Arrived in Vietnam in September of 1969. My journey there began in August of ’68 as I joined the Army after graduating from high school. Reception Station tests found me qualified to attend Officer Candidate School. So, on my 19th birthday in February of 1969 I joined Class 15-69 of the Field Artillery OCS. Twenty-three weeks later I was commissioned a Second Lieutenant. After two weeks of Jungle School in the Panama Canal Zone and 30 days leave was headed to my first duty assignment – Vietnam.
Was assigned to 5th Battalion 4th Artillery which was part of 1st Brigade 5th Mechanized Infantry Division. The Brigade was headquartered at Quang Tri in the northern most portion of (I Corp) Vietnam. First assignment was to be the forward observer for D Company 1st Battalion 11th Infantry. Although a “mechanized” brigade, D1/11 was a straight leg unit which operated in several areas in the vicinity of Dong Ha, Con Thien and Quang Tri. Received on the job training in hiking; digging foxholes; cooking C-rations; and adjusting artillery fire in support of the Company’s ambushes; search & clear; and, perimeter security missions. November of ’69 was memorable as D1/11 and other units of the Brigade contacted the NVA’s 27th Regiment. After a 3 day battle, The NVA regiment was forced to retreat into Laos. During this time D1/11’s commander, Captain Stan Blunt was awarded the DSC a decoration that was well deserved. In early 1970 was transferred to B1/11 to serve as their forward observer. As my time with B1/11 was coming to an end during a search & clear mission west of Quang Tri, I was wounded by an IED. After a brief visit to the Evac Hospital, was assigned to C Battery of 5/4 Artillery as a Fire Direction Officer (FDO). C Battery’s home was Fire Support Base C-2 just south of the DMZ and Con Thien though we did participate in several operations that saw us leave the relative security of C-2 for improvised positions in the field. C Battery was equipped with self-propelled 155mm howitzers (M109). The howitzers look like tanks, but the enclosed cabs were designed to protect the gun crew from nuclear fallout (but not bullets). After sleeping on the ground; eating C-rations; enduring the elements; and NVA, C-2 was pretty cushy with bunkers to live in; cots to sleep on; and a mess hall with real food to eat at. As one of the 2 FDO’s I worked a 12 hour “shift” supervising the calculation of firing data for the battery’s 6 M109’s; communicating with various forward observers during firing missions; and communicating with the battalion’s fire direction center as they assigned the battery’s firing missions. Each day (or night) was almost a carbon copy of the last.
September of 1970 found me back in Texas with less than a year left in the Army before becoming a civilian college student.
The things I remember best about Vietnam are:
- The sameness of each day whether with the infantry or at C-2 with the firing battery.
- Actually seeing the NVA at a distance through binoculars; in the flickering light of an illumination round; or running away during a fire fight.
- ARC-LIGHT Strikes (B-52 air strikes). The earth would shake for miles! And, 500lb bombs make big holes in the ground.
- The firepower employed; whether artillery, helicopter gunships or air strikes.
- The people I served with who were willing to get the job done whether they wanted to be there or not!