We were loaded up on a train from Fort Riley
Kansas, which was destined for Oakland.
Upon arrival we boarded a ship called the US Pope, once the train arrived at the dock. The troop carrier had the entire 9th Infantry Division on board. It took twenty-one days at sea to arrive in Viet Nam in late January 1967. We landed at Vung Tau, loaded us all on trucks and convoyed us to Camp Bearcat. We spent half the time building the base camp, platforms for the tents, mortar trenches, latrine, a mess hall and the rest of the time we would go out on patrols around the camp.
Most of us survived this duty and were assigned to the Benewah
for duty in the jungles in the Delta.
We went stomping through waist high mud, rice paddies, swamps, and jungles of the Mekong Delta. The jungle canopy was so dark you did not know it was daytime until we hatched through with our machetes. We were assigned to the Lieutenant Jack Benedick's second platoon, one of the bravest men I have ever met; we patrolled on night and day search and destroy missions. I captured a cache of Vietcong weapons, which we took back to the Benewah... never to be seen again.
After completion of my assignment with the 9th Division I was
reassigned to the 4th Infantry Division Alpha Company 1st/12th. So, I went from stomping through the rice paddies, swamps, and the jungles of the Mekong Delta to the mountain ranges of the central highlands,
near the Cambodian border. There were elements of both the 66th and 88th NVA armies in Cambodia and we were conducting B-52 air strikes against them. We had to listen to the B-52 air strikes at night,
which kept us awake at night. The next morning after the B-52 strikes, we were sent out for "Bomb Damage Assessment".
We would have to hike through the bomb craters, which were giant swimming pools, because of the rain. We began to notice activity across the border into the Central Highlands of South Vietnam. Their concentration was at the northern end of the Ia Drang Valley, Pleiku Province.
We had a major battle on July 12, Bravo Company was completely
surrounded and massacred, this was when seven of our Bravo team members were captured as POW's, only five survived of course at the time we did not know what had happened to them, similar to what had happened to Ron
Schworer, during our patrol with the 9th Infantry Division… we searched and searched, as we had searched for Ron, but could not find them. We thought they were missing in action, only to give up because of the
hostile environment surrounding us. On August 14th, the enemy force outside our base camp was being bombed with artillery and fighter jets all night long on a nearby mountain range. The next morning my squad
had been sent out as a recon unit to discover the size of the North Vietnamese Army, who had been overrunning our base camp. We set out to the mountain side through the fog and we heard rattling in the tree
line. After hearing a rattling in the tree line, Lieutenant Lamb called in artillery and mortar arms fire... during this exchange our squad was hit. I was wounded by an incoming short mortar round, my injuries
consisted of shrapnel imbedded into the right side of my head and the left chest area just above my heart.
All of us were either wounded or dead. My right eye felt like it popped out of its socket, so I and with the help of a fellow GI bandaged and repositioned my eyeball back into my head, my chest was burning and all I could smell was burning flesh. We heard rustling in the tree line so I picked up my rifle only to realize it was blown up too, it looked like Swiss cheese. Luckily it was the rest of our platoon. Not the NVA… they had called in choppers to air lift us to the field hospital... later due to infection in my chest the shrapnel was removed after three separate operations. My second operation was without any anesthetic. Luckily, I had a new Doctor for my third chest operation that had just entered the hospital from the states, He was able to remove some of the shrapnel in my chest and install drainage tubes in my chest, which had to be flushed with hydrogen peroxide three times a day for the next month to prevent infection. This is about the time that the Chaplain came to visit me to tell me that my Father was sick at home and they did not know how much longer he had to live. My Father worked for Lockheed at the World famous "Skunk Works" department, deeply classified, he could never talk about his job due to the sensitive military secrets he was working on.
I was in intensive care in the hospital in Vietnam, sent to the
Philippines', then to Japan and finally sent to Letterman General Hospital in San Francisco. I was then assigned to Fort Ord Army Hospital, until being discharged.