Leaving for Viet Nam
"His" story, as told by the troopers themselves, in their own words. Augmented by after action reports and other official documents.


By the time you get this mail it will be tomorrow 15Aug 02. Marks the day 33 long hot summers ago that I left home for the War.

Can never forget that day. It was a beautiful warm day, went to the airport for a 5pm flight to Ft. Lewis, remember that the last song I heard on my car radio on the way to the airport was "Kemosabey" by a group called The Electric Indian. It was my girlfriend's birthday.

Vivid in my memory is my mother crying and waving goodbye, reminding me to write to her, as if I needed reminding , also reminding me to say my prayers.

Irony of Ironies, that friday that I left was the opening day of the Biggest anti war concert in the History of Mankind, WOODSTOCK. While the last of the Flower Generation was going to the farm for that historic love in, I was going off to fight a war, not very popular at that. I thought of going AWOL in order to make the concert and chickened out at the end.

The Music from Woodstock is still popular today even 33 years later, "I wanna take you Higher" still gets to me and gets my blood pumping, Santana's "Soul Sacrifice" is still a masterpiece and of Course Cosby Still Nash and Young's "Judy blue eyes" is still an anthem around these parts. Who can forget Country Joe and the Fish singing "....Come on mothers, now's the time to send your son off to Viet Nam, be the first one on your block to bring your son home in a box..."

I did not think I would make it back home in one piece, so many of the guys in the block were messed up over there, Benjie was shot a couple of times at Khe San, Roger lost an arm to mortar round, Mike did not make it back at all.

All these years, having been 11B10, I have been very thankful of having been assigned to the 4/12 Cav. The oportunity to serve with some of the finest guys I have ever met I will always treasure.

The Day I left is a day I always remember in a special way, I came home a year later to continue with the plan..So many young guys our age did not, they also had that farewell and friends and parents waiting for them back home. We should never let the World forget that there once was a war in a little country far away that lasted longer than the Trojan War. WE should talk about it to the younger generation because they are already begining to forget.

Lets continue this wonderful friendship we have rekindled again over the net, lets all be at the Reunion and hug, and laugh, and drink, and tell lies, and war stories......"WE OWE IT TO OURSELVES"
Love you all,
See ya in a couple of months,

from Jersey
Your story of the day you left was very touching.I also can remember the day I left. It was June 1st 1969 at 4:30 AM. My Father was still on the couch recovering from a hangover and as I was leaving his last words to me were you'll be back. Well I guess he was right here I am. I do believe that the day I got in country I didn't think I would be returning, they told me I was going to be with the 5TH Inf and when I looked at the map they had set up I seen that it was all the way as far as you could go north and that's when I realized I was in VIETNAM. I really feel in my heart I couldn't have been with a better bunch of guys if I had hand picked them myself. I'd like to thank each and every one of you for your support and friendship while we were together. I hope that the brotherhood we had over there always remains with all of us forever.

from Jim Good
Going to Viet Nam? Seemed like a great adventure to me. I enlisted, and really would have been disappointed if I had gotten orders to go anywhere but Viet Nam. I wasn't especially patriotic, or gung ho, it just seemed to me like the thing that young guys ought to do. More or less a part of growing up. Our grandparent's generation fought in WW I, our parents in WW II, some of my schoolteachers and other middle-aged men in the community had been in the Korean War, and now it was my generation's turn. I suppose that in a way I thought I might be helping the South Vietnamese people maintain their freedom and way of life. In hindsight that doesn't seem to have been a realistic goal. You have to let some people fight their own wars, and decide their own fate.

At any rate, I learned of my orders to Viet Nam one afternoon in AIT. I think we were at a commo class. I seem to remember that we were on a break on the south side of that WW II vintage wooden barracks building that they used for commo classes at Fort Knox. One of the platoon sergeants called off a list of names and told us to gather around. He informed us that we had just come down on orders for Viet Nam. He was rather solemn and straight faced. I think that he was more upset to tell us that we were going, than we were to learn that we were being assigned to a combat zone. Hey, it was the fall of 1969, where did we think we were going? Disneyland? While we knew that some guys from most AIT classes got orders for Germany, Korea, or CONUS bases, the vast majority went to Viet Nam, so most of us would have been surprised to go anywhere else. We probably had two or three weeks left in AIT after learning of our assignment, and several of us also learned that we were to attend Sheridan tank school after AIT. Sheridan school was another 3 or 4 weeks I think, and more or less a "gentleman's course" after BCT & AIT. We still had the standard Army discipline to adhere to, but much less of the B. S. that they put us through in boot camp. Following the Sheridan school, we also had a week of "RVN Training" or specific preparation for duty in the Republic of Viet Nam. By the time we got to RVN training it was November at Fort Knox, and I recall that one day while practicing response to ambushes it started snowing. Not much accumulation, but enough to make the ground white. The absurdity of the moment caught us all. We were jumping off 2 _ ton trucks into the snow to practice avoiding a V. C. ambush. Of course, a few months later while sitting radio watch on a tank in the flat, white sand north of Cua Viet with the cold, damp air blowing in off the Gulf of Tonkin, it seemed like we really were in snow in Viet Nam.

One of my clearest memories of departing for Viet Nam was getting on the airplane in Kansas City to fly to California where I processed in through the Oakland Army Depot. I'd been on leave at home, and my mother and stepfather took me to the airport. That was back when airports were not highly secured fortresses, and friends and relatives could accompany you basically to the door of the airplane. At that time, Kansas City did not have the passageways that extend out from the terminal building to the door of the airplane. Rather you had to walk out on the ramp, and then go up a set of portable stairs to the airplane. My parents walked to the foot of the stairs and we said our good-bye's, and then I got on the plane. As it happened, my seat was on the left side of the airplane, and I had a window seat. As I looked out the window, my parents were still standing there waiting for a final glimpse of me, and my mother was crying. I was genuinely surprised to see her cry. My reaction was, "what's she crying for, I'm coming home." In hindsight I now know that it was only due to luck that I returned in one piece, rather than in a body bag, but at age 20 I suppose that I felt bulletproof.

I arrived in California the day before I had to report in to Oakland. I really can't remember if I had any specific plans for going a day early. Maybe I wanted to do some sight seeing. It could have been that we had to report in by a certain time of the day, and there may not have been any flights on the due date that would have gotten me there in time. When I got to San Francisco, I learned that there was to be a big concert at Altamonte Speedway that weekend. I think this was the Rolling Stones concert where they had Hell's Angles acting as security guards, and one of the attendees was killed by a security guard. I thought briefly about going to the concert and just reporting for duty a couple of days late, but decided that probably would cause a lot more trouble that it would have been worth.

The next day I reported in to the Oakland Army Base. I remember spending hours waiting in lines to have my personnel and finance records audited, to get my jungle fatigues issued, and to do whatever other nonsense the Army figured that was needed prior to shipping out. I spent one night there in a fairly nice, but large and crowded barracks area. The next day was more hurry up and wait until enough of us to fill a chartered DC-8 were collected together and moved to a temporary holding area. There were cots in the holding area, but not much else for comfort or entertainment. While sitting there, several busses brought in a group of guys who had just arrived from Viet Nam after completing their tour. They were going through the reverse process of getting Class A uniforms, and doing whatever else was necessary before being sent home on leave, or being discharged. The group of veterans looked thin, dirty, and haggard. They tried to cheer us up by saying things like "you'll be sorry" or "run now while you can." At any rate, sometime after midnight we boarded busses for Travis AFB where we boarded our MAC charter aircraft. A real no frills flight, but at least it was a civilian airliner, rather than a C-130 or something like that. We made a scheduled fuel stop in Hawaii, where we all got to leave the airplane for an hour or so while they refueled the plane, cleaned it, and changed airline crews. That was my one and only visit to Hawaii. Then we took off for the Philippines, however strong headwinds forced us to make an extra fuel stop in Guam. Again we got a chance to get off the plane, stretch our legs, and partake of the gourmet luxury of the PX snack bar at the air base passenger terminal. Then we went on to the Philippines, where I saw my first glimpse of Asian jungle. While on the final approach to Anderson AFB in the Philippines, I saw farmers plowing fields with water buffaloes pulling a wooden plow. I figured that I'd be seeing a lot more sights like that in the following months, and of course I did.

The flight from the Philippines to Bien Hoa AFB, Viet Nam was probably the shortest leg of the trip, and it was about midnight when we landed. I have no idea how long the trip took, between the fuel stops, crossing the international date line, and everything else it had probably been about 24 hours since we left California, give or take a day or two. We seemed to circle at a relatively low altitude for a while before landing, and finally the pilot came on the intercom and announced that it had taken longer than usual to get the artillery shut down across our approach path, but that we would be landing soon. When we got on the ground, an Air Force sergeant, with a pistol on his hip, boarded the flight, and said welcome to Viet Nam. He then told us to move quickly from the airplane to a covered area about 100 meters away. He then told us where to go to find bunkers if we started getting incoming fire while gathering there. Nice thought. "Welcome to Viet Nam, TAKE COVER!" Fortunately, we didn't get any incoming that night, however a couple of days later after completing the in-processing at Long Bin, the air base did get a couple of rockets while I was waiting for the flight to Quang Tri.

One of my memories of the short time that we spent in the Repo Depot in Viet Nam was when I went to the latrine the first morning to shower and shave. There were a couple of Viet Namese cleaning ladies there who were sweeping and mopping the place while naked GI's were taking a shower. It didn't seem to bother either the showering soldiers, or the women who went about their task like it was the most normal thing in the world to be mopping a shower building while it was in use by members of the opposite sex. Oh well, there was a war going on, so I suppose things just operated differently. Toto, we were not in Kansas anymore.
Jim Good

from Bob Taylor
I received my orders for Vietnam while I was at Ft. Benning. I was sent to NCOC School after my AIT training at Ft. Ord in the early spring of 1969. The school was one of those things that you volunteered for but later regretted it. I asked to be transferred out of the school, however, the captain said " there are two ways out of this school, to graduate or to get kicked out." So after about 6 weeks, I purposely flunked enough tests and didn't shine my boots bright enough and was "kicked out." The army gave me thirty days to report to Ft Lewis so I went up to Ft Meade, Maryland to visit my brother. He was a Sheridan mechanic in F troop, in the cav unit stationed there. After a few nights going to the bars and seeing some stock car racing, I went home to Arizona.

The day I left Phoenix, my mom, dad and some other friends watched me board the plane and head off to Ft Lewis. I don't remember too much about the processing. The only thing that I do remember that it was cold and raining. We were driven to McChord AFB to board a C141 Starlifter for transport to Vietnam. The plane was held up on the runway for sometime because we were told that a jet had crashed. We took off and flew to Elmendorf AFB in Alaska. I remember seeing Mt. McKinley in all its glory. We than proceeded to Yakota AFB in Japan. The flight was really smooth on board that C141. The steward was some air force sergeant who passed out TV dinners on the flight. The plane had no windows, only a few port holes.

We finally arrived at Cam Rahn Bay and spent a few days doing odd chores while waiting for our orders. I remember standing there in formation watching the other soldiers get their orders and move to a large billboard map of the country. They would locate their division and at that time probably realize that things may get tough. I finally was called and did the same thing. I walked to the map and started looking for the 5th division. I found it at the last place I looked because it was all the way at the top of the map. So off I went to DaNang, Quang Tri and finally to LZ Nancy and the 4/12th. In my letters to home I wrote that it was July 4th, 1969.

from Keith Eaton
Hey Guys,
My memory is quite shakey re: my trip over the pond. I got my orders in early May 1969 while I was stationed at West Point N.Y. I got 30 days leave and went home only to find my girlfriend going out with some new bozo. Don't remember much about the leave or the trip to LA. I think I boarded a Braniff Airplane in LA for the trip over. Our first stop was in Hawaii the let us off the plane but would not allow us to move out of the boarding area. My first trip to the islands and all I saw was concrete,glass and steel. From there we flew to Manila we were all ready to get off the plane after that leg of the flight but once off the plane we wanted back on it was so hot and muggy that you didn't need to move to sweat. We then flew into Cam Ran Bay. We were kind of lucky on the trip over I sat in the last row of seats by the rear galley and helped the stew's with meals and snacks. That was nice because in the slow times we played cards and talked. One of the stew's was from Texas and really nice she took my name and would you beleive she sent me one of the most bodacious care packages I ever received. Canned fruit, cookies, books. She must have cleaned out her apartment there was soo much stuff. My one regret is that when I sent a thank you to here it was returned as undeliverable. I hope she knows that she really eased the trip over and one young guys mind.

At Cam Ran repo station I lucked out and the Spec 4 making the assignments was from Ohio. He told me at that time there were 3 openings for RTO's 2 in Leg units and one in the Cav.

We all filled up a C-130 and after about 6 combat takeoffs and landings I finally made it to Quang Tri in the middle of a raging storm. I can't remember who picked me up at the airport but I remember the wet ride down to LZ Nancy.
Well Got to go, Take Care 30 Out

After the last few days and reading the events of others, I have racked my brain trying to remember the trip across the ocean and I can't remember any of it. All I remember is sitting in the big warehouse with a million others at Oakland army base that’s all. Charles Russell
I sure remember the stench when we landed and they opened the cabin door. We arrived around 6:00 Pm. I remember them putting us on buses that had metal grates along the windows and some guy asked why because he couldn't see out to well and when the driver told him it was to keep grenades and explosives from getting, the poor guy about passed out. He never said another word the whole trip. Joe Byrne

Coming over we flew a charter on Seaboard World Airlines.. We left from McCord in Washington to Hawaii. They let us off for forty minutes, then on to Guam. I remember seeing the B52s and B47s, their wingtips almost touching the concrete. We landed at Cam Rahn Bay about 11PM, and it was 99 degrees and 99% humidity. That and the stench hit you like a punch in the face. The next night they gave the 11B's M14s to walk guard duty.

I flew to Nam with a friend of mine, Bill Stimson. He and I grew up in the same town, we played LL baseball together, went to HS together, Basic and AIT at Ft. Ord in the same platoon. When we got our orders at Cam Rahn we went to that big map that showed where all the divisions were in country. Bill went all the way south to the Delta with the 9th Div. Neither of us had heard of the 5th, so it took a minute to find it at the DMZ. I saw him once after we both got home. He was in some serious shit over there. Bill died of alcoholism at age 35. In my opinion he was about as much a casualty of the war as anyone else. James Clark

I can remember silly bits......I remember getting my fatigues in Calf., a huge stuffed bear in Alaska, the terminal in Japan, and the red dirt when we landed. I remember getting a GI version of a Dairy Queen and it tasting like plastic. I remember a skinny black dog with six inches of worm hanging out his backside, and the one that I have laughed at my self over; the beautiful white flowers covering a small green hill side on a village edge. Viewed from the road it was very pretty, for a privy. Bob R