In the early part of
August 1970, we were once again on a search and destroy mission with
elements of the 1/61. As we prepared to move out LT Rees gave the
order to load up. He once again told us to stay off the lead tank in
case it hit a mine. There was only enough room for maybe two or
three people at the most, so I split my squad in half and we loaded
up for the ride. If I remember correctly I was on the second or
third tank in the column. This time I was going to pay more
attention to the movement of the turret. I was not going to have
another broken weapon like the last time.
Once again, it was a
noisy and dusty ride. We had not traveled far, when all of a sudden
there was a tremendous explosion. The tank that I was riding on hit
a mine. I was told later that it was a hand detonated 175 mm shell.
The explosion was so great that it literally lifted the tank a few
inches off the ground. The next thing I knew, I was flying through
the air. I landed in a ditch beside the tank and from there on out
things are a little foggy as to what happened next. It must have
knocked me out for a few minutes because I remember being very
groggy and someone talking to me. It had to have been our platoon
medic, but I don't remember who. All I know was I could not hear a
word he was saying. It felt like my head was going to explode and
there was blood coming from my ears and nose. My eyes felt like they
were going to pop out of my head. After awhile, I began to regain my
senses and began to realize exactly what had happened.
Several minutes went
by and I still could not hear anything, but this loud ringing.
That's when I began to get scared that I would be deaf the rest of
my life. Soon I began to hear a little better because I could
understand people asking me if I was alright. I think I told them I
was okay. I know I soon got up and did appear to be okay except for
some ringing in my ears. That's when I began to survey what was
going on around me. I checked out the tank and saw where the
explosion had blown off one of the wheels and destroyed the track.
The explosion had killed the driver and wounded the tank commander.
A medivac came in to pick up the dead and wounded. I did not think
my injuries were serious enough to go in, so I stayed with the
When we finally did
go in for our stand down, I was still having some difficulty hearing
so I went down to the aid station that was near our company area. A
medic checked me out and said that I needed to see a doctor, so I
was sent down the 95th Evacuation Hospital in Da Nang. There I saw a
doctor and he gave me a hearing test. He told me the explosion had
caused some nerve damage to my ears and told me that I would
probably be hard of hearing from now on. He said there was nothing
more he could do, and was sending me back to my unit. I asked, "Doc,
why can't you just send me home?" and he replied that my injury was
not serious enough. He then proceeded to hand me a set of ear plugs
and told me to wear them anytime I was around any loud noises. I
thought, "You have got to be kidding me." What was I suppose to do
the next time that Charlie wanted to shoot at me or drop a few
mortar rounds my way? Yell time out, I've got to put my ear plugs in
my ears. Well, needless to say, I threw them away. He did give me
some good advice though. He told me that when I return stateside, to
go to my local VA hospital for further testing.
After I was
discharged, I did just that very thing. The VA determined that I had
a 10% hearing loss and later tacked on another 10% for ringing in
the ears. That was the VA's numbers. I have been tested by
independent doctors over the years and they tell me that my hearing
loss is more like 35%, but it has been almost impossible to get the
VA to change the rating. They have provided me with hearing aids for
many years, so I can't complain too much. During my entire tour of
duty in Vietnam, I only rode on two tanks and both times something
happened. The moral of the story is "Stay off those frigging tanks!"