U.S. Army 1966-69

Highest rank: Sp/5

Awards and decorations: Vietnam Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal

Most memorable military experience: In Vietnam my army company was stationed briefly at the 3rd Marine Division base camp, near the DMZ.

I was in the Electronic Maintenance platoon. We repaired all of the radios, telephones, teletypes,
small radar sets, etc. for the brigade. My job was to repair tank-mounted Xenon searchlights, Starlight Scopes, and mine detectors.

I remember the monsoons, the mud, the huge rats, the heat, and the unsanitary living conditions. We were shelled by the NVA occasionally, but nothing unbearable until Lyndon Johnson announced the October 1968 bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was his show of good faith to get the North Vietnamese to the peace table. Approximately one minute after the bombing halt went into effect the shelling from inside North Vietnam began. Rockets and artillery shells fell all the time. It was difficult to line up at the mess tent for a meal, and the shelling became so frequent that it seriously interrupted our repair mission. We spent a lot of time in the bunker. I vividly remember one night when several fuel bladders were hit. Those things exploded for quite awhile and lit up the night sky enough to be seen five miles away.

Xenon searchlight mounted
on an M-48 tank

We generally got along well with the Marines that lived next to us. We swapped magazines, Cokes, beer, etc. However, once in awhile a Marine just couldn’t resist the temptation to toss some teargas into our company area. I guess they just liked to “look at them doggies run.” Even at the time I saw the humor in it.

Anyway, by the end of the month our brigade commander decided to move us 10 miles farther south. While Charlie occasionally dropped a few mortar rounds on us, our lives were much quieter there.

Washing clothes in a 55-gallon barrel of water, heated by diesel fuel

We used outhouses in Vietnam, and barrels were used to catch the waste. For sanitation, a few times each week the barrels were dragged outside, diesel fuel was added, and the mixture set on fire. I took this picture because I thought no one would believe it!