crestshield.bmp (98000 bytes)

1st 50th Infantry Association

crestshield.bmp (98000 bytes)

SUBMIT YOUR STORY!



Return to the Home Page

1/50 Infantry KIA

Newsletters

G-rated Fun and Games

Unit History

Maps & Photographs

Assoc. Reunion

Message Board

Contact the Association

Member's E-mail List

Post Exchange

Association Constitution

Application

Links to recommended sites

1st Battalion, 50th Infantry War Stories!


Our recollections...The War in Vietnam as we experienced it.

Site Map

Vietnam Timeline

50th Infantry Heraldry

50th Infantry LRRPs

50th Infantry Rifle Security

50th Infantry LRRPs

50th Infantry Rifle Security

Document Archives

Vietnam Battles

Vietnam Lessons Learned

War Stories

Vietnam Era MOS Codes

Glossary of Vietnam Terms

Maps

1st BN, 50th INFANTRY WAR STORY INDEX

1. The S4's Cookbook! Jim Hobbs & Ray Sarlin 42. Snakes I: A Bridge Too Far! Ray Sarlin
2. The Lumberjack Saga! Jim Hobbs 43. Snakes II: A Cobra Encounter in Vietnam! Curtis E. Harper
3. It's too easy, must be a trap! Jim Hobbs 44. The Battle of LZ Betty, 3 May 1970 Ray Sarlin (Editor)
4. Look Before you Leap! Dave Parker 45. Walking Point! William Moore
5. The Day it Snowed in Vietnam! Jim Schueckler 46. Snakes III: 100% Alert and Then Some! Ray Sarlin
6. What a miss-stake! Talmadge Cain 47. Snakes IV: Virtual Reality!
Ray Sarlin
7. A Bridge Too Far! Ray Sarlin 48. Snakes V: The Ghost Who Walks! Ray Sarlin
8. Medical Rounds! Mark Hannan 49. A Name on the Wall! William Moore
9. Bong Son Tea! Ken Riley 50. Off the Beaten Path! Ray Sarlin
10. Welcome Home, GI! Anonymous 51. Medics to the Rescue! Rigo Ordaz
11. Biting off more than she can chew! Ray Sarlin 52. COMUSMACV! Richard Guthrie
12. A 173rd Airborne Jungle School Legend! Ray Sarlin 53. I'll Always Remember!  Jan Byron  
13. Boom Boom I: TBD (Tree Blow Down)! Ray Sarlin 54. Mail Call - Reconnecting after many years Jan Knutson Stone 
14. Boom Boom II: The Indestructible Bunker! Ray Sarlin 55. Phil's Birthday  Jan Knutson Stone  
15. Boom Boom III: The Big Bang Theory! Ray Sarlin 56. Discerning the Tiger! Rick and Frenchy 
16. Cordon Blue! Ray Sarlin 57. I am the Infantry! Follow Me!  Author Unknown 
17. A Good Soldier! Ray Sarlin 58. The "Leprechaun!" - Quad 50 on an APC!  Ray Sarlin, et al 
18. The Battle of Tam Quan! Rigo Ordaz 59. One Step from My Grave!  Ray Sarlin  
19. Buffaloed Soldiers 1. Ambushed! Ray Sarlin 60. Legacy of the Phu My Officers Club! Ray Sarlin
20. Buffaloed II. The Running of the Bulls! Ray Sarlin 61. Memories of 5 May 1968 (The Battle of An Bao) Bob Bihari
21. Battle of Song Mao, April Fool's Day 1970? Ray Sarlin (Editor) 62. GIs...."STAY OUT!" Darwin Stamper
22. Howie Pontuck! Richard Guthrie 63. First Casualty - A Night Remembered Jim Sheppard
23. Be it ever so humble, no place like. Uplift!! Richard Guthrie 64. 5 May 1968 Jim Fitzgerald
24. Downs! Richard Guthrie 65. 5 May 1968 - Tarlon Mobley, "C" Co., 3/503rd Tarlon Mobley
25. Alchemical Warfare I: Fast Food! Ray Sarlin 66. The "E.M." Club! Bob O'Connor, Brooklyn!
26. Alchemical Warfare II: Trust! Ray Sarlin 67. An Bao Platoon Leader Returns to Binh Dinh Harry Wilson
27. Night Laager Position! Richard Guthrie 68. Remembering James Morrissey Howard Goldstein
28. The Many Myths of Inequality!
Ray Sarlin 69. SRAP Ambush! March 21, 1969 Rick Rajner
29. Mech Operations in Nam!
Mike Chisam 70. A VERY Long night with SRAP Rick Hambley
30. Starting with a Bang! Richard Hooker 71. Ambush at An Lac Rick Rajner
31. Halloween Fire Fight, 1967 Jim Sheppard 72. The Toilet Bowl Bob Page
32. SRAP: In the Beginning John Smerdon 73. Patrol Base Carol Rick Rajner
33. Steel Pot I: Tough Love! Richard Guthrie 74. Getting Bombed on my 21st Birthday! Rick Rajner
34. Steel Pot II: True Love! Dan Schlecht 75. Donny Stephenson's "Homecoming" - 1968 Paul Cross
35. Company B's own Tunnel Rat! Richard Guthrie 76. 50th Infantry's last KIA   Ron Leraas
36. Your Worst Nightmare! Mike Chisam 77. Movement! Reynolds Williams
37. General for a Day! Rigo Ordaz 78. An Bao Squad Leader Wendell Barnes
38. Thanksgiving Truce, 1967! Richard Guthrie 79. This space reserved for YOUR Story! Write it now! Submit Story Here!
39. The Sixth Man! Rigo Ordaz 80. This space reserved for YOUR Story! Write it now! Submit Story Here!
40. Formation of the Scout/Recon Platoon! Rigo Ordaz 81. This space reserved for YOUR Story! Write it now! Submit Story Here!
41. Scouts Out to AO Walker! Rigo Ordaz 82. This space reserved for YOUR Story! Write it now! Submit Story Here!

1st BN, 50th INFANTRY WAR STORY INTRODUCTIONS

Phil's Birthday - Old friends gather and reflect

©Jan Knutson Stone, Key West, Florida

In the final segment of what has become Jan's Trilogy of a Vietnam R&R Experience...we move to Christmas, 2006, where Jan is visited by her former friend in Key West, Florida. This story mixes flashbacks to flip-flop the reader between Vietnam in 1967 and The US in 2006.

CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Mail Call: The Power of Words

©Jan Knutson Stone, Key West, Florida

Jan approached your Historian in 2006 about possibly adding to her original R&R Page offering ("I'll Always Remember") with a subsequent story. After some minor editing, this and a third story were submitted for use on our R&R and War Stories pages. In this second of the three stories, Jan describes reconnecting after many years. Although the names will vary throughout the three offerings, all the stories are based on Jan's true experiences. I had the chance in Late April of 2011 to have lunch with Jan and her Husband Tom Stone at an old high school classmate's Key West Restaurant. Jan's life was strongly affected by her experiences working in Australia's King's Cross area many years ago. It was wonderful meeting this charming couple... and... meeting the girl in these well-written stories!

CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

A Squad Leader's Account of the Battle of An Bao

©Former SGT Wendell Barnes, "A Company, 1st Platoon, 1st Squad Leader, 1967-68 2010.

Each of our accounts of the Battle of An Bao paints more on the canvas of one of our most horrific battles in 1968. Here Wendell Barnes describes the battle from his perspective...trapped at the Rice Paddle Dike with LT Webb as the enemy began to pick them off one by one! The lifesaving arrival of Charlie Company literally saved the day for these men surrounded at An Bao!

CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

There's Movement by the Shitter!

© Reynolds "Tennessee" Williams, "B Company, 4th Platoon, 1968-69 - 2010.

Reynolds Williams experiences first night excitement of a very unusual nature!

CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

The 50th Infantry's Last Vietnam KIA

© Ron Leraas, Charlie Company 2nd Platoon Leader and Company XO, 1970. - 2010.

Jim Sheppard submitted his recollections about the action where the Battalion suffered its first casualty (See "First Casualty - A Night Remembered"). I thought it appropriate that the bookends should be completed by writing about the last action, which left Sgt Gary Cokely KIA and SP4 JR Dacus, PFC Jim Vonesh, and I as WIA. This story is from my perspective as the Platoon Leader, as I remember it; if there are errors, they are errors of omission, which can only be corrected by retrieving the memories of other key players.

CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Donny Stephenson's "Homecoming", 1968.

© Paul Cross, Stephenson Family Friend - 2010.

Paul Cross was our "A" Company's Donny Stephenson's best friend. In this well written story, Paul describes what it was like to be informed of our man's death back on the home front....and provides insight into the days that followed, including Don's burial.

CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Getting Bombed on my 21st birthday!

© Rick Rajner, Short Range Ambush Platoon, All rights reserved - 2009.

"When I volunteered for duty with the Short Range Ambush Platoon (SRAP) on 10 February 1969, my final day of in-country training at the 173rd Airborne Brigade’s Jungle School, I had no idea that in a few months I would be going to work aboard a rubber boat..."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Patrol Base Carol

© Rick Rajner, Short Range Ambush Platoon, All rights reserved - 2008.

"In May of 1969 the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry's Short Range Ambush Platoon (SRAP) established a tiny forward base at grid coordinates BR965828. Officially designated 'Patrol Base Carol' the small, lightly fortified encampment on the tip of a peninsula jutting a kilometer into Dam Tra-O (Lake)met a number of military requirements..."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

The Toilet Bowl

© Bob Page, 1st Platoon Leader, "A" Company, 1970: All rights reserved - 2008.

"I climbed aboard the plane with the LT and we got acquainted while taking off. Because the plane was a fixed wing craft, that meant we could not cinduct the reconnaissance with the slower Huey Helicopters...thus we got to the area of the Charlie Alfa long before they did...."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Ambush at An Lac

© Rick Rajner, Short Range Ambush Platoon, All rights reserved - 2008.

"The 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry's Short Range Ambush Platoon (SRAP) conducted scores of amphibious ambush patrols between late May and the end of August in 1969. Most were routine military exercises which failed to make contact with enemy forces operating in the vicinity of Lake Dam Tra O. The operation executed on 28 June 1969 was an exception that erupted in a brief fire fight leaving one SRAP volunteer seriously wounded and another soldier disabled."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

A Very Long Night with the SRAP Platoon!

© Richard L. "Rick" Hambley, Forward Observer attached to SRAP from the 2/17th Artillery, All rights reserved - 2008.

"Vietnam presented many challenges for the American fighting man. Much has been written about the exploits of the SRAP platoon and our different engagements with enemy forces. Here is an example of a very long night spent on a ridge line along Highway 19...near bridge 25."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Pump Station Eight ~ SRAP Ambush!

© Richard A. "Rick" Rajner, 1st Bn, 50th Inf., Bravo Company, All rights reserved - 2008.

"In the early morning light of March 21st, 1969, 15 members of the "Short Range Ambush Platoon" (SRAP) came into contact with an element of the North Vietnamese Army numbered over 100!...in a well placed and executed ambush.  Read this hair raising account by one of the men on this brief but intense contact south of Pump Staion Eight near the infamous Mang Yang Pass."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Remembering James Joseph Morrissey

© Howard Goldstein, 1st Bn, 50th Inf., Bravo Company, All rights reserved - 2008.

"This story is a small token of my appreciation of Jim's service to our platoon, and friendship to many as well as me.  I think of Jim daily, as I do another fallen brother, John Edgar Marason, who was killed in action on December 2nd, 1968. Both of these men died in separate ambushes of their Armored Personnel Carriers while driving to bridge locations for nightly support."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Former Platoon Leader Harry Wilson Returns to his Vietnam Battlefields

© Harry Wilson, 1st Bn, 50th Inf., Charlie Company, Third Platoon, All rights reserved - 2008.

"Almost forty years ago, I served as an Infantry soldier with the US Army in Vietnam in the Tet year of 1968. In September 2007, I went back as a tourist. I write of both trips here. I hope, like my fellow vet Dick Guthrie who did the same thing, that what I write helps brings closure, both for me and those who read this, who see the photographs, and who also fought there, often desperately..."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Bar Room Brawl at the An Khe EM Club!

© Bob O'Connor, Alpha Company, Fourth Platoon, September, 1968, to September, 1969, All rights reserved - 2007.

"I had been 'In Country' for about three months and we had returned to An Khe after about two consecutive months in the field, back in late 1968. I was happy to be on 'Stand Down' and Eddie Darling & Corporal Massey, two guys in my squad, asked me if I wanted to go to the Enlisted Men's Club for a couple of beers".
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

An Bao, May 5th, 1968... from the perspective of "C" Co., 3/503rd

© Tarlon Mobley, Charlie Company, First Platoon, All rights reserved - 2007.

Comments: Paraphased, Tarlon wrote: "Never will I forget what I saw and felt. As we watched, we could see the enemy soldiers running toward the APCs and tossing satchel charges! We had received orders to 'hold our position'. I still recall the feeling of helplessness and profound anger at not being able to go and help our brothers. I remember shaking with anger and wiping tears from my eyes. Others were screaming with rage and some had to be physically restrained from charging down the hillside..."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

5 May 1968

© James E. Fitzgerald, Combat Medic, 1/50th Infantry, 2007. All rights reserved.

Comments: James Writes: "May 5, 1968 was the worst experience that I had in Vietnam.  "A" Company took casualties in March and April and these were bad enough to teach a soldier about war and what it can do to a man.  On May 5th it was much worse.  I was alone behind the enemy lines for so long with a wounded soldier beside me.  I'm just thankful that I survived the events on May 5, 1968 and that I acted like a soldier during the battle".
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Halloween Fire Fight, 1967

© Jim Sheppard, Charlie Company, Third Platoon, 2006. All rights reserved.

Comments: On October 31st, 1967, an estimated North Vietnamese Army Company attacked Charlie Company, 1/50th Infantry, in the Southwest Cay Giep Mountains. This is the story as I remember it with commentary from several men involved in the battle as well as photos.
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

A Night Remembered - Account of our First Casualty!

© Jim Sheppard, Charlie Company, Third Platoon, 2006. All rights reserved.

Comments: We had yet to realize the seriousness of the conflict we were about to embrace.  Third Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized) 50th Infantry departed the Main body of Charlie Company to establish a night position about 1000 meters North of the village of Phu Ha near the South China Sea.  We were to form up as a blocking force the following morning as the main body of Charlie Company was to sweep through the southern part of the village toward us in the early morning hours.
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

GIs...."STAY OUT!"!

© Darwin Stamper, 2006. All rights reserved.

Comments: Most of the time we learned by our mistakes in Vietnam...often the hard way with young men as casualties in the learning. Here's an account of how my experiences in a previous tour...with what turned out to be a common enemy startegy...playing on our predictable patterns...had a somewhat bittersweet ending...possibly saving lives!
CLICK HERE  for the full story.

 

Memories of the 5th of May 1968 (The Battle of An Bao)!

© Bob Bihari, 2004. All rights reserved.

Here's what I remember about what I learned recently to be called the Battle of An Bao. After almost 35 years, some of it is extremely fuzzy, but a lot of it is crystal clear. Most of it seems to fit with the reports although I remember some a bit differently, and I can only relate things from my perspective. The reports help fill in a lot of holes that have become "lost" over the years. I'm afraid I don't remember a lot of specific names of individuals, other than the few that I know for certain. Tthere were men we worked with over there that we only knew by nicknames. I was also only with the 1/50 for a few months, so I was still basically an FNG.
CLICK HERE  for the full story.

 

Legacy of the Phu My Officers Club!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: The St. Gaudens Statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891) reads: "This is the soldier brave enough to tell - The glory-dazzled world that “war is hell.”. War was hell, but sometimes not for the reasons most people might expect. A lot went on behind the scenes. This story ties together some of the activities during September 1969 when the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry shifted from the far north of the II Corps Tactical Zone to the far south.
CLICK HERE  for the full story.

 

One Step from My Grave!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: One of a Combat Infantryman's worst fears was not of being killed, but of being maimed. Because of mines and booby traps, it happened all too often in Vietnam, with an estimated 60% of Purple Hearts won by mine and booby trap casualties. Many of our battalion's casualties were from mines and booby traps; in fact, the author took over Charlie Company when his predecesser was severely wounded by one. Here he writes about a day in the field when he found himself "one step from his grave."
CLICK HERE for the full story.

The Battle of LZ Betty, 3 May 1970!

Edited by Ray Sarlin.

Comments: On April 30th, 1970, President Nixon announced a U.S. and South Vietnamese "Incursion" into Cambodia, triggering a wave of protests across university campuses in the United States that culminated on Monday, 4 May, with the death of four students at Kent State University. While those well-known activities were screaming from the media headlines around the world, a desperate battle was being waged at LZ Betty , Phan Thiet, Binh Thuan Province that will never be forgotten by those who were there, but will never be known by those who weren't. At 0145 hours on 3 May 1970, LZ Betty, the home base of IFFV's Task Force South and the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry, came under intense mortar and rocket fire, and five companies of VC sappers attacked the wire, achieving penetration in two places. The men who fought off this assault were mainly the battalion's rear troops from Headquarters and Delta companies, who were no less brave (or confused) than line infantrymen were in battle, and whose blood was just as red.
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

The "Leprechaun"...Quad 50 on an APC!

Contributions by Bob Bihari, Chuck Dougherty, Dick Guthrie, Gary Quint, Rigo Ordaz and Jim Sheppard.

Comments: The M113A1 armored personnel carrier used in Vietnam by the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry was a versatile military vehicle, with a host of variants serving different purposes. Some of these variations were an official part of the M113 family of vehicles, like the M577 command track, the M109 and M132 mortar tracks, the flame track and others. Some weren't, among them two trialled by the 1st Battalion (Mechanized) 50th Infantry in Vietnam, nicknamed the "Leprechuan" and the "Minehune".
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

Discerning the Tiger!

© Rick Leland and Bryan Lagimoniere, 2003. All Rights reserved.

Comments: It's been said that a picture tells a thousand words. But sometimes a thousand pictures still don't tell the complete story... and this holds especially true where one of nature's most feared and photogenic creatures, the tiger, is concerned. Rick Leland and Frenchy Lagimoniere give us the full picture on one such animal.
CLICK HERE for the full story.

 

I'll Always Remember!

© Jan Byron, 2003. All rights reserved.

The Lonely Planet said, "During the Vietnam war, Sydney became a major R&R stopover for US GIs, and the city started tasting of Coke and burgers, while King's Cross developed a fine line in sleazy entertainment for the visiting lads (a speciality it maintains to this day)."

But in our feature article "I'll Always Remember!" Jan Byron notes that the Cross wasn't all sleaze as she reminisces about her experiences as a young lady working there amongst the famous and infamous - the Whisky a GoGo, Texas Tavern, Bourbon and Beefsteak, memorable scenes in the Concerto Record Bar and La Tete a Tete which later became the GI's Hut, the buses streaming down Darlinghurst Road filled with handsome young men (boys) dressed in uniform triggering images of the movie, "South Pacific".
CLICK HERE to be transported back to another time and another place... the hustle and bustle of King's Cross in Sydney in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

COMUSMACV!

© Richard P. Guthrie, 2003. All rights reserved.

It was a steamy morning and the entire battalion lined up for the move north to our new Area of Operations. We were arrayed on both sides of the access road to the small Quartermaster compound, with B Company in the lead. As I walked the line of our twenty armored personnel carriers (APC's) lining the narrow dirt road, I took satisfaction from the fact that in three short months we had metamorphosed from being the problem company I had taken command of at Fort Hood, to being the one trusted with leading the battalion's first overland movement in the combat zone....

Line of Departure (L.D.) Time came and went, but we didn't move. This violation of a cardinal rule was justified on the grounds that we were "holding in place" for the arrival of a visitor, whose identity was not announced for security reasons. He had to be very important, because -- in that Army at least -- one simply did not blow L. D. Time without strong cause.
TO READ THE REST OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

Medics to the Rescue!

© Rigo Ordaz, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: Rigo Ordaz, an Infantryman with the 1/50 (M) Infantry has nothing but respect and admiration to the Medics who patched us up and a lot of times saved our butts.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

Off the Beaten Path!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: Author/philosopher Henry D. Thoreau wrote, "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Like Walden for Thoreau, Vietnam had a way of confronting an Infantryman with the essential facts of life... and of death.... We didn't even have to seek out Walden Woods as Thoreau did; our woods were assigned to us by the Green Machine.

While cleaning my office the other day I found an old box that I hadn't thought about for years. It included badges, patches, insignia, medals and other memorabilia from my activities decades ago.... Almost lost among so many long-forgotten but treasured momentos was a small green diamond shaped patch embroidered with an ice axe, the symbol of the Seattle Mountaineers.  Formed in 1906, the Mountaineers is one of the premier outdoor recreation and conservation clubs in the USA, if not the world. Its members were among the first Americans to climb Mt Everest and K2. More importantly, it offers some of the best climbing instruction available.... In a sense, I couldn't have asked for better preparation for Vietnam… a preparation that saved my life in the mountains of Lam Dong Province!
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

A Name on the Wall!

© William Moore, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: In this moving story, Bill Moore remembers his best friend Michael "Shap" Shapard of Boulder, Colorado, killed in action on 10 December 1967 while serving with B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry: however, his story does much more as well, as it matter-of-factly discusses so many facets of those now distant times - things like the friendship, uncertainty, dedication, strength of character, confusion, hard work, courage, love, fate, faith and hope that defined us as U.S. Infantrymen.

Of all those who made up our platoon, Michael Robert Shapard, or "Shap" as he was called, was to become my closest friend. From the time I had joined the unit at Ft. Hood, it was Shap I had been instantly drawn to, likely because it was he who had made me feel truly welcome at the time of my awkward infusion into the Platoon. Having under gone training with my new unit's sister Battalion the 2/50th (Mech.), I wouldn't report into the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry until after the standard two week deployment leave. Understandably, when I did report for duty I was odd man out. Almost to the individual, the entire unit had been bonded together through months of intense training in preparation for their deployment to Vietnam.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

Life in the Boonies!

Comments: It's been said that the life of a combat Infantryman consists of hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror! Of course, that ignores the continuous tension of life in the boonies. In this section, men who were there tell what it was like.

Walking Point!

© William Moore, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Day or night, before a company moved out on patrol, a platoon would be selected to lead as point. That platoon would select a squad to lead as point. That squad would select several people to lead as point. And then one man would move out on point. All the combat power of the United States Army came down to a lone man walking point.
Medical Rounds!

By Mark Hannan

Look before you leap!

By Dave Parker

What a miss-stake!

By Talmadge Cain

Bong Son Tea

By Ken Riley

Snakes I: A Bridge Too Far!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: This story, published down the page, is really about snakes isn't it? So I cross-referenced it here for now.

Snakes II: A Cobra Encounter in Vietnam

© Curtis E. Harper, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: Coming face-to-face with a large cobra teaches you a lot about yourself... but very little about the cobra! Curtis Harper writes about an interesting encounter between an Infantry Platoon and a snake. Guess who wins?
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

Snakes III: 100% Alert and Then Some!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: Some duties in Vietnam were widely seen as dull and boring, while others were exciting, challenging and perhaps even fun! The truth is though that even the most dull and boring task in a combat zone can rapidly become exciting, and often in completely unexpected ways.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

Snakes IV: Virtual Reality!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: At his 1933 Inaugural Address FDR said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyses...." He was describing a phobia, and intense irrational fear of something that can paralyze a person. Studies suggest that about 1 in 100 people suffer from one phobia or another, and the field in Vietnam was not a good place for them.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

Snakes V: The Ghost Who Walks!

© Ray Sarlin, 2003. All rights reserved.

Comments: As improbable as it may seem, many parallels can be drawn between duty in Vietnam and life in a comic strip. This story examines the mystery of a haunted hooch... and unexplained footsteps which could frighten even experienced soldiers.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

Scouts Out to AO Walker!

© Rigo Ordaz, 2002. All rights reserved.

All the types of combat missions assigned to Mechanized Infantry in Vietnam tended to break down into two main types of operations: offensive and defensive. Offensive operations included a variety of actions such as search and destroy, search and clear and others, while defensive operations included base security, road clearing and road and bridge security. Securing roads and bridges could be a terrible job, with a handful of men scattered in defensive positions at various strong points and bridges along the road at night, and mine sweeping and road running during the days. Defensive operations handed the initiative to an enemy with centuries of experience on the attack.

On Aug. 17, the 1/50 finished its participation in the joint Operation Cochise and counterpart ARVN operation in the Soui Ca Valley and moved to AO Walker, An Khe area with the mission of securing QL19 and conducting operations within the AO, securing LZ Schueller, LZ Action, manning Strong Points and bridges along a historic but treacherous road, QL19. QL stands for National Highway in Vietnamese. QL 19 was mentioned in Bernard Fall's classic book "A Street Without Joy" about the French Indochina War, and is the road where the French "Mobile Groupment 100" had been destroyed in 1954 in a series of ambushes between LZ Schueller and Bridge 26. The mission of securing Highway 19 turned out to be a mission without joy, as a lot of our troops were killed or wounded with not much to show for their sacrifice. In the Uplift and Bong Son area we had been taking the war to the enemy, looking for him and digging him out. We would be out there looking for the enemy until they found us. Here on Hwy19, for the most part, we were sitting ducks just waiting for them to bring the war to us.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

Formation of the Scout/Recon Platoon!

© Rigo Ordaz, 2002. All rights reserved.

The standard TOE 7-15G Infantry Battalion of the era had an authorized strength of 847 men (37 Officers, 2 Warrant Officers and 810 Enlisted Men), organized into a Battalion Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) and three Rifle Companies. HHC included a Ground Surveillance Section, Recon Platoon, Communications Platoon, Antitank Platoon, Heavy Mortar Platoon, Support Platoon, Maintenance Platoon, Medical Platoon and Air Control Team. Not all of HHC's capabilities were required on the Vietnam Battlefield, so by 1967 when the 1/50 arrived in Vietnam, it was customary for a fourth Rifle Company (Delta Company, Provisional) to be added to the Battalion (under a modified TO&E, or "MTOE") to facilitate widespread patrolling and rapid airmobile operations.

It's interesting to note that the Mechanized and Armor Combat Operations in Vietnam (MACOV) conducted in early 1967 found that in Vietnam, contrary to established doctrine, more often than not U.S. mechanized infantry fought mounted, employing armored personnel carriers as assault vehicles to close with and destroy the enemy, break trail, destroy antipersonnel mines, and disrupt enemy defenses. The study also discovered that no two armored (or mechanized) units in Vietnam were organized alike. So pressure was put on organizations to conform to a standard MTOE developed to suit mechanized infantry operations in Vietnam. In mid-1968, Delta Company reverted to a Combat Support Company controlling the support platoon, communications platoon, maintenance platoon and medical platoon, while the combat elements of Delta (Provisional) were transferred to HHC. At this time, the Scout/Recon Platoon was reestablished.

The 1/50 (M) Infantry Scout/Recon Platoon was activated in the latter part of May 1968. It participated in the Battle of Trinh Van, May 25-26 but was still operating as Delta Co. on May 5, 1968. The Scout/Recon Platoon was constituted from personnel and assets from Delta Co. (Provisional) when it no longer was a line company. The Scout/Recon Platoon had 56 personnel and 13 Armored Personnel Carriers and was part of HHC Company. The Recon Platoon kept the same numbers on the APCs as those of Delta Company for a while but eventually they were painted over.
TO READ THE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

The Sixth Man!

© Rigo Ordaz, 2002. All rights reserved.

Many stories change a name to protect the innocent- in this story a name has been changed to protect the guilty. Many people who have survived combat have learned to see and hear and feel things that ordinary people don't. Quite literally, combat helps them develop almost a sixth sense. But sometimes in the aftermath of combat, even some of the normal five senses can pose a problem, as former Squad Leader Rigo Ordaz explains in this war story, which could have been called "The Sixth Scent."

"I was getting short in my tour of duty in Nam when my platoon got night base security duty at LZ Schueller on 14 Sept. 1968. I got my squad together and scheduled the night guard duty. I was busy with routine stuff when along comes Joe (not real name) with a bottle of good whiskey and ice cold beer. Now Joe, who was not in my squad, was well known in the company as the man who could find ice cold beer in the middle of the desert. Nobody knew how he did it, nor did we care, but obviously he had good connections".
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

Thanksgiving Truce, 1967!

© Dick Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Most combat veterans of the Vietnam War will remember the various "truces" that were "agreed" to by the parties... truces for Tet and Christmas being the main two. Unfortunately what we tend to remember most is the unfulfilled promise of laid back time off. As Dick Guthrie points out in this story, it seems that there was always somebody who didn't get the word. In the cases of Tet 68 and Tet 69, there were obviously many people, virtually the entire Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army, who missed the word. The Tet 68 "truce violation" started on the very first day of the Tet (lunar New Year) truce, 30 January 1968, when the Viet Cong launched their biggest offensive of the war. The attack was a military disaster for the communists who lost over 10,000 men and could not manage to hold any of their objectives. Nevertheless, the offensive was a political victory for the enemy because the media at home reported it as a disaster for the U.S., and the American people lost heart. During Tet 69, the communists attempted the same thing, breaking a truce to attack Saigon and 115 other cities. Again the communists suffered heavy losses, but their objectives were American "hearts and minds," and by then much of the American media was on their side. Dick's story takes place a few months before Tet 68, and shows what "truces" with communists really meant.

"I had been informed that there was to be a 24-hour cease-fire for Thanksgiving, so Wednesday evening we pulled into our usual wagon wheel formation, with the twelve carriers from the rifle platoons forming the outer ring, and my command track, mortars, medic, flame-thrower, and radar dispersed in the center. We dug two-man fighting positions roughly midway between the personnel carriers on the perimeter, set out mines and anti-intrusion devices and sent listening posts out after dark. This was our first experience with cease-fires, and we were plenty wary. Events would soon prove us right".
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

General for a Day!

© Rigo Ordaz, 2002. All rights reserved.

The ROK Capital Division (called Tigers) was based in Binh Dinh Province from 29 Sep 65-10 Mar 73 and headquartered at Qui Nhon. Elements of the division were based around the area, including one outpost between LZ Uplift and Phu Cat. The 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry participated in a number of joint operations with the South Koreans, including one on 19-23 April 1968 around the village of Ky Son north of Qui Nhon called Operation Mang Ho Eleven with the ROK Tigers, B Company of the 1/69th Armor and B Company 1/50th. Another joint operation, Operation Vulture, where A/1/50 teamed up with the ROK Tigers, was described in the 173rd newspaper. 1/50 soldiers who participated in these joint operations received the unofficial honor of wearing the Tiger patch.

In one of our operations in 1968 just before relocating from Uplift to An Khe, we had the opportunity of working with the Korean Tiger Division. In this particular mission, we were operating just west of one of their base camps, southwest of Phu My. We had just crossed a stream and we were about 100 meters up a small hill, when an APC hit a mine.
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

Your Worst Nightmare!

© Mike Chisam, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Mike Chisam was the platoon leader of 1st Platoon, B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry from mid 1969 to mid 1970. This account clearly shows what the war in Vietnam was like for many soldiers in the field, varying from high danger, drama and death to fabulous times, but all underpinned by uncertainty aggravated by the quicksand feeling of living on borrowed time with events outside your control. Mike collaborated with SSG Scott Stamper who was the 2nd Platoon Sergeant during the action on 13 and 14 February 1970 that provided the background for Mike's departure on R&R. Scott was with Spec 4 Jesus James Meza of San Bernadino, California, who was killed in action on February 13, 1970 while leading his squad.

It was about 3:00 a.m. on Friday, February 13, 1970 and I had been in country for seven months. We had been operating in the mountains for several weeks. At first light, I would be taking a chopper back to base camp to go on seven days R&R to meet my wife in Hawaii. While we had been operating as a separate platoon deep in the mountains, we had linked up with the Company which was in a night lager site. The Company Commander had decided to only set out two ambush patrols that night. He told me, "Mike, your platoon can have the night off since you will be going on R&R tomorrow morning".
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

Company B's own Tunnel Rat!

© Richard Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Dick Guthrie, company commander of B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry from September 1967 to January 1968, writes a brief eulogy for Private First Class James John Murphy of Scranton, Pennsylvania, who on November 5, 1967 became the first soldier in B Company killed by enemy action after the battalion arrived in Vietnam.

Every unit seems to have at least one man who -- no matter how dark things might seem -- is able to coax a chuckle and find the light side of any situation with a well-timed, irreverent wisecrack. Such a man is a highly valued commodity. James John Murphy was ours. That short, wiry, two-fisted Irishman had joined Company B only after our arrival in country. So he had missed the bonding the rest of us had gotten from the intensive training at Fort Hood, and he had missed the shipboard togetherness as well. Nonetheless, the newcomer established himself in no time as the one most adept at diffusing tensions and dispelling the loneliness and fears we all felt.
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

Steel Pot Pouri

Webmaster's Comments: Close your eyes and visualize a combat Infantryman... what stands out? Chances are that you just visualized that often unappreciated piece of equipment, - the Helmet, Combat, M1 with plastic Liner, Helmet , M1 introduced in 1964, commonly known as the "steel pot". From it's introduction in WWII, the M1 helmet was constantly upgraded and improved. The helmet was a piece of gear that every grunt in Vietnam became intimately familiar with. Of course, it's all now just a part of history, having been replaced since 1983 by the current P.A.S.G.T. (personnel armor system, ground troops) ballistic helmet made of Kevlar.


Steel Pot Pouri I: Tough Love!

© Richard Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Dick Guthrie, company commander of B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry from September 1967 to January 1968 takes a brief look at the Helmet, Combat, M1 with the plastic Liner, Helmet , M1 introduced in 1964, commonly known as the "steel pot".
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

Steel Pot Pouri II: True Love!

© Dan Schlecht, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: In this story, Dan Schlecht, a D Company medic in early 1969 with the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry, removes his steel pot to explain his love affair with the often unappreciated Helmet, Combat, M1 with the plastic Liner, Helmet , M1, commonly known as the "steel pot" or much worse. A photograph of Dan's helmet headlines his story.
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

SRAP: In the Beginning!

© John Smerdon, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Recognizing the need for a special strike force to rapidly respond to intelligence gathered in the Central Highlands until the combat power of the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry could be brought to bear in the "pile-on" concept, LTC John B. Carter, 1/50 Infantry authorized organization of the Short Range Ambush Platoon (SRAP). They became known as "Holloway's Raiders" named after the experienced and highly respected SFC Eldridge Holloway, the experienced Platoon Sergeant who formed the team. SRAP's primary mission in the Central Highlands was a quick-strike, ground or air inserted commando force operating from intelligence throughout the Highlands region. John Smerdon provides some insight into this unusual group.

The Short Range Ambush Platoon was organized as a small force whose primary mission was night ambush. SRAP was capable of operating independently without the support of any other elements. I can't speak for the entire platoon, but during my time, to my knowledge SRAP was Ranger led, and ably so. The first group was selected by SFC Jay Holloway from the battalion on an individual basis.
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

Starting with a Bang!

© Richard D. Hooker, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: On his third tour in Vietnam, LTC Dick Hooker commanded the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry from 12 June 1970 and brought it back to Fort Hood on 14 December 1970. While we've heard of people getting off to a "flying start", perhaps the title to this story is a slightly more apt cliché for the start of Dick's time with our battalion. I had just asked Dick for any information about LTC Robert Luck, whom he replaced as battalion commander.

"I never heard of Bob Luck again after I flew with him to Cam Ranh Bay when he went home. On the way back to Phan Thiet, having been in command for four hours, the huey took a round somewhere north of Phan Rang and lost all hydraulics. Somehow the pilot got us on the ground OK. What a start to the tour".
CLICK HERE
 to read Richard Hooker's Bio.

 

Mechanized Infantry Operations in Vietnam!

© Phillip M. Chisam, 1973-2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Mike Chisam's personal experience paper written while attending the Infantry Officer Advanced Course at Fort Benning in 1973 wasn't done as a war story, but reading it brought back many memories. It gives insight into our battalion's operations in Binh Thuan and Lam Dong Provinces in the months following the move south from LZ Uplift. I only wish that Mike had been with Charlie Company, so he would have written about the specific operations that I was on during that period because my IOAC paper specified desirable capabilities for the new mechanized infantry fighting vehicle which is no damn good to anyone now. Mike submitted the attached report by saying, "Enclosed is a report on Mech. Infantry operations I did while in the Infantry Advanced Course in October 1973. I had been on a second tour as an advisor and got pulled out a month early due to the withdrawal -- so they sent me to school. I recall doing the paper, but didn’t remember most of the facts in the report. The report provides a lot of details about the area, situation & our operations when we moved to Phan Thiet. I think some of the members would enjoy reading the report. "I only had an onion skin copy so I made a copy, scanned it and used the Adobe on-line facility to get it into PDF files.... The report refers to a Map, however, my copy didn’t have it included. I remember getting the map and making a copy, but apparently it was the one I turned in".
CLICK HERE
 for the full story.

 

One Opinion: The Many Myths of Inequality!

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's Comments: Before I became involved in the 1st Battalion, 50th Infantry Association website, I largely ignored any outward sign that I was a Vietnam Veteran; I never forgot it, but at best people just didn't care. Then about four or five years ago, I started looking for constructive ways to discuss the war. One of the best was writing responses on Vietnam 101, Dr. Blackburn's excellent site for high school and college students. Of course, I'd be less than honest if I denied that sparring with antiwar Dr. Moise wasn't itself one of the perks. While poking around on my computer, I came across this question and answer and thought that I'd share it here. It brought to mind some of the very interesting conversations that I'd had with one of my RTOs who was into Black Power, often as we were sitting in the track monitoring the radios in the still of the dark nights; I learned a lot from those chats.

Question: "I need information on African American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. Were they treated equally in the field, as well as from a formal military perspective?"

Answer: There are a great many myths about Blacks in Vietnam, many started and spread within the Black community itself as an extension of other ongoing activism at the time. Eldridge Cleaver, for example, said, "The American racial problem can no longer be spoken of ... in isolation. The relationship between the genocide in Vietnam and the smiles of the white man toward Black Americans is a direct relationship. Once the white man solves his problems in the East he will then turn ... on the Black people of America, his longtime punching bag." He also claimed that the United States had a deliberate policy of sending Black troops to Vietnam to "kill off the cream of Black youth". FOR MORE OF THIS STORY, PRESS HERE.

Night Laager Position!

© Dick Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Throughout the time that the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry served in Vietnam, it was customary for at least two or more of the companies to be operating in the field, away from the relative security of the main bases, landing zones and fire bases. We had to look after our own security as a matter of course because, as Dick points out in this article, nobody was going to do it for us. A former company commander with the battalion, Dick takes us through some of the main considerations that had to be faced each and every night... all the while balancing the sometimes conflicting needs to accomplish our mission, look after our people, and keep the enemy off-balance by never setting a pattern.

A couple of hours before sunset, any commander worth his salt got very serious about first, selecting and second, preparing a place for his outfit to spend the night. Nobody from higher headquarters was going to do this for you; battalion staffs and commanders were in fire bases, protected by other companies out of prepared bunkers, complete with wire, mines, defensive artillery fires already plotted, ready access to armed helicopters should the need arise, and so on. So higher staffers couldn't understand how critical it was for the companies in the field to have the chance to focus on establishing a viable operation for the night, each night. Sometimes circumstances made it so a couple of hours simply were not available, and inevitably the unit's posture would be below standard. At best, that made for an uneasy time between sunset and sunrise.
CLICK HERE
for the full story.

 

Alchemical Warfare!

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's Comments: When I sat down my intent was to calmly and dispassionately discuss two or three drug-related incidents that I was personally involved in, but even now, over thirty years later, I simply still can't find the dispassion needed to do so, so I'll merely relate the stories chronologically and let you draw whatever conclusions you want to. That's what people tend to do with drug issues these days anyway.

Alchemical Warfare, Part I: Fast Food! By Ray Sarlin
Contrary to urban legend, drug use wasn't rampant in Vietnam while I was there, but incidents did occur. As the commander of Delta Company in 1969, my policy was to address any UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) violation that I saw, but not to tiptoe around trying to bust people. I only prosecuted one D Company soldier for drug abuse, but his problems surfaced more than once. The speed (methamphetamine) habit of one young cook at LZ Uplift first came to my attention as a result of an Article 15 shortly after I took command in mid-1969. READ ON.
Alchemical Warfare, Part II: Trust! By Ray Sarlin
A lot of people are adamant that drug abuse happened mostly in the rear, and I don't dispute that. But it was inevitable that some spilled over into the field, particularly in a war where distinctions like front and rear weren't always clear. I personally didn't see much drug abuse in the field, but this story covers most of what I did come across. Like the rear area story in Part 1, this story includes a Court-martial, except in this story they included two separate instances of battlefield refusal leading to General Courts-martial; in the field, all consequences of drug use were harsh. I commanded Charlie Company from January to May 1970. The first night I was in the field, two of our three ambushes initiated contacts, and emotions were running pretty high. READ ON.

"Downs!"

© Dick Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: "R.E.M.F." was a Vietnam War-era pejorative acronym which stood for "Rear Echelon Mother Fucker". If you asked most field troops about R.E.M.F.s, what you'd hear wouldn't be complimentary, even though many of us in the field also had stints as R.E.M.F.s ourselves and even though many R.E.M.F.s more than did their bit to make our lives better or safer... or just did their jobs well enough to ensure that we had the combat support and service support that we needed to get on with our jobs. Still, the acronym was widely used, and more often than not seemed well deserved. Not many war movies have pegged even part of the compex relationship between combat troops and R.E.M.F.s as Dick does in just the few words of this story.

One day in September of 1967 Company B was conducting a Cordon and Search Operation in one of the villages on the edge of the Dam-Tra'o lake, deep in "Indian Territory". At the time, I had a radio Operator named Tom Downs, a fine soldier. He and I had an arrangement whereby he was never to be further than an arm's length from me, and when I said "company" and put out my hand, he'd slap into it the handset of the radio we kept set on the company's internal frequency. This system worked pretty well helping me be sure I was always responsive to calls from the Platoon Leaders. We had gotten the Cordon in quickly and without incident, and the National Police Field Force Platoon was conducting the Search, when a call sign I did not recognize, directed me on the Battalion's frequency to identify our landing Zone for visitors. I hadn't been told about incoming visitors, but... FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE!

"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like... LZ Uplift!"

© Dick Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Until September 1969 when the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry shifted south to LZ Betty outside Phan Thiet in the far south of II Corps, most Ichiban soldiers endured a love-hate relationship with LZ Uplift. It wasn't brilliant, but it was home. Unlike Camp Radcliff at An Khe, or LZ English (Bong Son) or even LZ Betty, the Army had never tried to make LZ Uplift anything more than it was, a temporary combat base in Charlie's back yard. Largely a tent city, every piece of wood from ammo boxes found a home somewhere. Creature comfort wasn't high on the agenda... we all had our individual jobs to do. So welcome to LZ Uplift!

UPLIFT was not an attractive place when it was dry, but it was a depressing nightmare after a day or two of monsoon rain had turned it into a quagmire. The perimeter, roughly a half-mile across, was outlined by an irregular oval of ramshackle three-man bunkers made of leaking sandbags. Some even had the sandbags on top, while some had only an attempt at shelter from the rain, which deceived the occupants into thinking, they were protected from air mortar bursts. These slumping dugouts were separated, one from the other, by some seventy-five yards of mud, puddles, and litter of every description... FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE!

Howie Pontuck!

In Fond Memory of Howard Samuel Pontuck (43E58)

© Richard Guthrie, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: Whenever most people think of a military officer, the role that springs to mind instantly is the challenging, rewarding and satisfying assignment in command of a troop unit in the field in combat. The command of a platoon, company or battalion is a privilege that you long remember and is often seen as the pinnacle of one's career... or even of one's life. But not every task is combat and not every job is command. While a company commander leads from the front, achieving objectives is usually the result of hard, demanding, unsung work by junior officers, NCOs and troops who are led from the rear by a long-suffering, capable and effective odd-couple, the energetic executive officer (XO) and the wise first sergeant. The XO is the principal assistant to the commander; a good XO frees the commander to focus on the combat mission. Dick Guthrie's short story on his XO Howie Pontuck captures the attributes of a good XO.

What first caught your attention was the square jaw and a face lit up most of the time by a wide, toothy grin. Grey, deep eyes smiled along with the mouth, and the whole was topped by a cropped shock of curly brown hair. Watching him walk you sensed a feline grace in the movement of his short, muscular frame; it was testimony to his time on the West Point Gymnastics team. His speech was soft and so slow and laconic sounding you'd have guessed him to be from the Deep South until your ear caught the unmistakable Brooklyn dialect. He had a personality that everyone, everyone liked immediately... FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE!

The Battle of Song Mao: Where Were You on the Night of April Fool's Day 1970?

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Comments: On 1 April 1970, three battalions of NVA sappers launched an attack on the MACV compound and the base of the Blackhawks (2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry) at Song Mao. At the time Charlie Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry was patrolling some 40 kilometers away with an OPCON company of the 44th ARVN Regiment. As far away as we were, we could see the night sky over Song Mao light up and we could hear the rumble like distant thunder. As the closest U.S. combat unit, we were mobilized to ride to the cavalry's rescue, and executed a night movement to contact. We were ready for anything, but were ordered to establish a blocking force in the Le Hong Phong Forest to cut off and destroy any enemy survivors of the attack. As Charlie Company Commander, the Battle of Song Mao is one of the battles that I tried researching for personal reasons, but records are fairly sparse. So I asked the fellows who were there how it came down.

TO READ THE PARTICIPANT'S STORIES, PRESS HERE!

Buffaloed Soldiers!


© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Buffaloed Soldiers, Part I. Ambushed

Vietnam was a land of contrasts. Nothing shows this better than the simple water buffalo. The nearly 3 million water buffalo that make up nearly half of all bovines and bovids in Vietnam today are largely seen as family animals, subsisting on the marginal land traditionally left to peasants. They help make survival possible as a source of protein, farm labor, fertilizer and family wealth. While not so much a member of the family as pigs are in parts of Papua New Guinea where they are more valued than women, water buffalo are an honoured part of traditional village life.

The native water buffalo in Vietnam are swamp buffalo (Bubalus carabanensis), slate gray, droopy necked, ox-like beasts with massive swept back horns that wallow in any water or mud puddle they can find or make. Well-cared for adult females often weigh 400 to 600 kg and males about 100 kg more, but during the war finding adults weighing 300 kg or less was not uncommon. War has a way of upsetting traditions. Because the water buffalo represented wealth to poor villagers, they became political pawns in the game being played by the VC. It was not uncommon for water buffalo in a remote village to be killed by the VC as an object lesson for the villagers, which I guess was preferable to their other customary tactic of killing village leaders. Nor was it uncommon for the animals of recalcitrant villagers to be used in other ways, as we'll soon see.
FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY, CLICK HERE.

Author's Comments: Infantrymen often saw water buffalo when on patrol in Vietnam. An important part of village life, the water buffalo certainly was not any more immune from the Vietnam War than any other inhabitant of South Vietnam. Water buffaloes could be combatants or victims, but were most often innocent bystanders, focused on their daily existence. Our paths crossed on several occasions and, despite their fearsome horns, the nice buffalo usually finished last.


Buffaloed Soldiers, Part II. The Running of the Bulls!

First off, let me say that although I was a member of the Sierra Club at one time, I am not now nor have I ever been a card-carrying Party Member of the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. But I respect life in all forms and I love and admire Mother Nature in all her stages of dress and undress. My time in Vietnam didn't change that; it merely brought it into sharper focus. I have enjoyed hunting in my day. A long shot across a valley in Montana once dropped a deer that was sub-trophy by a millimetre, I have blasted Mormon pheasant out of the sky after flushing them from the brush, been chased in Arizona by a mountain lion, and rabbits in the San Juan Islands have a bounty on me. But this was all pre-Nam.
FOR THE FULL STORY, CLICK HERE!


Author's Comments: From September 1969 when the 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry arrived at LZ Betty outside Phan Thiet in the far south of II Corps until the battalion left Vietnam in December 1970 during the Keystone Robin phase of the U.S. withdrawal, we often worked with South Vietnamese troops providing the necessary logistical support and training to shift them from defensive to offensive operations. This story about water buffalo captures both a sense of the value of water buffalo in Vietnamese rural society and a view of the tremendous cultural gap between their society and the young men who represented ours. This is a war story in every sense of the word, with only the VC and NVA absent.

 

The Battle of Tam Quan!

© Rigo Ordaz, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's Comments: The Battle of Tam Quan Dec. 6-20 pitted elements of the Ist Cavalry Division's First Brigade and the First Battalion (Mechanized) 50th Infantry against a tenacious and well fortified enemy of the 22nd NVA Regiment of the 3rd (Sao Vang-Yellow Star) NVA Division. The battle took place close to the town of Tam Quan in the Central Highland's coastal northern part of Binh Din Province. The Battle of Tam Quan was the biggest and most successful during Operation Pershing. The victorious U.S. units successfully destroyed at least two battalions of the 22nd NVA Regiment which was setting up for the upcoming 1968 Tet Offensive. It accounted for 1/8 of all enemy killed for the whole year. When the smoke of the battle cleared The 1st Cav and the 1/50 (M) Infantry emerged victorious and the enemy lost over 650 of their troops while the U.S troops only lost 58. The 1/50(M) Infantry lost 11 Americans in that battle. It is rated 15th of the 20 deadlist battles of Vietnam.
FOR THE FULL STORY, CLICK HERE!

 

A Good Soldier!

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's Comments: How can a contact that merits only a few lines in the official record be so meaningful years later? After years of searching, I finally received the Staff Officer's Journal for a little-known action that occurred the evening of 17 January 1970, when Sergeant John Murl McDaid was killed. I have never before acknowledged the nature of John's death to anyone, but I have often thought on it. His struggle to stay alive and strive to do his job despite a mortal wound is an amazing testimory to his strength of will and character. John was the first man to die "on my shift" as Charlie 6, and his example has inspired me to strive to work at my absolute peak in everything that I have ever done since. I fail from time to time because I'm only human, but I pray that I will never stop trying to give my all. Thank you, John, for your personal example... and for your sacrifice.

You might think that memories would dim after more than 30 years, but some memories won't go away. One was the night of January 19, 1970 when I sent John Murl McDaid to lead his squad on a patrol in the bush in Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam. I was John's company commander, and had held the position for just over a week, but had already determined that Sergeant McDaid was someone to rely upon, a good squad leader. Squad leaders hold perhaps the most important position in the Infantry, because they lead by example, by day-to-day and second-to-second life and death decision-making, by personal influence, by pushing and pulling... and they are responsible for everything that their people do or fail to do. There are higher ranks and broader responsibilities, but no one is closer to the action. No one.
CLICK HERE!
for the full story.

 

Cordon Blue!

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's Comments: Some missions in Nam stood out for one reason or another. There's a theory in management science (the recency theory) that people tend to remember the first or last items in a series best. That's certainly true for me, and my last mission as Charlie Company Commander was a classic cordon and search mission, but with some twists that made it even more memorable.

Immediately following the Battle of Song Mao in April 1970 after our thirsty ARVN guests had departed, Charlie Company wheeled about for a dismounted sweep through the legendary ancient guerrilla sanctuary known as the Le Hong Fong Forest. A gnarled mass of stunted, spiny trees struggling for survival on a salt plain along the South China Sea, the Le Hong Fong was hot, dusty and dry - dry as a bone. It was impossible to hack through the tough, twisted brush with any grace or silence, but the forest was interlaced with small footpaths, tall enough for emaciated Vietnamese to glide along hunched over, but just over waist-height for most G.I.s. Worse yet, the woods were liberally sprinkled with bunkers whose firing ports and firing lanes blanketed the footpaths. Since Chinese rule, the Le Hong Fong had been owned and operated by the enemy. But we were sweeping the forest to clean up enemy survivors from the three-battalion attack on Song Mao.
CLICK HERE!
  for the full story.

The Boom Boom Chronicles

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's Comments: The Boom Boom Chronicles shed a little light on life in the field for combat infantrymen. Many of our days involved arduous physical labor, either humping the boonies, crashing through jungle, searching vacant bunker complexes, digging in, filling sandbags (with dirt or rice), and other physical tasks. But some tasks were fun for some people, and demolitions could brighten your day. And I apologize to William Koch for the many inaccuracies herein, but we shouldn't let facts get in the way of a good story.

The Boom Boom Chronicles, Part I. TBD (Tree Blow Down)!
The Boom Boom Chronicles, Part II. The Indestructible Bunker!
The Boom Boom Chronicles, Part III. The Big Bang Theory!

A 173rd Airborne Jungle School Legend!

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's note: One of the most critical parts to get right in any business is the effective orientation of new employees in the workplace. As prepared as people could be for their assignment in Vietnam, and as a Ranger who had already commanded two platoons and two companies in Germany I figured that I was well-prepared, the total experience still came as a shock for most. Vietnam was seldom what you expected.

The 173rd Airborne Brigade Jungle School was designed to serve as an orientation to conditions in Vietnam. It introduced us to the enemy and to their weapons and tactics, to booby traps, to the terrain and the heat, and to critical lessons learned, often at great cost. It also was a refresher on U.S. tactics, weapons, demolitions and other combat skills as practiced by Sky Soldiers. We were still FNGs when we left Jungle School, but we were somewhat wiser, more wary, and we had learned to sweat. We had started to acclimatize to Vietnam - to the conditions that we would be living in for the next year.

But Jungle School was never intended to blood us... and certainly not against the tough Republic of Korea soldiers with whom we shared a common fence at the Qui Nhon Air Force Base in May 1969, where the Jungle School had relocated after several years in An Khe.
CLICK HERE!
for the full story

Biting off more than she can chew!

© Ray Sarlin, 2002. All rights reserved.

Author's note: Most people know that war is hell, but they really don't understand that hell isn't all about big Hollywood production numbers featuring special effects like hellfire and brimstone and volcanos and tidal waves. Hell can be facing your own worst nightmare. Hell can be waiting and waiting. Hell can be simply not having control, being pushed this way or that, or not knowing what will happen next. Or as this saga reveals, hell can be an insect! I'm no stranger to ticks. I grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Northern Arizona and worked in the Coconino National Forest. I've seen stunted Junipers alive with swarming ticks, waiting to brush off en masse onto luckless horses or their riders. And I've had my share of ticks. They've gorged themselves fat on my blood and I've killed them. No big deal.

Most Vietnam war stories would be about leeches. Those slimy, squirming blood-sucking parasites that you don't even know are all over you until you take a tactical rest and spot their sickening antics. But hey, they don't seem to bother with me for some reason. One mission in the mountains we were "sneaking" through a creek under double-canopy (might've been triple for all I know) to do a cliff face assault of a supposed NVA helicopter attack training camp in a cave and I think most everybody in Charlie Company got leeches but me and heck, my boots and pants were wrapped same as everybody else. Same thing happens now when I go bush walking, my family gets leeches but I don't, but of course I'm careful about it.
CLICK HERE!
for the full story


The S4's Cookbook!

© Ray Sarlin and Jim Hobbs, 2002. All rights reserved.

As a separate (some might say, "bastard") mechanized infantry battalion in Vietnam, we often found ourselves behind the brigades and divisions when the resources were doled out. On the positive side, people on the IFFV staff knew who our battalion was. For example, in later life I worked for two former IFFV Commanders (William Rosson and Stanley Larsen) and both acknowledged the 1/50 as a "damn good outfit". But war stories are seldom about the positive side, so let's examine our logistics.

While we were with the 1st Cavalry and 173rd Airborne Brigade, the battalion got the benefit of their logistical clout, but when the battalion moved to Phan Thiet in September 1969 we quickly learned to expect little support from Task Force South; so one of our responses was to establish an off-the-books expediting team at the depot in Cam Ranh Bay, coordinated by SSG Isbell. Now that the Statute on Limitations has expired, perhaps some of the S4 war stories can finally be told. Just a few will give the flavor of the times and circumstances and put into perspective the exploits of Chief Gene Quimby, SFC Jim Hobbs, SSG Isbell and the other logistics professionals who made sure that our combat Infantry battalion had the wherewithal to move, shoot and communicate.

Where to begin? Well, our (unofficial) expediting team naturally needed a vehicle to get around in, so a M151 jeep was duly assigned... as a combat loss. Without that M151, access to supplies on a huge base like Cam Ranh Bay would have been virtually impossible to achieve. On top of that SSG Isbell made arrangements to have a 3/4 ton truck and a 5 ton truck when needed, because it seems that our little team wasn't the only game in town. Lest anyone decry the ethics involved, well golly, "War is hell!"

Let me briefly examine a few of the reasons why we needed all the help we could get) and there were many! Shortly after I took over Charlie Company (January 1970), the Quartermaster Bulk Laundry "lost" all of our uniforms sent in from the field (there's a much bigger story here that I'm NOT telling), and supplies of replacement uniforms were limited. Surprise, surprise, the second batch of dirty fatigues was "lost" too. Pretty soon our grunts were about to be forced to crack open footlockers and wear their going home set in the field. After that, we'd be naked! Somehow we got our new uniforms direct from Cam Ranh Bay, even if a few captured AK47's and M1A1 carbines disappeared in the process. Jim recently whispered to me that our "system" came up with 14,000 sets of fatigues and Lord only knows what else after we hit Phan Thiet, and he was called on the carpet by IFFV G4. Fortunately, the G4 NCOIC was a buddy of his from Germany and the dust settled.

During the ship loading in Qui Nhon for the trip from LZ Uplift to Phan Thiet, SFC Hobbs went walkabout on the wharf. He spotted, to his immense surprise, a new M113 and a 100 KW generator setting there in the bright sunshine with no one around to admire their freshly painted surfaces. To keep them from falling into enemy hands, he was left with no choice but to have the guys hook the generator to the track and load them aboard the ship. A couple months later the battalion had to combat loss a track, and SFC Hobbs got paperwork approved to take delivery of the replacement out of current stock - so the books were balanced. The IFFV G4 NCOIC finally figured out the puzzle, and it was worth a beer.

Fortunately, IFFV never found out about the generator, or there would have been hell to pay! The sidebar on that story is that having the extra generator was a real blessing, because our generators were worked to death. The "spare" generator kept us from having too many power outages that would probably have had the battalion fail our annual IG inspection. As it was, we passed with flying colors!

Ray Sarlin's Note: Jim's story about the M113 reminded me of a buddy in Korea who signed for an Ordnance Depot and became the only Ordnance Corps Officer in the United States Army with an organic armor capability. Jim Hobbs was the Battalion Supply NCO, CWO Gene Quimby the Property Book Officer, and for my sins I was briefly Battalion S4 for the first three months in Phan Thiet.

The Lumberjack Saga!

© Jim Hobbs, 2002. All rights reserved.

Note: Jim Hobbs was the Battalion Supply NCO for the final months at LZ Uplift, the boat ride down, and the first months in Phan Thiet when we were building a battalion base camp on the sand from scratch.

Soon after the battalion arrived to our tent city at LZ Betty, I worked with Jerry Isbell, our man in Cam Rahm Bay, who sweated blood to "requisition" a pallet of 2 x 4's so we could build up our tents better and construct other needed items. They came in by boat one day and we loaded them by hand on a truck and brought them to the camp. I had to go somewhere with the Chief, and told the guys where and how I wanted them stacked. I also told them to be sure to cover the lumber.

We were gone maybe an hour and got back just in time to see the last of the lumber disappear onto a truck with a beaming Battalion XO MAJ Harvey Buckles looking like he thought he'd died and gone to the lumberyard in the sky! The first thing I did was grab a bunch of troops and chew some ass for the failure to cover the lumber so that MAJ Buckles happened to walk by and see it, just when he was looking for lumber to build, of all useless things, a damned Officers' Club!!!

Well, by the time I got up to the Major I was so damn mad I could have bit a ten penny nail in two. I took off my cap and wiped my forehead and in a gruff voice said, "Major, can't I steal anything around without you taking it away from me?" He thought that was hilarious and said, "This lumber doesn't come marked 'US Government', its marked 'H.I. Buckles'." I was just steaming and he wouldn't even bargain with me, so I didn't get a splinter of that pallet of 2 x 4's.

When I cooled off a bit, I suggested he should name the Officer's Club after me but he wouldn't: however, he did grant me lifetime membership for my contribution to the cause. I could feel free to come up and have a drink and watch a couple skin flicks, but we won't talk about them... they were small consolation.

It's too easy, must be a trap!

© Jim Hobbs, 2002. All rights reserved.

One day a big orange and white Air Force cargo parachute somehow ended up in our hands at LZ Betty. Someone suggested we could use it to make a patio to shield us from the sun where we could relax and have a cold soda or beer, depending on the time of day. It was a good idea whose time had come, we thought, so we strung it up, filled a big ice cream hauler full of pop and beer, and a good time was had by all. Several years later I snapped erect in a lounge back in the World and broke out in a cold sweat. What better target could Charlie want than that patio cover? Chopper drivers told me they could see that thing for 20 miles.

Look before you leap!

© Dave Parker, 2002. All rights reserved.

Note: Dave Parker served in Vietnam with Bravo Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry from February to December 1970.

My first time in the field I was with Company B, First Platoon in SGT Ortega's Second Squad. I didn't know what to pack or what to expect, and I was a bundle of nerves. I packed my rucksack with plenty of ammo, water and food, maybe too much of everything if that was possible. My ruck was heavy - real heavy. I remember getting on the chopper and lifting off, it was a beautiful view but that didn't help my nerves any. My mind was going at a hundred miles per hour but nothing seem to be registering or make any sense. It was about a half hour or more before we started our descent and the faster we descended the faster my mind went. I could see and hear the other guys talking but it was like I was deaf and blind; nothing was registering at all.

Then it was time to dismount the chopper and because it wasn't landing, we had to jump, first one guy then the next and then my turn. I hadn't been paying any attention, all I knew is that it was a long ways down to the ground. Someone said, "Jump" so I did, straight out the door and flat on my back. I hit so hard that it knocked the wind right out of me.

So here I am laying In the middle of the landing zone and I couldn't breath and couldn't move, all I could hear were the guys yelling "Get out of the LZ, get out of the LZ!" Yeah, right! I was like a statue. They had to come and drag me out!

I finally got my wind and my senses back and everyone had a good laugh at my stupidity and they even let me (the new guy) walk point. Gee, how nice of them. Anyway the lessons learned were "Pay attention" and "Don't jump with your rucksack on, throw it out first before you jump."

The Day it Snowed in Vietnam!

© Jim Schueckler, 1995-2001. All rights reserved.

Note from Ray Sarlin: As 1/50(M) Battalion S4 at the time, I happened to be in the Mess hall when the 192d AHC's Aviators whirled in, with the infectious good humor that only a Christmas truce in the midst of the Vietnam War could generate. The incident made an impression on me at the time, and I remember it well! I've covered the 1/50(M) connection as an introduction to the story.

Christmas carols played in the mess hall at supper and the calendar said "December 24, 1969," but it didn't feel much like Christmas Eve. We were tired from a long day of flying many missions picking up infantrymen and recon patrols from field locations. We brought them back to the big airfield at Phan Thiet for the Christmas cease-fire. Gunship helicopters had escorted us because they were frequently needed on other days, but today not a shot had been fired in either direction. It seemed that soldiers on both sides of this war were glad to allow the cease-fire to start one day early.

It had been a hot day, and even in the evening, after the withering sun had dipped below the horizon, we sat sweltering in T- shirts in the pilots' hooch. The air was somber. The usual discussions of recent close calls and superior airmanship were subdued by the subject on everyone's mind, but nobody would talk about: the recent loss of four pilots and four crewmen. We joked about the cease-fire and wondered how long it would last. One man predicted that the base would be hit with mortars just before midnight. It seemed that there was nothing to celebrate. One pilot tried to change the mood. "We have to do something happy! Let's sing Christmas Carols!" He said, almost in anguish.

But no one started singing... FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY, PRESS HERE!

What a miss-stake!

© Talmadge Cain, 2001. All rights reserved.

Note: Talmadge was Scout Platoon Leader. I was new at LZ Uplift, but there's no way I couldn't have heard about it. Talk going around was that people could hear Talmadge cussing himself out even over the noise of the dust-off chopper as it whisked him away.

"Ray,
Who told you about me and the punji sticks? That was the cluster fuck of all operations when we were operating out of Crystal. It was to be a battalion operation and we all did an air recon the day before. The entire battalion was going on an air assault and MAJ Juliano (S-3) and the command section was going in behind and with the Scouts as we landed and swept through several villages. CPT Larry Dossey (the Battalion Surgeon) even went along but LTC Woodall forbid him to land. We landed in a field next to a village, and, since it was quiet, I popped green smoke. No sooner had MAJ Juliano landed than we started receiving fire from the village. We returned fire and assaulted the village, chasing the VC out the back..As we were pursuing past the village, I noticed thousands of small punji sticks everywhere. I turned and cautioned everyone to be careful of them. Of course, while I was turned to warn everyone, I jabbed one into my ankle. Cursing, I sat down to remove it, right smack on another one. Doc Dossey got his C.A. after all when he got to come down and treat me, so he was able to see everything up close. I was medivaced out and missed the rest of the operation. Not one of my finer moments. I don't know how this rates with some other stories but in retrospect it seems funny, and I still have a scar on my BUTT".

A Bridge Too Far!

© Ray Sarlin, 2001. All rights reserved.

No sooner had the battalion arrived at Phan Thiet in September 1969 and the sand begin to settle (as if), that our Maintenance Platoon's capabilities became known to other units there, including the 2/1 Cav, C/75th Rangers and, of course, the Engineers (who didn't want to know us because of our outstanding camp construction work orders). We knew that our 63A and 63C guys were the finest mechanics in country, but the other units didn't care... what we had that they didn't were mobile cranes... or more specifically, M578 VTRs (vehicle, tracked, recovery), and the calls flooded in (in one case with the 2/1 Cav, literally flooded, but that's another story).

This story is about the Highway QL1 bridge in this photo over the Song Cai River north of Phan Thiet. The article in IFFV's "Typhoon Magazine" where I found the photo claimed enemy action had destroyed the earlier bridge which the Engineers dutifully repaired. The truth is a little different. It seems that an engineer convoy had no sooner classified the bridge than they immediately drove a dozer on a lowboy across that exceeded the classification and the span dropped, as the startled driver's shotgun said, "like an elevator".

Our job was recovering both truck and dozer from the tidal flat (read "mudpit") under the bridge before the tide came in. I won't bore you with the technical details other than to note that the 1/50th's recovery specialists were up to the challenging task.


Being an officer, my job was standing around looking thoughtful when I spotted an Engineer LT dry firing his .45 up on the roadway leading to the bridge. I ambled up to see what he was doing. Down below in mud up to his waist, one of our guys was attaching a wire rope to the dozer to swing it around, blissfully unaware of a large (water?) snake rapidly approaching him from his rear. The LT was trying to shoot the snake, but fortunately for our guy hadn't chambered a round. As luck would have it, I was armed... with a .45!

Fortunately, I also had a voice, and alerted him to what was happening, but there was little he could do in the mud to get away from the snake. So I had to shoot! Have you ever fired a .45 into the mud? It makes a massive hole, about 6 or eight inches in diameter and a meter or so deep, which then oozes full again slowly. It's great fun! One magazine was gone in an instant. Then another. Somewhere along the way the snake took a direct hit and nobody was injured. Ever since when someone says you can't hit the broad side of a barn with a .45, I just inwardly smile because you only need to hit it once out of 16 tries to bring the barn down!

Medical Rounds!

© Mark Hannan, 2001. All rights reserved.

Anybody who watches ER or other hospital shows knows about medical rounds. As with everything in Vietnam, there they could be just a little bit different. I was a medic working under CPT Larry Dossey (the Battalion Surgeon) and attached to A Company, where we saw a bit of everything.

One day we had a new LT come out to the field. He was pretty gung-ho as I recall. One day we were walking across the rice paddies to go into the village to fill water cans from the well and he was in the group. A shot rang out and he started yelling real loud, and I figured he'd been hit pretty bad and rushed over. It seems he'd accidentally discharged his M-16 and had a hole right through his boot. As the medic, I proceeded to cut off the boot and look for a wound, but the bullet had actually passed right between a couple toes. I think he was sent on to another assignment after that.

On another occasion in the An Khe area, Lieutenant Nail had a very close encounter with a 50 cal. bullet. I didn't see it happen but he had apparently walked in front of a 50 cal machine gun that was still hot after a firefight. A round "cooked off" and went through the top of his helmet. He used to come into the battalion aid station for months after that and Dr. Dossey would pick a few more pieces of metal fragments out of his scalp.

Of course, not everything was rosey. We medics used to go out on MEDCAPs in Vietnam, setting up temporary aid stations to treat the local people. I went out on a few of those out of An Khe. Usually, you would have an interpreter, the Battalion Surgeon and a few medics, and we'd spend a few hours to check up on the local civilians and distribute medications. One day at LZ Salem with A Company, the company commander Captain Anthony Neglia decided to take a couple medics (me and one or two others) to a nearby Vietnamese school to check up on the kids. So we did and actually took one kid who was very ill to LZ Uplift to see the doctor. A few days later we heard that the VC burned down the school.

Webmaster's note: Our photos include one of Mark getting ready to go on a MEDCAP. Mark was with A Company when they went through a particularly bad patch in the field, and my hat's off to him and all the other medics. Thanks, fellows!

Bong Son Tea!

© Ken Riley, 2001. All rights reserved.

We were in country less than a month when I had my initial experience with "Bong Son Tea". The day started scorching hot as usual, and for some reason, I drank nearly all my water by the time lunch rolled around. A stupid move no less, and I was aware of it, but the sweltering heat just beat on me all day long. We crossed over a swift moving stream and I should have filled my canteens then, yet I did not. A sniper fired at us several times during the day, and each time I came under fire, I drank heavily from my canteen. It just seemed that hostile action always made me thirstier.

The Bong Son Plains consisted of lush jungles and huge rice pastures. It was a known fact; however, that our enemy enjoyed planting mines and booby-traps along the berms of a rice paddy, since American soldiers did not relish walking in the flooded meadows. So, instead of suffering a horrible death from a booby-trap or mine blast, we all decided that day to walk through the rice field; just to piss off our enemy.

We crossed several rice paddies and after stepping into the next rice field, I stopped briefly to replenish my canteen with some murky, yet still drinkable water that flowed over the berm between the two rice fields. A pathway had formed from our guys stepping off the dike, thus the water could flow into the lower pasture. Although the water was rather muddy, I quickly scooped up a handful, and I then took a drink.

Sam was directly behind me and I heard him let out with one of his foolish chuckles for which he was so well known. I spun around to see what he thought was so damn amusing. Standing just a few yards away was a water buffalo that was busy discharging his bladder. My eyes followed the stream of urine and I gasped when I saw the flow was running directly to where I was taking a drink. Naturally for the next several days, I became the blunt of many queasy jokes, particularly about how no one would kiss me anymore since I now had urine breath.

War Story or Urban Legend, It's a Good Read!

Author unknown (but she's married to a VietVet named Richard). Submitted by Dick Guthrie.
Webmaster's Note
: The Urban Legends website claims that this is a true story.

Richard, (my husband), never really talked a lot about his time in Viet Nam other than he had been shot by a sniper. However, he had a rather grainy, 8x10 black & white photo he had taken at a USO show of Ann Margaret with Bob Hope in the background that was one of his treasures.

A few years ago, Ann Margaret was doing a book signing at a local bookstore. Richard wanted to see if he could get her to sign the treasured photo so he arrived at the bookstore at 12 o'clock for the 7:30 signing. When I got there after work, the line went all the way around the bookstore, circled the parking lot, and disappeared behind a parking garage.

Before her appearance, bookstore employees announced that she would sign only her book and no memorabilia would be permitted. Richard was disappointed, but wanted to show her the photo and let her know how much those shows meant to lonely GI's so far from home.

Ann Margaret came out looking as beautiful as ever and, as second in line, it was soon Richard's turn. He presented the book for her signature and then took out the photo. When he did, there were many shouts from the employees that she would not sign it. Richard said, "I understand. I just wanted her to see it".

She took one look at the photo, tears welled up in her eyes and she said, "This is one of my gentlemen from Viet Nam and I most certainly will sign his photo. I know what these men did for their country and I always have time for "my gentlemen". With that, she pulled Richard across the table and planted a big kiss on him. She then made quite a to do about the bravery of the young men she met over the years, how much she admired them, and how much she appreciated them. There weren't too many dry eyes among those close enough to hear. She then posed for pictures and acted as if he was the only one there.

Later at dinner, Richard was very quiet. When I asked if he'd like to talk about it, my big strong husband broke down in tears. "That's the first time anyone ever thanked me for my time in the Army", he said.

Post your 1/50(M) war story here!

Send your war story to the Website Committee . Editorial support cheerfully provided.



Home ] [ Bn KIA's ] [ Stand-down ] [ History ] [ Photographs ] [  Reunion ] [ Message Board ] [ 1/50 Association ] [ Email Members ] [ PX ] [ Constitution ] [ Online Application ] [ Links ]
[ © ichiban1.org, 2003 ]