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My 1968-69 Tour In Vietnam



 

I was sent to Vietnam October 1968 and served through November 1969.

The normal tour of duty in Vietnam was 12 months. I extended my tour of duty to

13 months 28 days so I would have my 30-day leave for Christmas 1969.

I boarded a plane in Oakland, California in mid October 1968 and was on my way to the Great vacation spot of the orient “The Republic of Vietnam” I felt that I was not going to make it back home in one piece so I was just a little scared. However it was my duty to answer my countries call. I have lost some of my memories of the complete tour but will try and explain it to the best of my ability.

The flight was a long one and interrupted a couple of times. We boarded a plane in Oakland, California and flew to San Francisco where we had a layover for an hour or so. There, we noticed Australian soldiers also being readied for their trip. They kept us separated by wire fences, I guess they though we may jump over to the Aussie side ha! We were then off to Japan which was our next stop. We had a few hours lay over there and then off to our final destination. I had sinus problems and the flight was extra hard on me. It seemed that descending was a killer and brought on bad headaches. The pilot started his descent, dipped his wings and told us that this was lovely Vietnam. The fires we were seeing were not attacks but were burning of miscellaneous things, later to find out it was human fescues.

We landed and were departing the airplane and it hit me, the smell of Vietnam. The smell of burnt everything, musty tropical moldy smell that I will never forget. It just smelled bad; I knew this was a place I didn’t like from the time I got off the plane. The smell was hard to describe but one you would never forget. We were herded into a tent to get out of the heavy mist and rain and we just laid our gear down and took a rest while they started our processing. The next morning we received our orders for assignment. I was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division and was sent to Cu Chi, Vietnam (III Corps). Once there I was assigned to "A" Battery 7/11 Field Artillery Tay Ninh, Vietnam. I spent a day in Cu Chi, which was the main base camp for the 25th Infantry Division and was then flown to Tay Ninh (on a C-130 cargo plane) another base camp for the division to the north. I arrived at the Headquarters Company and was sent to A Battery. I was assigned as an Armour or Light Weapons Specialist/Repairman. I was introduced to the cadre at the base camp ("A" Battery), got a bunk in the supply building and was told where the bunker was in case of an attack.

It wasn’t too long and I was assigned to tower guard for the base camp. I no more got settled in to the Battery and was assigned to tower guard duty Tower guard duty was a 24-hour a day job with an 8hr shift per a pair of soldiers in three to four towers on the perimeter of the base camp. If my memory serves me right the towers were on the southwest part of the camp and we had a lighted view of the perimeter. This was the area that was supposed to be the most likely spot for an attack. The rest of the base camp was surrounded by bunkers, concentina wire and claymore mines, which the infantry handled. The towers were about twenty to thirty feet tall and about 6.5x6.5 feet square, a couple of sand bags thick and were equipped with one M-60 machine-gun, about 20 frag grenades, and we had our M-16’s with a couple of bandoleers of ammo (approx. 10, 20-round magazines each), an a land communications line down the bunker below us. Some VC that thought he was a sniper fired us on every so often. We took cover below the sand bags for protection unless it was an all out assault.

There were three towers in a row and we were in contact with them via a landline. One night it was about 11-12pm and we noticed tracer rounds hitting the middle tower. We called them and asked what was going on……they didn’t even know it was happening, I believe they were stoned and sitting on the floor of the tower. No return fire and only a couple of tracer rounds so that was it for that night. There was two of us assigned to each tower at night and because I was a “FNG” (Fucking New Guy, excuse the language!) my partner was a seasoned grunt or infantry soldier. He was on his last 30 days before going back to the world (USA). This guy was a trip, he would wake up from a dead sleep if he heard any kind of movement for over 100 yards. It’s true, we were sleeping about 2am and he woke me up and said a jeep is coming. I checked it out and, sure enough, a jeep was coming from about 100 yards out and it drove right up to the bottom of our tower. It was the LT in charge of our tower guard. He told me to wait until he got to the ladder and we would boot lock-and-load our M-16’s and see what would happen. We did and he yelled out “Its LT. Stinson” or whatever his name was, and said he was just checking on us and don’t shoot! I though it was too cool…..got the bead on an LT in my first week in country. This partner of mine was way to cool. Being on tower guard was too cool with him. I was assigned to tower guard duty for about a month or so and then returned to my artillery battery.

In October 1968 it was close to the holidays. November rolled around quickly and we were getting ready for Thanksgiving. We got all the supplies to the base camp and had a really good Thanksgiving Day dinner. We had everything, turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, rolls, cranberry sauce, apple pie, ice cream, the works. It was really great! We had some really good cooks and they did an exceptional job. The only thing that could have been better would have been if we were all back home with our families. It was the same for Christmas and we had Ham then, great meals, I liked the army food. There were times that some cook would mess something up like back at Headquarters mess hall this cook used diesel fuel for water when making chocolate pudding, boy what a mistake. A major tasted it first and went stomping in the head cook. It was changed to mixed fruit really quick like. Otherwise the food was pretty good and I didn’t have much to complain about. Being with the Artillery was much different than being out in the field with the infantry. Boy, those guys really had it rough. I felt really bad for them and didn’t want that job. The Artillery guys had it much better. It was a lot more of spit and polish but worth it. We didn’t have to hump the boonies, which was where the infantry lost a lot of troops. My hat is off to the Infantry Soldier, a tough job in any war and/or police action.

My main job was to take care of all the small arms for the battery, keep track of the serial numbers and who’s weapon it was along with assisting the supply sergeant with his duties. The job included such tasks as building bunkers, digging holes, filling sand bags, maintaining the battery area in the main base camp at Tay Ninh, picking up supplies through many sources, such as getting ice from momma-son in Tay Ninh, convoying supplies to the field battery, having a small Vietnamese group do our laundry, delivering it to our troops, repairing and maintaining our M-16’s, M-60’s, 45’s, bayonets, etc. I guess, looking back at it our main job ended up running convoys and supplies to our fire support base and humping ammo boxes to the trash. We moved around the Tay Ninh area for a few month and then finally settled down at a place called “Fire Support Base crook”. The road to Fire Support Base Crook went through the town of Tay Ninh and two villages. Tay Ninh was friendly during the day, as many towns were, none were at night, unless you were in Saigon or a heavily populated area where the US was present at all times. These two villages were neutral most of the time but could become hostile, especially at night.

One convoy we were headed to our battery, you could smell the opium in the air and feel the tension in the last village. We picked up the pace and made it to our FSB, dropped off our supplies and new recruits and started back to the base camp. It was getting late and the VC started dropping in mortars about 100 yards to the left of us and short. Naturally we hit the gas in our jeep and the 4x4 behind us did the same. The road was not a good one to go fast on because of the exploded mine and bomb holes in it but non-the-less we were off to the races. They never could adjust the rounds to hit us so we made it home safe. There were many other times where we got stuck in the mud and had flat tires without a tire jack, which could be a REAL problem! Two soldiers and a jeep with a flat tire, no radio and in the middle of nowhere in Nam were a good target for the enemy. We managed to drive the jeep onto a rock and dug a hole under the tire and did a quick exchange of tires. I do have to say we did a pretty good job of it and fairly quick too.

Convoys and supplies were our major job. We made large convoys with four to five 4x4 trucks, one 2 ¾ ton truck, and one jeep to small convoys with one jeep and a small trailer with supplies. These convoys were all done without any communication to our own battery. We would call the FSB on a land line and tell them we were on our way and if we weren’t there within a half hour to an hour they would have to come looking for us. We seemed to be somewhat lucky during all of them because we never lost a vehicle or a person to our convoys. We did hear of convoys on the other side of the base camp were getting wiped out with two to three ¾ ton trucks and jeeps with MPs as escorts. I guess we did good in our encounters. Maybe we weren’t big enough fish to catch?

We, the supply Sergeant and I had to go to Cu Chi, RVN (about and 1-1 ½ hours to the south, convoy time) to pick up a new jeep (I believe that was the reason). It was a large convoy and the first and only one I was on that had a paved road. We had a lot of MP’s guarding the convoy and drove by an APC (Armored Personnel Carrier) that had been hit by RPG (Rocket Propelled Grenade) just out of Cu Chi. We figured this might be and interesting trip. The convoy was uneventful, though and I saw a couple of building that was very nice. They looked like churches and had vivid colors. The countryside was tropical and very green other than the parts that were hit by bombs, artillery or AGENT ORANGE. If it wasn’t for the war and the humidity the place might have been something to see as a vacation spot, yeh right!

II spent most of my nights in Tay Ninh base camp. We had a shower rigged up using an old gas tank off an old fighter plane with three showerheads tapped into the bottom of it. A water truck would come by every other day or so and fill it with water, the sun would heat it up and at night you could get a hot shower. The only problem was that we were within 75 yards of the concentina wire, which separated us from the open areas, jungle and the enemy. This meaning if you turned on a light to take a shower you could be shot at easily. I was on my way to take a shower once and heard two or three of these whooshing noises zip by me. I figured some VC wanabe sniper was taking some pot shots at me from a distance so figured I better let the shower go for that night. Another night going to take a shower I was shining my flashlight on the makeshift walkway and say two of these green beady eyes about ¾ of an inch apart from each other and three feet off the ground. Me, being armed with a bath towel, a bar of soap, and a flashlight, I decided to make a run back to the rest of the troops and get some reinforcements. I returned with about three other friends and our M-16’s to do battle with this snake but it seemed it took off also. It was just another adventure to the shower. Those were the most memorable trips I had to the shower during my tour of duty I Nam.

 

AGENT ORANGE

Our main base camp, for the 25th Infantry Division was, Cu Chi, RVN, III Corps area. This area was the heaviest (Agent Orange) herbicidal-sprayed area in Vietnam. AGENT ORANGE caused us many problems; we didn’t know it then but sure do now.

I have recently run into an engineer that helped in clearing out the area for Fire Support Base Crook.

He told me that while knocking down the jungle they were spraying the area with this vegetation killer he believes was AGENT ORANGE. He said they sprayed it everywhere and he even got dowsed with it. At the time they just washed it off and didn’t think of it too much. He did say he noticed how fast it would kill the vegetation and plants. Later I learned that they sprayed many different chemicals in III Corps such as AGENT ORANGE, AGENT BLUE and AGENT WHITE, which were all deadly.

 

I now have large doses of Agent Orange, Agent Blue and Arsenic in my system causing Peripheral Neuropathy, Major headaches, Possible heart problems (new research), Sinus Problems, Chloracne, and various other problems. I am 100% Disabled because of the Peripheral Neuropathy (Social Security Disability). The first time I noticed any problems that could be related to AO, was when I started having cystitis pop up on my face and back of my ears at FT Knox, Kentucky in 1970. I finally had to go to the hospital and have them surgically removed. I also had Hypertension/Heart problems just before leaving the service in 1971. When I was clearing post at FT Knox, KY I had my physical and one of the medics said my blood pressure was so high that they could not let me out of the service. I guess my jaw dropped so much that he took sympathy on me and erased the blood pressure reading and changed it to a leave that I would be accepted to leave the service. I also had some really bad headaches and figured I would deal with them once out of the service.

 

While clearing post I had to take all of my gear, pistol belt, fatigues, helmet, helmet liner, gloves etc, to turn them in. When I got to the area to do so, the person that handled it was an old friend that I went through advanced training with from FT Lee, VA. He told me if I would bring him a bottle of Jack Daniels he would write off all my equipment. I accepted that right off the bat and came back the next day with the JD and all the paper work was written off. I cleared post within a week and was released from active duty in January 1971 with an Honorable Discharged.

 

 

VIETNAM AND MY THOUGHTS TODAY 2004

 

I look back at the Vietnam War today and feel-betrayed by our government, our people, and our system. I still have the questions; why did we go over there in the first place, why didn’t we declare war, why didn’t we go to win, WHY? I and many of my friends and brothers though we were over there to halt the spread of communizium, OK, that sounds right, even today but I know there was and underlying theme to all of it! Was it money in some way fashion or form? I still don’t really know, for sure that is? If we were going to put so many lives on the line for such and insignificant place, then why not go for broke? If we did we probably would have ended up in the same situation as Korea and at the DMZ we would have divided the country and would, to date, still be patrolling not only the DMZ but the Cambodian border also. I recently read some info from a book that a big commander of North Vietnam wrote and he said in 1970 we, the U.S. Hanoi around that time. He said we basically destroyed the north’s army and the path was wide open for us!! I know when I left in LATE November that there was not much hostilities going on and it seemed pretty quiet. This guy was probably true and our news media had everyone brainwashed to believe we were defeated. Thanks NEWS MEDIA! You guys sure put it too us and are still doing it today.

SOMETIMES I wonder WHY did I come home alive and why was I spared? Why didn’t someone who would have made a difference in this world live and not me? One of my good high school friends, Stan Greene, recently died of cancer, which I feel, is related to Agent Orange, he was only 50 years old when he died? WHY?, WHY?, WHY? I just don’t know that answer and guess I never will. It just wasn’t my time I guess? Every good thing I ever did In Vietnam I dedicate to those brave military personnel on the Vietnam Wall! THOSE GUYS ARE THE TRUE HEREOS!

No mater what the outcome it was and would not have been pretty. A lot of young men and women, that may have made a big difference in our world, are no longer with us and I myself blame that on our government, our people, and our system. . I feel as if someone who could have made a difference in this world should have made it back home and not me?

 


                          

MY LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:

President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President;

I was drafted April 15, 1968 and served approximately three years in the U. S. Army. I was sent to Vietnam around October 1968 and served through November 1969. I was with the 25th Infantry Division "A" Batter 7/11 Field Artillery Tay Ninh, Republic of Vietnam, III Corps area. This area was the heaviest herbicidal spray area in Vietnam. I received an Honorable Discharge in January 1971. I now have large doses of Agent Orange, Agent Blue and Arsenic in my system causing Peripheral Neuropathy, Major headaches, Possible heart problems (new research) and various other problems. The first time I noticed any problems that could be related to AO, Other than Hypertension and Heart problems was around 1974-75. I complained to the VA doctors about a tingling in my fingertips with no response from the doctors. This tingling in my fingers grew to tingling into mid fingers and toes and now I have no feeling in my feet and lower legs and minimal feeling in my hands. In my visits to the VA doctors I had continually stated this and finally quit complaining because of no response. They finally acknowledged it but did not pursue it. I was concerned and was suspecting an Agent Orange problem. I did not pursue it myself though. I did receive an Agent Orange physical in the LA outpatient clinic and mentioned it with no acknowledgment again. I also had an exam in the Long Beach VA Medical facility with no mention of that appointment in my current records either. I have a current copy of my VA medical records and have noticed that none of these records are there. It surprises me to see no mention of these problems and I do not believe all of my records were copied for me. For the VA to do an appropriate claim investigation on my problems related to AO ALL of these records are pertinent and should be retrieved. I have been turned down for my PN because it did not manifest itself within one year of my departure of the service. In the copy I have of the case brief the VA doctors themselves noted that PN could manifest itself for many years after the fact.

I moved to Reno Nevada from the LA, California area and started my VA care here. I received an Agent Orange physical around 1979 and mentioned it again, still no response. I stopped mentioning it for a few years because I would never get a response and was very frustrated. Finally about two to three years ago I decided to try and pursue it further. I filed a claim for AO causing PN and went all the way to the president of the United States with no results. The VA said I had to report it within one year of leaving the service (1971) and that AO did not cause what I had. I asked to see a neurology doctor and his comments were; I do have nerve damage and I was exposed to AO but would not relate the damage to AO. He said he could supply me with pain pills for the pains that are related but there is no cure for the loss of feeling or nerve damage. I declined them at this time and may have to take him up on it at a later date. I already take a variety of prescriptions for my Hypertension, High Blood pressure, Headaches, sinus problems and major aches and pains in my body. Later I stubbed my toe and finally figured that it was hurting and went to the VA. The doctor stated why I didn’t notice it and come in earlier? Well I told him that I have no feeling in my feet and lower legs and extremities and didn’t know I had a problem. He then wanted to do a 24-hour urine test to see if he could find out what the problem was. The test came back with a count of 149 of Arsenic where he said 63 were the highest for an individual. He then ordered a blood test and it came back with a count of 70 where the highest level should have been 60. Then we did another blood test with about one month in between. The second test came back with a slightly higher count 73 or so, he did not state exactly because he was somewhat fumbling with what to say. He counseled with another doctor and decided to tell me he would have to look into it but never had a case like this before. I have recently scheduled other appointments with a doctor, outside the VA, for a second opinion.

I now have an outside Homeopathy MD and through his tests, (which are probably not recognized by the VA) I have High levels of Agent Orange and Arsenic and have letters to verify this fact. He believes that the herbicidal spraying in Vietnam caused all of my nerve damage. Since Agent Blue, containing Arsenic, was also one of the Rainbow Chemicals sprayed in my area both the doctor and I feel this is the true source of my problems.

Most Vietnam Veterans, Veterans advocates and organizations such as the VFW, American Legion, and Vietnam Veterans of America not to mention the remaining groups believe that Agent Orange and its Dioxin by-product is a source of many of our current problems we are all having. We feel, as time goes on, there will be many related problems to AO which are not on the VA list. The research that I have done indicates that there are many doctors that also agree on the manifestation of PN being many years after the fact and not only with in one year. I know that PN was put on the list for a reason and I feel the VA has abused it. It was intended to allow for compensation and the VA seems to be able to find a loophole to deny all claims or at least the majority of claims.

I have a claim in to Social security for disability and seem to be running into another wall. It seems an average person has to fight the system every second to receive what is due. My first claim has been denied and I have heard that 67% of the first claims are denied. This is ridiculous. I have worked or been in the military since I was 18 years old and have continually paid SSA. Even the lawyer I had to hire to fight the claims thought it was ridicules to have to hire him for such a task. So now I hire a lawyer and have to pay a good size fee and loose more money. I realize that there are many who would fraud the system but there must be a better way to research the claims to help the true disabled.

I am asking your help to please look into the distribution of disability benefits for problems related to Agent Orange and the by-product Dioxin. I have taken some time to browse many veteran/veteran organization guestbooks on the Internet. They indicate, especially the VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America) that there are thousands of us out here with Peripheral Neuropathy and damage to our nerves causing many problems, along with a wide variety of other problems, which have not been addressed. Veteran's organizations have done many articles on the poor research done to back their studies. I feel that it is about time that our government fess up to the fact they made a mistake when making the decision of spraying such high concentrations of AO in Vietnam and allocate some monies to compensate and help those who have so many problems. I ask that you give this some consideration and move forward in helping the Veterans of Vietnam. We did our job and have ended up being spit on and ignored most of our lives. Please honor our country and us by supporting our Vietnam Veterans.

Consider cutting foreign funds if necessary to help us at home.

UPDATE..........

I finaly recieved my 100% Social Security Disability for Periferial Neuropathy and continue to fight the VA to upgrade my PTSD to 50 or 60%, Along with other claims for various medical problems resulting from military service. Three VBA claims are pending as of 11/18/05.



Here are some photos of me and my friends in the
25th Infantry Division A Battery 7/11 Field Artillery
Tay Ninh, RVN 1968-69


I am the second from the right.

Captian & Me

Our West Point Captain and the Kid.
This was an Awesome Captain.
Of course I would say that to the man that promoted me to Sgt.! HA!

The 1st Sgt and Myself

1st Sgt Wirt and Me "BS"ing at Tay Ninh base camp

My Friend and Motor Pool Sgt

After a convoy to Fire Support Base Crook "Russ kicked back outside the wire".

 


Letter recieved from DOA after the tour of duty in Vietnam


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National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records Web Site
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Agent Orange, VA Claims and Appeals, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, VVA's Guide To Veterans Preference
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