Writings and Stories

(January, 2012 -  new entries from Pat Flanagan)


Haircuts in Viet Nam

By Pat Flanagan

It is not often that we hear stories from Viet Nam about such mundane events as getting a haircut.  Yet it is a common occurrence that one generally has to deal with.  And with good reason in a war zone.  Viet Nam was no exception for the infantryman.  Living in the dirt has its real challenges and sometimes living without water makes it even more challenging.

Sometimes we use the term “haircut” as slang for an infantry unit getting hit hard and taking casualties but that’s not the kind I’m talking about.

Here is the reality.  The 11B20, infantryman, lives in the dirt and mud.  That is his home.  Sometimes he even puts mud on his face and skin to blend in or “dig in” as we used to say.  After his rifle, his entrenching tool, an ingenious Army shovel, is his next most valuable piece of equipment.  Most can dig holes faster than one could imagine, especially if under attack.  Yes, it is a very dirty job and highly motivated.

In the days of Viet Nam, the Army had barbers as an occupation.  In basic training, they were always busy shaving heads with guys just inducted, all lined up for that momentous day of the military haircut.  It was a rite of passage.  For some it was a very emotional event as they had their favorite hair style cut clean.  I seem to remember some even resisting but they always lost the battle of the shaved head.  Some cried as they lost their locks of hair.

But being in the field is quite a bit different.  One of the problems that I quickly noticed is that dirt was constantly getting into my hair.  Water and showers were a luxury so trying to shampoo was just an impossible dream.  I was constantly stroking my hair and watching the dirt fall out.  So I decided to go back to the days of basic training and just shave everything off.

Sometimes, if we were lucky and the forward bases were quiet, the Army would fly out a barber to cut hair.  Not much electricity, so it was mostly done by the Army issued scissors.  If lucky, you might get an electric razor.  That didn’t happen very often as no barber really wanted to leave the big support bases to go out to a very small firebase, always in danger’s way.  I guess I was lucky and did have a professional with an electric razor cut my head bald  But that didn’t last for long as I got shipped out from Dak To to FSB29 and Bridge 3.

The Army barbers had competition too---from enterprising Vietnamese.  You had to pay them but it was still very cheap and much better.  They introduced me to the “candle cut” for the first time in my life.  They literally burned your hair with a candle.  I know, it sounds horrible, but it still is the best haircut of my life.  Don’t know why, but my hair always felt better.  No more split ends.  But I only did that when back in the big support bases or when getting ready to go on R&R.

Plus they always finished with a great massage of the face.  They had a way of pinching one’s nostrils and it just all felt so good.  Then they would massage your neck and upper back.  I got to really look forward to this experience.  And finally, they also knew everything that was going on.  If you wanted to know where your unit was going to be reassigned, they knew it.  I guess that old saying about a good barber knowing all that is going on is true.  One explained to me how General Westmoreland was living in the war zone and how he was making money on the side.  Don’t know if it was true, but he told me Westmoreland owned a plastic sand bag company and that was why the old burlap sand bags were discontinued.  The plastic ones worked until they were hit by a mortar or rocket and then they just broke up.  If true, it was a sad commentary about profiteering in war.  Still, I found most Vietnamese barbers did have a knack about turning the “rumors of war” into the honest to God truth.  Makes one wonder.   60 Minutes once did some coverage on Westmoreland but it never went anywhere.

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Haircut by Professional Barber at Dak To Viet Nam

Then there were the Vietnamese barbers who were also spies.  I remember being attacked with almost pinpoint accuracy by the NVA.  It turned out that the barber was pacing the entire base and giving the information to the enemy.  He was arrested and taken away, but he did give good “candle cuts”.

There was also the story by Bill Pandak who also got a haircut from a Vietnamese.  He and his unit had just come back from a mission in the Bilong Valley.  His platoon leader ordered all the men to line up for a haircut by a Vietnamese.  He had mechanical clippers that worked like scissors.  After fighting Vietnamese, none of the men really liked the idea of getting a haircut from the same people, but they followed orders.  A few days later, his unit, the 61st infantry, went out again to patrol a beach and look for concealed bunkers that were buried.  They located one and it was occupied by the enemy.  They yelled, “Lau De” which means come out.  If no response, they would then drop grenades into it to destroy the bunker.  The enemy quickly came out to surrender with hands extended.  Yes, it was the same barber.

But perhaps the most humorous of haircuts was when my machine gunner, Andy Day, volunteered to shave my head on FSB29.  Obviously we didn’t have any barber on the hill in those days, not even a Vietnamese one who was now in some prisoner camp somewhere.  Well, the Army doesn’t issue clippers to the infantry but we did have small razors to shave with.  My hair was filthy with dirt.  So Andy took to the task and started shaving my head clean.  Now my head is kind of irregular with bumps and depressions.  It was kind of expected that I was going to be cut once in a while no matter how careful he was.

The rest of the guys in the platoon watched as Andy surrounded me in a white sheet and started to proceed.  Every nick, drawing a bit of blood, caused laughter from all the observers.  Naturally I couldn’t see Andy, but he obviously was having a bit of fun too.  Being infantry, we all know first aid; “Apply pressure”, and he did often until the job was finished.  For some reason, all thought this was kind of humorous.  It certainly was not a “candle cut” but a “razor cut”.

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FSB29 - Andy Day Performing his Razor Cut on Pat Flanagan

Now don’t get me wrong.  Andy and I were a legend on the base.  We were so close as friends and still remain so to this day.  I think that the important message here is that, even in war, there are humorous moments and this was one such moment.  Andy and I were good at that and a great team.

I can say this, however.  Nobody else in the platoon let Andy give them a haircut.  I was the only one and I had the cleanest but bloodiest head of all.  Frankly, I enjoyed seeing our platoon laugh at the absurdity of it all.  I think Andy did as well.  It is amazing the camaraderie that exists among the brothers of infantry and this was one such moment for all.  It was worth every stupid minute of it.

To this day, everyone in the platoon has Purple Hearts.  I am the only one that does not.  To this day, I think I should have gotten one but the Army just would not agree.  I mean, a Purple Heart for a haircut.  No way.  The Army isn’t that stupid

So now you know some of the untold stories behind getting a haircut in Viet Nam.

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Andy Day finished with the Razor Cut and everyone is smiling, including me.

 


Revenge on the Tiger

By Pat Flanagan

 What is to follow is probably one of the most unusual and strangest stories from Viet Nam.  It actually starts and ends with PFC Gerald R. Olmsted, member of the 196th Infantry but assigned to serve in Company A, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division.

Private Olmsted was born on August 6, 1947 and died on January 10th, 1969, in the service of his country.  He was 22 years old.  It is to him that I hope this story helps us all to remember and honor him and others for their sacrifice.

 

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Pvt. Gerald Olmsted, U.S. Army, 4th Division, 3/8th

Though I never knew Private Olmsted, our paths would later cross each other as fate would have it.  We shared a kind of kinship in that we both did LRRP’s, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols.  Basically this type of mission is where about four infantryman leave their base for a number of days, usually four or five, go out into the jungle and look for the enemy.  As long as you don’t find them, it is fairly safe, but the situation quickly changes if you do find them.  In that case, you often are outnumbered and in need of extreme help.

I used to tell the men in my LRRP’s, “Our mission is to find the enemy, but, once off the base, I am the commanding officer and now our mission is to hide from the enemy.  If they find us, we will radio in that we found them and pray.”  Somewhat questioning, my response was that this was a good strategy for staying alive.  I never had a problem with anyone not following orders.

What happens is that the LRRP usually leaves their base and starts moving through the jungle toward their first position that was established by the “powers that be” on the base.  This is usually where the LRRP spends the night.  Often the jungle would be so thick and they might have to change the position as night began to fall.  In that case, we would call into the base to let them know exactly where we were.  This was important so that if any artillery was fired or jets dropping bombs, they shouldn’t do this in an area where we happened to be.  Unless we needed to call artillery onto ourselves for self-defense, and sometimes that would happen.  Being able to read a map and compass is a life-saving skill in those cases.

Once at the site, we would secure the area by placing Claymore mines all around us, setup our ponchos into a ground cloth or tent, and then make a quick dinner before nightfall.  Once night hit, we would then establish guard duty and scheduling.  One man would stay up listening for any strange movements or sounds while the others slept.  After a time, he would wake the next man up for his duty and go to sleep.

The next day, the process would repeat itself all over again until the time of the LRRP was over and one could head back to their base and its safety.  Generally the hardest part of the LRRP was staying awake during your guard duty.  Nobody to talk to, one shouldn’t move a lot or make noises and no smoking cigarettes as the smell would give away one’s position.  Most of the time, it was very boring and often one would doze off.  Now that was a court martial offense as you had just then jeopardized everyone’s life.  But it happened.  Particularly after a long and grueling walk in the jungle with full back packs.  It was natural to be tired, even somewhat exhausted.  The heat, the humidity, the jungle, the insects, the leeches, all took a toll on wearing one out.  Periodically we would radio back to our base to let them know we were still alive, safe and secure.

On January 10th, 1969, Private Olmstead went out on a mission just like this with three others of his brothers.  The next morning, upon waking up, Private Olmstead was gone.  Vanished in the middle of the jungle.  I cannot imagine the shock of the remaining men.  What I think happened is that during the night, one of the men fell asleep while on guard.  It couldn’t have been the enemy as they would have killed all of them.  Something had come in during the night and silently took Private Olmstead away.  It was a very large tiger.

Nineteen days later, on a similar type of patrol, during the night, Specialist 4 Raul Lerma Segovia, a member of the same unit, also was killed probably by the same tiger.

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Spec. 4 Raul Segovia, Tiger casualty in Viet Nam

Spec. 4 Segovia was in B Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Division and on a LP (Listening Post) that night.  Both men died of wounds sustained from a tiger.  It could not have been a very pleasant death.  Both men were recognized as one of the most unusual fatalities in the Viet Nam war.  Clearly tigers are very territorial and this one was especially so.

But the story has somewhat of a happy ending.  By now the 3rd Battalion of the 8th Infantry was fighting mad.  They weren’t stupid and knew they had the “tiger by the tail”.  They wanted revenge.  Even up the score, so to speak.  It was soon after that some great men went out and finally shot the enemy.  And they brought the body back to Dak To for a proper burial.  Mostly I think they just wanted to prove that they had killed the tiger and bask in the glory of revenge.  It certainly was the highlight of my day.  A lot of beer was consumed that night in celebration.  And we didn’t even need a hunting license in those days.  The tiger killings abruptly stopped from that day on.  And I have the pictures to prove it.

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Me Hugging the Dead Tiger at Dak To; Francis Bushey standing right behind me.

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Tony the Tiger Riding a Jeep

To this day, I always love to eat Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.  Kind of like I’m eating “Tony the Tiger” and it just feels so “GREAAAAAAAAT”!.  My revenge after so many years after the tiger killings of Viet Nam.

May God rest the souls of all those who died in Viet Nam from tigers, snakes, and rats.  Their sacrifice was just as important to remember as all the other casualties of the war.

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Tony the Tiger Baring His Teeth

 


Memories of the Army and Viet Nam

By Pat Flanagan

             Many years have passed but I still have my letters from the days in the Army (over 600 of them) and realize that they are history, a history that shouldn’t be forgotten, a history that may help us remember, a history that may help us to never forget those who have fallen, and a history of what everyone went through.  So what follows is my attempt to record what did happen from my own perceptions and writings back from those days. 

            What follows is a diary of some of those days which I found when trying to organize my letters.  I have made some changes to help in clarity and in reading but content has not been changed from those days that I wrote these words.  To some it will bring back memories.  And that is good.

July 17, 1968 – shipped over to Viet Nam via Fort Lewis, WA on first overseas duty

Well today left my wife until I get my R&R while in Vietnam.  The plane trip to Fort Lewis was very difficult since I was alone, away from my wife.  All I could do was think and it was only about how evil it is to be separated from a part of yourself----especially if war is the cause.  It is insane to leave your love and only man’s war is the cause of such a separation.  I no longer have a free will as it now is the will of the Army and have left my love for what?  Viet Nam?  For its people?  For freedom?  What irony!  If we knew perhaps we would be winning the war instead of compromising men’s lives away.  But this still does not justify the insanity of war and of man himself.  God help us all!

Well once here (Fort Lewis, WA) I was kept busy so jungle boots took the place of my loneliness.  Friends here make it easier but my wife can never be replaced.  Typical Army harassment is nil and I wait for the future year with fear and mixed feelings.  We will see what is to be in the months that follow.

July 18, 1968 – Viet Nam induction – Fort Lewis, WA

Instead of being wakened at 5:00 a.m., we were woke up by the intercom system at 3:00 a.m. for KP.  I finally got off at 7:00 p.m. so today was really a day of work (I didn’t enjoy washing plates but went to ration breakdown for two hours loading and unloading chow supplies- 100 lb. bags of potatoes was the largest down to a jar of soy sauce).  I enjoyed deliveries since some use of the mind was encouraged in routing---but the Army did this the hard, stupid and wrong way economically.  Well actually the only good factor of the day was another call to my wife.  Mostly it was, “I love you’s” back and forth but while I like to talk of concrete things of the day (such as a bounced check notice she received when she had money in the bank), perhaps the vocal affirmation of my love makes her loneliness easier to bear.  It does not for me----and I am afraid of war, not only for the killing but afraid of the separation it has caused.

Some thoughts: Many men returning from Nam here only raises jealousy and fear but also of hope.  KP was bad but not because it was hard but due to the boredom and time to think while performing mechanical duties.  It was hell!

Until tomorrow.

Also tried to call parents but no answer; disappointed but will try again.  (comment: one must remember in those days we were calling on very primitive phones.  Connections were very hard to make in those days and the lines of people waiting to call were very long.)

July 19, 1968 – Flight to Viet Nam

Whether this is the correct date or not, I haven’t the faintest idea.  We are on our way.  We stop at Anchorage, Okinawa, and then Cam Ranh Bay.  Food on the plane is fair and time changes are confusing.  Weather is sometimes bumpy but mostly smooth.  Many doubts are still present and most likely I will see a fire fight and it is scary.  I just hope my training has sunk in and that I have guts enough to stay alive.  Well not much today to say---maybe later.  Just flying for 18 hours?  Also big oil strike in Alaska.  Might pay to invest in stock on Richfield or Humboldt Oil soon.  (These companies no longer exist!)

July 21, 1968 – Arrive in Viet Nam, Cam Ranh Bay

Well we have had no sleep since we landed.  After Okinawa, our plane lost one engine on the way to Cam Ranh Bay.  The plane jerked bad and the stewardess said, “That’s funny, we shouldn’t be landing yet.”  Then she looked out the window and you should have seen the scared look on her face.  The engine had been hit by enemy ground fire.  Well, we made it safe and sound.  What a start to my days in Viet Nam.  Not even on the ground yet and seeing some action.

Since then it has been pure processing and filling sandbags.  The heat is terrible and my appetite has fallen.  I have continually nausea and headaches.  Sandbag detail is rough but plenty of breaks due to the heat.

Well, there is a lot of action in hills around here.  There supposedly is a battalion of Viet Nam Regulars in the hills and the Air Force and Army have been pounding the hell out of them.  Even though we are comparatively safe, we are in condition “Red” tonight.  As far as where I go from here, I have no idea.  Still waiting for final assignment.  Time is going by very fast.  The barracks are simple and crude but better than sleeping on the ground.  Now must shower off the sand and get some sleep.  On baggage detail tomorrow at 5 a.m. for 13 hours.  Rumors say there could be an attack here soon but the base is very secure.  We will see.

July 22, 1968 – Still in Cam Ranh Bay – 1st assignment

Well had detail pouring cement this morning from 5 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.  (So much for Army scheduling and baggage detail.  Typical.)  From then on was free and wrote letters, read and played checkers with Martin  Won 1, lost 1.)  Very bad weather---rain, thunder and lightning.  Notified that we move out after 24:00 hours to Pleiku.  Mixed rumors of what it is like.  Will see soon.

July 23, 1968 – On to Pleiku

Well finally left Cam Ranh Bay last night in a C-147.  We were “combat loaded” for the first time---thank God it was only 45 minutes long.  Well, am stationed at Pleiku.  It is worse than Cam Ranh Bay, especially the weather, freezing cold and raining.  Understand it gets very bad in December.  Right now it is monsoon season but rain isn’t really bad.  Probably the most demoralizing factor is the dirt, really mud.  Very difficult to keep clean and water is very scarce.  Went through processing all day.  Shaving is really rough.  Conservation of water is really rough on all of usl.  Mosquitoes are bad, even brushing teeth is rough.  It is hell right now and we haven’t even seen any fighting.  Things will get worse, I am sure, but musn’t let it bother me.

July 24, 1968 – Duty in Pleiku

Well had CQ (Company Quarters Guard? Can’t remember the acronym.) until 7:30 this morning.  Last night we heard about 20 outgoing rounds and none incoming.  Saw 1 flare so somebody must be fighting.  Each round shook the roof, but I wasn’t scared after the first one went off.  Talked to Headquarters over a PRC-25 on the situation here.  In the morning we ate in the cadre mess hall---best breakfast I’ve had since in the Army so am on CQ again tonight as a volunteer.  (Good food is always a motivator.) 

We are still awaiting final assignment and a 5 day review course so most guys are on shit burning details, fixing collapsed bunkers (due to rain), KP, etc.  So far I got off of most due to CQ duty.  But did help Hass on cleanup of E-4 club.  Met 3 Vietnamese, Linda, Di and Papa-san.  Di is 17 years old and waits for when he can join the NVR army.  Taught me how to say, “I love you too much.”  Phonetic spelling: “Toy ewe co ynew num.” and word for girl friend is “ban-guy”.

Well, since then am now on CQ and listening to a band across the way.  Vietnamese people seem very satisfied and happy with what they have but mostly because they don’t know any other life.  “Doie” means daughter.  Papa-san showed quite a bit of interest in photos of our families even though he speaks no English.  He also showed us a picture of his daughter and a photo of him standing next to a poster of a girl with his finger pointing at a certain part of her lower anatomy, simulating of course.  (Some things just never change in any culture.)  Reaction of Linda and Di was laughing and we all laughed---but it shows that they are not as inhibited as Americans on sex in a mixed group or else have a lower standard of morals than Americans; probably a combination of the two since they work with GI’s.  Good question: while preserving freedom, perhaps just our presence here is destroying their ethnic culture?  Surely  the Commies (Communists) would have also destroyed their culture if we weren’t here so perhaps war also destroys culture as well as lives.  Whether this is good remains to be seen, but the price is high due to the necessity of agricultural countries to industrialize.  Something to consider and think about.

July 25, 1968 – Still in Pleiku

Just worked on details and went to a movie with Bootsma.  “Smashing Time” with Lynn Redgrave and Rita Tashingwood.  It was lousy and didn’t stay for the end.  Rained as usual.

July 26, 1968 – Still in Pleiku

Still raining!  When will it stop.  Went to classes today which were interesting but gives the impression that I am destined to see action no matter what.  Am quite scared despite how “great” our fire support is.  Somebody better pray for me.  Also saw 30 Viet Cong defectors being trained here as scouts.  Word is they are pretty loyal but still can’t trust them.  What a hell of a war!

July 27, 1968 – Assigned Today with friends – On way to Dak To

PFC Patrick J. Flanagan

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Co. C (Charlie), 1st Bn., 8th Inf.

4th Inf. Division

APO SF 96265

 

PFC Bootsma

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Co. B (Bravo), 1st Bn., 12th Inf.

4th Inf. Division

APO SF 96262

 

PFC Hass

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Co. C (Charlie), 1st Bn., 12th Inf.

 

I am losing my friends.  Sun shone for 1 hour today.  Casualties in C Co., 12 killed in last year.  Good or bad?

July 29, 1968 – Still in Pleiku/Dak To

Met Montagnard tribe for first time.  Shared food with them.  What a miserable life they live.  Am tired.  Goodnight!

August 5th, 1968 – Bridge #3

Well at Bridge #3.  No enemy contact yet.  Been on 1 OP, 1 Ambush and went as security for 8 inch cannons.  We destroyed 2 enemy bridges (Ho Chi Minh Trail) and 1 enemy convoy.  Last night a patrol from another fire base was hit, 5,000 meters away.  One man killed.  Had a rat in my foxhole last night.  He was big.  Rain is continual.  Happy Anniversary to me and my wife.  Diary will get sketchy here on due to rains and business.

September 4th, 1968 – Bridge #3

Well haven’t written much because not much has happened.  Moved to a different squad and moved in with Andy Day.  He reminds me of Tony Curtis since whenever we lack something, he usually gets it somehow.  This is usually comical….like the time he took LRRP (Long Range Reconaissance Meals) right out from under the Captain’s nose.  Am reading a  lot: Doc Savage, Mark Twain’s Letters to the Earth and by the author of Dr. Strangelove The Commander are the best so far.  I read a lot of “cock” books mostly because it is the only way to relieve any sex frustrations.  I miss Yolanda a whole lot and so far have written one love letter which I am very proud of.  Only this and a great love for her makes it possible to remain faithful without losing my spirit.  These are positive measures; negative is only disease.  We will see how strong my willpower isin a year’s time of no sex.  Also, another milestone in my experience here so far: I smoked grass.  Shared two cigarettes with 2 guys.  They were really screwy and I didn’t enjoy it.  Just like getting drunk; if you aren’t with people you like, it’s no fun.  Same as with dope; I just get depressed.  So I guess it is the first and last time.  “First impressions are the last impressions.”  And why do I have to escape anyway---except from the insanity of war.

September 6th, 1968 – Bridge #3

Well a short one----a typhoon hit last night.  We were supposed to go on Ambush but instead hid in our bunker and answered SitReps from there.  (It was raining too hard that night and we didn’t want to get all muddy.  This was probably a court-martial offense.)  At 2:15 a.m. the bridge we were guarding collapsed despite the engineer’s claims it wouldn’t.  (So much for the Army Corps. of Engineers!)  It has rained continually now for approximately 72 hours and the river rose 30 to 40 feet.  (I have pictures of it rising.)  Five bunkers flooded or caved into the river.  What fun!  Only fitting to celebrate with a dinner of shrimp, crackers, hot sauce and pepperoni.  Andy got a CARE package from home.  Guess we’ll soon be taken back to Dak To by Chinook now that the bridge is gone due to the monsoon.  (What was really stupid was that the mess hall was on the other side of the river.  We were stuck eating C-rations until we got resupplied or moved out.}

November 12th, 1968 – FSB29 – I think this is at the end of the second battle for FSB29

Well, since Bridge #3, we didn’t go back to Dak To.  We went to FSB29, 5 miles from Cambodia and the Laotian borders.  (I suspect that we were really now in Cambodia or Laos.)  For the last 3 weeks, we received 122mm and 100mm rockets, Rickey Rifle fire, 60 and 82 mm mortar fire.  Casualties – Infantry Company only were 4 wounded, 3 seriously; Artillery – 1 dead and 5 wounded; Recon – 1 dead.  Any others I’m not sure of.  Our four wounded was due to a direct hit on their bunker with 122 mm rockets.  (I think I have pictures of this bunker after.  It was totally demolished.)

The highpoint: Gooks (No. Viet Nam Army Regulars) hit the LZ (Landing Zone for helicopters) which had 1,000 gallons of gas still on it; smoke rose 200 feet up and also set off ammunition on the LZ.  Yesterday they hit the LZ again on which there were 150 mortar rounds on the pad plus some CS gas.  (Pretty stupid of us to let this stuff sit there.)  This drove Andy and I out of our bunker and, without gas masks or flack jackets, we ran toward the other side of the perimeter and hit the trench lines just as the mortar rounds started to go off.  We crawled through the ditch toward a bunker while shrapnel was flying continually overhead.  Finally we made it to the bunker as a mortar or a rocket hit close.  Up to this point, we had received about 800 incoming rounds.  We were to move off the hill so that they could put a B52 bomb strike into the area.  Everytime support choppers tried to come in, the Gooks started shelling us.  By this time, most of our ammunition had been blown up or coptered out for our withdrawal.

All of our bunkers were destroyed and dismantled by us in getting prepared to move out; the only protection was the trench line and makeshift bunkers.  Today, November 12th, the Air Force has knocked out most of the enemy positions but we are still receiving incoming rounds.  The Air Force put in a smoke screen 3,000 meters long and 1,000 ft. high to hide us from enemy fire (I have pictures of this also).  As a result, enemy mortars were hitting way off of the LZ so everyone could begin moving out (TOC, Artillery, Recon, etc.)  Everybody but the Infantry.  We are the last to go.  At 2:00 p.m. copters tried to pick us up.  One copter crashed due to shrapnel and the pilot was wounded.  So it was too dangerous for internal extraction; word came that  we were to hump (climb down with full backpacks and all gear) down to the road in the valley and get picked up there by the helicopters.  The Company basically ran off the hill with our rucksacks.  .  For me, it was a matter of run a little and then take cover from mortars incoming.  I ran across the LZ and heard the “thump” of a mortar leaving the tube, and ran across to jump head first into a small foxhole.  Then I got out as another round hit and ran until I hit the start of the finger and the jungle.  Andy said he saw me with one of the scaredest looks on my face.  The whole Company made it across the LZ despite the Gooks pumping rounds into it.  One guy passed out half way due to the heat.  We hadn’t eaten in 3 days.  I prayed all the way down to the alternate LZ with a St. Christopher’s medal around my neck.   We finally got lifted to Ben Het, a Special Forces camp, and then to Firebase25.  I think I came close to a nervous breakdown but fought it.  I did receive minor concussions from the mortar and rocket blasts which gave me a headache.

To sum it all up: had too many close calls from shrapnel and explosive blasts.  Only God can be thanked for this.  I also lost our $65.00 radio and our new puppy who was killed by a mortar blast, direct hit as he came out of the trenches and tried to follow us down the finger and off of the hill.  How sad----his name was “Incoming”.  Finally at Ben Het I gave in and cried but only for a short time for things are too busy to stop, think and cry.  Thank God.

November 13th, 1968 – FSB25

Now at #25!  We are building bunkers again-----so until next entry, good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

by Conley Burgess in Vietnam

Donated by Pat Carnes

 

I walked down the steps

And looked with wondering eyes,

I’ve flown so far in that big jet

Since I’ve last said my good-byes

I’m just another new arrival

A Vietnam G. I.

 

I watched, listened and learned

As the days went by

From the guys who really know

Just what, just when, and why

These things had to happen

And yet they never cry.

 

It’s only been 19 years

Since my friend there was born.

Much sympathy I’d give his folks

If I was there when they mourn,

And let them know they’re not

The only ones whose heart was torn.

 

This war is long, it’s hard, and

To think how long it’s been,

Many wonder just what could happen

To bring it to an end.

But we know war will always be

Until there’s no more sin.

 

Because two nations disagreed

That’s what brought us here

To help the one we know must win

Just because we care

For all our fellowmen and children

Whose lives are lived in fear.

 

The days and nights keep passing by

And we continue to pray

That it will all be over soon

Or tomorrow will be the day

When we can all start home

And no one has to stay.

 

Soon I’ll board that big old jet

And as we begin to fly

I’ll look back over that year –

Long land and still wonder why

Like everyone else who has been

A Vietnam G. I.

 


 

The Vietnam Generation by James Webb

Former Secretary of the Navy James Webb was awarded 
 the Navy Cross, Silver Star, and Bronze Star medals for heroism as 
 a Marine in Vietnam . His novels include The Emperor's General and 
 Fields of Fire.


Today’s Political Climate by Patrick Flanagan

 

Patrick Flanagan: C/1/8, 68-69, Mr.Squid1@aol.com


 

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