Alec Wahlman (8)
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Chapter Two: Aachen—October 1944

Alec Wahlman University of North Texas Press ePub

The assault on Aachen marked a new phase in the American Army's drive eastward from Normandy into the Reich. The slow, grinding hedgerow fighting of June and July 1944 had given way to frenzied pursuit in August. In September, however, as US forces approached Germany itself, the pursuit phase ended as quickly as it had begun. The slower tempo in turn shaped how American forces encircled and captured Aachen. Aside from the symbolic value as the first German city threatened by Allied ground forces, Aachen was also a useful military objective. The city was the gateway to the Aachen Gap, an avenue into Germany's industrial heart—the Ruhr.

Initial US plans were to bypass Aachen, cut it off, and then mop up the weakened defenders, but those plans were thwarted by unexpectedly dogged German resistance, forcing a more methodical approach. The US effort then shifted to a better resourced pincer movement by two corps, to isolate the city in preparation for the final assault. Strong German counterattacks, and the fortifications of the Siegfried Line, made the encirclement far more demanding and slower than expected. With many forces dedicated to the encirclement and holding off German counterattacks, US commanders strained to find manpower for the assault, and they compensated with extensive armor, artillery, and air support. While German forces were less short of manpower, their troops were of doubtful quality. Most formations were ad hoc groupings of hastily assembled units of non-infantry personnel, or the shattered remnants of larger formations. German armor was scarce, and air support almost non-existent, although artillery support was relatively abundant.

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Chapter Four: Urban Warfare in American Military Thought after World War II

Alec Wahlman University of North Texas Press ePub

After World War II

In the post-World War II era, the US military for the most part went back to its pre-war apathy toward urban warfare. Shortly after V-E Day (Victory in Europe), the US Army's European Theater Headquarters commissioned a sweeping lessons collection effort that resulted in 131 General Board reports on a wide range of subjects, with distribution throughout Europe and the Army's school system.1 In these reports urban warfare was rarely mentioned and never presented as a serious challenge needing future attention. In Study No. 1, on the strategy employed by the United States and allied militaries in Western Europe, a section on the terrain obstacles facing the allied forces in August 1944 did not mention cities. In a later section, assessing the same issue of terrain obstacles for November 1944, terrain features around Aachen were mentioned but not urban terrain as such. Brest was mentioned, although in terms of siege operations, and Aachen only in terms of being the location where the Siegfried Line was first penetrated. The study listed Lt. Col. John Corley, a battalion commander at Aachen, as one of those interviewed, so it is not that those with first-hand experience were not consulted.2 The report on tank battalions never mentioned urban warfare and the report on infantry divisions stated that overall US doctrine was proven sound without any mention of problems with urban terrain.3 The report on tank destroyer units stated, “Fundamentally, there was no such thing as different employment of tank destroyers in various types of operations.”4

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Chapter One: Urban Warfare in American Military Thought Before Aachen

Alec Wahlman University of North Texas Press ePub

Prior to World War II

Prior to World War II no nation's military seriously studied urban warfare against conventional military opponents, including the military establishment in the United States. World War I taught many lessons but urban warfare was not one of them. Open warfare received the bulk of the US Army's attention as it assessed operations during World War I, as opposed to what it perceived as the failure of trench warfare.1 For the interwar Army, urban warfare had presented itself as a problem so rarely as to be a theoretical issue, dwarfed by larger and more tangible challenges such as airpower, mechanization, and mobilization. The paucity of global attention to this topic during this period meant there was little chance for the Army to take intellectual shortcuts by borrowing from others.

Be it the American apathy toward national defense in the 1920s or the fiscal famine of the 1930s, the Army had few resources to expend on apparently nonessential requirements. Army leaders focused on absorbing the lessons of the Great War, the most important being how to rapidly expand force structure for industrial-age warfare. Austere budgets forced hard choices on the Army's leadership, and the Army prioritized manpower over equipment or concept development for future warfare. Even for an area of mainstream interest such as mechanized warfare, the Army's budget for its armored forces, from 1920 to 1932, annually averaged an amount equal to the cost of just two new medium tanks of the period.2

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Chapter Three: Manila—February 1945

Alec Wahlman University of North Texas Press ePub

To make full use of the Philippines in their drive on the Japanese home islands, US forces needed to capture the northernmost island of Luzon; to make full use of Luzon, US forces needed to capture Manila. However, the attention given to Manila itself was minimal during US planning for the Luzon campaign. A mixture of hope, denial, and faulty intelligence reports led General Douglas MacArthur to believe the Japanese would not fight for the Philippine capital city, but rather would declare it an open city, as he had done three years earlier. That was not to be, contrary to even the wishes of the top Japanese commander on Luzon, General Tomoyuki Yamashita.

After US forces landed in Lingayen Gulf on northern Luzon on 9 January, it took them almost a month to move south across the Central Plain to Manila. Waiting there was a mixed Japanese army-navy force, thrown together by local Japanese commanders from the manpower scraps available. It took another month of hard fighting for two reinforced US divisions to clear the city. The end result was significant losses for the US forces, the elimination of the Japanese force, large-scale civilian casualties, and heavy damage to the city.

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Introduction

Alec Wahlman University of North Texas Press ePub

 

 

The industrial age changed the relative value of land. Development meant relatively small areas could often be of more value to a nation than vast tracts of undeveloped land. Advances in technology and changing economic patterns both enabled and demanded that populations concentrate. Expanding cities were the manifestation of that trend, particularly their substantial growth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. From 1900 to 1950 the aggregate population of the world's five largest cities increased 110 percent, while the overall global population increased only 52 percent (see Table A).2 The proportion of the urbanized global population increased from 13 to 29 percent between 1900 and 1950. That trend continued, reaching 49 percent by 2005, and is projected to reach 60 percent by 2030.3

As the size of cities grew, so did their military importance. Four factors characterize this increasing importance. First, urban areas became more numerous and physically larger, increasing their proportion of the overall terrain mix. Cities also possessed two key commodities needed for waging warfare in the industrial age: population and materiel. In addition, they acted as the hubs for increasingly advanced modes of transportation. Finally, urban terrain muted some of the key advances in military technology, namely lethality and mobility. These factors began to emerge in the nineteenth century, but their impact was not fully felt until the twentieth century.

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Chuck Gross (19)
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Chapter 1–First Assignment

Chuck Gross University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER ONE

FIRST ASSIGNMENT

It all started for me the summer of 1968. I had just graduated from

Cooper High School in New Hope, Minnesota. I had decided against going to college. My mom suggested that I go into the service and get some training in electronics. Since I really had no clue as to what I wanted to do, the idea sounded good to me. My father had been an electrician before he passed away. The week after graduation, I went downtown to the U.S. Navy recruiter’s office, where I took the usual battery of tests. When I had completed the tests, I was told to have a seat in the waiting room.

I was sitting in the waiting room with several other young men, while my tests were being graded, when a petty officer walked in and started yelling and screaming orders at us. He was cussing at us to stand up and get into formation. When I did not respond to his orders, he unleashed a mouthful of vulgarities at me. There was a little confusion as to who was who. The other men were new recruits who had just been given their oath, and he thought I was one of them. I have to admit, I was not used to all that vulgarity being directed at me, and it kind of shocked me. Once we got the confusion straightened out, he took his new recruits and lined them up. Yelling obscenities, he marched them out of the waiting room and down the corridor into their new life.

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Prologue—18 Days

Chuck Gross University of North Texas Press PDF

P R O L O G U E — 1 8 D AY S

Sitting here in the quiet solitude of my den, I find it hard to believe that the events that I am going to tell you about actually took place.

When I reflect back upon them, they seem to be from another life, in another world, years ago. But they did happen, and I am thankful to be here today to tell about them.

Flying Captain for American Airlines on both the Boeing 767 and the 757 is a great job. It was my dream that I spent a better part of my life to achieve, yet I find it unfulfilling and boring compared to the flying experiences of my past. Yes, I have had a few emergencies at

American in my career. I had an engine blow up on a Super 80 going into Minneapolis. Luckily, we set her down safely with no injuries. But losing an engine on an airliner is mild compared to the excitement of my past. Where should I begin?

It was late August of 1979. It had been a quick, short summer as summers are when you live in Minnesota. I was the Chief Pilot of an air cargo outfit called Crawford Aviation, Inc. Crawford Aviation’s offices were located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with our maintenance being performed at the Lake Elmo Airport. Our duties entailed flying freight for Airborne Airfreight.

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Chapter 11–Lam Son 719

Chuck Gross University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER 11

LAM SON 719

February 2, 1971

Dear Tom,

Hi and how is everyone? I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner. We’re in the middle of a big operation and I just don’t have the time.

We moved out of Chu Lai and are up north along the DMZ, now working the Khe Sanh Valley. We are presently living in

Quang Tri and it’s a lot worse than Chu Lai. We’re operating our company out of tents and that’s really bad for the maintenance of our aircraft. We have no place to take a shower now and I think that’s the worst part. I imagine you’ll be reading about this operation in the newspaper and on TV. It’s one of the biggest in the war. You won’t believe how cold it is here! I got Mother’s letter of the 25th tonight. I really appreciate hearing from you all.

Today I go under 100 days left in country. I’m really anxious to leave. It just all builds up on you after awhile.

We left Chu Lai on the morning of January 30 and arrived at

Quang Tri that afternoon. From February 1–7 we were involved in support of Operation Dewey Canyon II, the first phase of Lam Son

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Chapter 4–My Cherry

Chuck Gross University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER 4

MY CHERRY

I truly believe that until someone has been away from their loved ones, especially in a war zone, they cannot fully understand the importance of a note or letter from home. The letters that we received were lifelines to our other world, and that world kept fading further and further into the recesses of our mind as our tour rolled along.

I wrote my mother about every two weeks. I would not tell her about the action that I was participating in, because I did not want to cause her additional worry. During my tour my Mom sent me a subscription to the Minneapolis Star and Tribune Sunday paper, a great gift that kept me informed of events taking place back in the States.

My two best friends from high school each wrote me once. That was the extent of their communication. Another friend of mine,

Steve Djerf, wrote me weekly. I will always be grateful to him for those letters.

May 1970

Dear Mother,

Yesterday, I flew all day and night and only had four hours of sleep the night before, so I was just dead. I’ve already flown twenty-four hours. I guess they are averaging one hundred and forty hours in each thirty-day period. I’m learning a lot more about the War and Vietnam. I’m sure glad that none of the other kids will have to come over here. I wonder why I’m over here, in this strange country spending a whole year of my life risking even death for something I had nothing to do with.

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Chapter 17–Homeward Bound

Chuck Gross University of North Texas Press PDF

CHAPTER 17

H O M E WA R D B O U N D

May 5, 1971

Dear Mother,

This will be my last letter sent from Vietnam. I’m down in

Saigon, on my way back to Chu Lai from leave. I’ll tell you all about it when I get home. I leave Chu Lai on the 10th to go down to Cam Ranh. I should be coming home either the 15th or 16th. Starting to get real excited about getting my tour over with. I’m done flying now or at least I’m supposed to be. So for once I’m pretty sure that I’ll make it. I’m really tired and worn out from this past year. I thought it would never end, but I guess even bad things come to an end sooner or later. I guess I won’t get much sleep the next week or two. Just be too excited to sleep. I guess I’ll close for now.

Love,

Chuck

My flight brought me back into Tan Son Nhut Air Force Base, located in southern Vietnam outside of Saigon. From there, I would have to catch a flight back up to Chu Lai with the air force, on one of their C-130s. The following morning, I checked with the air force on getting a flight up to Chu Lai. They told me to check back the next day because everything was full this day. Since I was not in a hurry to get back to flying, I said sure and took the rest of the day off. I decided to walk over to the Tan Son Nhut Officers Club for lunch. When I walked

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Fred L Edwards Jr (13)
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Appendix B. Terms and Acronyms

Fred L. Edwards, Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

AppendixB

Terms and Acronyms

IstMarDiv, IstlnIDiv, 10Ist AlB Div, etc. Abbreviations for First Marine

Division, First Infantry Division, lOIst Airborne Division, etc.

5th Special Forces Group. The senior USSF command in Vietnam.

7th Air Force. The senior U.S. Air Force command in Vietnam.

III MAF. Third Marine Amphibious Force. The senior Marine command in Vietnam.

AID. Agency for International Development.

Arc Light. Code name for B-52 strikes.

ARVN. Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

Ba Mui Ba. Locally produced beer. Name translates to "33."

BAR. Browning Automatic Rifle. A World War II weapon provided to

ARVN, CIDG and Mike Forces.

BDA. Bomb damage assessment, conducted to determine results of B-52 strikes, often by Mike Force patrols and other LRRP's.

Beaver. A single-engine aircraft built by deHavilland in Canada.

BEQ. Bachelor Enlisted Quarters. Living quarters used by enlisted men who are unmarried or who are unaccompanied by their spouses.

Billet. U.S. Army term for a billeting structure or compound. U.S. Marine

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Chapter 7. Transition

Fred L. Edwards, Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 7

Transition

JUNE 1967-BIEN HOA HIGHWAY

Lieutenant Colonel Harry Holeman, the J-2 MACV science advisor, wants to discuss a project involving long-range patrolling with several members of G-2 and G-3 at II Field Force headquarters in Long

Binh.l Harry's clearance precludes in-country trips outside of American-held territory, but his fighter pilot spirit influences him to go anyway. Except for an official trip to Tokyo, he hasn't been out of

Saigon/Cholon, and is looking forward to this trip.

I draw a pair of pistols and pick him up in the office jeep. The rotund little man looks incongruous in his Air Force khaki tropical worsted and blue frame cap, with a .45 automatic strapped around his waist, but I guess that Air Force scientists don't bring field uniforms to Vietnam.

On the Bien Hoa highway a tragi-comic act with a Lambretta unfolds. A Lambretta is a motorbike with one wheel in front and two wheels on an axle in the rear. Built over this triangular frame is an enclosure which houses the driver in front and his cargo in the rear. A Lambretta can carry four Americans or a dozen Vietnamese. Thousands of Lambrettas serve as taxies, buses, and cargo trucks in the Saigon-Cholon-Bien Hoa area.

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Appendix A. Selected Vietnam War Chronology

Fred L. Edwards, Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

Appendix A

Selected Vietnam War Chronology

(Books cited are listed in the bibliography.

For periodicals, refer to respective archives.)

Mter years of working to consolidate religious and colonial control over that portion of Southeast Asia that includes present-day Vietnam, in 1883 France established a "protectorate" over Annam and Tonkin, and was ruling Cochinchina as a colony (Stanley

Karnow, Vietnam: A History, 47-85). Thus was created the foundation for the conflict that has been variously described as "the Vietnam War," "the two

Vietnam Wars," and "the war for independence."

The chronology that follows summarizes milestones that led to the end of that conflict.

September 1940

Japan occupies Indochina, but leaves the French colonial administration intact as part of the Vichy government (Karnow, 672-73).

February 1941

Mter a thirty-year absence from Vietnam as a revolutionary and a Communist in the USSR, China, and elsewhere, Nguyen Ai Quoc (Nguyen the Patriot), born Nguyen Tat Thanh in 1890, infiltrates from

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Chapter 4. Residency

Fred L. Edwards, Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF
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Chapter 5. A Long Tunnel to Nowhere

Fred L. Edwards, Jr. University of North Texas Press PDF

Chapter 5

A Long Tunnel to Nowhere

WEDNESDAY 1 FEBRUARY 1967-COMRADES IN

ARMS XI: MAJOR PETER]. BADCOE, ROYAL AUSTRALIAN ARMY

My mission is to introduce my friend and partner,

Peter McDougall of the Australian Special Air Service, to contacts in I Corps, so we fly to Da Nang.

We plan to eat dinner at the Navy club, called the Stone Elephant, but when we arrive we find that field uniforms are no longer allowed. During my past visits, there always had been standing room only in the bar, and a waiting line for the dining room.

So I deduce that the Stone Elephant simply has no room for the additional officers brought on by the arrival of Task Force Oregon (the Army's Americal

Division) in I Corps. Or perhaps they just want to keep their overstuffed furniture and thick carpeting clean.

However, the fact is that the field uniform rule excludes most Army and Marine officers without saying, "This is a Navy-only club." And it embarrasses me as an American to see my Australian friend turned away.

Someone at the entrance tells me we can eat at

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Gregory V Short (15)
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9 The Wild Bunch

Gregory V. Short University of North Texas Press ePub

Chapter Nine

The Wild Bunch

“If citizens really wanted to eliminate war, they could enact a law that would require their political, religious, and financial leaders to personally lead them into battle.”

For the next couple of months, I found myself sloshing through the rice paddies, searching villages, and patrolling the surrounding darkness. Being the middle of summer, the work was hot and rugged. Since I was used to climbing up and down the mountains, I was a little surprised to discover how tough it was to wade through a rice paddy with fifty pounds on my back. The mud was so thick and gooey that it would literally ooze up my legs and into my crotch area. On more than one patrol, I would have to stop, strip off my gear, and walk back out into the paddy in order to get my damn boots. Between the incessant heat, humidity, and the insects, I began to appreciate what our other units had been facing in the lowlands and especially what the U.S. Army units had to endure in the Mekong Delta. There may not have been any heavy artillery or rocket barrages to dodge, but the living conditions were far worse than what I had faced up north. And yet in many other ways, it could be just as deadly.

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3 Yankee Station

Gregory V. Short University of North Texas Press ePub

Chapter Three

Yankee Station

“People will always march off to war, whenever they have been convinced of the righteousness of the cause.”

As I was standing watch in the ammo bunker one early morning, Washington came down the stairs to relieve me. After a brief exchange of hellos, I handed him the inventory sheet listing every round in the bunker. “If anybody gives a damn,” I said, “We have nine hundred ninety-one 81mm rounds, three boxes of M-16 ammo, and one brand new mortar.” Then ironically as an afterthought, I wondered how big of a crater it would leave if the bunker happened to blow up. He said, “I don’t know, man. But as long as gooks don’t use any of those delayed fuses, we’ll be okay.”

The delayed fuse was something we all came to fear and despise. Normally fired by an NVA 130mm or a 152mm artillery piece, the round would burrow into the ground about ten feet deep before it exploded. Used as an anti-bunker shell, it wasn’t much of a threat to a person standing some distance away, but it was murder on underground bunkers. One could always tell when the NVA were using delayed fuses, because you would hear a sickening thud right before the round exploded.

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12 Into the Breech

Gregory V. Short University of North Texas Press ePub

Chapter Twelve

Into the Breech

“The only problem with a nation honoring its war dead is that it tends to inspire the young to seek out that same honor.”

One dismal morning, the helicopters unexpectedly arrived and took us away in a whirlwind of flying dust and lingering fumes. While climbing above the clouds, the air was so cold and crisp that we had to huddle together to keep from shivering. After living in our dirty foxholes, it had been quite awhile since we had actually seen each other in a clear and open setting. As a group, we were literally covered in mud and grime, unshaven, and undernourished. Our battle fatigues were torn to shreds and the equipment we carried was old and almost useless from the wear and tear. Grinning at each other as if the governor had just pardoned us, everyone realized that we were flying in an easterly direction, which could only mean a reprieve of sorts.

Almost immediately, Huff and Fuzzy began taking bets as to our destination. Personally, I kept hoping that we were headed for LZ Stud in order to get a few days’ rest and some hot chow. Weighing only about one hundred twenty pounds, I had gook sores running up and down my arms, swollen feet, and ringworms all over my legs and crotch. Amazingly though, compared to other fellows in my squad, I was somewhat healthy. Several of them were running high fevers and couldn’t keep their food down. Poor Roger and Huff had been crapping in their pants for days and Fuzzy had a badly infected leg. Our physical condition was so deplorable that we probably looked like a pack of refugees from Ethiopia.

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11 America’s Finest

Gregory V. Short University of North Texas Press ePub

Chapter Eleven

America’s Finest

“Fundamentally, wars are an economic struggle between the ruling classes of nations. But it’s the common people that have to pay the terrible price for their avarice.”

One of the truisms that I learned in Vietnam was that a grunt shouldn’t hang around his company’s rear area while he is awaiting orders. The spit-and-polish NCOs would seek him out and put him to work at the first opportunity whether he is in dire need of rest or not. To my absolute disgust, it took about ten minutes after I had landed in Quang Tri before some sergeant stuck his head into the tent and ordered me to collect my gear in order to stand watch on the perimeter. But instead of blindly following his orders, I began to argue with the guy. I had lost all patience with the REMFs (Rear Echelon Mother Fuckers). As far as I was concerned, they didn’t give a damn about our welfare and they sure as hell couldn’t have cared less about what we had been through. It was obvious that many of them enjoyed screwing with the grunts. Whether it was from some deep-seated resentment on their part or from some inbred anger they had acquired as a kid, I had no idea. But at this point of the war, I was getting extremely tired of being harassed by every lame NCO who had spent his entire tour surrounded by rows of barbed-wire fences while living in air-conditioned hooches.

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2 The Hill of Angels

Gregory V. Short University of North Texas Press ePub

Chapter Two

The Hill of Angels

“The glorification of sports is a nation’s first step towards preparing its youth for war.”

As a sergeant in Quang Tri explained it to me, Con Thien was the northernmost American outpost in South Vietnam. Situated a little over six thousand meters below the Ben Hai River, it overlooked the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the southern panhandle of North Vietnam. By the end of February of 1967, the Marines had taken over responsibility of the hill from an Army Special Forces detachment. With Con Thien being the centerpiece, the idea behind our deployment there was to establish a string of outposts just below the 17th Parallel. Commonly known as McNamara’s Wall, the former Secretary of Defense had envisioned this wall as a sort of technological Maginot Line. During World War II, the Maginot Line was supposed to prevent the German armies from invading France, which ended up becoming a complete and costly failure. Of course, McNamara’s wall didn’t work either.

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James D Johnson (12)
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Chapter 5 - R&R and a Massacre—January 1–19, 1968

James D. Johnson University of North Texas Press ePub

MONDAY JANUARY 1, 1968: Happy New Year! Big deal, I think, until I realize it is 1968, the year I go home; I hope. I celebrate with an early breakfast of C-rations, wishing it were hot biscuits, gravy, fried eggs, and grits, instead of this funny looking stuff. Hot chow is scheduled for lunch. I don't have much hope for it, either. I know it won't be collard greens, cornbread, black-eyed peas and persimmon pudding.

I have a service at Bravo Company. Gun fire is heard about a mile away. I cross the canal in a Boston whale boat to Alpha Company. I make my rounds and joke about having stayed up so late for the New Year's Eve party last night.

I set up for the service in a small yard of a hooch within our perimeter. Just as most of the guys are arriving, I accidentally step off a small dike and slide down into the water. As everyone is laughing, I yell, “Happy New Year.” So much for staying dry today.

As I begin the service, I again joke, telling the guys I have just baptized myself. During the first prayer of the service, the King's chopper lifts off about seventy-five meters away. I stop the service briefly because of the noise. Suddenly, a sniper opens fire. I'm the only one standing, and when the first shot whizzes by, I drop. The sniper fire is returned in a “mad minute” when everyone on the perimeter opens fire in the direction of the sniper.

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Chapter 9 - Home and Demons Awaken—June 26, 1968–March 1, 1996

James D. Johnson University of North Texas Press ePub

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 1968: Perhaps it was due to nervousness, excitement, anxiety, or who knows what, but I literally did not sleep at all last night at the 90th Replacement Battalion at Long Binh. Processing for my flight home at Bien Hoa Air Base was heavenly.

After more processing at Travis Air Force Base, I leave by army bus to the San Francisco airport where I fly directly to El Paso, Texas, arriving there just before dark. My plans have been to stop in El Paso, sign in, get my name on the post housing list, sign out immediately on leave and go home to North Carolina. Then, when my leave is over and I report back for duty at Ft Bliss, maybe housing for my family will be available.

My sponsor meets me at the airport. I can't sign up for housing until tomorrow morning when the office reopens. I call Barbara. It's hard to believe that tomorrow, I'll be home!

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26, 1968: I go to the housing office, do the brief paperwork, sign out and return to the airport to catch my flight to North Carolina.

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Introduction - Back to the Real World

James D. Johnson University of North Texas Press ePub

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 1968: The huge Boeing 707 rolls from the tarmac to the end of the runway. Movement seems to be at a snail's pace. “Could one last mortar get us now?” I wonder. The plane makes a wide turn onto the end of the runway. I try to will the pilot to gun the engines so we can leave this dirty, dangerous place called Vietnam. We sit on the end of the runway for what seems like an eternity. The thrust of the engines begins to move us forward. Not until the plane's nose lifts do I believe we're finally going home. One hundred and seventy-five GI's let out wild cheers. The tour in hell is finally finished. We're on the way back to a world of hot dogs, mom, and apple pie. It's a relief to know I'm leaving the nightmare behind.

By the time we reach 10,000 feet, I'm reflecting on my first eight and one-half months in this miserable land. I had hoped to serve with an infantry battalion, and, indeed I had. My mind races back. I once again feel the terror of being shot at for the first time, in an open pineapple field. I remember the all day and into the night ambush at Snoopy's nose with over 100 casualties; being the first person to jump on board another troop boat after it was hit by a B-40 rocket; leaving an entire twenty-nine man platoon wounded or dead except two. I recall landing by chopper, under fire, in a hot landing zone; being trapped behind a small rice paddy dike by a Viet Cong machine gunner as he blasts away, bullets showering me with mud as they explode into the dike. I remember pulling a lieutenant to safety after he's shot in an alley way; crawling through the mud under fire in the Jungle of Death; having an incoming artillery round explode five feet away, severely injuring my shoulder in the midst of that terrible fire fight that took the life of one of my best friends. And loading scores and scores of wounded soldiers on medevac choppers; sending many dead bodies from the field for the beginning of their last sad journey home.

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Chapter 7 - Death on all Sides and “Keep your Head Down!”February 6–March 6, 1968

James D. Johnson University of North Texas Press ePub

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 1968: Bravo Company moves out again this morning. Intelligence says that many VC have moved out of Vinh Long southwest and Bravo Company's job is to attempt to interdict them. The other companies are to stand by to assist should they contact the VC.

Then the call comes. Bravo Company and the boats have just been ambushed! The rest of the battalion is to move out immediately. I'm still on the pontoon. I run upstairs and get my field gear.

We had hoped for at least three days rest.

Chip, the twenty year old commander of Echo Company, seems particularly vulnerable since their battle two nights ago when Ron was killed. Chip's a nice kid. But, that's exactly what he is, a kid. A captain this young is almost unheard of. He enlisted, went to officer candidate school, was commissioned and has been promoted to captain. He's still wet behind the ears, yet, he's responsible for the lives of 100 soldiers in combat.

Morale is low. I decide to go out with Echo Company. Most of these guys have been in country only a few weeks. Yet, they've already seen significant combat, more than enough to last a lifetime.

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Chapter 3 - Ben Tre and a Hot a Landing Zone—September 27–November 2, 1967

James D. Johnson University of North Texas Press ePub

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 1967: We leave at 1:00 A.M. on another operation. It's a very dark night with no moon. I'm riding on the aid boat. No one sleeps because of what happened at Snoopy's Nose twelve days ago. Plus, we're heading to the Ben Tre Canal where the VC are known to be heavily fortified.

We get to the canal at daybreak. Artillery proceeds us. All guns on the boats are manned and pointed directly at the banks. If the VC ambush us, it won't take but about two seconds to return fire.

The now dreaded event occurs again. Sounds of heavy weapons break the early-morning boredom. Two ATCs are hit just to our front. We're told that both boats have several casualties.

We move quickly out of the VC kill zone and pull alongside the first boat and tie up to it. I jump over and find a dead sailor full of shell fragments. A round has gone directly into the coxswain's area, blowing the man up. Blood and bits of flesh are scattered all over the boat. We find an eyeball under the .50 caliber machine gun mount. It's no different in the well deck; a round went off in there also. A sailor is hurt very badly but he will survive.

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