes fell on the gook I unloaded a twenty round clip into him.  Oh well, so much for fear of killing.  When the brown fecal matter hits the rotating wedge, training takes over and you do what you have been trained to do.  Thank you God.

    That night the squad leader of Blue 3 was wounded and medivaced.  The next day Sgt. Brown assigned me to that job.  He said, “Now I need a mortar man.”

 Posted by Randall at 8/12/2008 12:30 PM


While guarding the Song Beh Bridge, we had some spare time to think about the good times back home. One day Billy McDaniel (Georgia) and I were talking about the things we missed the most. We talked about Sunday dinners, fried chicken, pies, cakes, hard work on the farm, our parents, and then about homemade ice cream. We both had grown up in Georgia where homemade ice cream was a tradition. It was usually made on the weekend when family members had time to talk about old times while turning the ice cream freezer. Billy said, “I sure would like to have a bowl of good old homemade ice cream right now.” We thought how silly it was to be dreaming of such a wonderful thing while sitting in the heat of Vietnam. Finally, one of us said, “Well darn it, let’s just figure how to make some.” And that we did.

   Now for those of you unfamiliar with the process of making homemade ice cream, let me explain how this all works. In a normal ice cream freezer there is a tub (traditionally made of white oak), a smaller covered metal container for the ice cream mix, and a dasher that scrapes the inside walls of the metal container to keep the liquid mixed with the frozen material as it freezes. There is a geared device at the top with a handle sticking out the side to turn the metal container inside the wooden tub. Which side, you ask. It don’t matter. If you are left handed, just turn it around, but be sure you still turn it clockwise. People use do tell the kids not to turn it backward because that would unfreeze the ice cream. And, of course, most ice cream freezers now have a motor that turns the device.  The dasher turns in the opposite direction or on some models just remains stationary. The wooden container (some are now plastic, of course) has a hole in the side for water to drain out. The way it works is this: ice and salt are put into the wooden tub around the metal container which contains the ice cream mixture. Why salt, you may ask. Well, the salt lowers the freezing point of the water in the ice. Yes, Yes, freezing point and thawing point is normally 32 degrees Fahrenheit. But adding salt lowers that freezing point (thawing point) so that the ice cream will freeze. The hole in the side of the wooden tub carries the heat out of the ice cream mixture. Heck of a refrigeration process if you ask me. It is really very simple. So this is the process and the device that we were going to try to mimic in the heat of Vietnam. Well, if you don’t understand this, email me and I’ll try to explain a little more. You are probably thinking ‘Yankee Ingenuity’, but for some reason Yankees just did not seem to care for or appreciate our simple delight. Anyway, on with my explanation of our mental gyrations to reinvent the ice cream freezer.

   We decided that we could indeed figure out how to make the ice cream. We talked about the process of making the ice cream, what had to happen to make it, and what parts there were to an ice cream freezer. We needed a clean container for the ice cream to be frozen in. We needed a dasher to scrap down the sides of the ice cream container, and we needed a large container that would hold the ice cream container and a salty ice bath. We quickly decided that we could use a mortar illumination canister to contain the ice cream mixture. These containers were clean, made of aluminum, and skinny enough so that the heat would transfer out of the mixture quickly. We decided that a 8 inch ammo container would be large enough in diameter to contain all the necessary parts. The only problem was that the 8 inch container was too deep. We found a used coffee can and turned the coffee can upside down in the bottom of the 8 inch container. When we placed the illumination canister back in the 8 inch container, it was just right. The illumination container was sticking up about 3 inches above the 8 inch container. We figured we could turn the illumination container with our hands. Next, we had to find something to use as a dasher. The dasher in an ice cream freezer removes the ice cream from the sides as it freezes and mixes it with the ice cream mixture thereby lowering the temperature of the mixture. Eventually the temperature of the entire mixture decreases until the entire mixture freezes.

   We started a serious search for the parts for the dasher. About mid afternoon, Georgia showed up with a solution. He had come up with a small piece of metal that he stole from some ordinance stockpile. He had a wooden handle on which to attach the metal piece and some wire to lash on the metal to the handle. The process was going to involve at least three people. One would turn the illumination canister, one would hold the dash handle and scrap the sides, and one would keep the device loaded with ice and salt. We knocked a hole in the side of the 8 inch container about one inch from the top to let the water drain from the container carrying the heat from our mixture. We were in business. Now all we needed was the ingredients for our ice cream.

   We had a small tent mess hall at the bridge. They usually had some milk. We went under the back wall of the tent and found the milk stored in a cooler. We stole a bag of sugar, a pretty large chunk of ice, a bag of salt, and some vanilla flavoring. Back at my sleeping hooch we mixed the ingredients together in the illumination canister. By now a couple of guys had come along asking what we were doing. At the time I had a sleeping position on top of an old bunker. It opened our toward the perimeter. I had a poncho swung up for a shade, and that is where we did all our strategic planning for this mission. It was also where we assembled to carry out our rendezvous with one thing we missed from home. I remember that Slim Eubanks was one of the people who came to see what we were doing.  Now Slim was from Alabama and also knew all about homemade Ice cream. Slim offered to turn the canister. He was eager to invest in this new enterprise that Georgia and I had devised. I am not sure who else was there. Jimmy Elliot and Clint Reed may have been there also. We were having a hell of a great time. Finally the mixture was frozen. It was like Christmas time for a bunch of boys from the south. We were so excited that we were giggling. We started pouring up the ice cream into Styrofoam cups (also stolen from the mess hall). We tasted it and Oh My God we were in heaven. About that time Captain Jones had walked up on the other side of the bunker. Now he thought we were up there smoking some whaky baky. Captain Jones said, “What are you guys doing up there?” We got very still and did not know what to say. Slim said, “I think we better tell him.” I then said, “Sir, we are making homemade ice cream.” Jones said, “Bullshit guys, what the hell are you doing up there?” At this point Slim said, “Come on up here Captain and have some homemade ice cream.” The captain crawled up on the bunker, walked around back, and we gave him a cup of the best homemade ice cream that had ever been produced in Vietnam. He tasted the concoction and said, “Well I’ll be dammed. Man that is great. How did you guys make this stuff?” At this point we were pretty certain that we would not get in trouble for stealing from the mess hall!

   Several times during that year in Vietnam, we made our delicious concoction. It was always exciting and almost as though we were consuming forbidden fruit. We made our ice cream at least one time after Lt. Mike Russell came to the mortar platoon. Mike is from Louisiana and also appreciates good homemade ice cream.

   Through these many years since my tour in Vietnam, I have dealt with many memories of that war. Most of those memories are terrible remembrances of a dark time in the history of our nation.  But the one memory that always warms my heart and the hearts of all my buddies who had the honor of sampling it is the fond memory of homemade ice cream in Vietnam.

When I tell this story, I think I fail to give Billy McDaniel the full credit he deserves for this invention. Every time Billy and I would come up with a need for our device, Billy would take off and be gone for a while. He would then show up with some improvised contraption to make it all work.

Posted by Randall at 9/28/2008 4:50 PM



For many years, I have been looking for a personal connection to Firebase Illingsworth. Something more than a photo or casual mention in a book. I was looking for a personal account of what occurred on April 1, 1970 so that I had a better understanding of what my brother Roger went through before he was killed. I want to thank Mr. Richards for bringing me just a little bit closer to that connection.

 Paul D. McInerny

 I am thankful to Paul for his comment. I chose to post it as an entry because it is so powerful. This is an example of the value stories from Vietnam have for other people. Anyone wishing to contribute can do so by sending email to me at this site.

Thank you Paul,


 Posted by Randall at 10/7/2008 11:43 AM



After 32 years two Vietnam veterans, Emilio (Gabby) Luna and Charles Rushing, Jr. of Northport AL, were reunited Friday Mar. 22nd 2002 in Bay City TX


 Gabby arrived in Vietnam in June1969. Rushing nicknamed “Alabama” (most of the guys never knew the others first name) arrived in Vietnam in September of 1969. They were in the 1st Air Calvary Division, 2/8 Echo Company, Mortars. Rushing and about 12other Troopers were transported by helicopter to Firebase or Landing Zone (LZ)Ike to replace the wounded or dead. LZ Ike was attacked the night before Rushing arrived, with heavy mortar fire and sappers. (Suicide soldiers of the North Vietnamese army (NVA) with explosives strapped to their persons or carrying explosives in a bag.) Gabby received a head wound and was evacuated along with others to the rear area for treatment. As new Troops they were called cherries or fresh meat. Rushing did not meet Gabby for 8 day’s. The 1stAir Cav. 2/8 moved off LZ Ike a week after Gabby was wounded. Echo Company’s Mortars and Heavy weapons were flown by helicopter to a bridge on the Song Be River. The mission was to guard the bridge, send out patrols and set up night ambushes. The two saw each other for the first time at the Bridge. “Gabby saw me and I guess he felt someone needed to look after me because I weighed only110 pounds at that time. He had taken me under his wings and called me Little Brother. He was determined to see me through the war at least until he returned to the world in June of 1970.” But through a twist of fate, Rushing was the one that helped save Gabby’s life. “The next six months were filled with constant moving from LZ to LZ. The weather was always a problem. It was either hot and dusty or raining. Most Firebases were named; LZ Mary, LZ Carolyn, LZ Becky, LZ Gloria, LZ Illingworth but many had no names. Theses places were set-up for a week to10 days, called jump LZ’s. We were always on the move, always very close to the Cambodia border.” In December of 1969 at LZ Mary, Rushing was infected with malaria (both strains). HE was sick three weeks with chills and high fever. A Sergeant First Class was in charge of sick call and would not let the Medic send him to the rear for test and treatment. Gabby made a move that probably saved his life. “I did not know this for 25 years. I was airlifted to the rear area and received medical treatment This was six more weeks of sickness.”

 “March of 1970 The1st CAV. 2/8 mover to Firebase St. Barbara, in the shadow of the Black Virgin Mountain. Gabby had always been next to me along with a lot of other great guys to whom I grew close to. About nine of these guys and myself have been meeting once a year in different location for seven years.” LZ St. Barbara was an Old French Base built in the 1950s when France occupied Vietnam. IT set in a prime location, supporting troops and firebases on the Cambodian border and also troops at the bottom and top of the Black Virgin Mountain. The NVA owned the middle of the mountain.  Because the Base had been there for so long, the French army and the U.S. Army had placed thousands of mines around the outer perimeter for protection. “This would be the reason for my 32-year search for my friend Gabby.” Gabby had 90days left in country (SHORT) the name given to guys with 100 days or less. This was the time that he felt really good about making it home alive. He was getting out of the field, going on R & R to Australia for two weeks. When he returned he was to report for a rear job and kickback and enjoy his last three months of the war. The day was March 26th, 1970 a day the two men will never forget. Gabby had already packed all of the belongings in his life in 1rucksack with a pair of flip-flops tied to the top. He had bought two pair that morning and gave Rushing one and he kept the other pair.  As fate would have it THE Captain would not let Gabby on the last helicopter leaving for the rear area that afternoon. “I already said my goodbyes and he had given me a piece of his mind on how to stay alive for the next six months.” Rushing said. That was the morning of the 26th.

 That same afternoon around 2 p.m. a group of guys including Rushing were stringing Constantine wire in an area outside the perimeter. This area was supposed to be cleared of mines.  They were told which area was clear and which area was not. They had been out about three hours and out of the blue there stood Gabby. “ He was there to relieve me and I asked why? (WHY? was my favorite word in THE NAM.) He said THE Captain would not let him leave. I asked WHY? That was the wrong word at the wrong time.”

 Gabby was an E-5Sergeant that was (SHORT) mad and did not want to be outside the perimeter. He said the captain would let him leave on the 27th A.M. “In a very nice (NAM)Voice he told me TO GET THE HELL OUT OF HIS FACE. I thought it was bull shit that he was out there but I knew it would do-no good to argue with him. I walked the path that was cleared of mines back to the Perimeter. When I reached the berm (a dirt wall around the perimeter of the LZ about seven feet high) I heard an explosion, turned and saw Gabby lying on his back covered in dirt and dust. He was about 100 yards away from me.”  Rushing risked his own life by running through a field that was not cleared of mines. “It was the shortest distance to Gabby. I was not thinking, I heard no sounds, saw no sky, no people, nothing. I remember him trying to push himself up with his arms behind his back. I knew at that moment, time was our enemy. I had to reach him as quick as possible. Reason was not working in my mind. I believe that shock or fear or LOVE of a BROTHER had taken over. The other guys were frozen in time, not knowing if the area they were in was clear of mines. When I reached Gabby all I could do was hold him, not knowing what to do or say.  I had no medicine, I had nothing. I was telling him that everything would be OK, just hold on. He then asks me to straighten his legs. I didn’t know what to say, I was a 20 year old kid, just married, in a GOD FORSAKEN land that I NEVER liked in the first place. What do you say? I held him close and told him that his Legs were gone. He then said WHY ME? “Alabama” WHY ME? I had no Words, but through the tears, blood and dirt, I told him that GOD HAD A PLAN FOR HIM!  but I didn’t know why. I could not understand why this happened to him and not me. I had been walking in the area for over three hours and made it through the Open field. I don’t remember how long it was before the Helicopter arrived. It couldn’t touch down in fear of landing on a mine. It was about three feet from the ground and hovering above us. The Medic dropped on top of us, in fear of mines around this area.  During this time Gabby never lost consciousness. The Medic opened his bag handed Me a rubber hose and told me to tie it around Gabby’s right leg to stop the Bleeding.  He knew the leg was completely off so it was easier for me to work with. He was working on the left leg because it was somewhat hanging on. He then gave me a Handful of needles and said start sticking him. I said where? He said anywhere you see skin. We each had about 4 needles and soon the morphine started to work. Gabby stabilized and the bleeding slowed. The Helicopter had moved away from this area for its own protection, but was motioned to return. It again hovered about three feet above us making it easer to lift Gabby inside. The Medic and I placed the left leg on Gabby’s chest and lifted him up to the door gunners inside the chopper. The Medic was next in the chopper. I picked Gabby’s right leg up and handed it to the Medic. My last words to Gabby that afternoon were that I loved him, and to hang-on, YOU’LL be OK and back soon. Knowing part of this was not true; I MAY NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN. He Also knew that he wasn’t coming back to THE NAM! I also knew he would never Walk again, at least not on his own Legs. Even worse I wasn’t sure he would livelong enough to reach Saigon. The Medic then reached out for me to get in, but I refused.He asks my name. I said “Alabama“ no your world name. I told him, and asked WHY? I need to know whom I’m writing up for The Silver Star. I said “JUST KEEP HIMALIVE.” I guess it got lost in the mail. (I NOW HAVE Gabby.) Over the years I wish I had flown with him, but at that moment I didn’t want to see him die. Neither He nor myself knows the Medic’s name. I consider that moment in time my 15 minutes of HELL! That day I walked away unhurt but changed For life. Over the years I have often questioned myself  just how close all of us came that day of stepping on the wrong piece of ground? Maybe one inch or two inches, we will never know. I do know one thing, Gabby would never wear his pair of FLIP-FLOPS!”

 After the accident Gabby flew to Saigon and was treated there for five days. Then he spent 28 daysin Japan, unconscious all that time. When he awoke he asked the doctor where he was and how long had he been there? “You are in Japan and badly hurt, this is you 20th day. He also said they had lost him three times. Gabby said that the last thing he remembered was the hospital in Saigon, the night of March 26th1970. “He was too tough and mean to die.” Rushing said. After returning to the United States he went through eight months of rehabilitation. He and his buddies in rehab were running the nurses crazy. THE HOSPITALS staff could not keep Gabby and his five friends from sneaking out. Legs or no legs this group of WAR VETS. were out and FREE looking for (party time USA)the big city of HOUSTON. He returned home, married had two sons, now 30 and 27. Rushing and his wife Robin have no children, but they do now. Rushing began looking for Gabby about12 years ago. “Until then, I was too scared of what I may or may not find.” The search was especially hard, as Rushing never knew Gabby’s first name because he went by his nickname from childhood. Ironically, as Rushing was looking forGABBY, he was looking for Rushing by putting advertisements in war magazines, but to no avail.  Rushing finally found Gabby’s phone number through a  friend that had served with him, Lieut. Mike Russell, but had no idea how he found the number. “When I called GABBY almost 18 months ago I was so nervous, I could hardly  pick the phone up. That nervousness is the reason I waited three months to call. When I finally heard his voice my emotions went wild, the tears and joy were on both ends of the line. We talked about family and friends and how our lives had changed over the past 30something years. Gabby asks me what I looked like?  I was still 5’7,weighing in at170-lb., my hair was white, a big change from THE NAM. He said he was 175-lb.dark hair and stood 4’6. At that moment I KNEW his life was good.” When the two saw each other for the first time, in 32 years (almost to the day) on Friday afternoon, March the 22nd 2002, they both hugged and cried with JOY in their hearts. They said it was if they had just seen each other yesterday. The event started with a fish fry at RAM’S a local establishment. Gabby did all the cooking, crab cakes, all different fish, and hushpuppies. After closing THE RAM a group of friends and family went to THE OASIS club. “Gabby is the most amazing person I know. His character, his out look on life is unbelievable. I’m amazed at the way he works his wheelchair and drives his SUV. He fishes on his boat, or off the sandy beaches in the water, in his wheelchair! The VA people do not understand why his chairs are rusty and corroded. I heard he was fishing, in the water, off the beach, when he hooked something big. It pulled him out of his chair through the water to the second sandbar before he could cut the line. I don’t believe anything can stop him.” He coached little league baseball and football for 16 years as his children were growing up. He is a service to his community and a landmark in Bay City. “Gabby has in one weekend helped me with the agony and guilt that I felt over the years. He is an inspiration to my life, and living proof of a true survivor!”  “This weekend has been an emotional roller coaster. I cannot explain it but I can feel it. I feel as if a missing part of my life has been filled,” Gabby said.

  “I’m happy to be in Bay City—-everyone has been so hospitable—-and to be with Gabby again, ”Rushing said. “Gabby’s brother had a cookout at his home, Sunday afternoon. I met his two brothers and one sister, his mother, and more family and friends than I could count.  The ONE moment I will never forget is when I met his mother, Mrs. Luna. She hugged me, cried and thanked me for helping her Son. I’m thankful that you      both are home together again. With tears in my eyes I hugged her tightly. Gabby’s family has veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and The Gulf War. That’s a lot of WARRIORS in one family.”  Rushing and his wife Robin were married during his tour in Vietnam. She says that Gabby has been apart of her life over the past 32 years because of the story she has heard. “When Charles and the other guys started meeting seven years ago, Gabby was one of the main topics of conversation. He is a wonderful man. I have love for him, his two sons, his family and friends. I’ve grown close to them all

in a short time.(Especially Roland Zarate who I Nicknamed Matthew.” ) This trip is one of the high points of my husbands LIFE.” A trip for Gabby, his sons and friends to Alabama has already been planned and the two vow to stay in touch.  “I have found my lost “LITTLE BROTHER.”  He has been in my heart all these years, and he will never lose one another again,” Gabby said.


 Posted by Randall at 9/2/2009 12:39

Gabby Luna passed away December 1, 2009

Charles Rushing was laid to rest August 28, 2016



Normally I would simply enter a reply on line and will do so again if you wish, but I really would appreciate it if you could send this on to Joe Hogg, if you have his email. I have been trying to reach anyone who could recall the term of “Silver Dagger” Sections that were put up for Illingworth, and particularly the team that stayed on station until they just about ran out of fuel. He siad he was the one we are looking for.

 Steve Nicolich was in the Fire Direction Center of 77th Artillery who was aware the radio relay by a team on station.  The 19th Artillery battalion was on FSB Jay in charge of Artillery fires and it was their Daily Staff Journal’s showing that 11 (or 13) Sections of ARA were put up that morning. And thier DSJs say they kept ‘bouncing’ another section of Silver Dagger. I am not sure if the term Silver Dagger was generic and made up by 19th Arty for Blue Max or if that was a call sign.  But the most important thing is to hopefully be able to reach Joe Hogg to thank him and his team mates for their support and also for his particular support in staying on station to relay artillery. 

 I also have quite a few other email addressee’s I can include who are aware of Blue Max but can’t say for sure what call sign was being used at the time.

 If you can use this email to make a post on line (if you can’t forward to him), we sure would appreciate it a great deal.


 Jack Morrison

77th Artillery.

 Posted by Randall at 12/15/2009 8:08 PM