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  During the past few years I have come to realize that those of us on FSB Illingworth on the night of March 31, 1970 and the morning of April 1, 1970, when the battle took place, were used as bait to draw the enemy out for a decisive battle. The situation was weighed and we were determined to be expendable. I know that many will blast me for this statement, but it is a fact.

  Jerry Granberg and Randall Richards are beginning work on a book about FSB Illingworth and the terrible battle on April 1, 1970. In the book we will compare the things that Washington and the upper level brass were saying was happening during the month of March 1970, with what was actually happening on the ground. Then we will go around the berm and tell the stories of men who fought in the battle. These stories will be told based on reports that we get from people who were there and who fought in the battle. In the appendix we will list every story exactly as written by the contributors.

  The battle at FSB Illingworth became a lesson for the 1st Cav in Vietnam. Mistakes were made that lead to needless loss of lives. What happened on FSB Illingworth was a gross injustice for the men who fought on that base. Much of the information about Illingworth has been swept under the rug to protect the honor of men who made the decisions that led to that horrific battle. Now is the time when we must speak up and let our story become part of written history.

  If you were on FSB Illingworth during battle on April 1, 1970, I invite you to contact me and let us tell your story. If you cannot write your story for any reason please do not dismiss this invitation. Contact me and I will make arrangements to record your story and type it for you. For some of you it will be hard. It was hard for me to talk about Illingworth for many years. No, that is not correct! For many years I could not talk about Illingworth without crying and becoming very emotional. Only by talking with my buddies I served with and by writing about the battle have I been able to overcome the fear of the pain and fight my way through the tears.

   If you know someone who was on FSB Illingworth during battle on April 1, 1970, I beg you to please contact that person and get the person(s) in touch with me. Their story needs to be included in the book.

   I know that time has dimmed much of your memory of that battle. In some cases you may have decided that some of the horrible things you remember happening did not happen because they were so bizarre. Go ahead and tell it the way you remember it. If we find it too outlandish, we will attempt to help you corroborate the events with other witnesses. Needless to say, if you were in the rear shaming or if you weren’t on Illingworth, we do not want to hear your story. There are plenty of good stories consisting of true occurrences without adding swagger or ‘John Wayne’ shenanigans. Please do not embellish your story by adding things that did not happen.

  We need every story from every person who was on the fire support base. It has been 41 years since the battle on FSB Illingworth took place. If our story is every going to be told, it must be now. Don’t take your story to your grave without letting people know that you stood up for your country and fought when called upon. Let people know that you did not run from your duty. If you fought on Illingworth, you are a hero, and we want to tell the world that you are a hero. Please help Jerry and I in this effort.

 Posted by Randall at 3/31/2011 11:24 AM

Jerry and I are still planning to write the book. We have done a good bit of work on it. Jerry says that it just brings back so many bad memories that he has a hard time with it.  He gets really mad when he realizes how many men were lost as they were being used as bait.

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


I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the soldiers and airmen who participated in the battle of Firebase Illingworth on April 1st 1970.  I have you and especially the families and friends of the 25 men who contributed their lives to thank for 41 wonderful years.  Since that morning I have lived a very full and prosperous life.  My four adult children and my grand children have you to thank for their very existence.  I am completely convinced that without the bravery and unbelievable effort of the men who fought on Illingworth that night I would not be here today.

I have had the opportunity to thank some of you in person. I regret not making a greater effort to thank each and every one of you.  I especially regret not calling Cpt. Laidig at least one time while I had the opportunity.

 I can only imagine the sacrifices that the friends and families of those 25 men have made over the past 41 years.  Please say a special prayer of thanks by name for those  listed below, their families, friends and the others who struggled on Illingworth, I will.

 A Trp, 1st Sqdn, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR)
SGT Kenneth Ray Hodge, Johnson City, TN
CPL John Lee Smith, Millbrook, AL

A Btry, 2nd Bn, 32nd Artillery
SP4 David H. Lassen, Clarence, NY
SP4 Terry L. Schell, Chicago, IL

HHB, 2nd Bn, 32nd Artillery
SSG Lawrence E. Sutton, Portland, OR (Bronze Star “V”)

B Btry, 1st Bn, 77th Artillery
PFC Thomas R. Bowen, Forestville, CA
1LT Cleaveland F. Bridgman, South Dartmouth, MA (Silver Star)
SSG Benjamin V. Childress, Knoxville, TN
SGT Syriac Hebert, Pine Bluff, AR
SGT Robert H. Lane, Concord, TN

HHB, 1st Bn, 77th Artillery
SP4 Thomas J. Murphy, River Falls, WI
SSG Steven J. Williams, Portland, OR

A Co, 2nd Bn, 8th Cavalry
CPL Billy P. Carlisle, Pelahatchie, MS (Silver Star)

C Co, 2nd Bn, 8th Cavalry
CPL Leroy J. Fasching, Wibaux, MT

SGT Robert A. Hill, Lowell, OH
PFC Roger J. McInerny, Richfield, MN
CPL Michael R. Patterson, Dearborn, MI
SGT Gerald W. Purdon, Cincinnati, OH (Silver Star)
CPL Klaus D. Schlieben, Richmond, VA

E Co, 2nd Bn, 8th Cavalry
CPL Bobby L. Barker, Harvey, IL
CPL Nathan J. Mann, Warsaw, MO
SGT Brent A. Street, Inglewood, CA (Dist Svc Cross)
SGT Casey O. Waller, Cumberland, VA (Dist Svc Cross)

HHC, 2nd Bn, 8th Cavalry
SGT David G. Dragosavac, Meadville, PA
SGT Sidney E. Plattenburger, Charlotte, NC

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, John

John W. Ahearn
1111 Sparkman Drive
Boerne, TX 78006
Cell; (210)365-3713
Phone: (830)229-5352


April 9, 2011, Ed Collins finished his last battle here on earth and passed on to be with our God.

 Ed Collins was one of my heroes in this life. Ed was the man I told about loading on a chopper the morning after the battle on FSB Illingworth. Ed had been placed in a group that was to be loaded on one of the last choppers because no one thought anyone in that group could even live to get to the rear for treatment. I did not know Ed at that time. He was just a badly wounded man who needed help. When we approached the chopper with the stretcher carrying Ed, the door gunner waved us back and said they couldn’t take any more. We move back and put Ed down on the ground. I looked up and saw the door gunner waving for me to come up to the door. I went up and he said the pilot wanted to talk to me. I went up to the pilot and he told me to put rest of the wounded men on the chopper. I asked how he could carry all of them. He said it would be a while before another chopper got back to the site. He said to load them and then for everyone to pick up on his skids and run with the chopper as far as we could. We propped Ed up in the door gunner’s seat. Then after loading all the remaining wounded, we lifted on the skids and ran with the chopper until we could run no more. The chopper gained speed only feet from the ground and then lifted up at the tree line and made it out. For many years I wondered what happened to that man. I always thought that he probably died before he got to the med station.

 After I wrote about this in my article on FSB Illingworth, Ed contacted me and told me that he was the man that I wrote about. He and two of his daughters traveled to Ft. Sill, OK in 2010 for the memorial service for the soldiers who gave their lives on April 1, 1970, at FSB Illingworth and FSB Jay. When I saw Ed coming across the parking lot, I decided it had to be him. He walked straight up to me and said, “I believe you are Randall”. We hugged and cried and neither of us could believe that we had come together after our unfortunate, chance meeting 40 years before. Ed came to our E/2/8 reunion in Warm Spring, GA during October, 2010. He planned to attend our reunion in October of this year, but now we will have to wait a few years to see each other again.

 Ed Collins was my hero because, though he had much wrong with his body, he never complained, but rather, he chose to be positive about the life he had. During the battle on Illingworth, all the muscle was blown off the top of Ed’s arms and shoulders. The doctors redirected muscles to fix Ed where he could move his arms. Before our meeting in OK Ed was diagnosed with cancer and based on the time line given to him by his doctor, he should have already been dead. But Ed felt that God allowed him to live long enough to make it to the memorial service. Thankfully, God gave Ed a year beyond the memorial service to spend time with family and friends.

 Ed Collins was laid to rest with full military honors in Anderson, SC at M.J.”DOLLY’ COOPER VETERANS CEMETERY. My wife and I attended the funeral and were touched by the service.

 Posted by Randall at 4/29/2011 8:24 AM

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



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

 Paul D. McInerny

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

Thank you Paul,


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



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 Posted by Randall at 9/2/2009 12:39

Gabby Luna passed away December 1, 2009

Charles Rushing was laid to rest August 28, 2016



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

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

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

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


 Jack Morrison

77th Artillery.

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


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 .

 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, 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:   Denver, CO  New Castle, DE

 All links should begin with   // 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


The Virtual Wall.

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


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  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: Letters+Home-Vietnam+1968-1969. It is available in book for or for the Kindle.

 JULY 30, 1969


 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


 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


 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


 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


 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.


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