All posts by weweresoldiers

LZ IKE

As Featured On Ezine Articles    

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

HOMEMADE ICE CREAM IN VIETNAM

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

A CONNECTION WITH HIS BROTHER

A CONNECTION WITH HIS BROTHER

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,

Randall

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

TWO BROTHERS UNITED

TWO BROTHERS UNITED

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

 THE STORY

 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.

  THE BEGINNING

 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

DO YOU REMEMBER ‘SILVER DAGGER’?

Randall,

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.

 THanks

 Jack Morrison

77th Artillery.

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

THE VIRTUAL WALL

This article was submited by Jack L. Morrison. Thank you Jack for this valuable submission.

 The Virtual Wall has a new format for the website effective November 11, 2009. Visit it at http://www.virtualwall.org/index.html .

 The Virtual Wall is an on-line Vietnam War memorial. The website opened on March 23, 1997 and is run by the not-for-profit organization, www.VirtualWall.org Ltd.

 The Virtual Wall originally only had a separate memorial page for each casualty remembered by those requesting the creation of a memorial page.

 Effective November 11, every casualty listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (The Wall) in Washington D.C. now has a basic memorial page on The Virtual Wall, not just those who had one requested. 

 Each basic memorial page contains casualty  (basic and expanded) information and graphics of military unit patches and awards. The Virtual Wall database will continue to accumulate information from relatives or friends of a casualty contributing remembrances, photographs and their own details to The Virtual Wall using the websites free-to-use facilities. For the prior existing memorial pages, the website includes a list of those awarded military honors, the use of photographs in a pictorial index and a search facility. It has enabled thousands of contacts between relatives and military buddies of a casualty. The Virtual Wall is modeled on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, in Washington, DC, USA, which has the names of over 58,000 American military men.

 As soon as The Virtual Wall resumes accepting requests for adding more information to the basic pages, the new memorial pages may contain one or more photographs, remembrances, citations of awards for valor, and a synopsis of the incident that caused the loss of life, the same as the older memorial pages contain. 

 For anyone wishing to add a link to their web site (send to any webmaster you know who may be interested), you can now add a link from your web site to lists of Vietnam War casualties from cities or towns in your area.

 The state index pages of The Virtual Wall have named anchors for every city and town that had casualties, for example:

 http://www.VirtualWall.org/istate/istatco.htm#denver   Denver, CO

http://www.VirtualWall.org/istate/istatde.htm#newcastle  New Castle, DE

 All links should begin with http://www.VirtualWall.org/istate/istat   // this link does not go to a page

 then the two-letter state abbreviation then .htm# then the city of town name, no spaces, all lower case

(We read that some browsers are case-sensitive to named anchors)

 Please pass this information to anyone you know who may be interested in seeing the new version of The Virtual Wall and a basic memorial page for their loved one.

 Jack Morrison

LinkMaster,

The Virtual Wall.

 Posted by Randall at 1/12/2010 5:29 PM

LETTERS HOME-VIETNAM 1968-1969

I recently was made aware that Don Bishop has written a book about his tour in Vietnam.  Letters Home-Vietnam 1968-1969 is a collection of letters Don wrote while in Vietnam. The book is available from Amazon.com.  Don has made an excerpt available for me to publish on this site.  I have read the excerpt and am now waiting to receive my copy.  Don, thank you for making this valuable piece of the Vietnam puzzle available to us.  I am including Don’s excerpt.  Enjoy Don’s work and purchase it at: www.amazon.com Letters+Home-Vietnam+1968-1969. It is available in book for or for the Kindle.

 JULY 30, 1969

LZ BECKY THE QUIETDAYS

 I’m sorry to report that since I came in to work as a 6-5, I can’t give you any chilling reports, eyewitness type, of anything that goes on out in the field. I imagine you really don’t mind too much, as I don’t, but my letters will probably be a little drabber from now on. (I wish!)

 I’m fairly amazed, but since I’ve been here the time has really gone fast. I was sure it’d drag, but not so. You also asked me before exactly where I was working. Well, you might call it the “rear”, because it’s not exactly the boonies, but then again it is, because all our organic supplies are airlifted in. They call it the “Forward LZ”, because our base at Quan Loi is really only an oversized LZ, although it’s been built into a base area. So LZ Becky is my home, & it’s hard to tell whether you’re safe here or not, because there’s always the possibility of an NVA ground attack.

 Well, enough of war talk. I got you CARE package on the 28th, and once again it was a welcome sight. Now that I’m not in the field, you can make a few alterations. I really don’t need the sugar or the lemonade any more, because we have our own mess hall on the LZ, and they always have a good supply of Kool-Aid or Iced Tea available. Also, if you could find some, I’d like you to send me some of that pudding in a can. I think Betty Crocker or somebody makes it, although I’m not really sure.

 I also got Aunt May’s package today, so there’s another thank you note on the list. I still haven’t had a chance to drop Aunt May a quickie, but tell her to hang on, for sometime I’ll make time to write.

 I’ve got another request. If you could, would it be possible to send me a carton of cigarettes, maybe every week or so. We don’t get them as often in Headquarters Company, so as a consequence I end up smoking Pall Malls or Kents, neither of which appeal to anyone. You don’t have to break your necks or your wallets trying to get them to me, but just if you think of it. Okay?

 We just got word today that in all probability we will be going to Phouc Vinh, probably the 1st or 2nd of August. I know how things go around here, so it may never come off, but as of now they’re pretty sure we’re going. I’m giving you advance warning, so if it’s a little longer between letters, you’ll understand that I’m not ailing, just awfully busy.

 Drat, time for work now. Yesterday was a real hassle. Two contacts& all sorts of air moves to keep track of. Alpha Company was in contact, but no one was hurt, thank God. Love to all, & Peace to Vietnam.

 As I’m writing(copying) this, I realize that I really never told Mom & Dad about a lot of the grisly stuff that went on, so as not to worry them. The first few days we were on Becky, we were hit with mortars and rockets almost every night. I remember lying in my modest little hooch as a mortar round fell out in the middle of the LZ. The head Commo Sergeant was hit and it took one of his legs and genitals away. He never cried out, or made a sound other than a moan ofpain. God, how have I come this far without something like that happening to me?But if I think about it, it surely will, so Idon’t.

 AUGUST 1, 1969

MR. POSTMAN, ISTHERE A LETTER FOR ME?

 Well, once again I’m afraid there’s still not a heck of a lot going on around. I just go from day to day trying not to think of how slow the time’s going, pulling my 6 hours of duty & trying to pass the rest of the time writing letters or something like that.

 They’ve really changed the operation of our Battalion since I’ve been on R&R, & it’s mainly because we’ve got a new Commander, whom nobody likes for the most part. He has all of the Companies split up working in Platoon sized elements, about 500 m apart, which is definitely a hassle, because when you get current locations from units in the field, you now have to get about 10 or 11 different ones, instead of 3 or 4. Wow!

 I’m sort of in a depressed mood lately, because I can’t get used to not getting 4 or 5 letters every time at mail call. We get mail just about every day on the LZ, but we haven’t been getting it for the last three days, which I know isn’t your fault, but today 3 bags came in & I didn’t get anything. Again, I know this isn’t your fault, because the stupid APO (Army Post Office) is probably real slow, but just the same I feel pretty down without any “sugar reports” for awhile.

 (It’s hard to explain how getting mail, or not getting it, rather, can ruin your day. It’s the only link I have to sanity and reality. What I’m doing ISN’T real. Right now I’m just walking through the day keeping my head and other parts of my body down, talking meaningless gibberish on the radio, eating and sleeping.

 I know that my faithful letter writers haven’t abandoned me, but yet there’s always the feeling that maybe something has happened to someone…I’m thinking the worst! I imagine Laura has found her “new love” by this time. I’m not sure when that happened, and never asked, because it didn’t matter, and no one ever really volunteered the information either. I’m glad I didn’t find out about it til I got home, or I probably would have done something irrational or stupid, and it would have made my remaining days pure hell.)

 We’ve got a dog that’s been hanging around our area for about 4days, & nobody knows who it belongs to. I guess it’s sort of adopted the6-5’s. We call her “Becky”, a somewhat original name, I guess.

 Well, once again they’re trying to postpone our move to Phouc Vinh for about 2 weeks, because, from all reports, the Battalion CO WANTS us to have a ground attack before we leave (geesh,“WANTS” to?) You couldn’t even find that kind of logical reasoning in aninsane asylum, I’m afraid.

 It looks as though 2 things are forcing me to bring this letter toa screeching halt. First, it’s starting to rain, & second, it’s almost food time. So, as they say on the news, from “somewhere in Vietnam”, this is you SM6-5 sending love to all & peace to Vietnam.

  AUGUST 7, 1969

GEORGEGOBEL

 Well, here I am again on the good old 12-8AM shift, which I thought would be good for a change, but it isn’t turning out that way. Right now I’m dead tired, because I didn’t think about getting any sleep prior to going on duty until 10PM.

 Life goes on as usual on LZ Becky, which means everything’s all messed up. Our move has been delayed, scheduled, and delayed again so many times in the past few days that hardly anyone knows whether we’re going now or not.

 One of the latest words I heard is that we’re on a 6hour alert to move to An Loc, which is about 10 miles from Quan Loi. I don’t know why they picked An Loc or anything, if it was just out of the blue, or if they’re having trouble up there and need reinforcement. So, the exciting tale of Stone Mountain’s move, or non move, whatever the case may be, continues to bore everyone to death.

I wanted to ask you something about 2 weeks ago, but not being too swift, I’ve forgotten about it. When I came back from R&R, I had most of my clothes sent home to you via the mails, & I was wondering if you had ever received them. There were 2 packages, one with a suit coat &pants, & the other had the vest to the suit, a sweater, 3 shirts, a pair of pants, 2 ties & some cufflinks, I believe. I really would like to know if you ever got them, because if you didn’t, I still have the receipt & will write to the store to find out what the delay is. They were insured, so I really see no reason why they shouldn’t have gotten there by now.

 It continues to rain almost every day at one time or another here, & will continue to doso until about October, so they tell me. Everything is a big, black, muddy mess on the LZ, which can’t be too healthy for everyone concerned.

 Here’s something you won’t believe, & I find it quite hard myself to imagine that it happened. I was on duty about 10:30, & some helicopter pilot called &said that he couldn’t land on our VIP pad because there was another bird there already. I told him I’d find out who’s it was & check on the possibility of having it moved. I asked one of the Operations Officers if they had any idea who it was, & he casually remarked that it was George Gobel. Okay, I figured that might be somebody’s call sign, because they really have some weird call signs floating around (how does “Finger Oven” sound. Yep. We’ve got a unit, ARVN type (South Vietnamese Army) working with us now with that call sign.

Anyway, I was surprised when who walked into the TOC but George Gobel, on tour for the USO. He talked to just about everyone, & was talking to me & the other guy on duty with me, asking us what we did & where we were from, when one of our Companies called in &told us, hey, we’re in contact. Boy, what a hassle. He seemed quite involved with the whole thing, & listened in until we got the word that noone was hurt, & they had the situation in hand. Well, so much for my day today.

 There is one other thing I’d like to ask you, concerning packages proceeding from your location to mine (sorta military speak, there). Now thatI’m back in semi-civilization again, there are a few things I’d like you to scrounge up for me if you could. First of all, I’d like some shower shoes (the sandal type, ya know what I mean?). Also, if you could find some cheap towels, send a couple, as we don’t get issued them as often on the LZ. Also, a can of Right Guard or some kind of deodorant, & a bottle of after shave lotion would help out a lot too. Well, you wanted some suggestions on what to send me, so there it is. (Strange how things change. Deodorant and after shave were the last things on my mind in the field. Like I’m going on a date or something. HA!)

 It’s about time I did some work, although there really isn’t too much to do at night. There are still a few things to be put in the log book, so I guess I’ll do that & then get back to scratching out a few more letters, including that one to Aunt May you’ve been so subtly hinting about.

 So, for now, from my corner of the world, bye for now. Love to all, & peace to Vietnam.

 AUGUST 11, 1969

DREAMING HOME

 With good intentions, I start writing, but by the time I get halfway through, it’ll probably sound like some kind of babbling, or I’ll fall asleep altogether. I’m still on the night owl shift, & today, well, it’s yesterday now, and I didn’t get much sleep after I got off duty. This is mostly because a torrential downpour left me floating around my hooch on my air mattress.

 My feeble attempts to stay dry & get some sleep were too much for one brain to haggle with, so, as I’ve done numerous times before in the last 8 months, I decided to forsake the shuteye, &devise a plan to stay dry.

 I was already wet anyway, & by the time I had bailed myself out, it stopped raining. Curses! My efforts were in vain. By this time, the mail came, so I struggled out to get my one letter from Laura.

 The one big drawback to working on the LZ is that I only get, on the average, two letters a day, so it isn’t as exciting as when I was out in the field, getting 6 or 7 letters every log day. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig getting any sort of mail, so don’t think I’m not grateful.

 Don’t tell Spotty, but I have a kitten sleeping in my lap, a black cat at that. (Excuse the rhyme) He was picked up by one of the Companies out in the field after they had swept through a bunker complex, so I guess you could call him an NVA cat. The poor thing has no tail, & his right foot has either been cut or bitten off, but he’s still a “pretty cool cat” (WOW!)

I suppose everyone’s in a big uproar because of the rumor that there might be the possibility of a further withdrawal of 100,000 troops by the end of the year. Well, to dispel all rumors, you-know-what would have to freeze over before the 1st Cav would be pulled out. In fact, General Abrams was once heard to remark that it would, in fact, have to snow in Vietnam before the Cav would be pulled out. It won’t be long now, anyhow.

 There’s still now word yet on our proposed move, whether it be AnLoc, Phouc Vinh, or Hanoi. You’d think being in the middle of things, I’d be able to get the inside scoop on anything at Battalion level. However, I’m not even too sure that the Battalion Commander knows for sure what’s going on. So, I guess all there is to do is wait & see, & meanwhile get wet & muddy almost every day.

 Oh, by the way, I just came up with another smashing idea for a CARE package item. How’s a flashlight & about 6 “D” batteries sound? That’s just a suggestion now. Also, if possible, send the batteries out of the flashlight, & try to put them in some kind of protection, because they sometimes tend to get corroded in transit.

 It’s about time to do my hourly duty again, “bookwork-wise”. I’ll be leaving the net. Say “hi” to everyone, & tell them I’m okay. See you later.

 AUGUST 15, 1969

BECKY AND THE FLIGHT TO IKE

 It’s been a couple of days now since I’ve last written; a couple of days I’d just as soon forget altogether. One of the big reasons I haven’t written is because we’ve been moved from LZ Becky, finally, to LZ Ike, which is 10k farther south, &about 5k from LZ St. Barbara.

 Everyone said it was a tactical move, but I think they really know better. You see, we got hit by rockets & mortars 2nights in a row, on the 12th & 13th, and the reason we moved was because we got beat, & beat badly. So they decided to move us before we got completely overrun. The first night we had 5 killed & 15 wounded, while the bad guys only lost 3 dead. Next night we had 14 killed, & found 1 dead NVA and a POW. We also had 30 wounded.

 From the information the POW gave, there were 750gooks waiting to attack us after the mortar & rocket barrage started, but our gunships & direct fire artillery killed or wounded all of the major assault Company, approximately 60 men, so they decided not to attack. They probably could’ve done us a job if they knew how badly they hurt us with their107’s, 122’s, & 82’s (107 & 122are rockets, and 82’s are mortars, in MM), but thank God their communications aren’t too good.

 Of course, I was on duty both nights,& in the interim got no sleep. By the end of the second round, I was practically delirious & ready to collapse. I found the way to my hooch at8AM, & collapsed, until 8:15 anyway, when somebody woke me up & told me to start packing, we were moving to LZ Ike. Okay, so pack I do, then help takedown all our antennas & pack all the commo equipment up, help load them on the helicopter, unload them at Ike, & put up some antennas to reestablish commo. Then I had to find a place to sleep, build a hooch with 2 layers of sandbags, & when all was done, go on duty again at midnight.

 To top it all off, there was no roof on the TOC here, & true to form it started raining, so, without any cover, I got soaked. Things still haven’t gotten back to normal, & won’t for awhile, I’m afraid, so it’ll be little sleep &lotsa work for a few more days. Phouc Vinh never looked so far away!

 You asked if your package arrived intact. Yep, it did, nothing was even dented. Another suggestion: how about some of that “Jiffy Pop”, where all you have to dois heat it up. Okay? Also, I’m still kinda worried about the two packages of clothes that I sent you from Australia. I asked you about them before, but Iguess that letter hasn’t reached me yet. So, I’ll ask again, because if you say you haven’t gotten them yet, I can write the store & find out what’s up (Incase you’re sitting on the edge of your seat wondering whether the clothes ever made it home, I don’t remember!!!).

 As far as my camera’s concerned, I really don’t know if it’s still operational or not. I did take some pictures on R&R, but I sent them to Hawaii to be processed, since I had one of those mailers, & I figured I might as well use it. I have taken half another roll,so when that’s complete, I’ll send it along & we’ll see if any of the shots come out at all. The roll is mostly pictures of the guys I work with in candid poses around LZ Becky, plus a few of Quan Loi, I believe.

 Well, I got the expected result to the letter I wrote to Laura about R&R. I though I tried to mellow it as much as possible, but she refused to comment, because she said she’d only get mad all over again. I also got your letter in answer to my plea for help, but as I prophesied, it was late, & “the damage” had already been done. What was I expected to do on R&R, brood over what a miserable time I was having in my first week away from Vietnam in 6 ½ months?

 Gotta go feed my face for awhile, and then try to write another consoling letter to Laura. My best to everyone, & let’s hope things get back almost to normal shortly. Almost under the 100 mark (days left).

 I did not realize or remember, like a bad dream cast off into oblivion, the severity of the attacks on Becky until August of last year (2004). Since my tour ended, I have never heard from, nor have I sought out, any of my fellow soldiers from any duty that I had while I was in the Army. Then, all of a sudden, for some reason, last August, I was drawn to an MSN chat group from the 2/8 Cav. I signed up reluctantly, thinking that all I’d see or hear was a bunch of tall tales from those who were in our unit. That wasn’t so far from the truth. But between August 9th and 14th, there was an increased activity on the site, like all of us were reaching out to grasp what had happened. I admit that I was not in the best of moods during that time, reluctantly dwelling on what had happened, and how absolutely horrific those two nights had been. Was I scared? I guess, but at the time, I was so wrapped up in my duties of maintaining and coordinating communications for helicopters, our units in the field, gun ships, air strikes and the like, I never thought about it. Our TOC was a very secure structure, with I don’t know how many layers of steel and sandbags, and an RPG fence about 30 feet high around it (to repel any rockets that were aimed at the building).

 The shelling was very intense, to the point where the fence was completely annihilated by rocket fire, and a rocket hit above my head, shattering a wooden support beam and sending it down on me and my thick head (helmet covered, of course). For this, I got an ARCOM with V device (Army Commendation Medal). I have long since tossed the citation that accompanied it, embarrassed to think that I was rewarded for bravery, when so many others had given their lives, limbs, or whatever.

 In the scramble to leave Becky, and set up new HQ on LZ Ike, I never got to reflect on what a horrible time that was until last year when we all started to gravitate together to relive it. I remember now standing on LZ Ike and watching wave after wave of jet fighters bombing and dropping napalm on the former site of Becky.

 A party from my former Company was dispatched back there about 2 days later to do reconnaissance, and they reported that the NVA had hung a huge tarp over the former TOC with the words, “Yankee Go Home”. I felt as sick to my stomach as I ever had or probably have been since. How could a bunch of ill equipped forces that had probably walked all the way from North Vietnam to South Vietnam on the Ho Chi Minh trail be so organized and effective? I really don’t know whether I should press on with this. I really feel unworthy to be sitting here typing this with both hands and all my limbs and faculties intact, when so many who were lost or maimed will never have the opportunity to do this.

 I guess I do it more in their memory than for my own, and for the family, loved ones and friends who no doubt suffered as much or more than I did during my absence. Imagine thinking that the letter just received may be the last one you ever get, or peering out the window at each car that drives down the street, watching to see if it has US Army written on it. Has it slowed down in front of the house? Is it stopping? Why? I’m sorry, Mom & Dad, Laura, and all of you, for being so selfish &self centered to never have thought til now of the anguish you were feeling.

 I’mSORRY!!

 Posted by Randall at 8/13/2010 8:33 PM

MY MEMORIES OF FIREBASE ILLINGWORTH ON APRIL 1, 1970

As Featured On Ezine Articles

  We moved in to build Illingworth during March.  The site was a grassy clearing. We arrived late in the day and started building gun pits for our mortars, hooches for sleeping, and storage for our ammo.  We had our mortars, 105’s, our radar unit, a line company, and our battalion headquarters (TOC).  We were told that we could not go to sleep until we had 3 layers of sandbags on our sleeping hooches.  It started raining about sundown.  Filling sand bags became very difficult. Around 11:00 pm we gave up on the sandbags.  I laid down on a cote and placed a sheet of plastic over me.  I woke up at first light the next morning and thought I had lost my hearing. Then I realized the cote was holding water which was up over my ears.

Fire Support Base Illingworth was named for John Illingworth who died on or about March 14, 1970. Dan Boettcher sent a picture of Jack Illingworth, Dan, and Pat Coode. Jack Illingworth was in Co. A of 2/8 1st Cav. In the book “Incursion” Jack was described as an exceptional soldier.

The next day we continued to build the fire base.  We had been told that we would be firing on targets in Cambodia.  Charlie had been moving down in Cambodia and then moving across the border to attach our units. Illingworth was called a jump LZ.  We would be there for a few days and then move to a new location.  By about the second day there, 3 155’s were moved in.  (I originally said there were six 155s, but Ken Corbin who proudly served with the 155 unit corrected me. They made enough noise for 6 guns! Ken was wounded that night when the battle was just getting started. The medic patched him up and he fought all night. Ken is an example of a great American hero. Thanks Ken.) We were getting fire missions several times a day.  The 155’s were firing day and night.  The 155’s were pounding targets on a regular basis.  We were getting so much ammo for the mortars each day that we could not possibly fire it in one day.  We were having to stack up boxes of mortar ammo on the ground.  At one point we just rolled two pallets of mortar ammo off the mule and let it lay where it landed.  After we had been there several days, two track-mounted 8 inch artillery guns were moved to the fire base.  You may have noticed that I never mentioned any wire or claymore mines.  We didn’t have any.  There was nothing between us and the wood line.

A few days before the end of March Bobby Barker came to me and asked if I would consider letting him go to the rear to get his teeth fixed.  He said you know sarge may just a couple of days before I am supposed to go home.  Bobby was a great guy, he always did his job, and he had a great attitude.  I told Bobby that I would like for him to leave the next day.  I wrote a little note the 1st Sgt asking him to send Bobby to have his teeth fixed.  I suggested that Bobby should stay in the rear since he only had a couple of weeks left in country.  Bobby left on chopper after we all told him goodbye and wished him well.

Near the end of March, a young Lt named Mike Russell showed up on the firebase.  He had several months in country with the 4th ID.  The 4th went home, but Mike did not have enough time in-country to go with them.  The unlucky guy ended up with us.  By the end of March, Mike had been there long enough for us to become pretty good friends.  He was a squared away guy.  A couple of days before the end of March, Firebase Jay got hit really hard.  They were located a few clicks from us.  The sky looked like it was on fire.  I didn’t know any guys on Jay, but I continually prayed during their attack that they would be able to defend against the attach and that we would not get the same dose of medicine.

    On the last day of March, 1970, things seemed extremely tense.  I saw high ranking people leaving the firebase on choppers.  I look up and see Bobby Barker walking in from one of the choppers.  Bobby came over to me and said sarge’ I just had to come out and let you see how good I look with my teeth fixed and I wanted to tell everyone goodbye.  Bobby gave me a big smile as he showed his teeth and said, “My momma is going to be so proud of me and my teeth.”  I told Bobby to go see everyone and get back on a chopper and get out of here.  I then said Bobby weren’t you supposed to leave today.  He said yey I didn’t get on the plane, I got on a chopper instead to come see you guys.

Ammo for the 8 inch guns was moved on to the firebase all day.  They had the same problem that we did only worse.  They had tons of ammo and no place to put it.  They fired at the wood line a few time during the day.  It was truly awesome to see the power of these weapons.  Late in the day I saw Bobby was still on the firebase.  There was a chopper on the ground.  I told Bobby to run out there and get on that chopper.  He said sarge’, please let me just stay out here with the guys I love just one more night.  I said, “No Bobby, you need to leave.”  He walked away from me.

    At about 11:30 pm, our radar unit notified Lt. Russell and me that we had a lot of movement on the Red Ball which was just across the border.  The border was about 1 click from the firebase.  Some say it was a greater distance, but it was close enough. They had determined that the NVA were moving troops down in trucks and turning west into a large field.  They would unload the troops and then go back to get more.  We fired mortars, 105’s, and 155’s on their position for about an hour.  I thought we had wiped them out.  We laughed and said they would have the rest of the night to drag their dead out of the area.  I laid down in FDC and Lt. Russell did also.  At about 2:30 am all hell broke loose. Mike and I ran out into a cloud of dust.  There were gooks standing on the berm firing RPG’s at TOC.  They were everywhere.  I went to all three gun pits and directed the squad leaders to fire charge zeros randomly to the west and to keep it going as fast as possible.  Mike and I both ended up in Blue Three which was led by Juan Romero.  Juan and the rest of his squad worked to pull down charges to charge zero and Mike and I handled the gun.  I was aiming the gun and Mike was hanging rounds.  At one time I told Mike that I was afraid I was going to send one straight up and it would come back down on us.  Mike said, “At this point, I really don’t think it will make a shit.”  Blue One was wiped out with a satchel charge.  Luckily, they all got out of the pit.  Blue Two was wiped out by a gas stove from our kitchen tent.  The stove blew up and sailed through the air leaving a trail of burning gas and landed in Blue Two.  As with Blue One, the guys all got out and went to the berm.  I saw Bobby running for FDC.  I yelled at Bobby not to go to FDC.  He yelled out that he did not have a rifle.  Bobby disappeared in the dust.

    We saw gooks on the 8 inch guns trying to turn them around.  The 8 inchers were about 50 yards from us.  A barrage of small arms fire erupted toward the 8 inchers.

    At some point during the battle, I tried to call FDC on the land line.  It was dead.  It had been working earlier when I talked to them.  They had tried to call a fire mission to us.  I had answered the horn.  They started calling out the fire mission.  I said, “we don’t need a direction, charge, or elevation, we can see the bastards.”  Looking back now I realize I should have told them to get their butts out there to help us.

    Some time after the battle had been going on for what seemed like forever, the eight inch ammo blew up.  We all left the ground.  I thought we were all going to die right then.  We looked up and saw things in the air that are not supposed to be there.  Things like PSP, tree trunks, ammo, and lots of dirt.  The problem was that we knew that it was going to have to come back down and it looked like it was headed our way.  I will admit that I just about lost it at that point.  I had a wife and a two year old son at home that I figured just lost their husband and father.  Though we were a short distance from the 8 inch ammo, we did not take the direct blast.  The 8 inch artillery guys had left a track mounted ammo carrier and a five ton truck parked between us and their ammo.  The next morning, the 5 ton was demolished and the ammo carrier was on its side looking really bad.

We continued to fight off the gooks for some time.  Around 4:30 am we noticed that everything had suddenly gotten very quiet.  For a while we felt alone on the firebase though no one mentioned it.  Then we heard someone screaming, “Richards, are you guys still over there?”  I had a bad feeling.  I screamed, “Yes.”  The person then yelled out that the gooks had that half of the LZ and we needed to get the hell out of there.  We all went over the blast wall like snakes.  In basic training I had been about the fastest low crawler at Sand Hill.  I started out crawling along with the other guys and then thought that I should go to FDC to be sure everyone got out of there.  I turned left and headed for FDC.  As I approached FDC, I saw Bobby Barker laying on a stretcher.  He had dirt all over him.  I crawled up and tried to get Bobby to get up.  I then realized that Bobby was dead.  Damn!  I said my quick farewell to Bobby and started plowing through the dust to the direction where I had last heard that voice of hope.  Thank you to the drill sgts. at Sand Hill who made me low crawl for miles.  That crawl was easy.

We grouped near the berm.  I looked for my guys but could not find them.  We had Blue Max choppers spraying their mini guns all around the west and south sides of the berm.  They were a beautiful site and sound.  Things quieted down and we waited for daybreak.  As the sun rose and we could see the LZ, I realized that we had been wiped out, but we survived.  I walked around looking for my guys.  I walked along the line of wounded guys.  I almost walked by Sgt. Huggins.  Huggins and I came to the mortar platoon the same evening at LZ Ike.  We got hit hard that night too.  That’s another story.  Huggins reached out and grabbed my leg.  I knelt down to talk to him.  He said, “I’m the lucky one, I’m going home.”  He had gotten a bad wound on his calf.  I wished him the best and walked on looking for more of my guys.  We had choppers coming in to haul out the wounded.  I helped load the choppers.

Those birds were being piloted by true heroes.  At one point there was so much blood in the floor of one of the choppers that we threw dirt in on the blood so people could stand on the floor.  I remember very well picking up one end of a stretcher and heading for the chopper and the door gunner waved us back indicating that they were full. We backed off and started to lay the stretcher down.  At that point someone told me the pilot wanted someone up front. I ran up to the cockpit and one other soldier and I talked to the pilot.  He said for us to load the rest of the wounded because it was going to be a while before another one got back to our location.  The pilot told us to pick up on his skids and run with the chopper.  He picked up speed and then converted to altitude just before the wood line.  I would love to know that guy’s name.  I’ll never forget him.  He is a true hero.  I guess I helped load Pete Lemon on one of the choppers that morning.  Pete was a member of the Recon Platoon in our company.  The faces were all dirty, bloody, and contorted with pain so I don’t remember any of them in particular.  Pete later won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions that night.

A Side Note:

            Sometimes it feels that we are living on a giant revolving wheel that keeps bringing us by the same point in our lives.  Forty years after this event, I met that soldier that we carried to the chopper for a second time.  His name is Ed Collins.  Ed read this blog and got in touch with me.  Ed attended a memorial service held April 1, 1970, at Ft. Sill, OK (see FSB Illingworth and FSB Jay in this site).  I got to meet Ed Collins who I had often thought of over those forty years.  I had wondered if he lived to make it to a hospital.  I had wondered if he lived through the event. Ed said he remembered the gunner waving us back from the chopper.  That was amazing because I thought Ed was at the point of death.  There was a rod sticking through his chest, the meat was blown off the top side of his arms and he was badly burned.  Ed now has cancer and when I met him at Ft. Sill, he said he believed that God had extended his life to allow him to attend that service.  I send an email to Ed periodically to check on him.  I have Ed on the prayer list at my church.  He told me that something is keeping him alive.  He begged me to keep him on the prayer list at my church.  Hang in there Ed. We are praying for you brother.

    After all the wounded had been loaded, I walked over to the dead.  I started to help move the bags.  On the first one I made the mistake of getting in the middle.  Anyone who has ever taken on that position knows the problem I had.  I knew Bobby was in one of those bags.  I really did not want to know which one.  Bobby wasn’t even supposed to be there.

I found Mike, Hutch, Juan, and Terry.  We all went back to the mortar area to see what was left.  We were amazed that we had gotten out of there alive.  At Blue three there was a unexploded rocket buried in the ground two feet from where I had been inside the gun pit.  Ammo was blown all over the entire area.  There were very large pieces of shrapnel from the 8 inch ammo.  There was paper everywhere.  We looked at the 5 ton and the ammo carrier.  It was then that we realized what had saved our lives.  It was just by chance that they had left the units parked where they did.  They had so much ammo in their area that I think they could not get any closer to their area. I recently digitized a few pictures from Illingworth. They are included here:

On the left is Jack Illingworth for whom FSB Illingworth was named. Next is Dan Boettcher (Dan gave me this picture) and Pat Goode.

This one is me holding a piece of shrapnel the next morning.

 

  This is shot toward the eight inch guns.

    

This is a view down into the hole blown by the 8 inch ammo

   

This is Sgt. Juan Romero, my Blue Three squad leader, leaving the Blue Three gun pit. You can see the rear of the 5 ton truck that was parked between Blue Three and the 8 inch ammo.

    

These are the 8 inch ammo carriers that were also between Blue Three and the 8 inch ammo.

    

The water had all drained out of this water tank. The entire Firebase was littered like this.

   

This is the setup for the two chapel services that were held on March 31, 1970.

    

Catholic Chaplain, Father Boyles

  

And this is the Chaplain’s dog —NoNuts

    

8 inch gun

    

8 inch gun during fire mission

    

Bobby Barker’s grave

 Some little jerk Captain came in with a group that was to relieve us.  The little jerk told us to start policing up the area.  Lt. Russell walked over to the jerk and told him that he would have him know that his men had been in a battle all night and they were not about to police up a damn thing.  The jerk asked him if he realized who he was talking to.  Mike said, “Sir, I don’t give a shit who you are or what your damn rank is.  My men will not clean up this mess.  They can hardly stand up.”  You gotta love Mike Russell.  He’s still got that same edge.  No crap, no way, no where!

 I recently received an email from someone who was offended by my comment about this captain. He thought I was referring to his captain who he liked very much. After a couple of emails, we decided that he was not the same guy. I am certain that the captain in question meant well, but he did not understand what we had been through.

 Juan Romero and I went down in the crater created when the 8 inch ammo blew up.  It was huge.  I believe Hutch made our picture in the hole.  We then went out to look at some of the dead gooks.  I looked at one that had his left arm blown off.  You could see the socket where the ball joint had been.  Surprisingly, the guy had about three rounds of gauze wrapped around his shoulder.  He had been wounded when we fired on them for an hour.  They put a bandage on him and sent him on the attack.  I never knew any of our guys who would have done that.

I remember going out to the landing pad to get on a chopper.  Sgt Mike Self, 1st Lt Mike Russell, Wendall Hutcheson, and I were walking together. We had no mortars and we had no M16s.  They had been destroyed in the battle.  I looked back at the firebase with total disbelief.  The chopper lifted off and we all looked back at the firebase in total silence.  I don’t remember anything being said until some time after we got to a rear area that we were taken to.

 Charles Rushing from Alabama whose nickname just happened to be “Alabama” remembers us returning from Illingworth. Alabama said they had been told to leave us alone because we had been through hell and might be in some state of shock. Charles said he had never seen a group of men who looked so tired and depressed.

 I recently learned some disturbing information about the battle on Illingworth. At the dinner after the memorial service at Ft. Sill, I learned that there was a total of about 208 people on the FSB. We know that 25 were killed in the battle. I seem to remember that we sent 87 out who were severely wounded. I recently learned that several were hiding in bunkers during the battle. I was told that I had several hiding in the mortar FDC. These were not my men. My men were on their mortars or if their gun was disabled, they were on the berm, probably in hand-to-hand combat. That information was not revealed to me at the time or during the days that followed. This was very disturbing to me because my men knew if they lost their mortar they were to go to the berm and take up a fighting position. I also learned that there were several hiding in one or more of the artillery FDC bunkers. LTC Conrad went into one of those bunkers and told those men that it was one of the toughest battles he had been in. He told those men to go out on the berm and take some of the bastards with them. The disturbing thing in all of this is that when I do the numbers, I realize that there were probably only about 50 to 65  men left fighting the enemy that night. At the time the 8 inch ammo blew and for days afterward, our thoughts centered on the fact that several guys were killed when the 8 inch ammo blew up. I now realize that if the 8 inch ammo had not blown up, we would have all been slaughtered. The exploding 8 inch ammo might have been divine intervention. It is what ended the battle and saved many lives.

Posted by Randall at 8/11/2008 7:46 PM

Categories: 2/8, E, 1st Cavalry Airmobile, 2nd Battalion, Vietnam, Firebase Illingworth, 1st Cav, 8th Cavalry, Echo Company, Mortar Platoon, 1970, 1st Cavalry Division, US Army

LZ IKE

As Featured On Ezine Articles     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, 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.

    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 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, some 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

Categories: Mortar, 1st Cav, Vietnam

FIRST SQUAD ASSIGNMENT

  When the sun came up September 10, 1969, it was Sunday morning and LZ Ike looked much worse than it did when we arrived the evening before.  The first thing I remember seeing was Johnson peeing in the water that was standing in the LZ. I thought, Oh my God! I was in that water last night. I saw other guys using the same water to shave. The battalion commander told us that were not leaving Ike until we had gooks piled in the wire all around the berm. We had several piled in the wire that day. One of them I shot. I felt pretty good about it too. I knew that several of us hit him at the same time, but I called him mine. Brown came over to me and told me that I would be getting Blue 3. He said “Go ahead now and settle in, it looks like we gonna be here for a while.” I went over to Blue 3 where I met Jackson. He started telling me how to operate a mortar. I interrupted and told him that I had been trained on mortars in AIT and in NCO school. Jackson looked at me and said, “Man that don’t mean nothing, man, like I mean, that don’t mean shit. You’ll have to learn everything all over again cause you in a damn war now man. Don’t be talk’n shit bout what you know. I mean, I’ll help you here and all, but don’t try to tell me what you know.” I said, “OK.” I looked around and saw that the aiming stakes were positioned wrong. I asked Jackson why the aiming stakes were set the way they were. Jackson said, “There you go talking shit man. You need to keep your mouf shut til ye know what the hell ya takin bout. You understand me?”

  I thought Jackson and I would never be able to get along. That proved to be wrong. Of course, I had to prove myself to him, but he turned out to be a good guy. I had noticed that the front aiming stakes were set 180 degrees out from the rear aiming stakes. That was wrong. I knew that the stakes were supposed to be at 0400 and 2800. There was complete logic to that placement due to the fact that the M34 aiming sight on a mortar sets right next to the barrel. I walked over and asked on of the other guys at another gun pit why they had the aiming stakes set up like that and he just said, “Cause that’s what Brown said to do. You don’t need to be asking questions and acting like you know something that he doesn’t know because he can really get pissed off.” I thanked him and went back to my gun.

    I heard the phone in the gun pit ring. Jackson answered the call. When he got off the phone, he said we had a fire mission to the north. He said he would set the gun and I could pull the charge. I asked what is the charge? Jackson said they didn’t tell him that yet, that they always call back and get that. It turned out that it was taking at least 3 calls on the land line to get a fire mission set up. The first one was to let the gunner know which direction they would be firing. The next one was to get the deflection and elevation. Then they would call back and get the charge. I was amazed but kept my mouth shut.

    Later that day Brown came by my gun pit. He asked me if everything was going ok. I told him everything was fine but that I was a little confused about several things concerning the fire mission process.  Brown asked me what I was confused about. I mentioned the placement of the aiming stakes. I said the way your fire mission comes out you could easily fire 180 degrees in the wrong direction. He said no that can’t happen. We tell them what direction the fire mission is going. I replied that I felt someone was going to get hurt because it would be too easy for a new person, like myself to misinterpret the direction. Brown called me a damn cherry as he walked away.

  That night I stayed up on guard duty in my gun pit until about 1:30. Jackson was with me in the pit. We did not talk much. I was watching what everyone was doing on the LZ especially in the other mortar gun pits. I believe Jackson thought he had intimidated me and was feeling pretty good about that. I was in people watching mode. I felt that there was a lot to learn. Maybe the way Brown did things was better than what I had been taught. I kept going over in my mind the processes that were being used and comparing them to what I had been taught stateside.

  At about 1:30 Jackson suggested that I should get some sleep. I asked where. He said around there in that hooch. I eased around into the hole designed as the entrance to the hooch. It was spooky in there. There was an air mattress laying on two pallets. I laid down on the air mattress. There was dirt on the mattress. It stuck my skin like sandpaper. It was hot in there. I sat up to take may T-shirt off. Bumped my head on the metal. “God, what am I doin here?” Got my shirt off, put it in my steel pot and laid back with my head in the steel pot. Just as I was starting to settle down, there was a turmoil and a noise from some king of animal. I thought, “What tha hell was that?” I crawled out of the hooch much faster than I had gone in.

    “Jackson, what’s with the noise in the back of the hooch?” “Oh, some people been throwing empty C cans in the back of the hooch. Some rats are getting into them. Go on back in there. They ain’t going to bother you.” “Have you slept in there with them?” “Yeah man, all the time.”

    I crawled back in the hole, laid back down on the mattress, put my red lens flash light on an ammo box beside the air mattress, and was determined to go to sleep. I did just that. I was tired. It had been two days since I slept. I was out of it. Some time passed and I awoke feeling weight on my chest. I opened my eyes, but I could not see anything. It was really dark in that hole. I eased my hand over the light that I had laid on the ammo box. When I felt the light, I turned the switch to on. OH, MY, GOD!, the biggest gopher rat I had ever seen was laying on my chest facing me. I screamed, the rat panicked, and ran rapidly across my left shoulder, scratching me with every step. I was instantly out of the hooch. I started to tell Jackson what happened and he started laughing. I asked Jackson if he really slept in that hole, and he said yeah, they don’t bother me. Maybe they’re afraid of me cause I’m black. I thought Jackson was crazy.

    The next day, we had to wear flack jackets all day because we kept getting incoming mortar rounds. Every time about three guys got together, a round would fall right where they were standing. We could hear the tubes pop out in the jungle. Everyone would take cover, and we did not get anyone hurt during the incoming. Late in the day, someone saw a reflection about 200 meters outside the berm. They got a sniper out to the berm, and after a few minutes the sniper popped the dud right between the eyes.

    On Wednesday, a detail was organized to bury the dead gooks. It was hot, and they had been laying out there in the hot sun since Sunday. I thought I would walk out to see the one that I had shot. I had looked over the berm several times at him, but I could not get a good look at him from inside the berm. An old boy from Chicago was on the detail. They had put on gas masks, so I did the same. Chicago started trying to be funny. He chastised one of the dead gooks for being in his wire. The gook was in a rather contorted position laying in the wire. Chicago hit the gook with a rake. When he did, the gooks hand fell off and maggots poured out of his arm. Chicago turned around toward us and was throwing up into his gas mask. He was fighting with the straps to get them loose. Somebody yelled, “Somebody better help Chicago.” Someone else said, “Looks like he’s on his own.” I knew I had seen enough so I went back inside the berm.

    We were on LZ Ike for several more days. We then moved to a bridge near Phoc Vinh, north of Saigon. We were there to guard the bridge. We were guarding on one side of the river and the ARVNs were guarding the other side. That was a good place. Nothing ever happened there. We went swimming in the river, shot rats, and did a little target practicing. I set up a hooch on top of a bunker. I did not want to sleep in a bunker. A few days after we got there, I had a heat stroke. I got medevac’d. When I came back, I was wearing glasses. The doctors said I would have to wear the glasses all the time. They were right.

    At the bridge was the first time I remember Capt. Jones. Jones was a West Point graduate. He was a really nice guy, but he never tied his boot strings and never buttoned his shirt.

    A few days after I had the heat stroke, I was sent out to the field with a small group. We set up a little perimeter. We dug a depression for the mortars and used the dirt to fill sand bags. The first night, an artillery round went right over our heads and landed 100 meters beyond our position. Everyone hit the dirt. The LT called on the radio to ask for a cease fire. He was told that there wasn’t anyone firing in our direction. Another round came over. I don’t remember what the outcome was, but we did not get hit. Maybe it was a gook rocket.

    While we were out there a chopper landed a short distance away to resupply us. Some guys went out to the chopper to get the supplies. When they came back, they had milk in quart cartons. White and chocolate milk. I love milk. Someone came walking up and said we would have to share the milk. I had caught one. It had been on ice and was very cold. I opened the carton and turned it up with great anticipation. After about four big swallows I realized the milk was spoiled and clabbered. I blew the crap out after having swallowed way too much. I felt sick for a while after that. The milk had been allowed to sit on a runway somewhere until it spoiled and then they put it on ice. That was typical of the things we got in the field.

    I was sitting writing a letter when a Lt. came into the area and asked where Richards was. I answered. He called me over to an area away from the other men. He said, “Have you been trained in mortars?” I said yes, in AIT and again in NCO school. He informed me that some men who were out on listening post got killed in one of our sister battalions. They were killed because the men on mortars fired their guns 180 degrees away from the intended direction of fire. I continued to listen. He said, “I understand you expressed concern over procedures we have been using.” I said, “Yes sir, I have been very concerned.” The Lt also stated that he understood that I had told some people that this was a possibility. I answered in the affirmative. He then said, “I need you to explain to me how everything is supposed to be done in mortars so I can get this mess straightened out.” It was clear at that point that he wanted information that he could use for his advancement. I explained that mortar training is a complex undertaking that cannot be just explained. I told him that he could not possibly learn everything about mortars in  a few minutes. I suggested that he get a training manual for mortars. He said he had checked on that and none were available. He said, “You will have to write the manual.” I thought, “You are out of your frigin gourd.” And then answered that it would take some time. He instructed me to start giving it some thought and put my ideas down on paper. He said, “I’ll look over it and make any corrections that are needed. Oh, by the way, how much education do you have?” I told him I had a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture. He looked at me and said, “Why in the hell are you in mortars?” And I said, “Military intelligence, SIR.” I did not see him again until we got back to the bridge.

    We rode back to the bridge on twice and a half trucks. It was the dry season, we were on a dirt road, and there was at least one truck ahead of us. I was sitting at the back. Slim Eubanks was sitting in the middle. Little Alabama (Charles Rushing), was between us. Alabama fell asleep and laid over on Slim. I looked down after a while and Alabama’s left ear was completely full of dirt. The dirt was now draining down the side of his face. I pointed it out to Sim. Slim said, “Ah don’t bother the little boy, he needs some sleep.” I believe Alabama may have been in Slim’s gun squad. I will see both of them next week at our reunion. They can clarify this point. When we got back to the bridge, Alabama could not hear a thing in his left ear.

    I had made several notes and started an outline of the training procedures that would be needed. At the bridge, I began to write my training procedure in earnest. I got assigned as the section leader over three mortars. I believe this was the thank you that I received for straightening out the mess we had. I knew there would be reluctance on the part of the men in the platoon. I mean after all, I had only been with this group of men a short time, Brown was gone, they didn’t trust me, they didn’t even know if I actually knew any more about mortars than they did. There was some pretty sharp harassment. And then, I started the classes. At first the other section leader, Sgt. Keeton, a really good guy even though he was a lifer, did not like being instructed by me. He had more time in grade than I did and he told me that. He said, “You should not be instructing me, I should be instructing you. I have been in the Army longer than you and I have more time in grade. They should let you write the class and I should be the instructor.” I had only been in the Army about 14 months, but that was long enough to learn that knowledge is of little value in the Army compared with time in grade. And some people can’t figure out why we could not win that damn war! I’m sure the military has changed by now (yeah-right), but the idea that a man can do anything just because he went through the training is ludicrous. Well, I’m just glad I live in America where I can make fun of dumb shits who ran the Army during Vietnam.

    Let me clear up exactly who I am talking about! Though I was a member of the Young Democrats at UGA in 1964 and worked hard to help get Lyndon Johnson elected, I would have to put him at the top to the dumb shit list for being big enough fool to get us committed to Vietnam with no plan to win the war. Damn right, I said WAR! When I came home from Vietnam, my father-in-law, who served in England and North Africa during World War II, said, “What if you had gone to a real war?” Well, from all the guys who served in Vietnam and many of who gave the ultimate sacrifice, let me explain that anytime you are in a foreign country trying to either kill or keep from getting killed because you were sent by the United States of America, you are in a “By God, REAL WAR”. My second tier of dumb shits would have to be all the politicians who rubber stamped everything Johnson suggested. They knew that Johnson wanted to be a domestic president and knew nothing about executing a war. I won’t even mention the puppets Johnson had at the cabinet level. For the most part, they had to be brainless, or they would have given Johnson better direction. Oh well, I said I was not mentoning them.

    And now let’s get to the generals in Vietnam. This was a new war, a new enemy, a new arena, and they were clueless as to how to deal with an enemy that did not wear uniforms and who hid in the jungle to ambush and kill by savage methods. But with us as rats in their new lab they experimented with various tactics, but never seemed to figure it out. We all said then, and I still say now; if we had been given the order, we could have kicked every ass in Vietnam in 6 months. Some said we would have needed to get all the rear echelon trash out into the field to fight, but I maintain that they would have made matters worse. No, all we needed was a winning policy from the top down. We should never have entered Vietnam without a end-game in mind that was “us winning”. We have had the same problem ever since. I’m on the box, so I will finish. If we ever get out of Iraq and put our full focus on Afghanistan, where it should have stayed in the beginning, and then win in Afghanistan, we must redefine our military actions moving forward.

    And now, back to the mortar problem. We started the classes with lots of laughing on the part of the peope who had to attend the classes. We started out with the basics. I taught them the proper method for setting up and laying in the motar. I taught them to set out the aiming stakes at 0400 and 2800. Both sections were taught these procedures. Then we had several timed competitions. I would use the Aiming Instrument to lay in my section after the guys had set up their guns. I would read and call out a defection to Gun 1 and while they were setting that defection on their M34 sight, moving their gun to line up on the aiming instrument with that deflection, I would read and call out defections to Guns 2 and 3. We would cycle back through this procedure until they read back the same defection that I called out and declared their gun laid in. Sgt. Keeton would do the same procedure with his section. Once we turned it into a competition, the guys began to get competive and have fun. Next, I taught the men how to set up a proper fire mission. They honed their skills until they worked like a fine machine.

    During the time while I was training the gun crews, I was also working with FDC. They had to be retrained in the proper methods for plotting a fire mission and calling that mission successfully to each gun crew. We then began conducting simulated missions until all elements of the mortar platoon were functioning at a high level.

    We never had an accident in the mortar platoon after that training with the exception of a few short rounds caused by wet powder bags and one hang round which caused us considerable concern. One of our short round happened in Cambodia during 1970. Our Battalion commander was sun bathing on top of TOC. We hung a round that apparently was a little bit damp. It went off like a charge zero and only went about 250 feet right in the direction of the LTC lounging on TOC. I screamed short round two times and the LTC scrambled under cover. The round landed on top of TOC (Technical Operations Control). Needless to say, the LTC was pissed. He came over and chewed my butt out. My LT was gone at the time so I got the initial delivery of ass chewing. When the LT got back, he got his butt chewed out, so he had to chew my butt out again. Yes, it will always roll down hill. The key to dealing with it is to smile and say “I’m sorry for my mistake.”, even if you know it was not your fault. While in the education arena, when facing a person who was so mad they looked like their freeze plug would blow any minute, I would always say, “I’m really sorry you feel that way.” The person would usually say, “Well, that’s more like it. All I wanted was an appology.” They never realized that I did not apologize.

    Our duty at the bridge continued for some time with interspersed little excursions into the jungle on a few missions. The duty at the bridge was great and we did some interesting things while there including fashioning a make-shift ice cream freezer which we used to successfully make ice cream on several occasions.

 

 

Posted by Randall at 9/15/2008 1:37 PM

Categories: Echo Company, 1st Cavalry Division, 2/8, Vietnam, LZ Ike, Mortar Platoon