Lt Dennis L. Dauphin  
 

TOUR OF DUTY:  13 Nov 66 to 20 Oct 67  

USARV-Camp Alpha, Saigon Casual - awaiting orders
Asg to: 2/9th Artillery, C Battery Incoming REPO Forward Observer, replacing Lt Doug Turner

Atch to: Company "A", 2/35th Infantry Regt, Capt Charles Murray, Commanding
(November, 1966 to March, 1967)

Re-Asg to: A Battery Asst FDO Capt Keith Carlton, Battery Commander; Lt Kermit DeVaughn, FDO
Replaced by Lt Bob Bagwell, incoming FO;  A/2/35, then commanded by Capt Luis Barcenas after Capt Charles Murray

Returned from field; appointed as FDO of A Battery 
(Circa April - May, 1967)  
Later appointed as XO of A Battery; replaced Lt Pat McGinnis

Capt Keith Carlton injured in a 81mm "short round" incident, replaced by Capt Mike Casp, USMA

  LANDING ZONES (LZ's): LZ Lane, LZ Tip, LZ Oasis, LZ English, LZ Uplift, LZ Anchor, LZ OD, LZ Montezuma, LZ Mile High or Baldy

Additional Assigned Duties:

Payroll Officer distribute MPC to field personnel
Trial Counsel General Courts Martial; Guard Duty incident  

DEROS: 20 October 1967 from LZ Baldy, Tam Ky 
               Departed on LtCol Bobzien's chopper to Duc Pho
               Cleared baggage from Pleiku
               Flight out of Tan Son Nhut AFB direct to McChord AFB, Wash.  

MEMORIES

updated 5Aug14

 

Jungle School, Panama

I remember the Jungle Operations Course down in Panama, Sept 67.  Surviving and passing that course meant enduring conditions worse than the conditions in Vietnam, with the exception of being shot at.  I never knew what a "monsoon" was.  At first formation on Monday morning, it started.  Each Instructor stood there, in the driving rain, and carried on as if the sun was shining.  Well, Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore!  After passing with a pretty high score, of which I am very proud considering the huge number of "washouts", we were told that we could not wear the famous "Jungle Expert Patch" on stateside uniforms.  I wore it anyway; I earned that sunvabitch.


                                           

Arrival at Camp Alpha

I remember the strange feeling upon arriving at Camp Alpha when the "Speedy Four" in charge dumped all of the orders into a trash barrel.  {See: "Welcome to Camp Alpha"}  It dawned on me what the term "Repo-Depot" really meant.   The existing fighting units had losses and you were the replacements...better known as "FNGs".  Unit cohesion? That had to come later.  Turns out that this had a great negative effect on our "war-fighting" efforts and was never done again.

Surprise Tour of Saigon

I remember meeting Col Sabolyk, my old professor of Military Science at the university while in Saigon awaiting assignment.  He generously loaned me his sedan and driver and I saw a part of the world that very few Vietnam Veterans had the opportunity to see even though they went over there.  Instead of going from the airport to the "boonies", I had a day to tour the streets of Saigon.  {See: Streets of Saigon}

 

Off to a Bad Start

I remember meeting the "C" Battery commander prior to going to the field.  I was "assigned" to his battery for pay and admin purposes, but my "real" job was to hump the boonies with some Infantry line company.  In other words, I would not be hanging around "C" Battery very much at all.  I spent a day or two receiving a very superficial and uncaring overview of what the firing battery did.  It was a waste of time.  You were NOT part of their outfit...it was just on paper...and they didn't do a very good job of hiding it.  And the battery commander had the worst attitude of all toward his FOs.  They took up space on his TO&E and they were not under his control...didn't need 'em.  For a long time I considered him to be a part of the anatomy whereby you relieved yourself and felt better.   Thankfully, he was gone when it was time for me to actually be assigned and work in a battery with the 2/9th.

Downtown Pleiku - Omigawd

"DOWNTOWN" PLEIKU - Prior to leaving "C" Battery for my first assignment as an FO in the field with A/2/35, a group of the guys brought me to see "downtown Pleiku".  It looked like a typical "third world" city, primitive in every way.  Nothing seem to be constructed with any skill whatsoever; the business signs were either crooked or falling down.  The "street" was just dirt; everything appeared to be filthy as can be and you wondered about the overall hygiene....there probably wasn't any.   Anyway, my most prominent memory of going to Pleiku was being taken to the combination "bar/whorehouse" which were not uncommon in poor cities.  This "bar" was very dark...almost totally blacked out...and that was probably a blessing.  We take a seat and here comes the Barmaid...a very skinny young woman, barefooted with dirty feet and very unattractive face, to take our order.  When she opened her mouth, all you saw was remnants of what had been her teeth.  I later learned that many of the Vietnamese chewed "betelnut" as a stimulant or drug and that it rotted their teeth.  Well, she was a "poster child" for that outcome.  I ordered a beer, drank it, and was in a hurry to get out of there.  I know the human sex drive is very powerful, but I could not imagine our GIs being so desperate as to have sex with something as hideous as that.  I started to understand how horny men could go for sheep, cows, pigs or even water buffalo...but not THAT.

A Real Leader: Capt Charles Murray

I remember meeting Capt Charles Murray (A/2/35) for the first time.  What a gawd-almighty contrast in officers!  Charlie was superior in every facet of being an officer and a leader compared to the jerk commanding "C" Battery.  Charlie will always have my undying admiration.  His task was the supreme challenge...taking 120 young men through the jungle...facing whatever conditions...and bringing them back home...if he could.   They say leaders must earn respect.  Charlie had tons of that to spare.  One of the finest officers I have ever served with.

A New FO Goes to the Field

I remember meeting Lt Doug Turner...the FO whom I was replacing in the field.   Hard to comprehend just how "laid back" Doug was.  Nothing seemed to bother him....he, as they say, "rolled with the punches".   He screwed up the "turnover orientation" to me about firing a smoke round to mark a position. {See: "Looking for a Smoke Round"}  At first I was wondering how this guy survived in a combat environment and was a little concerned about taking over from him.   But, thankfully I realized that he taught me (very unknowingly, I'm sure) that you "don't control the cards".  No, you just play the hand you are dealt.

Can We Trust You?

I remember "being tested" as an FNG / FO.  I later learned that we ALL got the same test.  {See: "Hello, FNG!"} Are you competent?  Can we trust you?  Will you do the job when it counts?   It all goes back to arriving in-country as a REPO-DEPOT "body"...they didn't know you and you didn't know them.  Unit cohesion?  There wasn't any.  You came in and had to establish your reputation from scratch.

The 175mm Gun Kicks Ass

I remember one of the first missions that A/2/35 had after I came aboard as their FO was to provide security for an engineer outfit working a rock quarry.  Never did see what the engineers were doing at the quarry.  There was a 175mm gun battery at the site as well.  I never had much experience around the big 175mm gun; everything at Ft Sill revolved around the basic 105mm howitzer.  Well, my fellow redlegs were firing H&Is with their guns at night.  There weren't too many rounds fired (thank God) because the compression from the blast was truly something I never-ever expected.  We had cots available to us in a tented bunk area and when one of those guns fired, the compression actually lifted you OFF the cot and slammed you back down again.  I thought I was part of a Bugs Bunny cartoon or something.  Trying to sleep was a joke; you knew that as soon as your drifted off, you'd get your ass kicked into the air and get slammed down again.

NO!  You May Not Return Fire!

I remember my very first "fire mission" at the Cambodian border.   My unit was taking on mortar fire.  Not surprisingly, the mortars were coming from "the other side".  I found the coordinates and called in the request for artillery support.   "Nothing doing, Lieutenant.  Your coordinates are inside Cambodia".  "What the hell, you say?  We're being fired upon and we cannot fire back?"   I wasn't even in-country for a month when I realized the numbing shock of what was going on.   We were officially limited as to how we could engage the enemy.  So, this was Vietnam!  I had a very hard soul-searching session when my tour was completed.   I loved being an Army officer...especially making that first promotion to First Lieutenant...but did I want to stay in the active Army, possibly return for more tours...knowing that politics determined how you fight a war?  It's no wonder to me that there are 58,000 names on that Wall.

The "Chu Pa" - A Bastard Mission

I remember climbing the Chu Pa on a "search & destroy" mission.   If I ever went on a bastard of a wasted and demanding "search and destroy" mission, that was it.  I've already put the details together in "Climbing the Chu Pa".  I had less and less respect for the guys sitting in the S-2 tent dreaming up assignments and targets.  (Note.  I learned, from attending one of the 35th Inf Regiment reunions, that some of the Infantry Company commanders "wised up" to assignments that sounded like "make-busy".  They waited awhile...and then radioed back to HQ that they had "checked it out" and found nothing.)  This is bound to happen when you go in circles rather than move forward against the enemy.  Also learned (from attending reunions) that several units were sent to climb the Chu Pa.  Retracing our steps was a major setback in Nam and often caused numerous casualties.

A "Battle King" - well, it sounds nice

I remember "search & destroy" missions all during my tour as an FO.  They were generally proceeded by a "Battle King" (artillery bombardment in the landing area) and sometimes coordinated with a jet fighter(s) or the A1E Skyraiders dropping ordnance also.  I later learned most of it was for "show".   You got the "truth" with the "slicks" (Iroquois choppers) inserted you in what was called a "combat assault".   There were some great, heroic chopper pilots who served in Nam and there were others who hovered 12 feet in the air or so and told you to jump out...full pack, battle gear and all.  {See: "No Hope for Bob Hope"}  They were ready to "haul ass" away from the insertion point.  The planning of the search & destroy missions seemed to resemble a dart game: throw one here, throw one there.  Add the score up later.  I keep thinking how our fighting forefathers used to take ground, take more ground, move forward and defeat the enemy.  Vietnam may go down in history as the widespread use of a new concept: the "circular offensive".

Christmas Break - 1966

I remember that my Infantry unit got a "break" from the constant assignments of combat assaults and search & destroy missions just before Christmas, 1966.   I was wondering how "the holidays" were going to be handled.   Out in the boonies, days and weeks passed without knowing the day or the date.  Thankfully, our remembrance of Christmas didn't fall victim to that.   We did come out of the field and relax for Christmas and New Year's before starting up again.   But the attitude back at the Battery hadn't changed; their own FOs were made to feel unwelcome.   So...I moseyed over to the 2/35th shop and had a great time enjoying the food, drinks, the humorous skits, and a true feeling of brotherhood with my Infantry counterparts.  Some told me that they didn't want to get "too close" to their FOs because we were so vulnerable and not likely to return from the field.   Sorry, I don't buy it.  They had the "security" of a firebase and....you didn't.

No Comfort in a Combat Zone

I remember seeing the chopper pilots' compound off to the side/back of our Brigade Headquarters at Duc Pho near the base of the mountain that partially blocked the view of the South China Sea.  These guys were "the coolest of the cool" (or so they thought) and did not "dig in" for personnel protection.  They continued to live in small circular tents (I think they were referred to as "Commanders' Tents") with about a 2' high ring of sandbags.  It kept them "cool" all right.  Guess they didn't realize that the VC noticed everything we did...including our mistakes.  After a VC mortar attack directed on their "tent compound" and several casualties resulting, they understood why most soldiers dug in below and forfeited the "coolness".

Radar Unit on LZ OD

I remember that my unit at the time (A/2/9) was stationed atop a hill with a gentle slope on all sides.  It was given the name "LZ OD". To the west was a lake that came in so handy for bathing and recreation.  To the north was a great oversight that served as a clear view of any enemy troops attempting to mass or attack.  To the south was a very large working rice paddy that prevented any land passage to LZ Montezuma (changed to LZ Bronco), the 3rd Brigade Headquarters and major airstrip for all aircraft in use.  To the east was another firebase named "LZ Liz".  It was no big military genius decision to co-locate the Battalion's Radar Unit with us.  It was headed up by CWO Emil Franklin.  I couldn't believe how CWO Franklin and his men could take turns every day in a dark underground bunker staring at a radar screen, watching for any signs of a mortar attack.  But they did!  And, they saw not one, but two instances of mortar fire, one directed at LZ Liz and one at the helicopter pilot's compound at the 3rd Brigade base.  I did not envy the Radar Team and rarely visited the bunker.

Soldiers are creative...

I remember some of the "creative" ideas that came into being while in Vietnam.   One was to take a can of peanut butter from a C-ration pack and mix in some of the mosquito repellent that we all carried in pocket-size plastic bottles.  Then set it afire...instant STERNO!  Then you heated your C-rations.  I guess the oil of the peanut butter and the oil of the repellent provided the ignition while the peanut butter served as your candle.   Whatever it was...it worked.   In comparing notes with others, I learned that this was a common practice.   Meanwhile, the convoy drivers would put their C-rations on the manifold of the trucks they were driving.   Only problem was it often got the C-rations too hot and the moisture inside the cans would result in exploded C-rations all over the engine.

Hook the Chinook

I remember it was quite a sight to see a CH-47 Chinook arrive with re-supplies of ammunition, food and water.   These helicopters had powerful downdrafts from their huge blades; each visit caused a mini-tornado that left you chasing anything that wasn't nailed down. Then each visit had to have some brave soul volunteer to stand directly under this noisy monster and remove the "donut" from the lifting hook of the helicopter and avoid getting a huge jolt of static electricity in the process.  Funny thing is, we always had volunteers for this daunting task.  I think it is another tribute to being young, foolish, and feeling invincible.  Plus it made for a great picture.  I felt sorry for the "grunts", I really did.  Here they would line up their pup tents in nice, neat orderly rows and along comes a Chinook and their belongings are blown all over the landscape.  It was "52-pickup" after that.

"Dream Job" - Doorgunner

I remember that the US Army in Vietnam had no problem keeping, retaining, and extending the Huey doorgunners.  This job was primarily held by those in the rank of Sp4 ("Speedy-Fours" as they were known).  It seems that all a unit commander had to do was promise a doorgunner job and the young man would extend his tour for six months.  I don't recall if this meant that there were no other additional duties, but the "day job" was to fly to locations as directed.  Bearing in mind that helicopters were fairly new to the military scene, they were absolutely critical in moving men and materiel where roads didn't exist, and you could see Vietnam in ways that few others could...made this job a "magnet".   The doorgunners felt invincible and weren't really afraid of being shot down or crashing.  Learned many, many years later from the veterans of the 2/9th on the original deployment from Hawaii that these jobs were "super-secret" and volunteers were carefully screened as part of a pre-deployment training routine once the troops got the order to "go!"  Turns out that these guys were just part and parcel of putting a Huey in the air.

There was some beauty after all...

I remember the beautiful sunrises and sunsets in Vietnam.  It made you wonder how such an ugly war could be conducted in such a beautiful country.  When I saw the flags of various nations in an encyclopedia when I was a young boy, I didn't understand why Japan chose a sun with segmented rays flowing from the center.  Then, when I saw a sunrise in Vietnam, I finally understood.  As the sun rose, you could see clearly defined separate segments of rays emanating from the center.  Never saw that in the States...ever. 

Going on R&R

I remember that going on "R&R" (Rest & Recreation) was handled by "slots".  Each major sub-unit was given so many "slots" to send troops on R&R to places like Bangkok, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.  Hawaii was generally reserved for the married soldiers who usually met their wives there.  Problem was...a lot of guys couldn't go when the slots came open.  So, there were a lot of rumors that the REMFs were going on multiple R&Rs because the slots would be unused.  Some REMFs were heard to joke that they'd be on several R&Rs and just didn't have the money to go on more.   I don't recall anyone I knew in Vietnam not getting their R&R because they couldn't get a slot.   But...the process was neither honorable or equitable...the "boys in the rear" tended to manipulate the system.  I owe the Bn S-1 Lt Frank Herbick a serious debt of "thanks" for getting me my "R&R" dates.  It finally happened in July and I went home in October, 1967.

Those Donut Dollies

I remember the "Donut Dollies" flying out and visiting us directly in the forward combat zones.  Their visits were brief and I guess did some good for the men who felt they lifted the morale and provided a "sight for sore eyes".  Frankly, I didn't see the use of talking to some gal you've never met before and would never meet again, but if it was good for the morale of the men, I was all for it.  I was also concerned that something would happen just at the time of their visit and we would be very hard pressed to protect them.  I was glad to see them leave...for their own safety.  God bless 'em...they had the courage to go out in the combat zone.

FO Party - loss of memory

I do not remember the name of my RTO who worked with me during my tour as an FO.  I regret that very much.  Obviously, we both survived the ordeal.  The "standard size" FO party was three people.  I do not remember having a Recon Sgt at all, but my diary says I did.  Several of my fellow FOs have made the same comment.

Daily Registrations at a Firebase

I remember the daily registrations that took place at LZ OD.   The AO for most of the registrations was Lt Pat Kasperbauer.  He was extremely conscientious and got to be an expert at picking a registration point and "calling the shots" on your base piece.  Then when it came time for "battery in effect", you sorta crossed your fingers.   Any "long shooters" or "short shooters" meant you had better re-check the settings or pull that howitzer out of service.   Then you had a gun crew with nothing to do...bad news, fer shure.  Pat hated to let you know that anything was wrong with your registration because he knew the next thing you were gonna hear was an ass-chewing from the Battalion Commander.  "Good Humor" was not his middle name.

The "Overrun" Threat

I remember that, although the firebases always had one Infantry company providing perimeter security (nicknamed the "Palace Guard") as they rotated and rested from prior missions, it was still the major fear that the NVA would covertly mass in the dark and try to overrun the artillery battery.  They certainly had good reason to try.   Consequently, we Redlegs would conduct perimeter defense drills.  These included a "direct fire" load of the anti-personnel round called the "beehive".   During one drill we put an empty ammo tube downrange as a target.  When the darts (flechettes) hit the tube, it looked like an over-used dart board...filled with holes.  Regret that the photo of me holding the ammo tube was badly underexposed; it really showed the effectiveness of that round.  If we were able to get to the guns in time with beehive rounds in the event of an overrun attempt, there would be a lot of blood on the ground.

"Splitting" "A" Battery

The demand by the Infantry units in the field (1st & 2nd of the 35th and the 1/14th) constantly being exposed to sudden firefights and having no idea of the size of the enemy unit they made contact with (until too late) put a tremendous demand on the 2/9th, their direct support artillery fire, to provide "more" firepower.  Don't we wish!  This gave birth to the idea of "splitting" assets of "A" Battery in order to form a new "D" Battery.  Being fairly fresh out of the FO job and back on a Firebase, this had me scared shitless.  I heavily relied on the "team" concept in our battery FDC due to the demand...nay, the expectation...that are never any "mistakes" in the firing data.  To split this valuable team resource into smaller pieces was just downright reckless in my opinion.  Furthermore, Ft Sill never allowed for a firing battery to be less than six howitzers in their tactics and operations training.  Of course, Ft Sill was halfway around the world and they weren't grading our exams either.  I was so thankful this "D" Battery idea went away.  Amazingly, it got a 2nd chance and died a 2nd time.

MET Messages - a waste of time

I remember that the daily MET (meteorological) messages in Vietnam took almost an hour to record and decode.  Unfortunately, it was virtually a useless exercise, probably because of the temperature extremes that existed in the Central Highlands.  It was kinda ironic because Ft Sill took that stuff very seriously and devoted a lot of curriculum time to teach the use of the MET message and how it would affect the computation of data sent to the guns.  But the "corrections" we got varied so widely, we did not have confidence in them and didn't use "MET" corrections.  So, we dutifully recorded the coded messages, decoded them, and threw them away.  It helped pass the time.

MAIL CALL!!

I remember "MAIL CALL"!  The most important part of every day.  Any day without MAIL CALL was a let-down.  I think the rear-support dudes did a super job of getting mail to the field.  An amazing job of getting mail to the field, I might say!  If any member of the unit did NOT get mail, you knew you had better ask and find out what was going on.  You were likely about to lose one of your combat assets!

Fired the same gun data...all night

I remember that one evening around dusk, something occurred in our AO with our ground troops near a village.  Whatever that was, it stirred great anger in the 3rd Brigade Commander, Col James Shanahan.  He sent orders down to my "A" Battery to fire on that village the ENTIRE NIGHT, stopping at daybreak.  So, we fired "Battery FFE" on the SAME deflection and quadrant elevation for over 8 hours.  Even if you were executing "blocking fires" against a WWII German Panzer Division, this would make no sense.  By daybreak, we expended thousands of rounds; every cannoneer was dog-tired and in poor shape to execute any new missions that might have been required.  I think the net effect was to create a scrap metal junkyard for the local scavengers.  There are many who viewed Col Shanahan as an "aggressive" commander; on this night, I had other words to describe him.

Naming and Re-naming

Trying to remember the names of all the LZs...I can see how confusion comes about.  First, of course, is our fading memories.  But secondly, I learned that there was  "competition" about naming LZs.  In an exchange of e-mails with good friend Dick Arnold of the 35th (in 2008), he did not concur that the 3rd Brigade base was named "LZ Montezuma".  He insisted it was LZ Bronco.   Then, by further exchanges, we concluded that the original name was LZ Montezuma, (which was named by the Marine Corps units that we replaced there) but that Bde Commander Col James Shanahan re-named it FSB Bronco and all the PR articles thereafter referenced "Bronco".  Knowing what a hard-ass of few redeeming qualities that Shanahan was, it would fit that he would "re-name" a location to his liking.  In the many years after Vietnam, I am amazed how many of my fellow redlegs had such a rabid interest in "where we were" and the name of a given LZ.  I guess it helps with remembering what we did.  

Maj Stuart Wright - an Academic arrives in Nam

I remember the arrival of the new Battalion S-3, Major Stuart Wright in the late summer of 1967.  He was fresh from the States and had pulled duty at Ft Sill as part of the Instructor Faculty, as best I recall.  He was extremely polite, a polished fellow, and very much into "academia".  He had not seen the role of the 105mm howitzer in a combat mission for the Infantry apparently.  As he toured my FDC unit, he asked several questions as to why we weren't using a lot of the firing techniques taught at Ft Sill's Artillery School, particularly the ones where you converge or disperse a shot pattern by giving each gun a different deflection and quadrant elevation. I responded by saying: "Sir, when the Infantry is in contact with the enemy, all they want to hear is that first round coming out of our tubes".  He absorbed that...and didn't reply.   I think...to his everlasting credit...he checked my reply against the reality of what was happening in our Battalion.  He never brought the subject up again.

From Human to Animal

I remember that being "in the field" in Vietnam heightened all of your senses.  You became more "animal" than human.  You pretty much had to in order to survive in a jungle turned into a combat zone.  You became acutely alert of every sound, of every movement, of knowing your next move.   Upon returning home, it took me two weeks to get used to the sound of the wooden porch door slamming shut.  Every time I heard it slam, I would jump.  My family just didn't understand why I reacted like that.  They just didn't know what I had been through.

No Patience with REMF's

It was a situation which got your blood to a high boil.  A combat grunt, including members of FO parties, often arrived in the rear area encampments with dirty, torn uniforms, unshaven, and looking like hell.  For obvious reasons...or so you would think.  Yet on more than one occasion, they would be greeted by a REMF (common acronym for "Rear Eschelon M...... F......"), also known as "base commandos", who would lock their heels and get in their face about appearance.  Made you wonder why they didn't create a category for "Base KIAs"...those who disrespected the men coming directly off a chopper and who were doing the real fighting in Vietnam.

Goodbye Duc Pho; Hello Tam Ky

I remember that my final 5 weeks in Vietnam almost ended in disaster.  After spending about 5 months at LZ OD, we had ourselves a "super" firebase...well constructed, well defended, interlocking tunnels, everyone living in assigned bunkers.  We actually built a "mess hall" out of ammo boxes and borrowed tarpaper for the roof.  Some might say we looked better than Ft. Polk.  Then down came the orders: "Move Out!".   We got "op-conned" to the 101st Abn Div up north, landing at Tam Ky.  I had just flown back from R&R in Hong Kong and couldn't believe what I was seeing...they were tearing our beloved LZ apart...every piece.  The RSOP to Tam Ky was a fricking mess...late start, off schedule and stayed off schedule.  We actually arrived with NO rounds for the howitzers!  {See war story entitled "Fake It"}.  But...here's where it got really hairy: the "palace guard" puts out their claymores, as per usual, before calling it a night.  The next morning....EVERY FRICKING CLAYMORE had its firing pin removed and replaced with a broken toothpick!  Holy Bat, Shitman...these cats up here play a lot harder than those dudes down south.   Good Morning, Vietnam...we were now up against a bunch of pros.   And...I only had five weeks left in-country.

The Late Night Physical upon arrival in Seattle

I remember returning to the States and landing at McChord AFB in Seattle instead of the common return point of Oakland Army Terminal in Oakland, CA.  We were told that the anti-war protesters were shooting .22 cal rifles at the returning servicemen.  The plane ride was a straight-shot from Cam Ranh Bay to Seattle arriving at midnight..   Getting off the plane, we went straight to the "out-process" physicals.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing!  Here they had a whole contingent of docs and nurses...up at midnight, no less...to give young men just coming out of the jungles of Vietnam a physical.  I could only guess that this was a blatant and not-so-subtle attempt to get everyone to sign documents stating they were "just fine" in order prevent filing of medical claims later.  I only hope I was wrong about that and that anything we signed could be successfully overturned later anyway.  It was obvious that the signatures were being obtained under duress.

Some of my fellow Vietnam veterans don't remember that returning vets (like me) were diverted to McChord because protesters were actually shooting through the airport fence at Oakland Army Air Terminal.  Maybe it's just as well that they don't remember.

Returning to home in New Orleans

Practically all Vietnam veterans have unmistakable memories of their return home...many of them not good and forever burned in their hide.  I got past the media crap and their misinformation campaigns, but adjusting to a job in the civilian workforce was very frustrating.  No one...absolutely no one...where I worked (two weeks after leaving Vietnam) knew a thing about the war...or why we were there.  My family only knew what I wrote home about.  It was an extremely lonely experience.  I guess that's why Vietnam Veteran reunions are so important...we have someone to talk to and bring closure.

You never forget that sound...

I remember looking up in the sky and seeing the Iroquois helicopters occasionally flying over my home after I got back to the States.  I would always "freeze" and continue staring and become mesmerized by the unmistakable "blap-blap-blap" sound made by their blades.  Back in Nam, every time you heard a "slick" coming, it meant action of some sort...good, bad, or indifferent...but you never forgot that sound.

Fast Forward to 2016: PFC Francis Loren Arb

I spent some time "upgrading" the data on our 2/9th KIAs under the TAPS link.  Dick Arnold of the 35th sent me a link to the Coffelt Database and it has been an invaluable new resource.  The database contains the DFs used to document a casualty and disposition, surviving family names, etc; lots of information not found on The Wall link.

Going through this new resource, I looked up the data on PFC Francis Arb, a "gun bunny" for one of my gun sections in A battery.  Then it hit me: The DF from the Coffelt Database stated that he was hit by fragments of a premature explosion of an artillery round and died from blood loss from his leg on 27May67. The incident suddenly came back to me!  I was out on the eastern end of the LZ looking for suitable locations to fire our defensive concentrations.  Suddenly I heard a "boom --- boom" from the battery.  I said to myself, "Oh shit...a damn muzzleburst".  I hustled on back to the Battery area.  Sure enough, the men of the Section were gathered around a man whose leg was bleeding badly.  He was med evac'd out.  That's where my memory of the incident ended.  This morning I learn that he didn't make it.
As an officer, you let the Section Chiefs run the section and handle all the morale and discipline issues.  So I can't say that I knew Francis Arb well at all. But, with great sadness, I remember the incident.

 

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