arrived in Vietnam on October 2, 1969, in Cam Ranh Bay. After the
usual Army "hurry up and wait", I was assigned to the 5th Infantry
Division. I remember looking at this large map of Vietnam with all
the units and their locations. I immediately saw that the 5th was
as far north as one could go and still be in South Vietnam. DMZ,
here I come! We all boarded the Army green buses with the mesh
wire over the windows. Of course, we asked, "Why the wire?" The
answer was, "So that the VC could not throw grenades in the window
and kill all of us; "cherries" before we got to our units. This
was not a comforting thought.
After the trip from Cam Ranh Bay to Da Nang to Quang Tri, I was
trucked out to Camp Red Devil. "Home at Last!" I was assigned to
Alpha Company, 1st Battalion 11th Infantry Regiment. After checking
in, we all had to attend a few days of Vietnam orientation. This
consisted of showing us VC "booby" traps that we might encounter
and a few poisonous snakes. This was not getting any better! After
this we were told to be nice to the Vietnamese people and to stay
away from the prostitutes because we might catch the "Black Syph"
and spend the rest of our lives on this island. We all heard the
same story I'm sure, no matter where we were stationed in Vietnam.
Finally orientation was over.
After being in Vietnam now for almost two weeks, I was finally
given an M-16 and all of my equipment. I remember being told to go
down to the chopper pad and catch a ride out to my company, along
with the re-supply, which was out in the field. When I arrived at
my new company, I reported to my Captain. He assigned me to 1st
Squad 1st Platoon. I felt like a fish out of water. I looked
around and I had never seen such a rough looking bunch. Clothes
torn, faces dirty and unshaven; boots that the Salvation Army
would not accept, and here I stood in my brand new fatigues and
shiny boots looking like the poster boy for the United States
Army. Man, was I ever a "cherry". After introductions, I was
loaded down with even more equipment; claymore mines, extra M-60
ammo and anything else these guys were tired of carrying.
After humping most
of the day, we set up an NDP for the night. My first night in the
bush, and guess what, they sent me out on LP with this other guy.
I bet he was not happy, taking out a "cherry" on my first day. I
don't remember his name but he told me to just keep quiet and
everything would be okay. After we set up in a spot he chose, deep
in some elephant grass, we checked the radio and laid out some frags and settled in for the night. Sometime during the night, we
heard voices and they were not speaking English. They seemed to be
crawling around trying to find us. He told me to be very quiet and
not move so as not to give our position away. They were trying to
find our LP. I was never so scared in all of my life. I could hear
my heart beating and thought the gooks could too. That's when I
finally realized that all of this was real. All the training was
over; no more playing soldier! This was for real and there were
actually people who wanted to kill me. I grew up real fast that
night and was never so glad to see the sun come up. We made our
way back to the perimeter and he said that I did just fine.
Welcome to the Vietnam War!