The "E.M." Club

Copyright 2007: Bob O'Connor. All rights reserved. (Copy permission at bottom)

Webmaster's Introduction: The 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry was based in several areas of Vietnam during it's tour between September of 1967 and November of 1970.  It was a rare treat to have time in the rear Base Camp to visit an Enlisted Men's Club and have a few cold beers.  The EM Club at An Khe even had slot machines!  Bob O'connor relates a story of an incident he now regrets, but it was a time of strife for many of us...even in the relative safety of the rear Base Camp!

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 and Corporal Massey, two guys in my squad, asked me if I wanted to go to the EM club for a couple of beers. "I said sure" and off we went to the club. I was the first guy through the door to the place and there was a giant of a guy on his way out of the club. He told me to "Get out of my way flea", he was obviously feeling no pain at this point. I was willing to let the remark go but Eddie decided to get involved and said "Say that to me ass hole." I told Eddie that "I could fight my own battles." You see, I was from Brooklyn, NY and I had to keep up the tough guy reputation that is afforded most guys from Brooklyn.

To tell the truth I was scared shit, being only 5'6" tall and the other guy was well over 6 foot tall. The guy laughed when he heard me say "I could fight my own battles" and shoved me into Eddie. In an instant I took the heel of my right hand and drove it up into his nose in an effort to kill him. Where did this killer instinct come from? The guy now picked me up and threw me through the air into some tables. I couldn't believe how strong he was and now he was heading straight at me like a freight train. Blood was pouring down his face and he was pissed off to say the least. I again punched him in the face as hard as I've ever hit anyone. He staggered forward and got me in a bear hug and lifted me high off the floor.

I heard Massey yell "Hit him, hit him again." I started punching him in the face repeatedly and I saw that I had split his nose open from the tip to up near his eyes. I could hear him gurgling on his own blood running down his throat. His hold on me had weakened and he fell to the floor. Massey yelled again "Kick him, don't let him up. I kicked him alright, about ten times. He was lying in a pool of blood and my hands were shaking uncontrollably. Someone yelled "The MP's are on there way" and Eddie and Massey pulled me out of the club back up to our tent in the company area.

Massey started to regale my exploits to the rest of the platoon when someone said that the guy I had just fought was from the Scout Platoon and they were all on their way to get me. Everyone started getting their weapons. A guy from Chicago gave me a 38. Caliber pistol and said "Use it if you have to." He then stuck it in the back waistband of my jungle fatigues. We heard a lot of voices outside our tent and they said "We want the guy that cut up Okie 52. After much urging from the other guys in my platoon I went outside of our tent to meet my fate. There was a lot of black soldiers from the Scout Platoon and when they saw me they all started laughing. They said "This little mother couldn't take Okie 52." They accused me of cutting him with a knife. It was then that another guy from the Scout's said "That's the guy that kicked Okie's ass and he didn't have a knife." One black guy asked me where I was from in the world and I said "Brooklyn". He was from Brooklyn also and the riot was averted without a shot being fired. Thank God.

I'm not bragging, I wrote this story for a couple of reasons. One being that I still to this day have the guilt over what I did to that other American soldier on that night. I would like to apologize to him for the pain he must have suffered after the incident. Why were fighting each other? The other reason is that before the war I would never have tried to maim or kill another person. What changed all that? You just can't turn a young man into a infantry soldier and then send him home like everything will be fine in his life again. I have dealt with my inner rage for the last 38 years and it scares the hell out of me when that other person inside me comes out. I most apologize to my family because they see that other person occasionally and they don't understand him at all. I think I do?

Copyright 2007 Bob O'Connor,

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