I've mentioned this to a couple of you before, but it's worth another mention to satisfy curiosity. What sounds or smells in particular remind you of your time in
A helicopter overhead still gives me the creeps, even though all the choppers were ours! And there's a damned air raid siren in the middle of my town which goes off at noon - three days ago I made the mistake of coming out of the library right near by just at 12 noon, off went that damn siren. I was at
The smell of diesel fuel reminds me, and most especially the chemical that used to be in OFF! insect repellant until (apparently) the formula got changed. Same chemical we had in bug juice, reminded me strongly of nights on watch every time I smelled it. For that matter, peaceful nights with few lights cause me to scan around without thinking, guess I'm looking for somebody trying to creep up on my position. We all had those kinda nights back then!
As to tunes: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was like a "theme song" (thanks 1st Platoon!), Joe Cocker's cover of "With a Little Help From My Friends" was something I played often in base camp, and when I got back to the World "Spirit in the Sky" was playing. Just a few of my fav old tunes!
How about for you guys?
Choppers sound good to me...real good. So does a chainsaw....all that's missing is the solid ribbon of red tracers coming from the sky.
The Doors...Jimi Hendrix...Cream....The Beatles White Album....to name some of my favorites. We don't listen to them much at all anymore though ): But I have VERY fond memories.
Smells...of course, diesel fumes. I like that. Seedy truck stop restrooms with the smell of raw diesel fuel tracked in strike up less pleasant olfactory recall however. Wet leaves and damp loam bring the smells of laying on ambush back....as does a rain in the summer woods.
Let us not forget smokeless powder (?cordite?)...that smell...the sound of choppers....with a cut from the Fresh Cream album playing in the back ground...............
This has me thinking more about this than I have in years. How about hot motor oil...remember dumping it on our M60s to cool the barrel? 50 cals too. I remember it getting so hot it just flashed. Not good. Then you REALLY stood out, and by then, the barrel was shot out anyway.
Any damp, musty smelling clothing or bedding. Seems like nothing dried out for months! Smells....hmmm....burnt toast. Not everyone would know that one though (: Damn but it's been a looooong time.
I live in the Midwest (black dirt) so when we visit the south with areas of red soil I always think of the raw red firebases ripped from the top of a hill.
How about food. Fruit cocktail? Round salad crackers? Cheap peanut butter? BLACKBERRY JAM? Canned baby lima beans?
And don't forget the paper towels in a bundle setting on the sink in that truck stop restroom I mentioned...remember the smaller version with 3 or 4 sheets? You'll need them after you eat.
Amen to all the sounds and smells you guys listed.
I agree with what you guys are saying and MAN are there similarities. I understand when you say all else
pales...it does. I don't know about that post
Damn, for somebody who says they don't know or care, you sure said a mouthful. You are 100% correct when you say we got a taste of it all. I went to
I was a sergeant by now and we were in LZ Sharon one night for just an over-nighter. We all got cocked and decided to borrow a jeep to get back to our location on the perimeter. We get caught and they lock a bunch of us up. They get a hold of old man Robinson, he's at the Officers Club and really hammered, and he comes down to get us out. The officer of the day was a Capt. Luce. The old man always wore Cavalry crests on his collar and in the dark this Capt Luce thinks the old man is a Major. Robinson keeps calling this guy Capt Louse and is jumping all over this guy's rear end. Robinson says that he ain't about to leave in the morning without us because we are all good men and he needed us. He finally bs's us out of jail and promises this Luce that he will bust me because I was the ranking guy in the jeep we borrowed. We get back from the mission about a week later and the old man calls me in and tells me I'm too good a soldier to be sent back to the states less than a sergeant so he never did anything to me, except I think he got me a beer that night.
One day we were set up as a blocking force for some unit that was doing a sweep. We were to stay in this one position all day long. I got bored and made a bolo out of a pair of socks, some dirt, and a length of cord I had around. The area was flat and there were no targets to practice throwing this bolo at except the antenna on the tank so I used it as a target. I got pretty good at hitting the antenna over the course of the day. Late in the afternoon a Vietnamese kid comes by us driving a couple of water buffalo with a stick. I think the buffalo is a perfect target for my new bolo so I grab it up and start running towards the buffalo swinging this bolo and taking careful aim at one of them. When I release the bolo it comes out of my hand before I intend it to. Had I been aiming at the kid I couldn't have made a better shot. The bolo opened up and the string hit him in the chest. The two socks full of dirt wrapped around him a couple of time and both hit him in the chest. The kid went down like a load of bricks. Boy I felt bad that day. The kidwasn't hurt badly and was happy to be bought off with C-rations. Probably joined the Vietcong the next day.
I think "Bastards of the DMZ" fits the
description of the troop very accurately. When we got a stand down day a lot of
the time we didn't even get to got to our base camp. We had the pleasure of
going to someone else's and got to watch them eat hot chow and shower while we
ate C-rats and stunk. The one thing I thought they did a pretty good job on was
keeping us in beer and ice. On A17
I remember the first time we sat up with straight leg infantry (1/11?). It was late afternoon and we had just finished our C-ration dinner and we had some odds and ends of stuff that none on A17 would eat (even the gooks would throw some of that stuff back at you), so I threw it off the side of the tank. These grunts looked at that stuff and then at me and ask "you throwing that away? Mind if we have it?" I felt bad for them...2 beers 1 little piece of ice, starving to death. I let them have the garbage and swapped ice-cold beer out of our cooler for their hot beer. We struck up a conversation and I told the I was sure glad I had my job VS theirs. To my surprise one of these guys says he wouldn't trade jobs with me on a bet. So now I'm thinking this guy has sunstroke for sure or he's so malnourished it's affecting thought process. I had to ask him why he wouldn't trade flat footing for riding with cold beer and more C-rats than he could eat. He said when the shooting starts my ass will be below ground and you guys will be a very big target with no place to go. Guess it depends on your perspective.
I never felt that I was nothing but a good soldier. I served with the greatest
group of men one could ever ask for. In Ken Dye I had a true born leader that
not only knew his shit but truely cared for us guys
as his brother. I would have followed this guy to the end of the earth and
would never question anything he told me. In Lucky Lou, our driver,we had the best damn guy to ever handle the steering
sticks of an APC. This guy could drive the shit out of anything with or without
wheels. Not only could he drive, He was the luckiest SOB I ever met. I knew as
long a Lou was driving I was safer than being home on the expressway. As for
the reat of the guys I pounded ground with, well I
could never say enough to do them justice. Sniper Tom, Paul Schiano,
Preacher, Dan Lohman, Kerry Pebble, Frank Long, Rat Gilcreast, Clarkie, Al Hall and
any other trooper that I pulled Ambush with were some of the best soldiers the
USA ever produced. It was an honor and a privilege to have served with these
guys and I would still to this day trust my life and the lives of my family
with anyone of these great Americans.
I just had a question about an incident that has haunted me since I returned. This has nothing to do with Smith. I witnessed a terrible incident when I was in country not long and it has been with me ever since. I think it was out behind Nancy or Sharon, not really sure. I was riding a PC and kinda riding shotgun on the side deck, right behind the drivers hatch. Mostly to hang on to the TC cupola. Or maybe the wind was blowing the exhaust smoke further back and gassing me? We followed a river and then left it and crossed this big field, kinda roly-poly. As we entered the field I noticed a couple of Viet civilians. Man in his 40's and young girl possibly in her teens or maybe younger. I could never tell the age of those people. Any way's they were walking toward our column which was following an old tank trail, traveling at about 15 maybe 20 MPH. As the PC I occupied approached them (the civilians) it had caught up a roll of concertina wire, somehow that wire was already rolled out on the ground or maybe it had fallen from the PC, I don't know. But it ended up extended out a hundred feet or so, as long as a roll of concertina was ? I don't remember. IT had become entangled in the rear sprocket or one of the idler wheels on the side opposite me and the driver. It turned at the same RPM as the wheel it was attached to, and was whipping the ground to our right rear. Just about the time I had noticed it sticking out rolling along and flailing the ground as it bounced 2 or 3 feet above the ground. It was picking up grass and sticks and spinning them into the air. The whole thing was surreal to me at the time, you know how you see something happening and you can't do anything about it, and you know the results are going to be catastrophic? My head turned forward to gauge how far away the ole man and little girl were away, and to see if they might escape the impending danger. I saw the ole man yell something to the girl, and then I saw him jump over the jagged razor wire leaving the girl to fend for herself. The poor child was immediately caught by the flailing wire and wrapped in a tight cocoon of sharpened steel. Kind of like those Mexican finger trap things. This whole thing happened in a matter of seconds, and I sat, either on my butt or was stooping-squatting on the deck or near the TC cupola, behind the driver. I reacted as fast as I could, without thinking almost; I extended my right leg and kicked the driver square in the back of his head. That was the first thing that came to my mind. I really didn't have any time to do anything else. Well. as you can expect the driver, threw out the anchor and we just about did an endo by the time we stopped. You remember how the suspension was on those PC's when you stood on the brakes. As the vehicle rocking back forward following the initial stop I was practically running off the plywood cow-catcher or shield located on the slopped front of the of the old PC's. I made tracks over to the place where the girl lies in her cocoon bleeding profusely. I tell you, It made me sick! I thought she might be dead meat, but I think she survived! At least as long as she lay there, waiting for us to cut her out. An other vehicle must have witnessed the whole incident transpire, maybe several others. I remember others ran up with their wire cutters as she wailed and began cutting her out. I still remember that I had thought it was really quite a fast response from the guys who had to locate their wire cutters rolling around in the bottom of their vehicles and beat feet over to the scene of the accident. But it seemed to take a long time to cut her out. As soon as my driver had been able to free himself from his CBC helmet and secure the vehicle he came looking for me, with blood in his eye. I found myself trying to explain my kicking him in the head with vigor and haste. I remember he still hadn't grasped what had happened, as he ran up to me. I really thought I was going to get my ass kicked, but he finally understood my dilemma and spared me. I remember the ole man came up and was greatly concerned for the girl I assumed at the time, was his daughter or granddaughter. It seemed like forever till the dust-off arrived, and when it did they had to take the ole man too (I think). Maybe she was so young she couldn't communicate with the medical people or that was their concern. Anyway, I think they did take him on the same Huey. I never saw either again. I have always wondered how that turned out. I can see the whole experience in my minds eye even today. I remember being really angry at the ole man for jumping and leaving her. But in retrospect maybe that's all he could do. And I think they would have both been better off if they had laid down and put their faces in the dirt? Who Knows? Like that picture of the little Viet teenage girl shone on the cover of Life magazine, Naked, screaming, burning with napalm. How could anyone forget?
I believe we all did our best, but I always wondered if maybe I could have had a better sense of what was about to happen, and done more to avoid it. I think the driver was Jim Mann. Or someone with about his general build. I have no idea who the others were, guess might be, SS maybe PR? I just don't remember. Do you have any recollection of this incident and who the missing faces might be? I would be interesting to find out who they were and also about how they remember that day? Sorry to burden you with the gory details, thought you might remember? Anyway that's all for today. That's enough, right! Wild Bill Dodds `Peace Bro.'
Bill, That is one awful incident to have witnessed. Nothing else the old guy could have done but yell and jump. Give him the benefit. Nothing better for you to do but make the driver stop, however you could. You did. Give yourself the benefit. I have no further info, wasn't there, never heard of it. Keep in mind, though, however sorry that incident was, you did what you could. Violent times, bad things went down. That's the nature of life-and-death struggles involving a lot of force. The thing is, you were there, you dealt with it as best you could, better than an SOB who didn't give a shit and just thought, "Oh, lookit that, poor gook kid caught in the wire." Better for her that you were there and not somebody who had no heart and didn't give a damn. Don't put too much weight on that pic of the little naked girl on the magazine cover. There was a story behind that photo op, too bad I don't remember it anymore, could be researched, but the situation was not what it supposedly depicted. Ditto that photo of the vietnamese officer blowing the brains out of a VC. There's a story there. You never know when what you see in the press is propaganda of some sort or another. But you have a pic in your brain, and you know how you personally reacted, and nobody but you, Bill, can pass judgment on your actions. Looks clean to me - if that young lady still walks the earth, and she knew the whole story, she might even thank you. Think of it - you were called upon to do something or not - was it not good that it was you who had the responsibility? LTF
Great note. I know exactly how you feel. As an NCO my biggest fear was to have someone under my command get hurt or killed. I spent many a sleepless night wondering if I was a good enough leader to keep my people safe and out of harms way. I was very lucky to have been assigned to a unit that was very well trained and had some of the brightest and best leaders a soldier could ask for. Ken Dye trained us all well and we operated as a fine tuned machine. About a year ago I called Don Barnes and the first thing he said to me was Thank you for training him so well as he felt that is what kept him alive in Nam even after I left. Now that is the ultimate compliment any soldier could ever give to another soldier. I told Don it wasn't me that should get the credit as he was smart enough to listen and learn and that is what saved his life, not me. Rag
I can honestly say that back in 1968 Vietnam was not
a very important part of my life, I feel that the two above commo
net messages reflect the feelings of many of the Troopers who were responsible
for the safety and welfare of other Troopers; at times you had to be a real
pain in the ass, at times you had to face your limitations, and at times you
had to know when to look the other direction. Now, 30+ years later I think this
also plays a part with these very same Troopers attending or not attending the
Reunions; living down or living up to your past.
The reunions have been, and will continue to be events that I truly look forward to so that I can be with a group of true American Heros that mean so much to me. I was deeply honored,personally, when my wife and daughters attended the last one in DC. Up to that point they knew very little about what we did over there. They simply knew that it had an enormous effect on my life. Talking to other Troopers and their families, helped them understand why and how some relatively normal everyday things and events have the effect on me that they do.. Guess they feel the ole man isn't as weird as they thought ! EARL 40 Any trooper reading this who has not been able to attend our reunions should really give serious consideration to doing so. Not so much for the war stories but for the opportunity to be with the guys who been there, did that, the same as they did. The experience is priceless ! I know from personal experience that family members who attend, that they feel the same way. Wally, the rain will end soon, but the memories will not. EARL 40
"For my own part, I had been a volunteer, enlisting the day after high school graduation, and then a couple of years later going to West Point on an enlisted man's competitive appointment. So, I never really felt griped about being in the 'Nam. (Felt as though I had taken the King's coin and elected to wear His uniform, so it would be hypocritical of me to bitch about doing His bidding, you know?) However, one of my strongest reactions to VN was an abiding anger at a Congress and a country that would not let the boys from Yale or Princeton or similar such stations have the same "opportunities" as the boys from Appalachian coalfields, Harlem, blue collar families (such as my own background). I never figured out if I made a horse's rear end of myself as a platoon leader or a company commander...I always tried to do honorable justice to meeting the needs of the military organization and its mission, but with an overriding sense of not wanting to put my fellow troopers in harm's way for what seemed like an obviously unsupported and restrictively prosecuted war effort. (Maybe I didn't serve either very well that way, but what was it Cronkite used to say?..."And that's the way it is, folks" ??) " Thanks, Hank [Henry, "Hank" Gregor, was a platoon leader in the 1st platoon, 1969-1970]
Rag you mean there were non-dopers? As I recall everyone either drank or smoked or both. On Barrows tank only 3 of us drank beer and we drank about 4 cases a day...couldn't handle the Fresca or the "potable" water. And they say firearms and alcohol don't mix. Seems to me I saw you with a beer in your hand more often than not. Malan
That must have been my evil twin. I was always a juice freak as they used to say and still like my beer today. There was no pot on A15. We all drank and most of us smoked, but no dope. Lou Dossey, God rest his soul, and Ray Peterson were the two big potheads that I remember. After most of the advanced party guys left I ended up TC on A14 and of course still pulled a lot of ambushes at night. The lucky thing was that I usually got to pick whom I wanted to go out with me and I had some favorites. Kid was always with me cause he could tote an M60 like it was a bb gun. Mike was, and still is, a good man. He was a quick learner and he never questioned any decision I made. Sniper Tom was another of my favorites. He was with us on A15 and knew his shit. Besides if something happened to me I knew Tom could get the guys out alive. I was trained by the best, Ken Dye, and I wanted guys as good as the old A15 group with me. I was getting short then and I always figured if I was going to get killed I should have done it when I first got there, not at the end of my tour. Rag
I think about the Cav every time I see the movie Platoon...hit base camp and the juice freaks went one way and the heads went the other. I think everyone had their own way of dealing with the stress...some smoked...some drank...and some shot themselves to get out of the field or went "crazy" and were sent back to base camp for duty. Took some balls to face the shit we did everyday. Jerry
I guess you're right. Everyone handles stress differently. It sure was crazy. When you first get there you don't know anything and your scared shitless. After your there for a while you keep hoping your luck doesn't run out and things become a routine. Then you finally make it to a Two Diggit Midget and your scared shitless again because you know too much and you know your number could be up at anytime. Didn't do much drinking in the field, as I wanted to be ready if the shit hit the fan, not to mention we didn't get many supplies in the field anyway, but I made up for it when we hit base camp. Rag