Council Bluffs, Specialist 4, U.S. Army
Served from December 1968 until early out for UNO grad school in September 1970. In Vietnam from May 1969 until April 1970 with 46th Infantry, 196th Light Infantry Brigade.
Memory: “I was drafted to the Army after graduation from Northwest Missouri State in 1968. Subsequent to training at Fort Ord, Calif., I was sent off to the Vietnam War. I was assigned to the Americal Division in southern I Corps. The northern Army and Marine units were taking substantial casualties at that time, and I was assigned to Company A, 6th, which was operating off a remote fire base, LZ Professional, in the mountain jungles southwest of Tam Ky.
“My infantry company was receiving many replacements at the time, as it had just emerged with only 37 men left in the field after being surrounded and decimated by a large North Vietnamese force. The company commander was later awarded the Medal of Honor by President Nixon. The North Vietnamese had also attempted to overrun LZ Professional at night at about the same time.
“Our fire base was not accessible to motor vehicles or armored units and could only be supplied by helicopters — even to the degree of hauling water to the fire base in huge thick rubber “blivet” containers. The base covered large infiltration and logistical trails coming in from Laos to the west. … We had to carry everything on our backs and would be resupplied with food and ammunition every three days, if possible.
“Our area was jungle-covered mountains with interspersed valleys — and rivers running from a distance on each side of the fire base. We used jungle trails about half the time and followed a point man cutting our own jungle trails with a machete the other half of the time. Other than the three months or so of heavy monsoon rains, the weather was extremely hot and with 90 percent-plus humidity. We were constantly on the move … but it really came down to a hide-and-seek game with regular North Vietnamese infantry units; a game of ambushes, sniping, booby traps and periodic firefights. Obviously, both sides were getting ‘tagged’ with lots of casualties.
“Nighttime activities consisted of finding a place to sleep on the ground after forming a defensive perimeter. And getting up in the dark of night to pull guard in your perimeter position, listening to every little sound in the jungle. Daytime and nighttime activities also meant avoiding other pests — constant leeches, biting ants, mosquitoes, scorpions, pythons and a multitude of poisonous snakes, and wild animals — including the tigers present in our area. Diseases included two types of malaria, dysentery and a host of tropical fevers. The fear was ever-present, and it was a year I will never forget.”