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A bold general may be lucky, but no general can be lucky unless he is bold.

-- Field Marshal Archibald Percival Wavell
The First Brigade18670 Reads  Printer-friendly page

VietnamOn 22 July 1968, the First Brigade of the 5th. Infantry Division [Mechanized], left Fort Carson, Colorado, under the command of Colonel Richard Glikes. Forward elements of the Brigade had been shipped out earlier to stake our claim to I-Corps. The heavy stuff, tanks and APCs and the likes had been shipped out in May and June. For the rest of us, we were to fly all the way. The last movie I saw on post was Elvira Madigan.
The Red Devil Brigade included four armor companies from the 1/77th., six infantry companies from the 1/11th., 5 companies from the 1/61st. Mobile Infantry [Mechanized], 5 batteries from the 5/4th. Artillery loaded primarily with 155-mm and 105 mm, A Troop from 4/12th. Cavalry, 5 support companies [finance, personnel, medical, transport and supply and maintenance] from 75th. Support Battalion, Alpha Company from 7th. Engineers, and the 517th. Military Intelligence Detachment. Thus, the move involved the transportation of approximately 5,500 newbies to the Nam, switching from huge MACV transports to C-130's at Da Nang and landing at Quang Tri on a rather short PSP runway. [our own aircraft had to make three passes before successfully coming to a halt within the length of that runway. Of course, there being no windows, and since we had been circling a short while before attempting to land, it seemed to us that maybe we were coming under fire already]. Of course, after having been trained so thoroughly for jungle warfare during the blizzard of '68, we felt perfectly prepared to handle whatever was thrown at us. But actually landing with a sharp jolt, slamming on the brakes and then hearing the engines rev up as we took off again with a sharp bank, and then repeating this sequence a couple of times just did not inspire confidence. There was, in this plane, a palpable feeling of concern, or perhaps fear is a more accurate term. A fleeting thought came to my mind: "Wouldn't it just suck if we all died on arrival because of a plane crash?" But our faces were all so safely masking with a display of fake bravado, that turmoil inside, and that tightening of the gut awaiting the order to lock and load. Then, we came to a halt and deplaned. Darkness was already falling on this land, and Fort Carson's best had finally arrived in the Year of the Monkey - I was born also in a Year of the Monkey. An e-Mail from Harvey Hahn, Bravo Company, 1/11th., received 23 March 2001, notes on a wry note: ".... The fact that the Army in Vietnam didn't know that we were coming and had no place to put us told us a lot about how things really were right away." During the first week or so, the Third Marine Division played host. The Brigade was spread out around the area of Quang Tri City, and besides building tent cities, and filling sand bags, setting up concertina wire, our excursions also took us to Dong H, Cam L and the Rockpile. We also became acquainted with Wunder Beach -- we being quite distinct from the marines, who frolicked in their shorts in the water, while we wore our flack jackets and helmets as we transferred supplies, our red diamond patch on our shoulder probably easily visible for hundreds of yards. Of course, it only took us a few days to wizen up and tear them off, or cover them with black ink from laundry pens. It's very hot, it's very humid, and the air smells oppressively bad. This land is very lush, and a paradise for insects and other undesirable creatures. It is a place of green, in the grass, in the trees, in the bushes and in the moss that grows everywhere. It is a place of red, in the stripes of their flag and ours, in the baked cracked clay that passes for ground, and in the blood-stained tears that will soon irrigate it - poetry cast in stone-like clay. This will be a place of death. Excerpt from page 7 of the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO. "... To further mark the completion of training and to bid a temporary adieu to the advance party, a battalion-wide steak and beer party was held and all hands, including Brutus T. Bear, the Pioneer mascot, were vociferous in song, profound in military tactics, and above all permeated with the obvious desire to 'get over there and get with it!'. Maximum leaves were granted and full advantage of this pleasant respite was taken by all. Word affirming the safe arrival of the advance party was greeted with satisfaction and the advice rendered, via mail by this group to the main body, proved invaluable in tying up those "loose ends" which invariably arise during a major military troop movement. July found those individuals not actually on leave, continuing to complete debarkation procedures and preparations to return to Fort Carson control of those facilities which would remain at home station when the Pioneers departed for the assigned combat area. On July 21, 1968, the culmination of all previous efforts were vividly demonstrated when the National and Battalion Colors were cased for the final time at Fort Carson and ceremoniously placed aboard the first of many giant C-141 Starlifters to serve as a symbolic vanguard for the Pioneer Battalion. Utilizing diverse routes and intermediate stop-over points, the main body proceeded towards their primary destination and purpose - Combat! The trans-oceanic flights terminated at the Da Nang, Vietnam, military complex where the troops off-loaded onto C-130 Cargo Transports for the final leg of the long flight which would eventually terminate at Quang Tri, the future home of the Pioneers. An operations base was established at LZ Sharon, YD 334485 ... under the auspices of the 1st Brigade, 1st Air Cav, and incountry shakedown of the maneuver elements was implemented ... The month of July closed with no major enemy contacts, although sporadic sniper fire, resulting in no friendly casualties, but an increased awareness that this was realistic training beyond question." The military mission of the Brigade consisted mostly of Search-and-Destroy and Cordon operations, some of which were undertaken jointly with the 3rd. Marine Division and 1st. Air Cavalry. The 5/4th. Artillery set up its main fire-support base at C-2, northwest of Cam L and south of Cn Thien. The first firefight of the Red Devil Brigade against the North Vietnamese Army [NVA] took place starting 11 August 1968, in the area known as "Leatherneck Square" - The Marines had already taught the enemy a lesson in these parts during the Tt, 1968 celebrations - [bounded by Cn Thien {also known as LZ Alpha 4, and named for a no-longer existing village near Thn Huong Thanh - later that area would be known as Kentucky a fairly high hill that also had been used by the French}, Cam L {resettled from its original site}, Dng H and Gio Linh], when it overran the enemy bunker complex with the assistance of Alpha Company of the 1st. Battalion, 77th. Armor Regiment, and in which the enemy took well over 50 casualties. The enemy retreated in complete disarray. "Monday 12 August 1968: Alpha Company, 1/77th Armor was the first unit of the Red Brigade to be sent into combat, leaving its spa in Wunder Beach, moving basically Westward to Cam L, then North to Cn Thien. Two of our guys have already died here, one by drowning and one to fatal illness. Our first combat casualty was PFC William [Billy] Kent from Charley Company, 1/61st. Infantry - a 20-year old kid who was killed by a trap off the main trail right at the outset of an ambush northwest of Cn Thien. The 1/61st. Infantry is hanging out at Cn Thien, a village completely destroyed last year, I think, which we call Firebase Alpha 4. It's just a balded hill, made of red clay, and occupied mostly by rats and land-mines of all kinds. I will try to keep track of our casualties, seems to be easier than trying to figure out who's still alive. We carried out this {as well as some of our subsequent} operation jointly with the First Marine Regiment {3rd. Division} against NVA forces. The enemy was routed and 80 of them were killed. Tuesday 20 August 1968: I think the entire Battalion is involved in this encounter with the NVA. SGT Steven Martinez, a 21 year-old from Alpha Company 1/11th. Infantry, was killed by a land mine. Wednesday 21 August 1968: We're getting an education from the marines [it's nice to have them fighting on your side because you tend to live longer that way -- although we will fight over a beer with them], and are more careful about covering our bright red diamond patches with black laundry ink. Heretofore, the bright red diamond was proudly displayed on our shoulder, and we could quickly identify members of our unit, but so could the enemy, sometimes from far away. Another Marine tip, cover the muzzle of the M-16 with plastic wrap to keep dust and moisture out of the barrel and maybe it won't jam so much. Apparently they have experienced a lot of trouble, and many of them prefer to use the AK-47. So, many of us now have plastic wrapped on the muzzle of our delicate weapon. It just melts away with the first round fired and kind of gunks up the flash suppressor. Friday 23 August 1968: PFC Chester Mc Clelland, a 24-year old {an elderly fellow in the midst of these youngsters, but the same age as I am} from Delta Company 1/77th. Armor was killed by mortar fire, when the NVA attempted to counter-attack. He was just a driver. Saturday 24 August 1968: Excerpt from page 8 of the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO. "On 24 August 1968, a fever of expectancy encompassed the Pioneer ranks as the order was received to deploy to the Demilitarized Zone of Vietnam and occupy the forward fire base location near Con Thien (YD 115702). Designated in military parlance as A-4, the fire base became the focal point of what was to become an illustrious segment of an already distinguished combat history." 25 August 1968: Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: "A two-pronged battalion move was conducted on 25 August 1968 as the main force consisting of Companies B, C, D and E occupied A-4 and Company A was airlifted into another fire base designated as A-3 (YD 173723), the Eastern anchor of what could be termed (in traditional warfare) as the front line trace. The battalion CP [Command Post] was sited at A-4 and an entirely new type of environment greeted the Pioneers as they took up residence below ground in heavily sandbagged bunkers with typical Pioneer humor and ingenuity the interiors of "Prairie Dog Village" were suddenly decorated with an assortment of provocative pin-up pictures and humerous slogans, though questionable in taste, most certainly lent color to an otherwise dismal abode." 26 August 1968: We are in Leatherneck Square, outside Dng H, and NVA and VC seem to be popping up out of nowhere and everywhere at once. So, we kill them. Saturday 31 August 1968: It is not a good day to be married in this man's world. Our sister Company, Delta Company, 1/11th., lost SGT Keith Wilson, who was killed by AK-47 fire, and who became the first married man killed in our Brigade. From the same company, CPL Anthony Miller was shot and killed. He's our first black man casualty and he also was married, and had a family, we think. Delta Company had been pinned down by well planned mortar fire. Our sister platoon chased the enemy as Charley Company, 1/11th. Infantry joined up with the 1/77th. Armor to relieve a pinned down squad. We're rather proud, and sort of exhilirated with over 52 kills today. We're getting mean and thirst for vengeance to avenge our dead against the gooks. Ah yes, the enemy has earned a distinguished promotion to a sub-human species. They are now gooks, ripe for extermination. If we don't think of them as human, we are less likely to hesitate about killing them, and too often it is that fraction of time spent in hesitation that gets one killed here. The VC are running from us [Victor Charley on the radio waves, stands for Vit Cong, and we often called this unseen enemy Charley, or Mr. Charles when he earned our professional respect]." Headquarters were installed at Camp Red Devil {courtesy of the Engineers}, outside and West of Quang Tri City, some 17 kilometers from the DMZ. For the next two months, our Battalion, and indeed the Brigade as a whole, established a reputation for finding and routing the enemy in every single encounter. This was not mentioned in the American civilian press, who probably looked upon our achievements with some dismay as it seemed pre-occupied with trying to headline instances of Communist successes. So to the American public it must have seemed like Communist forces consistently won major victories rather than experiencing transient advances and massive losses. And in the field we were killing them at a frightening pace. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO.[Continued from 25 August segment] "Humor wasn't one-sided however, as the enemy rendered an audible welcome by shelling both fire bases with rockets, mortars, and long range artillery. The total effect resulted in a fierce determination of the Pioneers to personally confront the enemy as soon as possible to express their appreciation for the consideration shown by the enemy greeting committee. This was accomplished in a striking manner on 31 August 1968 as a company size patrol of Company D received sniper fire. The resulting action found the unit in contact with a numerically large enemy force, heavily equipped with automatic weapons. Supported by air strikes, Company D closed with the enemy and by use of fire and maneuver killed fifty-two (52) of the enemy, captured his equipment, and rendered that particular NVA unit totally ineffective for immediate combat. This remarkable action served as the battalion announcement that this designated portion of South Vietnam was Pioneer territory and intruders would be regarded as encroaching upon our right of eminent domain. Plaudits and praise were bestowed upon the Pioneers by all echelons of major commands to include that of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, General William C. Westmoreland. To mark the occasion, free beer and barbecue was made available to all hands and then it was back into the AO [Area of Operations] to literally look for a fight." By September, units of the Red Devil Brigade routinely went into the DMZ [a perspective not shared and emphatically denied by our commander-in-chief, but he wasn't there] during tactical infantry operations, and in four days of heavy fighting, hundreds of North Vietnamese infantrymen were killed. But it was not a happy month for the 1/11th. nor for the 1/61st. I was formulating the opinion that the VC were not freedom fighters [no matter what Jane Fonda said three years later] for any front, let alone a people's front. They are low-class hoods, fighting for the right to pillage peasants' villages, and to rape young girls. They are Vietnamese killing their own people, and we found some of the mutilated remnants of peasants' bodies, which tended to pop up almost anywhere unexpected. Mostly, these were villagers who had befriended Americans or South Vietnamese openly. When I talked to them in French, they had the sound reasoning and desires and down-to-earth sense of peasants everywhere -- they just wanted to be left alone, to tend their land, and to provide for their families; what went on in Sa Gn or H Ni meant little to them. But we disturbed them, and the South Vietnamese disturbed them, and the VC and the NVA disturbed their peace too. They were very hospitable, and were eager to speak French. On more than one occasion, their advice warned us of danger, and saved some of our lives. Mostly, the victims tended to be old men, but on one occasion, the entire family was slaughtered and left in the middle of the village [which was deserted by the time we walked through]. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: "To contain and preclude enemy utilization of the 1/11 area of operations, the maximum amount of troops available were sent to the field to seek out and destroy the enemy wherever he could be found. Hunter-killer teams were deployed, ambushes established, air observers sent aloft, and continual pressure applied via patrols throughout the AO. Initials signs of success were forthcoming as enemy shelling of the fire base diminished. The enemy could no longer move at will, his ability to mass was restricted and he resorted to utilization of 1-3 man patrols who found, to their chagrin, that any enemy movement would result in a fusillade of withering fire." "Monday 2 September 1968: I am on TDY with Delta Company, 1/61st. Infantry [Mechanized] - Guess they needed another M-60 and I'll have to do. We remain a good team because we trained intensely together at Ft. Carson, and in large part we have become friends, but the 1/61st. is not the same home I had with the 1/11th. The Battalion is not starting the month out very well. PFC Mike Stanley, from Bravo Company, 19 years old, was picked off by a sniper in a firefight. An e-mail from {SP4} Jim Korolowicz, Bravo Company, 1/11th, received on 1 April 2001 documents this loss in graphic detail: "... Michael and I had just meet a day or two earlier, he did not come with the rest of us from Ft. Carson. He was the first replacement. Both of us sat on a hill over looking a valley, when we were told to saddle up and move to a different location. We started to move across the top of the next hill when one of the guys on top of a Tank (1/77) was pointing at the edge of the hill, he was then shot in the shoulder by a sniper. All hell broke loose after that. Me and Michael jumped into an old foxhole. As we both tried to figure out what was happening, one of the four NVA Sappers in the holes in front of us tossed a grenade at our hole, I jumped out and started to crawl back towards the tanks rather quickly when the grenade went off. I was hit in the leg and ass. I stopped and crawled back to Michael a few feet away ( I can only guess that when I jumped so did Michael) I grabbed his leg and said lets go on the count of three, he never moved. One of my buddies Larry Peoples ran over and carried me back to the Tanks and APC's (tracks). Later on the Medivac Chopper, I saw Michael again his young face was slightly burned from the blast, I believe they also shot Michael as he laid stunned from the blast of the grenade. I forgot to tell you that just before we moved to the next hill Michael showed me a picture of his wife, they had been married just before he left for VN, he was in country no more than a week or so before he was a KIA. I still think of him daily and how I could of helped more. Also you should know that Sgt. Richard Dennis Joy received the Bronze Star for Valor he protected the Tanker and advanced on the NVA. SGT Joy was KIA 20 June 1969, one month before he would have taken the Freedom Bird home. I finished my tour in July of 69 and went home. This is the first time I have told this story outside my squad ..." { Wednesday 4 September 1968: Very heavy rains today. Alpha Company went on a sweep mission west in the morning, north-west of Cn Thien to pick up some marines from the 3rd. Battalion, 9th. Regiment, 3rd. Division and bring them back to base. By early afternoon, the marines had reported seeing NVA in the area, and by mid-afternoon Alpha Company had picked them up. Heavy fighting began around 1600 hours. SP4 Barry Wells from Alpha Company was killed by AK-47 fire, he was 21 years old. Our first officer casualty was 2LT David Sullivan, a 24-year old artillery commander and forward observer from Bravo Battery, 5/4th. He was from Missoula, MT, and he used to brag about this delightful and wondrous God's country where the cattle outnumbered the people. LT Sullivan's Recon SGT, Tommy Doris, called for artillery support which he accurately zeroed in to within 75 meters of his own position. Later, it became apparent that if it hadn't been for Alpha Company, we probably would have had more casualties. By late afternoon, one of its platoons had become mired, APC's stuck in the mud, and pinned down as it received heavy enemy fire, but its commander, although wounded when a rocket hit his APC, went berserk {and he was kind of gung-ho already anyway} and led his men against enemy positions. His advance must have surprised the enemy, and their distraction allowed our units to move forward as well. We, at the time, remained unaware that this is what allowed us to progress when we were finally sent in. But unlike berserkers, he then directed the evacuation of his own wounded until finally he had to be med-evac'd. [Later correspondence claimed he was a CPT Vernon]. In the same firefight, PFC Smevold [Alpha Company, 1/61st] was killed at 21 years of age by a grenade. Alpha Company also lost 20-year old Bill Lucas who was killed by mortar fire -- about 1 month before his 21st. birthday. SP5 Wolf D. Dietz, a combat engineer from Alpha Company, 7th. Engineers, was killed in intense mortar fire at 22 years of age. Med-Evacs were called in and were also fired at by the RPG's from the enemy {the 123rd. NVA Regiment}. At night, our units took up positions on Hill 162 {altitude of the hill}, one day's walk from the 5/4th. C-2 support base, and due west of Cam L. 27 of our guys were wounded that day. Later, one was to find out that this action was part of Operation Kentucky. Thursday 5 September 1968: Return to base camp uneventful. We counted 23 dead enemies from yesterday's encounter. 9 September 1968: The First Brigade is bleeding and three more of our guys were killed in action today: PFC Terronez, PVT David R. Lilly, SGT Howard Burke -- all from Charley Company, 1/61st. when it came under heavy rocket and mortar fire in the hills West of Dng H. Throughout the firefight, SGT Tommy Doris, although wounded, continued to fight until the last chopper left late in the afternoon. {ex post facto additional information thanks to Michael Mullenix, received 8 December 2000: Alpha Company had occupied the hill before Charley Company, and when it took enemy fire it moved out. Subsequently with casualties, Alpha Company had to move back a bit for med-evac, which forced C Company back on top of the hill where it became pinned downed by heavy mortar and rocket fire. Lilly and Terronez were literally blown to pieces. Burke was the Forward Observer for the mortar platoon, and was trying to determine where the rockets and mortars were coming from when he was hit. Every time the chopper came in to take the wounded from C Company, it drew heavy enemy fire, so not many were able to get in at a time. C Company took more wounded when the chopper drew fire and left. Survivors who stayed behind took remaining pieces of Lilly and Terronez, and hid in a stream bed all night and walked out in the morning}. Tuesday 10 September 1968: We were sent out to help rout Mr. Charles and any NVA we could come across. I think HQ had good information this time, and we had a big firefight the next day. 11 September 1968: Our sister unit Bravo Company, 1/11th. lost 23 year-old PFC Gorschboth to a grenade, SGT Bill Gagnier, 21 years old, to a sniper and SP4 Tom Smith, at 20 years of age, to mortar shrapnel. The NVA seemed to throw everything they had at us - rockets, mortars, grenades, machine gun fire, and Bravo Company lost four more guys: PFC Robert L. Scott, who had just joined the unit two weeks [to the day] earlier was shot to death the day before his 20th. birthday - a typically cocky, though carefree, happy-go-lucky kind of kid; SP4 Vini Santucci [we kidded him about being a mafioso Godfather because he was from Chicago] was lost to a mortar and rocket artillery barrage which also killed SP4 Harry Van Alst - 2 months after his 21st. birthday, but still a kid; and PFC Gary Waldorf, 20 years of age --- his weapon had either jammed or he ran out of ammo - probably a jam, and a rocket blew up right next to him. Many of the hits we took were by such deadly, but well-aimed mortar fire, like the enemy knew exactly where we were going to be at any one instant and zeroed in on us. We were pinned down for some time, so the medic couldn't reach some of the wounded in time to save them. It's very hard to run up and down hills, chasing the elusive enemy, and then to encounter him in fortified embankments or bunkers, or hidden in caves loaded with booby traps and tunnel complexes. According to an E-Mail received 23 March 2001 from Harvey Hahn, Bravo Company, 1/11th, concerning the events of Wednesday 11 September 1968: " ...Wed. was the third night that Bravo Company would stay on the same position after doing whatever they had us doing out in that area all day. This is significant because on the second night, two of us on radio watch saw a wet charge come out of a mortar off to our west, got a direction on it and reported it to be checked out. That next evening as we sat on our foxholes eating chow, that mortar began to zero on us and comenced to walking rounds around our perimeter, dropping some in on our guys down in their holes. That is what killed my friend Sgt. Bill Gagnier, and his mortar gunner with the 81's SP/4 Vini Santucci. I think they were down in the same hole. And the others who died there also from this mortar attack, my friend Sgt. Ron Fraser died later from wounds in this mortar attack if his death took place three days later. There was no other ground action except what our crazy CO had us doing. Like sending us off the hill in the total darkness in all different directions. If there had been any VC in the area waiting for us, we would have been chopped meat..." Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: "On 11 September 1968, Company D supported by one platoon of tanks from Company C, 1/77th. Armor, moved into the "Market Place", vicinity YD 130725, and again engaged the same enemy unit which they had mauled previously. Apparently unconvinced that they were no longer in control of the area, the enemy struck with a dogged tenacity utilizing hedgerows, dikes and heavy vegetation for concealment of his well-fortified bunker complex. His defensive posture offered overlapping fire defense in depth, and fields of fire that theoretically gave the battlefield advantage entirely to the enemy. However, theory did not materialize into fact, as Company D and the tanks attacked, bunker by bunker, in a systematic destructive effort that raised chaos within the enemy positions and when the smoke of battle cleared, forty-four (44) North Vietnamese Army Soldiers lay dead and seven (7) of their comrades were prisoners. One friendly wounded was sustained and the comparative results indicated, once again, a clear cut victory for the Pioneer forces. Application of pressure continued throughout the AO as Company A, supported by Company A, 4/12 Armored Cavalry, conducted a sweep out of A-3 toward the DMZ on 13 September 1968. Eight (8) enemy NVA were killed and as in all previous battalion actions, enemy weapons and equipment were captured. Success breeds success and on the following day Company B, on a routine patrol, killed nine (9) NVA." Saturday 14 September 1968: Bravo Company [1/11th.] lost yet another of its men as SGT Ron Fraser was shot by a sniper. That should have alerted the battalion that the enemy was not going to be surprised by our presence, but at the time we didn't pay attention to such details. We figured we had the enemy on the run. We had a minor skirmish and killed one enemy, the others ran off. Sunday 15 September 1968: We are fighting very hard, but our right flank lost its Commander, 1LT Pete Rich from Headquarters Company [1/61st.] {This is an error in my diary as LT Rich was in Charley Company according to information received from Michael Mullenix, his RTO, on 8 December 2000. LT Rich was killed by AK-47 fire when he came upon a wounded, dying NVA, who fired a burst which killed both Rich and Gil Carvelho}, and also a SGT Carvalho from Charley Company [1/61st.] was shot [I think]. The enemy by any reasonable guess is getting slaughtered here, but there always seems to be more coming. We, as a battalion, have chalked up over 85 kills this week. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: "On 17 September 1968, Company D, with its platoon of tanks in support, once again made contact with an enemy force of unknown size in the vicinity of the "Market Place". With the support of tactical air, Company D broke through the initial line of defense causing the enemy to break contact and leaving behind thirteen (13) dead. With their foe on the run, the Pioneers were expecting another smashing victory but were forced to stop and set up security for a downed medevac chopper. Friendly casualties were light as only seven (7) pioneers received minor wounds. A combined sweep team consisting of Companies A, B and C, lined up and began a sweep of the Ao to uncover any enemy who still possessed the desire to engage the Pioneer Battalion. On 18 September 1968, Company B drew blood - engaging a strong NVA force, vicinity YD 129723, "Battling Bravo" stormed across the enemy defenses, putting him to rout, and decimated his ranks by killing twenty-nine (29) of his sorely needed troops. Additional benefits were reaped as the enemy in his haste to disengage, abandoned valuable documents and weapons which provided a wealth of intelligence information. An aura of calm and serenity seemed to follow this engagement." 20 September 1968: Today is very humid, an uncomfortable day to fight, but it is also a terrible day. We're running up and down hills [which we may already run up and down and over several times before] and that's no fun at all with our helmets, flak jackets, lugging ammo belts and always being afraid of stepping on a mine or being picked off. Killed seven enemies in a brief encounter. 21 September 1968: Delta Company from 1/11th. reports a serious enemy encounter and SP4 Bob Lhota [an elderly man - a whole year older than myself] and SP4 Dave White [21 years of age] were killed by small arms fire. From other platoons in Delta Company [1/11th.], PFC Dave Clark was killed by AK-47 - we used to kid him about having gone underground from the Dave Clark 5 and asked him where the other 4 were hiding. Delta Company also lost: PFC Frank Charles [SIR Charles - to differentiate him from the VC] who was 18 years old, to AK-47; and Squad Leader SGT Mike Hanneman, who used to brag about being a draftee rather than a lifer, was one of the first ones hit in the terrible encounter - at age 24." Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: "The 'Easy Days' for the Pioneers were extremely short in duration, however, as the battalion relinquished control of A-4 and A-3 and assumed control of another firebase designated as C-2, vicinity of YD 134645, to include the vital C-2 bridge connecting both fire bases. Although the sudden move was somewhat hectic, the new area of operations was lucrative in nature as Companies C and D contacted an enemy force hidden in bunkers West of C-2, killing thirteen (13) enemy with the usual capture of weapons and equipment. September drew to a close with battalion patrols uncovering numerous enemy arms caches made up mainly of hidden ammunition, rockets, and mines, obviously stored for future utilization against allied forces." In late October, during Operation Rich, the First Battalion of the 61st. Infantry with the First of the 77th. Armor encountered a large unit, or maybe it was several units, of NVA, and came under heavy mortar and rocket fire. The altercation lasted for several days during which the tanks successfully outflanked the enemy and drove him into the open, where the 1/61st. annihilated them. By the end of the fighting, the enemy remnants had fled in complete disarray and left behind over 300 of their comrades dead. We lost our first medic, and my responsibility changed from machine gunner to corpsman until the replacement arrives. Toward the end of the month, the Army decided that it was time for another officer to get some battle decorations and so Colonel Glikes [still a Colonel after three months in country -- hmm ... maybe the Army wasn't too happy with him after all] gave the command over to Colonel James Gibson. The change did not affect me in any way because frankly I never saw either Glikes or Gibson leading combat operations at the head of the troops. America's definition of leadership is interesting ... it is something whereby the head is at the rear. So the head of our command is where the sun never shines. For distinguished action against a hostile force in the vicinity of Kinh Mn [North of Tan Lich, and within shouting distance of the river in the DMZ] during the period 23 October 1968 to 26 October 1968, the First Battalion was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation. The Vietnamese government also recognized the Battalion's valor with the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palms. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: "... The discovery of caches continued throughout the month of October and typified the activities of the Battalion during the month. Small enemy contacts were made on occasions as sweeps of the AO and ambushes were effected. October closed with the warning order that the Battalion would move South and assume control of LZ Sharon and its adjacent AO." "Tuesday 1 October 1968: I'm to remain with Delta Co. 1/61st., so I'll miss the guys at 1/11th. Life is getting to be the proverbial hell. Or maybe war is hell but my life is this war. I am starting to think that most of us will die here, either face down in the mud or killed by mosquitoes. The VC took PFC John E. [Johnee] Jacobs' life. Johnee, at 21 years old and from Bravo Company 1/11th., was a young black guy who loved to sing Motown songs. He was shot to death and will sing no more. According to an e-mail received from Harvey Hahn on 23 March 2000, Bravo Company, 1/11th., PFC John E. Jacobs died 11 October 1968 and "... He was too green,having been with the company only a few week, to be walking point that day as we were chasing our resupply rendezvous. Like that chopper couldn't have come to us, we had to go to it. We were hurrying down Charlie's trail, and several of us had even caught a fleeting glimpse of some troops off on our right front as they disappered in the grass. Well, our CO blew that report off as being Delta Co. and in about 30 min. as we dropped down in a ravine, Charlie opened fire on us. The only reason we were not all shot is that Charlie was low on ammo and quit shooting too soon. Well. Jacobs being on point was not able to get back..." Tuesday 8 October 1968: Heard from the Rumor Mill that some PFC Will Price had killed himself but the CO says it was accidental - yeah, right!? There is a way command expresses itself that leads us to believe that we're about to go into deep dodo soon. 11 October 1968: We lost PFC Virgil Wilson, from Charley Company, 1/61st., a 20-year old, just as soon as the artillery hit us. Charley Company's first squad's SGT Alvin Hoover also was killed a little later in continued mortar fire. He was 22 years old. SGT Narcisse, one of the elders [at 23 years old] and also one of the lifers of Charley Company also was hit in his APC by the barrage of mortar and rocket fire. We are chasing the VC and NVA all the way into the DMZ crossing the river at An Xun in what we believe to be the main NVA infiltration route into our area of operations. And then, all the while he's running, we are ordered to stop the pursuit. To stop?? What the heck kind of war is this? And then we pull back. Later, we find out that no one {no Unit from the US} has been this deep into the DMZ - small consolation. We should have wiped them out when we had the chance. Thursday 24 October 1968: Delta Company is starting to feel like home and we're in Leatherneck Square - which means we could be just about anywhere between Quang Tri and the DMZ. We had a skirmish yesterday, killed seven enemy and are hot on the trail of the main body. Then they turned and fought back, or maybe they had been there waiting for us all along. From 3rd. Squad, our only permanently assigned medic, CPL Lonnie Parker, was shot in an ambush. He was 21 years of age and never knew what hit him. Medics, radio-men and machine gunners are prime targets. The radio man made obvious by the whip antenna, even when it is secured, and in our squad by the mere size of the man, and the machine gunner both by the ammo belts and the weapon itself. Parker was a good egg, and we'll miss his wry humor and thorough care. God wouldn't let you die when you were in Parker's hands. I hope our next medic is that good. CPL Larry Martin also from Delta Company, 1/61st., died while pinned down in his position. He was shot and no one could get to him due to the intensity of the enemy fire. He died while fighting and cussing all the way. Our squad's day wasn't better, I fired my machine gun almost continuously and was getting low on ammo. The barrel glowed to the most brilliant hue of reddish maroon and was smoking more than I'd ever seen it, but no one in our squad was killed today and we took over several enemy bunkers, killing dozens in the process. Toward evening the fighting eased up a bit. The top kick assigned two of us as corpsmen. Two of us can't replace Parker. I'm thinking this really sucks ass, or maybe just hind tit, but it really REALLY sucks. It changes me from being a mere secondary high priority target to a top priority target. Then again, I do have a college education, but none of my French teachers nor my philosophy professors ever taught me anything about life-saving skills. I have a fleeting vision of those assholes preaching anti-war slogans to naive and impressionable young kids in air-conditioned offices, drinking their booze and trying to bring the war to the streets of America. Friday 25 October 1968: We're on the advance again, but we're paying for every inch. We're into the DMZ buffer zone and we're making ready to cross the river {Sng Ben Hi}. When HHC [Headquarters & Headquarters Company -- don't know why we have to say it twice], 1/61st., operating in hedgerows and bamboo thickets encountered a maze of enemy fortifications and then became pinned down in the intense firefight, a platoon from Bravo Company charged up the steep hill to provide relief. Enemy mortar fire greatly diminished after that assault. SGT Jim Wright, a big 21-year old from Alpha Company, 1/61st., was killed by one of those sniper gooks. The gook also was killed. With our blood we are changing the color of the land. 1/77th. also suffered casualties in their APC's, tanks and howitzers. In the firefight, CPL Denny Trip, age 22, from HHC, 1/77th. Armor, either stepped on a mine or got hit by a grenade. Alpha Company, 1/61st., lost its 20-year old company clerk, CPL Jim Soriano, who was later promoted to SGT. 20-year old PFC Thomas Ray from the Recon experts in HHC, 1/61st., was killed by AK-47 fire as he assaulted a fortified enemy position. He was promoted to SP4 posthumously. His Recon commander and platoon leader, 2LT David Merrell also was killed as that unit was wreaking havoc on the enemy to relieve the leading company that was pinned down by enemy fire. From Bravo Company, 1/61st., PVT Tom Casey also was killed. He was 20 but looked 16. The 1/77th. tanks finally outflanked the enemy, driving them into the open as they panicked. Then, it was open season and a shooting spree for us. We have killed hundreds of the enemy this day. 26 October 1968: Spent early morning mopping up. At the end of it all, we were amazed at the large number of weapons left behind. NVA are usually very scrupulous and meticulous about taking their dead, but most especially the weapons and ammo back with them. Guess they really panicked. From Alpha Company, 7th. Engineers, SGT Billie Long, age 20, was killed yesterday. We're told his wife had been expecting soon. CO joking around says that starting next month we'll be allowed to pursue the enemy all the way to Hanoi. It's about time we were allowed to take the war to their homes!" In November, 1968, I was awarded the Army Commendation Medal. But, in typical Infantry fashion, I found out about this when the Army contacted me in December, 1969, at my civilian job to arrange for a small ceremony to issue it to me. For extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations from 11 to 13 November 1968, against the 27th. NVA Regiment, during which time the officers and men of the 1st. Battalion, 61st. Infantry Regiment of the 1st. Brigade, 5th. Infantry Division [Mechanized] demonstrated aggressive determination uncommon valor against a well-equipped and highly motivated enemy, the Battalion and assigned and attached units received the Valorous Unit Award. The citation documented in General Orders #2045, dated 14 June 1971, applies to the 1st. Battalion [Mechanized], 61st. Infantry, Alpha Company 1/77th. Armor, Delta Company 1/11th. Infantry, 517th. Military Intelligence Detachments and all attached teams. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO: " ... On the 1st of November 1968, the move to LZ Sharon (our first home away from home) commenced and on 2 November 1968 the battalion closed LZ Sharon and assumed control of the base and the adjacent AO, now designated as AO Red. A new type of warfare was in the offering for the Pioneers as Viet Cong forces replaced the NVA as main opposition to the battalion. Cordon, search, sweep, ambushes, became word of the day. Fortunately the Battalion was familiar with the area and no time was lost in an all out effort to secure the AO. Sniper teams were organized to help deal with small groups of VC (and at times NVA) attempting to infiltrate into local hamlets to terrorize the inhabitants." "Saturday 2 November 1968: We're now near Quang Tri City again, and we're told this will remain our new Area of Operations; centered on a mountain [later called Marshall Mountain]. There's talk of the Red Devils sponsoring an orphanage at the outskirts of town because the present facility run by nuns is in pretty bad shape. Guess the engineers probably will take care of that. This day marks the beginning of a new offensive for us {The Counter-Offensive Phase VI}. Thursday 7 November 1968: The weather is getting rather cool at night. A 20-year old PFC James Springer who was detached or attached to us in some way from Air Mobile Cav. was killed in Bn Duong Province, not far from Cu Ch. For our part, we're getting much better in skirmishes inflicting some casualties while receiving no fatalities. Our body counts, though considerably less than last month far exceed Headquarters' expectations, much to the happiness of our Captain. We're about to take part in another operation on the way to the Rockpile, west of Camp Carroll. Monday 11 November 1968: A patrol from Delta Company encounters a stubborn enemy force, and advances against them. Fire support from gunships was called in to help. 13 November 1968: A relatively quiet day. Small ambush, three VC killed, and I had one of our guys med evac'd. Delta Company from the 1/11th. Infantry reports major fighting as they successfully rout elements of the 27th. NVA Regiment. Sunday 17 November 1968: Mass very early this morning. Learned that yesterday, SGT Stan Armentrout, a 20-year old from Echo Company 1/11th., was blown to pieces. Today, we're sent out to even the score. We got the enemy pinned down. They must have been NVA -- they fought back instead of running. SGT James Lang from HHC must have gotten lost at some time, so I called in for artillery support because HHC Company was getting stuck under fire. Our own position came under fire just as I was calling for air support (so, I'll have my Bronze Star over easy with a V-Device to boot per general orders dated 1972, my intrepid call was so timely as to prevent loss of life on our side as well as to defeat an enemy offensive; and the enemy is always so very offensive). Almost instantaneously, and to us at the same time gratifyingly and frightening, we got lots of support fireworks all around our positions, without hitting any of us. Things were very quiet after that. Learned later that Lang had been killed in action and that was one week to the day after his 32nd. Birthday. 26 November 1968: Camp Red Devil has extended its perimeter several hundred yards - the engineers have cleared out most of the bushes, and set up new bunkers, wire and guard towers. Several tunnel entrances were found which ultimately led to the main company areas in the camp. The hooches have refuge bunkers built under them. Most company HQ are in wooden hooches, they have hot water in the shower tent {they have a shower tent!!}, the cooks are great and even the hothouses are wooden with screened openings to keep the bugs out. That works about as well as a "Do Not Trespass" sign would keep the VC out. Life for the HQ companies is not a bed of roses. The road from here to Camp Sharon, Quang Tri City and other camps is constantly being mined at night. 29 November 1968: Well, Quang Tri remains 5th. Mech territory, though the Marines {3rd. Division} and also 1st. Cav. are great at cleaning up around here as well. We are dying here and that makes it ours for keeps. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO:" ... Pacification became an inherent element of the over-all effort and a vital program to engender good will and a sense of security among the local populace. Medical assistance, engineer projects, orphanage support, establishment of schools, plus many more endeavors were vigorously pursued and immediate results were forthcoming. Information of intelligence value was willingly offered to the battalion and various items of enemy equipment and ammunition was turned in by the people. Numerous VC were captured or killed during the months of November and December. Contacts were also made with isolated NVA forces and the entire body count continued to mount." In December, the Red Devil Brigade busied itself with cleaning up the area between Cam L and Cn Thien and the westward mountains to beyond Hill 162. Some of this month's operations were accomplished jointly with the 1st. Regiment of the 1st. ARVN Division. 30 years after the fact, I found out that there was another 1/5th. Mechanized. It felt like the old science fiction movie Colossus, in which the U.S.'s first supercomputer goes on line for the first time and announces to the surprise and dismay of the military folks that "There is another!' {the Russian supercomputer}. Well, I'm sure they feel like the Red Devil First {Brigade} of the Fifth {Infantry Division - Mechanized} is the other while we feel vice-versa. They are the 1st. Battalion, 5th. Infantry Regiment, 25th. Infantry Division, operating in III Corps. I think some of the casualties previously ascribed to us of personnel around Sa Gn are really theirs. Sunday 1 December 1968: Got news that self-serving chicken Communist peacenicks are waging war in Chicago. Either they should be sent here to vent their fighting skills or they should be tried for treason and shot. They have caused major arguments throughout our unit, sowing the seeds of dissension in the ranks, and it is getting more difficult to work together as a unit. We're bound to start getting friendly-fire and frag-party casualties soon. Feelings and tempers are running hot and too many youngsters aren't thinking. We're on the move: lots of hills, bushes, tall grass - cuts right through our fatigues and draws blood. Lots of rain, reduced visibility and cold at night. We're Westward bound from Dng H, and now we have been joined by crack troops from the ARVN's 1st. Regiment, 1st. Infantry Division. They're supposed to be like our special forces. Their HQ is on Highway 1 at Route 9 on the shores of the Sng Miu Giang River. Briefings tell us that we are going to pacify otherwise hostile villages even if it kills them. We're thinking - get the picture, Vietnamese killing Vietnamese, and we can't tell who's on our side, if any of them. They don't know English, so they keep to themselves. Tomorrow is going to be interesting - so many briefings, and we'll be facing 2 battalions of NVA, which probably means a whole regiment [always understate the force we're about to face, and overstate the casualties we inflict - there is a balance in the double-speak here], but I think Command is scared we'll be shooting at the wrong gooks. Tomorrow, I'll be on TDY with Delta Company, 1st. Regiment, 11th. Infantry. Guess it's no more APC for me, and I have to learn to walk again. 2 December 1968: It started early and it was intense, and it quickly got very messy. The ARVN's caught the brunt of the initial fire and assault from the NVA on our left. Under heavy fire, they fell back toward the bottom of the hill, without notifying us by established radio call signs, and it left our entire left flank exposed during our continuing argument with the NVA bunkers straight uphill from our positions. AK47's were firing continuously, punctuated by mortar and RPG rounds landing near our positions. AK47's sound more like a rattling than the sharp crack our M-16's deliver. The need for "Medic" was a constant thing. The universe collapsed, and all outside noises blurred, except for the immediate recognition of that call, and vision became tunnel focussed on the business immediately at hand with no conscious cognition of what was going on all around. Med.-Evacs were a continuous train of choppers. Lost the two youngest guys in our squad: PFC Jonathan Brown, a hefty black from Florida, who had just joined 5th. Mech.. as a replacement in September - he was 19 years old when he was shot. SP4 Frank Truance, a 20-year old who was one of the preliminary troops sent here before the rest of the Brigade, was killed about 20 yards from my position, while in a cross fire from the front and from the left, because the enemy was now hitting us from where the gook 1st. Regiment was supposed to be. So, communication and lack thereof, being what it was, we did not return fire in that direction initially, for fear of causing an international incidence by killing gooks with "Friendly fire" in accordance with the repetitive refrain of our briefings - but there's nothing friendly for anyone about this fire. Our losses are great, it is a black day. PFC James Knight, 20 years old; SP4 Thomas Blakeslee [posthumously promoted to SGT] at 21 years of age; and 21 year-old George Stamps were killed. Acts of heroism from these guys is the foundation of our reality. Too many guys from the same company - it will never be the same. Platoon Leader SSG Charles Seaton also bought the farm, and he was from Missouri. PFC Julio Velasquez told me that he retrieved Seaton's wallet to send back to the Seaton family. Sarge had a beautiful wife he always bragged about. It's starting to feel like we're working in quiet desperation seeking some remediation to this no-win situation. Tuesday 3 December 1968. Sporadic fighting during the night and we're moving easterly and north. Very bad weather, no air support this day. Too many are dying. PFC Mayer of Echo Company died, probably from friendly fire. Bad morale in Bravo Company 1/11 - PFC Fusile died without enemy provocation and was promoted posthumously by order of CO, but 1LT H. Howard, an OCS wonder was killed also by friendly fire and Rumor Mill has it there was a pool on his head. Med.Evac'd 7 guys, and received 5 newbies, faces all so clean and fresh; but the long and short of it, they'll soon be just cannon fodder. Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO:" ... On 3 December 1968, the battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Selby F. Little, Jr., was wounded and evacuated to CONUS {continental United States} and temporary command was assumed by Major Robert L. Clark, Executive Officer of the Pioneers. Wednesday 4 December 1968: Our Company took over Charley Company's position, and we're pressing the attack. Better weather, still some fog and drizzle, but we have air support and lots of artillery fire {I think from C-2}. Alpha Company, 1/61st. lost SGT Jim Gage to an enemy mined trap. 4 Med. Evac'd - one serious chest wound, but he was still kicking when he was loaded up on the dust off. Thursday 5 December 1968: We're North of the DMZ and moving Northwest. This is starting to feel good. We have at least a couple of NVA companies on the run, and their men are dropping off like flies. Artillery help yes, from where I don't know, but no air support now. 1 Med Evac'd - lucky bastard fell and broke his leg. 6 December 1968: Turned Southwest and encountered a brief but intense rocket and mortar fire assault. Killed 36 enemy soldiers. Elsewhere in the Land of 5th. Mech., Alpha Troop, 4/12th. Cav. lost {their first casualty in country} platoon leader SSG Guy Creep Jr. who was killed in a firefight following an ambush. Med Evac'd 7 wounded. 7 December 1968: A day that used to live in infamy, but we're just trudging on our way back. 8 December 1968: We are in South Vit Nam and are constantly adding to our body count. The enemy is staying away, so we must be doing something right, or maybe it's just our reputation that is keeping him at bay. 10 December 1968: Long CO lecture about being careful. Seems like SP4 Eder from Bravo Company 1/11th. moved into the line of friendly fire during a firefight with the enemy and was killed probably by one of their own guys. 11 December 1968: Yippee, fresh C-rats and garbage cans of beer on ice! Temporary camp site is set in the foothills W-SW of Dng H. Three enemies killed by one of our patrols. No casualties and no wounded for us at all. 12 December 1968: The mountains W of Quang Tri City, near Cam L have been renamed Marshall Mountain. It's just an oversized hill, but steep, and we have conquered it so many times, it deserved a name of its own. Re-assigned to Charley Company 1/11th. 13 December 1968: Did LP duty outside the wire. Three platoons, one camp, and one row of concertina wire. Cold to the bone, startling at every sound, quietly killing VC insects. 15 December 1968: A recon. unit from the 51st. Infantry has joined 5th. Mech's Red Devil Brigade and it will be called the 79th. Infantry Recon. 20 December 1968: Returned to Camp Red Devil HQ. Got a shower right away. Heaven is a shower when the rest of you stinks; ecstasy is a hot shower followed by a cold beer and not feeling the weight of extra ammo belts; orgasms, well ... we're just not getting any; Hell, well, Hell is what happens when the shower water runs out. 21 December 1968: Christmas will not be fun; Pointman Carl Kashiemer was killed by a mine yesterday while on patrol with Alpha Company, 7th. engineers, to clear the road of mines. Successfully treated two wounded; they're being picked up by chopper tonight. 25 December 1968: Merry Christmas. I wish I was back in L.A. No Attack today. 26 December 1968: PFC Thomas Walker of Delta Company, 1/11th. died of a booby trap while on patrol at 23 years of age. CO concerned about us being careful not to die too soon ... too soon??!! Guess, we have to save our dying for special occasions so the officers can get their promotions and medals." Excerpt from the Annual Historical Supplement 1968, 1st. Battalion, 11th. Infantry, APO San Francisco 96477 - The Pioneer Battalion "The First Team" copy received from Sidney Collins on 13 November 2000 and authored by Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO:" ... Although the loss of the commander was keenly felt throughout the battalion, the Pioneers continued their efforts to perform all assigned missions in the best possible manner. Therein lies the key to the Pioneer make-up. Regardless of adversity - no matter the objective - duty is their watchword - truly in keeping with the Battalion motto "Semper Fidelis" - Always Faithful. This, then, is the Pioneer history for 1968, a proud unit, forged at Fort Carson and tempered in battle, an pe held at the ready to thrust whenever ordered - against any adversary. A unit which, in its relatively short period of combat, accumulated an enviable record of over 230 confirmed enemy killed, 8 prisoners, and tons of captured supplies and equipment. A fitting record for a fighting unit. To those gallant comrades who paid the supreme sacrifice in the defense of freedom, this history is most gratefully dedicated: Semper Fidelis. Emil N. Tepsitch, Command Sergeant Major, Unit Historical NCO." In January, 1969, many of us received several awards including the Vit Nam Service Medal (awarded for taking part in the Vit Nam police action -- it could not be called a war legally since the U.S. Congress never declared war and it became fashionable to call it a Police Action - it was not a police action; it was a war in every sense of the term no matter if that offends the gentle minds of filthy rich draft dodgers or those of decrepit old men too cowardly to declare war or to support those they sent to fight there); the Vit Nam Campaign Medal {awarded for participating in at least one military campaign while in Vit Nam}. The 1st. Brigade participated in three major campaigns while I was assigned to it: Counter-Offensive, Phase V [this campaign lasted from 1 July through 1 November 1968], the Counter-Offensive Phase VI [lasting from 2 November 1968 to 22 February 1969, and the Tet '69 Counteroffensive [which lasted from 23 February 1969 to 8 June 1969]. Each such campaign entitles participants to wear a mini Bronze-Star attachment to the ribbon of the Vit Nam Service Medal. In January 1969, I was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge [CIB] for having been under continuous hostile fire for essentially a month {I think, or maybe it was just because of being in the war zone with my MOS}, but it felt like a lifetime. "Wednesday 1 January 1969: Happy New Year! I sometimes wonder whether my uncle who came here in the elite French Chasseurs Alpins {not unlike a blend of U.S. Special Forces and Marines}, Fernand LeRoy, faced this kind of no-win situation. Kennedy's assassin still dwells in the White House, and he sent us here, after promising peace. Goldwater might have done better after all. Dng H perimeter guards shot 3 VC sapeurs or sappers [for the French it is sapeur, for the Americans it is anything that you can spell it as] at the wire. Marines booby-trapped and left one of the bodies on the wire. Thursday 2 January 1969: I'm back with Delta Company, 1/61st. Getting to know the guys and they like the way I take care of them when needs arise, but we all hope they never really need me. Word of mouth has it that the Brigade has decided to work on building a new orphanage at the Quang Tri city limits to take care of as many as 100 orphans in the region. Catholic nuns will take care of the facility, and we will provide supplies, food and medicine. The Vietnamese New Year [Tt] is coming, I'm not sure when. Recon. has alerted us that there is increased NVA troop movement in our sector. What in Heaven's name is increased troop movement? And if we know where they are, why aren't we killing them? 8 January 1969: Our patrols are taking us on an easterly course from Dng H and we are visiting the sand dunes south and north of the Cu'a Vit River not very far from the DMZ. The 3rd. Marines and also 1st. Cav. had visited this very same area a year before. 10 Janaury 1969: Brief encounter with an unknown enemy force. Seven dead for them, no casualties for us. 12 January 1969: SGT Ronnie Fullerton, a 22-year old from Alpha Company, 1/61st., died of wounds received during a firefight possibly from our own perimeter. He'd only been with the Battalion about 2 months. We're westbound from Nhi H, back toward Fire Support Base C-2. 14 January 1969: Four enemy killed not more than 700 yards from the perimeter; 1 Med Evac. 15 January 1968: An APC from Alpha Company 1/77th. went over a mine which killed SP5 William Wilburn Jr. at age 21. 3 Med Evacs today. (This entry leaves much unsaid. Communication from Peach received 18 December 2000 indicates that indeed there was "only" one KIA, but left unsaid is the fact that everyone else in that A-113 APC sustained major injuries, including one tanker who lost both legs. Yee, an RTO from 5/4th. also got his leg badly broken up, and may have lost it was well.) 28 January 1969: The new orphanage is finished, and lots of kids already are in it. The Nuns are happy and the kids always want candy from American GI." "Saturday 1 February 1969: Red Devil Brigade has been increased again, this time by Papa Company of the 75th. Infantry Rangers. Rangers!!! My goodness, how professional!! 2 February 1969: We're moving Easterly from Dng H. Word is of large contingent of NVA moving thereabouts in preparation for Vietnamese New Year. Monday 3 February 1968: SGT Gordon Gardner 19 years of age from Charley Company 1/77 was killed at the base camp when incoming rounds hit the communications hut and Gardner was hit on the head. He was an NCOC 1/68 graduate and had come in country with the Brigade in July. An M48A3 tank has been dedicated in his name in Germany as a memorial tribute to all the 1/77th. tankers who were killed in Viet Nam{thanks to Patricia "Peach" Johnson, who organized the 1/77th. Armor's 30th. Reunion 27-31 July 2000 at Fort Knox, for the details 30 April 2000}. In a firefight, 20 year-old SP4 James Skipper from Alpha Company 1/11th., was killed. In our own excursion, had to pull one wounded from an APC, bullets ricochets everywhere - RPG explosions hitting other squads - lots of Med Evacs, lost count at 9. 7 February 1969: We're vacating much of the civilian population out of Dng H to Quang Tri City, and some of them are getting moved even further south, probably to some safer area like Da Nang or Hue. 8 February 1968: 2d. Platoon was ambushed, SGT Ward Evans 28, a family man with Delta Company 1/11, was killed. The platoon's body count was 26. 26 to 1 is a whole lot better than we used to do, but our body count this month is not meeting quota, ... oops ... I mean command expectations. SP4 Bill Brown from Alpha Company 1/11, was killed by a booby trap on 12 February 1968 at age 21. Sunday 16 February 1968: SP4 Van Winkle was killed in a firefight in Thua Thin, south south-east of Quang Tri City between Camp Evans and Hue. He was with Alpha Troop, 4/12th. Cav. 5th. Mech. apparently is gaining a reputation even outside Quang Tri. 20 February 1969: Quang Tri City has been put off limits to all US military personnel due to the expected attacks for the Vietnamese New Year called Tt. NVA forces are said to be gathering all around us. 23 February 1969: Apparently this marks the beginning of the Lunar New Year Season, and for us military types in country it is a new campaign - the Tt Counteroffensive. Major firefight outside Nhi Ha - about 7 wounded on our side and we killed over 78 NVA and VC. On the other side of the stream from Nhi Ha is a deserted village with a cemetery. Most of the enemy casualties died behind hedgerows at the cemetery. Chat with one of the marines from 3rd. Division and found out that all the fighting we have been doing around Dng H, Nhi H and Tan Lich, was almost the exact same scenario they and 1st Cav. fought last year at about the same time. Same hills, same victories over the enemy, same un-noticed heroism, new faces, new bodies. One of the LP's came back under our wire late at night and called for fire support against unknown numbers of enemy and flares. Flares went up from two of our bunkers, clearly illuminating the team as it was coming in, but no enemy sighted. The radio vocabulary clearly noted that it wasn't the team that had called for flares - they would have been sitting ducks. Two hours later a couple of mortar rounds fell short of the wire by about 50 yards on the northwest edge of camp. 24 February 1969: The VC and possibly NVA have hit Quang Tri hard. 3rd. Marine Division got there and said that rockets and mortar fire destroyed the buildings of the orphanage, but then following that attack, brave communist thugs in soldiers' uniforms assaulted the orphanage, raping and killing some of the children as well as all four nuns. The trip from Camp Red Devil to the City was grim, having an APC in front and one behind did little to bolster our confidence for those of us in the back of the deuce and a half. We never saw them but not one nun survived the attack, and their naked bodies, with missing body parts, were left in front of the archway entrance - a grim testimony to the advanced state of Communist Asian cruelty on harmless old ladies. The silent message is clear, if you're a gook stick with your own kind or your own kind will kill you no matter how young or old you are. Locals are not hostile to us, but they are avoiding us like the plague. Can't blame them. 27 Med Evacs, including many South Vietnamese who fancy themselves as soldiers. They are so brave but maybe just foolhardy - so many of them died today trying to defend the orphanage area. The communist forces failed to penetrate the city center. They were pushed back in a matter of hours. I can't help but wonder whether the home press reported this as a Communist victory, carefully avoiding mention of their massive casualties and retreat, or whether anyone bothered mentioning the fact that {again} 5th. Mech. kicked some ass here or maybe they just said we got the city back at the cost of so many casualties {dead Americans, ensuring that the public would never see the victory as such but rather as a bungled enterprise. 49 enemy dead around the orphanage alone. The Third Squadron, 5th. Cav. from the 9th. Infantry Division, which had been detached to 1st. Cav. Division [whose patch paintings were found on so many ruined buildings throughout the Quang Tri area] joined the Red Devil Brigade. 25 February 1969: We have had to bury 7 children and four nuns. The children's corpses are surprisingly light - flies are everywhere, the stench of death stifles the will to breathe. Sporadic encounters by our patrols with the enemy yielded another 22 in our mounting body counts, McNamara style {Thank you Mr. President for putting a bean-counter in charge of a War! He should have been buried along with the Edsel}/ Clean-up details just plain suck. Thursday 27 February 1969: Another major encounter with the enemy. With good air and artillery support, we wreaked havoc and let loose the dogs of war on them. Pay-back time for the orphanage. Killed my first face to face - from 30 yards away, so it wasn't really face to face, but close enough. Prior to this I most often had been shooting at positions, at gun flashes, at bush movements and had not seen an actual face in my sights. It is much easier when they're far away and you can't see their face. He must have been all of 16 years old, scrawny, underfed, but a patriot in his own way. The age of our enemy matters not, they are just as deadly to us independent of their age. Picture of a very pretty young girl carefully wrapped in a plastic strip and taped to his body. Too bad he was not looking at me because he was busy aiming his weapon elsewhere, so he didn't shoot first and it seemed important to get him before he got his shot off, but he should have stayed with that girl. He was one of 17 we killed that day by our company. Almost sorry I had to shoot, but then if I had not shot first, I might be there and then would he feel sorry for me? Because of my constant check for casualties from other units, I'm being kidded a lot about my morbid fascination with death. 3 med.-evacs. These chopper guys are fantastic. Friday 28 February 1969: On the move, and killed 9 more enemy. Mortally wounded one, which I then had to finish off - not a pretty sight, no glory here, wish I were somewhere else. 7 med-evacs." The latter part of February [23 through 7 March], 1969 saw the celebration of Tt Ky Dau - the lunar New Year, with particularly intense offensives undertaken by the Vit Cong and North Vietnamese Army. It is the Year of the Chicken/*****/Rooster and the ruling natural element is wood that has been prepared for burning. The latter part of February [23 through 7 March], 1969 saw the celebration of Tt Ky Dau - the lunar New Year, with particularly intense offensives undertaken by the Vit Cong and North Vietnamese Army. Following major skirmishes, CPL Raffin was field promoted and received the Bronze Star with V device for heroic achievement of service with conspicuous valor on 7 March 1969, after taking charge of a squad of men and fighting their way out of an ambush in Nh H near Dng H, then outflanking the enemy forces to relieve pressure on the Company inflicting more than 20 enemy casualties in the process. In joint operations with the 3rd. Squadron of the 5th. Cavalry, SGT Raffin's platoon suffered more than 30 wounded. The 3rd. of the 5th. Cav was awarded a Valorous Unit Citation by the Secretary of the Army. The First Battalion received heavy artillery support from the USS New Jersey, whose bombardment blocked the enemy 's escape routes - but of course, at the time, we had no idea where the heavy support was coming from. In the course of the same military campaign, the Government of the Republic of Viet Nam awarded him the Cross of Gallantry First Class for having saved an officer (with decent political connections) of the South Vietnamese Army during a fire fight near Tan Lich Northwest of Dong H (Usually, this award was given as a unit citation being somewhat equivalent to the Silver Star, but bestowing this award on an enlisted man is somewhat unusual) in the early evening of 1 March 1969. The First Battalion was awarded the Republic of Vit Nam Civil Actions Honor Medal for actions from 1 January 1969 to 21 January 1970 probably related to the transportation of evacuation of refugees and also for the establishment of medical facilities in friendly villages. In March 1969, he was awarded the Combat Medic Badge for having been under hostile fire, essentially continuously for a period exceeding 27 days while providing direct medical aid. For going back to retrieve wounded comrades in the line of fire several times, SGT Raffin was awarded the Silver Star for ... "... conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as Corpsman with Company C, First Battalion, 11th. Infantry [of the 5th. Infantry Division (mechanized)], against elements of a North Vietnam Aggressor (NVA) battalion in Quang Tri Province, Republic of Viet Nam on 27 March 1969. Sergeant Raffin accompanied the point platoon as it aggressively dispatched the forward elements of an NVA battalion. The patrol came under intense small arms fire from several directions upon entering a clearing in the jungle path from approximately 100 North Vietnamese regulars. Oblivious to the danger, Sergeant Raffin crawled across the bullet spattered terrain to reach a wounded comrade. First treating the man's serious injuries, Sergeant Raffin, then dragged the wounded soldier to safety. When the call for "CORPSMAN" again reached across the clearing, Sergeant Raffin once more crawled to the wounded soldier, treated and brought him behind American lines to safety. From 1600 Hours to just before sunset [about 20:00 Hours], Sergeant Raffin deliberately exposed his position to direct enemy fire in order to direct his squad to an effective counter-attack relieving enemy pressure on sister units in the battle. Through his indomitable fighting spirit, daring initiative and unfaltering dedication to duty, Sergeant Raffin reflected great credit upon himself, and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Army" {direct citation from the General Order for the Silver Star issued to him in 1974} ." ...all this in action during joint operations of the 1/11th. with the 1/61st. Infantry and the 101st. Airborne Division against Vit Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces in Xm Cn Tng between the Cua Vit River and the demilitarized zone [17th. parallel] North of Quang Tri. This action was only consistent with a long-standing family tradition (since World War I, various family members consistently distinguished themselves in battle for similar actions). On 16 March, the unit was transferred to the Kh Sanh plains to give mechanized infantry support to the 3rd. Marine Division. On 28 March, he was wounded in the hip by shrapnel from mortar fire during a firefight in Trung Luong (NorthWest of Ca X), near the Demilitarized Zone, for which he received the Purple Heart Medal (out of the 12 men in Michael's squad, 9 were wounded in action). They were evacuated from the field through helicopter dust-off operations with considerable air support. Either 28 or 29 March 1969, he was transferred out of Vit Nam and into Japan. "Saturday 1 March 1969: I am on temporary duty with Charley Company, 1/11th. Infantry. Hell is catching up with the Red Diamond. 1/77th. lost SP5 Bill Ryan to a mine or booby trap. Fighting is getting very heavy. Guys are getting wounded almost every day. SSG John Gibson, Charley Company 1/11th. died from grenade explosion and enemy fire. Some dink officer from the 1st. Division must have gotten lost in the bushes, so I patched him up and brought him back to camp with the rest of the squad. Lots of jokes for doing that by the rest of the guys. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do even when it is so ironic it no longer makes sense. Monday 3 March 1969: 6 enemy kills, and not one wounded for us. I wonder why nobody is celebrating. Wednesday 5 March 1969: we're getting into lots of heavy fracas with the enemy. Strange that casualties only amount to light wounds, so easily cured so we can be free to kill some more. Friday 7 March 1969: We're doing better, less fighting and no fatalities but two minor wounds. The Brigade continues to suffer casualties: Rifleman from Delta Company, 1/11, SP4 William Mc Namara died. We should send his body to Washington for Mc Namara's little numbers game. CO authorizes us to increase our body count to include those presumed killed - presumed??? Hell, every time I have somebody in my sights you can presume his wife a widow. The enemy knows we are here. The enemy knows we can kill. Therefore, the enemy has a death wish. Today, we take the fight to the enemy - Don't we always ? [never according to the civilian press - Ever since the orphanage disaster I've stopped reading the "Stars and Stripes" - because it is starting to sound like we are going to have to be sent home to teach draft-dodging kids a lesson in life and mostly death - never hear of marches in behalf of our dead]; and they are hailing and waving the enemy flag during times of war - hmm ... sounds a lot like treason to me. Unfortunately, our platoon took the lead. My former squad leader 1LT Nelson L. Smith [Delta Company, Second Platoon, 1/11] was killed early on. They had no leader but SP4 William Goodwin kept charging forward ahead of us with his machine gun - very hard to keep up with him - until he was shot and killed. We were too isolated, so I grabbed Goodwin's M-60 and a couple of belts of ammo, and then took charge of the squad and circled around to help the rest of the platoon. Enemy snipers were everywhere, but mostly took us by surprise from the top of trees. SP4 Joe Russo [Delta Company] was killed. Ran out of ammo, so I got my kit and dealt with the wounded. Too many wounded, just had to keep going back for them all the time. 10 March 1969: I am still alive - I don't know why. Call me Sarge! I have requested a one-week R&R to Thailand for May. I will spend my birthday away from all this. Hey!, I'm getting SHORT - just 135 days left in-country, almost 2/3 done with my time. 16 March 1969 - It's Sunday, time is a drag and everything is happening too fast. Rumors are that we're going to kick ass in Laos. So Westward Ho The Wagons, down Route 9. Later, we would be told that we were part of Task Force Remagen -- Sounds like a leftover from World War II Germany. Tuesday 18 March 1969: I think I will die soon, too many new faces in the squad. Some of them just break down and cry instead of shooting at the enemy, but at least no one has been killed in a while. We had only one medic left from the original crew from Fort Carson permanently assigned to the 1/61st., and he was killed today, in Delta Company, 1/61st. He was my friend and he taught me how to save lives and his name was SP4 Robert Patterson a Negro from Oklahoma!! He was 22, and had a cute girl friend with a gorgeous smile. He was helping, working with Delta Company of 1/61, rescuing his wounded when he was hit. The deeper we go, the more intense things are getting. We're clearly facing a large, and smart force, and I don't know where we are - I don't know where Patterson died. We're all getting shorter, but for some of us freedom will come inside a poncho bag. 19 March 1969: Heavy encounter by our sister companies near Ap X - one dead: a SP4 Swords 22 years of age from Delta Company 1/11 - a very good name for earlier wars. 20 March 1969: Found the village of Lng Ta Tuc [north of Kh Sanh] deserted, and we are chasing the retreating NVA north into the high mountains! Then some of us get ordered Eastbound {again}. 26 March 1969: Red Devil Brigade is lucky, killing the enemy and not getting killed, except for a SP4 Antonio Morales of Bravo Company, 1/11, in his fourth month of Vit Nam Tour. Thursday 27 March 1969: The shit has hit the proverbial fan. Everywhere at once we were besieged from every goddamn hill, behind every hedgerow and around every scrub brush. We must have stumbled upon a major base of operations for the NVA, but they had us nailed perfectly and they are well entrenched. I think our entire battalion is now involved along with some of the others in the Brigade. Radio chatter is endless. Very hard to do my job, lost count and track of time as well. Some of the wounded are unconscious but not fatally hurt, have to drag them through the mud as I can't lift them for their dead weight. A couple of others were able to lean on me, but enemy fire made us get back down and crawl back to safer areas. Getting really pissed off because the guys are getting shot up faster than I can get to them. Always the sound of explosions and rifle fire, no jets overhead, but huge artillery explosions off our positions. My ears are buzzing constantly. After a while, the noise makes everything some peaceful-like and the only thing I seem to hear is the call for medic. As far as I know, all the wounded I took care of made it to the choppers. Lots of poncho bags, the mud turned red. Won't be easy to get all the names. This day, Charley Company is being decimated. Only 8 guys left in my squad, where are the other four? Our platoon and company level performance is no better. I hope the rest of the guys can help us. I think we are all about to die, this will make Custer's last stand look like a cake walk. [Red Devil Brigade casualties for 27 March added later and may not be comprehensive: SP4 Bobby Walters, 21 y.o. rifleman lost to a grenade; SP4 Leslie Worl 21 year-old rifleman from Bravo Company 1/11 was shot to death; also from Bravo Company: PFC Oscar Johnson, 20 year old, rifleman was shot; SGT Louis Dixon, 26 year old machine gunner was shot in cross fire. From our company, Charley Company 1/11; PFC Leonard Ivy Jr., 19-year old married rifleman replacement, second month in country died from a grenade; SP4 Allison Locklair, 20-year old machine gunner may have stepped on a booby trap; SP4 David Flannery, 24 year old, forward artillery observer died from a grenade; SP4 Robert Lee Anglin, 20 years old rifleman was blown up and along with him, PFC Everett Culp, 20 years old, replacement rifleman, 3rd. month in country; SP4 Dimitrios Arniotis, 20 years old, machine gunner - died from shrapnel wounds from a grenade; Alpha Company lost SP4 Joseph Dobynes 23years old to a grenade; they also lost 22 year-old SGT Stan Bradley to mortar fire; Bravo Company 1/11 also lost 1LT William Cody, Platoon Commander, 23 years old should have been a Captain; He led an attack uphill against an enemy bunker and was shot in the midst of heavy mortar fire. Single-handedly, he took quite of few of the enemy with him. PFC medical NCO Rene Aldo Buller, 20 years old, 17th. day in country sent in to replace CPL Parker and working with Headquarters Company 1/11. Friday 28 March 1969: The hell continues. It's really tired out, and there are fewer of us than there were a few days ago. In the early hours, Bravo Company got a fire lit under them by Captain Roberts. He was wounded near the crest of the hill, but refused to be treated and urged his men on as he himself charged enemy fortified positions. Even though he was wounded again, he succeeded in vacating some enemy bunkers thus easing the pressure on the rest of us. SP4 Billy Duke, 20, was badly hurt and was downed by mortar shrapnel. I remember tending to some wounded GI on my knees just a few yards from the bunker but the bushes were tall enough to cover us as long as we stayed down. There was some yelling and almost at the same time I heard the peculiar warbling sound of incoming round and felt like some football quarterback ran into me. I found myself staring at the sky and rolled on my right to see my man coughing up blood. Everything was quiet but for a roaring in my ears and I felt I was watching myself in a slow movie. He was struggling against me but his airway was still clear but I think he bit his tongue real good, his eyes were glazing and his skin was clammy, I thought he was going into shock. I patched up another wound on his upper arm and shot him with morphine. He had a fresh scalp wound, but it seemed to be superficial and as I began to apply a dressing to it I wondered how I hadn't noticed it before. I became aware of increased chatter of rifle fire which sounded like supersonic mosquitoes to my ears and decided to move us toward the bunker. I felt lethargic and out of breath. When I tried to drag him I lost my footing. Then someone was grabbing me telling me I'd been hit. I thought to myself someone had gone nuts but of course it wasn't me. At some point I remember looking down because my left leg was not moving normally and I saw the side of my pant leg was getting dark with blood and I was convinced it had come from my patient. It was like I was looking at someone else, as if it wasn't me. There was a group of us then pulling ourselves toward the captured bunker. I felt overwhelming anger and rage - This can't be me, I'm not ready to die [overblown assessment of damage, since I only had minor shrapnel and even that was probably more pewter than lead in the hip, but I guess I was starting to lose it] maybe we shouldn't have been sent here. Then I got very light-headed and took a nap. Thirty years later I saw CPT Marvin James Roberts' name on the Wall, and he had died of multiple fragmentation wounds, according to other sources. I can still see his face. SP4 Billy Duke died before the Dust-Off choppers arrived. My wounded man did not die that day but I never found out his name." On 28 or 29 March 1969, SGT Raffin was transferred out of Vit Nam and into Japan. Upon being released from the hospital, he successfully changed his military occupational specialty from Medic to Clerk [the college degree was instrumental, as well as a vacancy in the finance office at that time] and his rank was changed from Sergeant [a rank for Combat roles] to Specialist-5 [same rank as a Sergeant, though indicating a non-combat occupational specialty - you can't have a fighting man in an air-conditioned office filled with Asian civilians]. He was re-assigned to USARJ (U.S. Army Headquarters, Camp Zama, Japan). For serving with exemplary behavior efficiency and fidelity, he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal in August, 1969. He finished his tour of duty on 1 September 1969 - an early out was O.K. for veterans of the War Zone. His honorable discharge is dated 1 September 1973. "1 April 1969: This is the last of my reports since I'm no longer with 1/11th., I'm no longer with 5th. Mech., I'm no longer in the war zone either. I can't say ***** the War because I still dream about it - how very strange! I'm processing out of the hospital, and damn near terrified the whole office staff sitting cozily in their air-conditioned offices. See, no one issues me clean fatigues, so I process out just fine and had one of the personnel clerks assign me to Finance Office. I couldn't go back to the Nam even if I wanted to because my brother is stationed in Si Gn ... So I get to stay in Japan. Anyway, so there I walk into this civilian outfit and one of the gooks greets me first with a smile and then she actually notices me and her expression changes to one of consternation or maybe revulsion. Anyway, she starts a racket with rapid fire nonsense but at least it's not VC talk, and takes off for the back office. You'd think they could speak English in an Army installation. Just typical! Anyway by that time I have the undivided attention of most of the clerks, a mixture of Army PFCs and Spec4s. And I become conscious of the fact that my fatigues have no stripes, that for all the perfume the women in the office are wearing, I can still smell the Nam on me, that my boots are caked with mud and stuff, as are my fatigues, and that I still have two fully loaded magazines of ammunition in my pockets - but no weapon! Have you ever felt naked in front of a group of people? Well, let me tell you, I sure did at that time. Then a Sergeant comes up to me a imperiously asks what the hell I'm doing here [I think he meant what the Hell am I doing here dressed like this; but he was an E-6 and I was just an E-5 so I was not about to get technical - SSG Purington was later my immediate superior in the Office], so I showed him my orders for a transfer, then told him casually that I came straight from Viet Nam to the hospital and thence to here - was there something wrong? So he became nice, and ordered one of the PFCs to take me immediately to supplies for complete re-issue [they wear starched Khaki uniforms and spit-shined shoes] --- Haven't seem them things since AIT school at Ft. Carson. Months later the Japanese civilian staff was still laughing at the impression I made upon arrival. Japan was a nifty transition. It gave me the time needed to successfully pretend to be civilized and not to experience violent hatred at the mere sight of an Asian face. Little did I know that I would soon be introduced to women!!! What a fitting ending to the War! "
Note: by M.J.M. Raffin


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