Recollections Of My Military Service
After being drafted in 1966, and being trained as a Combat
Engineer at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, I was sent to Vietnam in February 1967. Upon arrival I was sent to A Company, 4th/47th, 9th Infantry Division, which was a line infantry company.
I was one of A Company's first replacements and I spent 3 1/2 months in A Company as a rifleman going out on Huey Helicopters for search and destroy operations - the mission was to eradicate VC forces. On June 1st of that year I was transferred to E Company 4th/47th just as they were moved to the USS Benewah for Mobile Riverine operations. We were then ferried out to the boonies in Navy Tango Boats (landing craft) rather than on helicopters. That was some of the toughest service I could imagine. On top of trudging through mud, rice paddies and jungles, I was also a machine gunner. On June 19th, just weeks after my transfer, my old unit, A Company, walked into a VC ambush and suffered many causalities.
In September of 1967, I was finally transferred to the 15th Combat Engineer Battalion building bridges and working with mechanized and infantry units (as I had been trained). In February
1968, I was getting ready to rotate back home, but the VC were also planning the TET Offensive.
At Dong Tam each night we received VC mortar rounds, even hitting our tent one night but luckily we made it to the bunker before that. The rounds also damaged the airstrip preventing my ride home from landing so I had to wait a few days longer to leave. Later, I found out that during the TET invasion at Dong Tam there were over 1000 VC mortar rounds that were aimed at us.
When we finally got into the air, more problems arose.
One of the engines on our Continental Airlines plane went out and it was announced that we were heading back, soon after that we were told that the air base suffered yet another attack and now the course was set for the Philippine Islands for repair. We had a layover there, then finally we were on our way home. Upon landing in California, there was absolute joy and excitement, but that soon changed when we saw a group of people protesting us! Even when I returned to my hometown, the negative reaction from friends and family was amazing and disappointing. From that point, many Vietnam Veterans have the same story of withdrawing and keeping their service a secret. Finally about 1996 it seemed safe to begin searching for answers and seeking old comrades and bringing closure to an awful experience in my life.