Service Memory: The Vietnam War

Ed Brink

Arion, Iowa
Spc. E5, U.S. Army
Served nine years, 10 months of active duty, in Vietnam from August 1968 to August 1969.

Memory: “(I was) stationed at many fire support bases around Cu Chi, Firebase Washington, Nui Ba Den and Black Virgin Mountain. Worked in motor pool all day, stood guard at night. Helped out on big guns, a 155mm self-propelled howitzer once in a while and drove jeeps from Cu Chi to base camps for mail.
“Second Field Force, 1st Cavalry and others were almost overrun outside Tay Ninh base camp. Thank God for the infantry. We had their back, and they had ours. My battery commander was severely wounded coming to check on our foxhole. We were guarding the main gate during a rocket-propelled grenade attack with Viet Cong sappers in the wire.
“We had the war won, but the government and anti-war protesters stole it from us. All we had to do was keep up the bombing. All of the forces — foreign and domestic — will never be forgotten. To all vets: Go help put up flags on Veterans Day, try to move on and never forget. Some gave all, all gave some.”

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Service Memory: The Korean War

Basil B. ‘Bud’ Carlson

PO3 GM, U.S. Navy
Served from 1951 to 1955, in combat aboard USS Iowa in 1952 during Korean War.

Memory (submitted by son Ben): Bud Carlson served with two brothers, Lee and Stan, aboard the USS Iowa. They had to get special permission from their parents and the captain of the ship to allow them to serve together. All three brothers made friends during their service time.
The USS Iowa relieved the USS Wisconsin and went into action, firing first rounds April 8, 1952. On May 25, 1952, a Chinese radio broadcast said the Iowa had been sunk off the coast of Korea. Not so. Lemonte and Stan joined Bud aboard the USS Iowa in March 1953. The three were on the Iowa together for 18 months.
Everyday life in the service included work on the 5-inch 38 guns. Kept them all repaired and serviced, painted deck and holystoned the wooden deck. The gunpowder used in the projectiles was made in Hastings, which was 52 miles from hometown of Holdrege.
After being discharged in October 1955, Bud drove home from Virginia to Holdrege. Family and friends were welcoming and glad he was back. His mother was glad and relieved and in much better spirits than when the three bothers had left together after being home on leave.
Four other brothers also served: Harry Jr. in the Army and Neal, Randy and Jack in the Navy, with at least one of the Carlson brothers in the service over a 25-year period from World War II to the Vietnam War.

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Service memory: The Cold War

Clark A. Squires

SP5, U.S. Army
Served November 1962 to November 1965, and in Korea from 1963 to 1964.

Memory: “I was in the Army Security Agency, which dealt in electronic countermeasures. We operated technical radio equipment and also had to be able to send and receive Morse code at 25 words a minute. Our job required very high-security clearance. We were not a combat unit but worked in remote sites.

“After school (at Fort Devens, Mass.), half of my class was assigned to Vietnam and the other half to Korea. I spent six months on the mainland and six months on an island with a small U.S. Air Force detachment. The Air Force feeds its people well, so no complaint there. We were supplied once a week with beverages and mail by an Air Force C-47, which would land on the beach regardless of the weather.

“The South Koreans had a marine company stationed on the island. There was only one large hill, and they would have artillery practice every month, using the hill as a target. Our work site was between the firing batteries and the hill. That was interesting. We would work one week on days, one week on evenings, and one week on nights — never did get used to that schedule.

“The Korean general population didn’t have much wealth or personal luxury, but they seemed contented and friendly and always treated the military personnel very well. The one thing I probably remember most the year I was there is waking up in the middle of the night on Nov. 22, 1963, and hearing that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

“After Korea, I spent the last year in service doing instructor duty back at Fort Devens. I then got married in New Hampshire in July 1966 to Toni St. Jean, a girl I had met in 1963 (while at Fort Devens), then moved back to Omaha. She was from New Hampshire and was willing to come to Nebraska. How cool is that?”

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Service Memory: The Cold War

John Henry Bender

Ralston A2c, U.S. Air Force
Served from November 1959 to November 1963.
Memory: “Communications center specialist was my job. Got orders out of school for deployment to 922nd Aircraft Control and Early Warning Squadron … to a site isolated on the east coast of Labrador (Cartwright) for 15 long and very cold and windy months. … No road there, only way in or out was by air. We got on the chopper and were equipped immediately with a barf bag and strapped in with rails to hold onto during the flight. I used the bag all the way there. It was like riding a roller coaster.

“There was no going outside during the very cold months. We have blizzards in Nebraska, but the ones up there lasted weeks, a few days calm, and then we got another one. This went on all winter.

“The communications center had a base switchboard and teletype like Western Union. Messages were sent out encrypted and received the same way. We were sending out messages 24 hours a day, so people trying to break our codes would not know what was good and was not good. We as operators didn’t know our own codes, all we did was send everything out.

“The first couple of weeks I was scared to death, as we had unknown planes that we picked up on radar. They scrambled fighters and escorted them back over the North Pole and to their country. We had ships off the site, and when we radioed them, they said they were fishing vessels. But they had big guns on the front of them. This also had me alarmed, as we were sitting on a hill with no defenses. A lot of mind games at the beginning and a lot of tension for those involved. After a while, you got used to it and hoped no one on either side pushed the wrong button.

“I wrote home every day and received a lot of mail from everyone. If you have a friend or loved one overseas or in the military, always remember to drop them a line. You will cheer them up a lot. I would always carry my special letters in my pocket and close to my heart. The longest we went without mail was three weeks. We read our old mail then.

“I (later) came to Offutt AFB. New friends that I met have lasted a lifetime. I’m very happy here and very proud that I got to serve in the armed forces.”

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Service Memory: The Cold War

Roger E. Lindly

Grand Island
Airman 1st Class, U.S. Air Force
Served as air operations specialist in active duty 1953-1957, Air Force Reserves 1957-1961.

Memory: “I reported in 1953 to Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, N.M., where I was assigned to the 6580th Air Support Squadron, Air Research and Development Command. In November 1954, I received orders to report to the Far East Command and flew to K-2 Air Base near Taegu, South Korea, for a year’s tour of duty as part of occupation troops. I was assigned to the 7th Aerial Port Squadron of the 315th Air Division.

“Our assignment was to coordinate all loading and unloading of troops, machines, material and mail as specified by the armistice agreement and supervised by neutral nations’ officers approved by the United Nations. The South Korean workers we hired were very resentful toward the Communist officers who were monitoring the loads on the aircraft, and we had to closely observe and control the workers to keep them away from the officers from Poland and Russia. It was tense.

“Our living conditions were typical in overseas areas where war had be waged, with hot barracks and tents in the summer, ultra-cold in the winter with pot-bellied stoves for minimum heat. The fuel lines froze in the extreme cold temperatures. It is an experience no one could forget and a great experience to help appreciate what we have in the good old USA. We sponsored an orphanage, took items to the children and brought them to our Thanksgiving dinners. It made them happy and us Americans proud to be able to help people less fortunate.

“I’m very proud I served my country at a critical time in our history, as communism was a growing threat to world peace. I worked with some of the bravest, most patriotic human beings on this earth, and it was a tremendous honor for such an experience. Peace is worth serving for.”

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Service Memory: The Vietnam War

Bob Cargill

Nebraska City
CPO, U.S. Navy
Served in Vietnam War from 1966 to 1967 aboard the USS Caddo Parish LST 515; retired from Navy in 1988.

Memory: “The USS Caddo Parish, a tank landing ship designed to deliver equipment, men and supplies right to the beach, and the squadron it was part of were heavily used during the Vietnam War.

“We made multiple trips from Subic Bay in the Philippines to Phan Rang, Vietnam, with cement to build the big air base for the USAF. We delivered food, trucks, tanks, ammunition, bombs, gasoline, Marines and Army troops to various locations within Vietnam.

“We were the first large ship to deliver cargo and supplies to the man-made lagoon at Dong Tam in the Mekong Delta. We also delivered cargo to Cua Viet in far northern South Vietnam and to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta in the south. We made trips to Sasebo, Japan, and to Okinawa, Taiwan and the Philippines to pick up the cargo we needed to deliver to Vietnam.

“Our ship’s motto was ‘No Beach Too Hard to Reach,’ and we delivered cargo to some very difficult beaches to get to for a ship our size. A lasting memory of Vietnam for me was how beautiful the beaches were. Smooth, white sand that would stretch for miles.”

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Service Memory: The Cold War

John Barrientos Jr.
MA1, U.S. Navy
Served from 1956 to 1975 aboard USS Douglas A. Munro, USS Jenkins, USS Walker, USS Independence, USS Strong, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, USS Chukawan, USS Shreveport

Memory: While onboard the USS Douglas A. Munro as a radioman seaman in 1958, President Eisenhower ordered our ship to the Taiwan Strait to protect the islands from invasion by China, whose mainland was a few miles from the islands. While patrolling the straits, we were fired upon but, because we were out of distance, all we could see were the shells skipping and splashing into the water.

“We found out later that President Eisenhower had authorized the use of nuclear weapons if China invaded the islands.

“I was a radioman second class on the USS Independence when we were ordered to the Caribbean Sea to set up a blockade around Cuba. President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev … communicated by letters because telecommunications was in its infancy. In the last two days, their letters were read to each other over radio stations.

“During our patrols, we encountered a Russian ship trying to run the blockade, and our ships were dispatched to attempt to turn him back. They ignored our warnings, and we were ordered to engage him with firepower if he continued in his route. At the very last minute, the ship slowed and turned around.’’

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Service Memory: The Vietnam War

Gary Mauer

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.”

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Service Memory: The Vietnam War

William Woodward
Sergeant, U.S. Air Force
Served with 460th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Tan Son Nhut Air Base, November 1969 to March 1970; at headquarters, 7th Air Force, April 1970 to November 1970; 544th Aerospace Reconnaissance Technical Wing at Offutt Air Force Base, January 1971 to June 1972.

Memory: “In the 460th TRW, I provided intelligence support for RF-4C Phantom and RF-101 Voodoo air crews who flew reconnaissance missions over the Ho Chi Minh trail in Laos and Cambodia. These missions were to identify potential targets and conduct bomb damage assessment.
“One of my memories of that assignment was of ‘French Leave’ missions in which the photographic interpreters would determine the photographic frames where overflight of the Cambodian border occurred and have those frames removed from the film negatives before additional positive reels were developed for further distribution.
“My next unit was the Requirements Branch, Directorate for Intelligence, HQ-7th AF. There I monitored intercepts from road-watch teams, again along the Ho Chi Minh trail. I updated the status of short take-off and landing airstrips in Laos for Air America (CIA) and maintained the KIP (Key Indigenous Personnel) roster, which later would be critical for the eventual withdrawal of South Vietnamese allies from the Saigon Embassy in April 1975.
“One of my most memorable moments of that assignment was … to determine which radio stations of a myriad of stations was most accurate in reflecting the actual combat in which the enemy engaged. The results were that the Vietnamese-language broadcast of BBC scored the highest and from that moment on, I listened to it for my personal information on the progress of the war.
“Upon returning from Vietnam, I was stationed with the 544th ARTW at Offutt for the remainder of my enlistment. I was assigned to the Target Studies Branch, where I would assemble target files on (biological and chemical warfare) sites in China and the former Soviet Union. The photo intelligence was collected by U-2 and SR-71 reconnaissance aircraft and satellites as part of the program where film canisters were jettisoned from space and their parachutes snatched by specially equipped C-130 aircraft. The film went to photo interpreters in vaults several stories underground at Offutt.
“The aerial photography was highly detailed and one of the most interesting applications was the use of infrared film that would reveal the thermal shadows left on the tarmac of Chinese aircraft that were moved into bunkers in anticipation of our overflights. These images were so detailed that a skilled photographic interpreter could determine the number and types of munitions whose tips protruded the width of the wings.”

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Service Memory: The Cold War

Robert W. Sieborg
Airman 1st Class, U.S. Air Force
Served with the 3906 Air Police Squadron at Sidi Slimane AFB in French Morocco from July 1951 to July 1952.

Memory: “In February 1951, I was an Air Force reservist at Offutt Air Force Base. Our unit was called into active duty because of the Korean War. I served a short time at Fairchild AFB near Spokane, Wash., as an air policeman. Orders came down that they wanted volunteers to serve in French Morocco. SAC was going to build five air bases there because … the Russians were acting more aggressively in Europe.
“I was assigned to the 3906th Air Police Squadron at the Sidi Slimane AFB. At first there were about 350 Air Force personnel assigned to this new air base. The base consisted of about 40 to 50 tents and two outhouses. There were no roads as yet on the base, which was located in the desert. Civilian construction workers were in the process of building several airstrips.
“Our air police outfit was providing security at this new base, as there were no fences around it, and the (locals) were very adept at thievery. A short time later, a small corral was built as stray donkeys, sheep and goats would wander into the tent area. Locating the owners of these animals was difficult at times, as a number of the Arabs were nomads and were always on the move and difficult to locate.
“My duty assignment off and on was town patrol. My partner and I would patrol the small towns of Sidi Yahia, Sidi Slimane and the large city of Meknes in our jeep. We were responsible for our personnel in these isolated areas. The French government would not allow us to carry any firearms off base. The only equipment we could carry was a club, flashlight and first aid packet on our belts. Although it never happened to me, several other air policemen were stopped on isolated roads by Arabs on horseback carrying rifles. There were looking for firearms, which they would use against the French military. (Morocco gained independence from France in 1956.) Generally, we got along well with the Arabs.
“Several months I served town patrol alongside members of the French Foreign Legion in Meknes, a large city in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. They were a very interesting group of servicemen, a large number being ex-German soldiers from World War II. When asked why they joined the Legion, they simply responded, ‘We lost the war.’ They had no civilian skills, and no jobs were available in Germany, so they joined the Legion to apply their skills. Overall, we got along very well with them.
“Several times a year we would get a sirocco, which was a wind from the Sahara Desert bringing 120-degree temperatures and a sandstorm making life miserable. This would last for several days. Also, flies would fly into your nostrils and mouths, and you had to shake your shoes, clothing and bedding for scorpions and sand vipers. Morocco had a very interesting culture. In some isolated areas, it was like stepping back to the days of the Bible. After a year there, I returned to the States and was released from active duty.”

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