Once Upon a Time in the Vest

Saturday, November 27, 2021

V 11 N. 79 New Bio Pic on the Life of Emil Zatopek


The Czech film industry has produced a movie on Emil Zatopek finally.  David Ondricek has directed the film "Zatopek"   with Vaclav Neuzil and Martha Issova playing Emil and Dana Zatopek and James Frechville playing Ron Clarke.     The trailer can be seen at this link:    Zatopek   From what I've seen of the trailer, the actor  Vaclav Neuzil has done a remarkable job of replicating Zatopek's form.  As the film progresses in time from his days working in the Bata Shoe factory before the war to running in Helsinki in 1952,  Emil's hairline recedes which I think is very authentic as well.  

                                                                Vaclav Neuzil as Zatopek

An interview with the director and two of the actors can be seen at  Interview with director and actors of Zatopek      Be warned,  this website "Deadline" on which the interview appears is a bit clunky and littered with advertisements that tend to get in your way.   The interview is conducted by Nancy Tartaglione and appeared November 20, 2021.  The film has been selected to be  in the foreign films category for the Academy awards in 2022.   How we can see it is anyone's guess.  If you find it on a site like netflix, let us know.

Friday, November 26, 2021

V 11 N. 78 Incredible Running Feats by Rugby Player in England and a Football Player in the US


Kevin Sinfield

In the past year Kevin Sinfield former captain of Leeds Rhinos and English team captain (Rugby League) has run two very tough endurance events.  Last year he ran seven marathons in seven days.  I think they were all solo runs not in official marathons.   Then in the past week he ran 101 miles in 24 hours.  I know there are some ultra marathoners out there who can do this but Kevin is a former professional rugby player, not a lean, long legged athlete designed to run long, long races.  In pictures he looks like he is built to be a fullback in American style football.  Rugby league is the professional form of rugby and a very blue collar sport as opposed to Rugby union the gentleman's sport.

Kevin Sinfield and Rob Burrow
from talksport.com

Kevin's  reason for such madness is his concern for a former teammate Rob Burrow who is suffering from Motor Neuron Syndrome.   In these two achievements Kevin Sinfield has raised several millions of Pounds for research for this disease.   Hats off to both men.  You can see a link of Kevin running one of his seven marathons last year.   Link:   https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/dec/07/kevin-sinfield-hopes-marathon-fundraising-efforts-can-help-find-mnd-cure

Thanks to The Guardian for posting this story by Aaron Bower on Nov. 23, 2021

100 Miles in 24 Hours by Kevin Sinfield for His Friend   Link to recent story on Kevin and Rob

I know that at most large marathons after about 2 hours 40 minutes you start seeing some pretty big guys coming across the finish line.  I remember back in the late 1950's when only a few people ran marathons, a football player at the University of Oklahoma tried running an 'unofficial'  marathon and got some publicity from a local radio station.  His name was Edward 'Wahoo' McDaniel a member of the Choctaw Chickasaw First Nation, and he eventually played in the AFL and NFL for the  Houston Oilers, then Denver and the New York Jets and lastly the Miami Dolphins, and after that career he was a professional wrestler scrapping as  Chief Wahoo.  During his 'marathon' he ran from Norman to Chickasaw, OK and the radio station had a remote announcer who followed Wahoo to the completion of the run.

Wahoo at U. of Oklahoma

In the Ring

Wahoo! Wahoo! Wahoo!   from the Sports Illustrated Vault    article by Edwin Shrake October 26, 1964

No mention of his college marathon run but indication that he weighed in at 205 in his Oklahoma days.

Considering the limited amount of training he would have done to run 26 miles, it must have been a noteworthy feat.

from Anonymous-   Discus thrower Dave Weill (Stanford) got a bronze in Tokyo 1964.   Somewhere along the line I read that he ran a marathon in the clydesdale class, ie over 200lbs and ran a respectable time in completing the event.

Friday, November 19, 2021

V 11 N. 77 Erik Kynard Finally Gets His High Jump Gold Due Since 2012


Erik Kynard,  About Freakin' Time

The former Kansas State U. High  Jumper Erik Kynard will finally receive his well deserved gold medal from the 2012 London Olympics for his 2.33 meter jump 7 feet 7  3/4 inches or is it 7 feet 7 1/2 inches?   When I first asked Google they told me 2.33 meters was equivalent in Imperial measure to  0.001447795 miles.  Believe me, Virginia, somedays it's not an easy world to live in with all this tech support.  Actually I finally got  7 feet  7.73 inches.  So do we round up or down?

Kynard more than deserves the gold for his patience. Derek Drouin of Canada, Robbie Grabarz of Britain and Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar will all get silver.   Wonder if they have to give back their bronzes or will we find them on eBay?    Ivan Ukhov, the culprit,  his coaches, and the Russian sports federation that oversees track and field deserve the misery of each other's company.  And furthermore, the IOC also took away the bronze medal in the women's  high jump from Svetlana Shokolina for doping and gave it to Ruth Beitia of Spain who would go on to win gold in 2016.
                                                                Ruth Beitia

Here is Erik on the David Letterman show, shortly after his return from London.  If you watch at 6:57 in the interview, he has a few choice words about Ukhov, but not implying anything about doping.

Erik Kynard on the Letterman Show

Maybe Erik Kynard had no inkling that there was some foul play going on, but finally the best man has won.  Putin and his minions have done more than their share to besmirch the sports world with their cheating.   A lot of people cheat on an individual basis, but the Russkies have taken it to an institutionalized level as did the former German Democratic Republik and likely a few more.   The Russians so corrupted their own Winter Olympics in Sochi with cheating and falsification of drug testing that their ban on team representation was recently  extended another year and deservedly so.  


                                   Kynard alongside Ukhov in 2012

                                                            And The China Thing

Now the US is toying with the idea of having a 'diplomatic boycott' on the Winter Olympics in China in 2022.  This is not like Jimmy Carter's 1980 boycott of the summer games.  This just means that some middle level diplomats and perhaps the First Lady would not be present at the pageantry and in the reception lines for the big wigs.  He or she will not be dipping into the Peking duck canapes and slugging back the Maotai's, shouting gambai, and telling about their sporting life as a third string lacrosse player at the  Putney School or Philips Exeter Academy for the Feebly Wealthy.  Remember in the last Winter O's when Mike Pence and Kim Jong Il's sister sat one behind the other but they could not turn around and say , "Hello"?   These people know nothing and care nothing about the Uyghurs who are being persecuted toward extinction by the Chinese government.  Oh, and let us not forget the current scandal of the tennis player Peng Shuai.  In western countries if women cry 'foul' they get ignored, in China they get 'disappeared'.  

As long as money is to be made and a bit of short term national prestige is to be garnered,  the Games will go on.  That was proven this past summer.   Thank you CBS, NBC, ABC, and ESPN or whoever has the contract.

Erik Kynard is a Toledo Rogers product and KSU grad.  Interesting to note that "diplomatic boycott" is not a boycott by athletes but a boycott by politicians.  That's not a big deal but the other is.  I hope we don't have a rerun of Jimmy Carter in 1980 but it would not take much to switch to an athletic boycott. Bill Schnier

Thursday, November 18, 2021

V 11 N. 76 Jerry Rushton, Longtime Coach at Ball State University, R.I.P.


Recently Joe Rogers, former Ball State and West Point coach informed me of the passing of Jerry Rushton.   I first met Jerry in 1960 when he was coaching at the Quaker school, Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana.   A friend of mine was on Jerry's team and we would go over to Richmond to run on their cross country course in the summer.  Doing that now would probably put the school into some type of probation for violation of one of the million NCAA rules on the book, but it was a much simpler time then.  Jerry was very personable to me and the others and may even have gone along for the run with us.  That course was not easy, down through some thickly wooded gullies and crossing some creeks, no like today's golf course/country club racing.   Sixteen years later I got to reacquaint with Jerry when I was at Ball State doing graduate work and he was then head coach at that school.  His main man in those days was Kelly Marsh who won the NCAA indoor meet in the 1000 yards as a freshman.  I was doing research on sprinters then and Jerry was nice enough to allow me to use his sprinters to take biometric measurements and do pre and in training high speed photography.   It was not uncommon to see Jerry at the Human Performance Lab asking questions and seeing what we were doing and what he might learn about high performance athletes.  Below is the obituary that appeared at his funeral home.

Always a gentleman.  He'll be missed by those who knew him.   George Brose   

MUNCIE,, IN   Well-Known coach, professor and mentor, Jerry Lee Rushton, 86, passed away early Sunday morning, November 7, 2021 at Westminster Village.
Jerry was born in Indianapolis, June 29, 1935, to William Lloyd and Blanche Isabela Rushton. In 1958, on his birthday, he married Cindra Nanette Davis in the Meetinghouse at Earlham College.
A 1953 graduate of Ben Davis High School, Indianapolis, he was Marion County track-mile champion and cross-country runner-up. He earned an AB degree Earlham College in 1957, a Master of Science degree from Ball State University, and took additional work at Indiana University. During his Earlham days, he lettered all four years in both track and cross-country, and in his senior year set the Earlham track record for the 880-yard run.
From 1957 to 1960, he taught and coached at Decatur Central High School (Indiana), and Gratis and Preble County (Ohio) and Abington School (Wayne County, Indiana).
From 1960 to 1969, while head track and cross-country coach and a physical education faculty member at Earlham College, he had only one losing season in cross country and none in track. He qualified three cross-country teams for national champions and in 1965 and 1966, was named Hoosier College Track and Cross-Country Coach-of-the-Year. The track teams were some of the best in school history, with many records standing today. In 1993, he was an Inductee into the Earlham College Hall of Fame.
In 1969 he became head coach and cross-country coach at Ball State University, where he was employed 48 years when he retired from full time teaching in 2000. He continued as an Adjunct Professor in the School of Physical Education and Exercise Science, active in both jogging and cycling, for a total of 60 years in the teaching field.
During his career at Ball State, his overall track record was 73 wins, 42 losses, and his overall cross-country record was 48 wins, 22 losses. In 1971, his cross-country team was Mid-Western Conference and Indiana Big State champions. The team qualified for National Championships and placed 18 in NCAA Championships.
He coached and qualified two track runners for the 1972 NCAA and Olympic trials, and in 1973 was voted chair of the Track & Field Coaches Association of District IV. He coached several All-Americans in both track and cross-country during his tenure, and was recognized as one of the top collegiate coaches in the Mid-West.
His 2000 Ball State Omega citation noted
Jerry was a member of First Presbyterian Church since 1969 and served as an Elder. He was also a founding board member of First Choice for Women.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

V 11 N. 75 Memoir by Bruce Kidd, Review by Paul O'Shea


The Kid Who Became a National Treasure


Book Review


A Runner’s Journey

By Bruce Kidd

University of Toronto Press

424 pages, $l9.47 (publisher)


A thin haze hugged the Chicago Stadium ceiling, a contribution from careless smokers. Below, the two milers circled, lap after lap, while the organist above pulled out all the stops. They were premier international runners, the best collegians, and a kid.


From the time I discovered him in Track and Field News and watched his stomping on the Stadium’s eleven-lap timber in the l964 Chicago Daily News Relays, I was drawn to Bruce Kidd.  He looked like a ballet apprentice among principal dancers scrupulously following company choreography.


And, who could not be amused by the onomatopoeic name.


Now, Bruce Kidd has written a memoir—he rejects calling it an autobiography--which covers a remarkable life.  The book, A Runner’s Journey, is much more than a running career recap.  Fully two-thirds of the text covers his professional career as activist and academician, after the athletic curtain descended. Journey is capably written, free of academic jargon. The author’s humanism and social justice intensity lift from the page. Thirty-two photos and illustrations bring memories and people to life.


Today, at 78, Bruce Kidd is still a Canadian national treasure.


The Ontario athlete was an Olympian, set 15 Canadian records and won 18 national championships. He also took two American indoor titles and is the only Canadian distance runner to reach the top three in Track and Field News’ annual rankings (5,000 meters, second, 1962).  That year he won the British Empire and Commonwealth Games six miles and took bronze in the three.


For the Sixties era, his PR vaccination card recorded national- and world-class entries. Two miles were run in 8:38.2. Five thousand meters required 13:43.8, the ten took 29:46.4.  On the roads his marathon best was 2:20:18 and earned him a Peach Bowl title.


The British Empire and Commonwealth ten thousand meter championship race in l962 was perhaps his greatest international performance.  In a boiling Perth, Australia, the hottest in 49 years, the temperature cooled to 84 degrees at race time. Kidd surged with three laps to go and won by fifty yards in 28:26.6.


That year Kidd ran 48 races and won all but six.  In addition to his Commonwealth win he set Canadian and world under-20 records in four events.  For the second consecutive year, the Canadian press voted him the nation’s Male Athlete of the Year.


Kidd’s brilliance wasn’t apparent early.  Growing up in Ontario, like many a sport obsessed youngster, it took some time before he found running was his calling. When a high school gym teacher called for the annual mile run, Kidd was an easy winner.  At fifteen he landed on the track where the renowned Fred Foot of the East York Track Club guided some of the world’s top athletes. The fledgling joined EYTC in l958, where his close friends came to be elites Bill Crothers, Abby Hoffman, and Doug Gilbert.


His early training, which progressed from speed work to heavy distance sessions, soon brought national attention. Kidd’s high school two-mile record of 8:42 was finally beaten eight years later by Steve Prefontaine.  The Canadian was beginning to attract scholarship offers from U.S. schools.


While at Malvern Collegiate High School in Toronto, he traveled to Boston to take the Harvard entrance exam, and ran his first indoor race, the Boston Knights of Columbus two mile. At the tape, the youngster had defeated Peter McArdle and Fred Norris, each an accomplished international fixture, in 8:49.2.  The Boston Globe headline read: “Kidd, 17, Steals the Show at K of C.”


He had always wanted to stay in Canada, so he matriculated to the University of Toronto, continuing to train with Fred Foot and East York.


In Sports Illustrated, Gwilym Brown described his running style: “He runs up on the tips of his toes and carried his shoulders high. His feet reach out almost like a pair of hands to clutch the track ahead, and he pumps his arms awkwardly, far out in front of him like a telephone operator at a busy plug-in switchboard.”  British tabloids called him the Dog-Paddling Kidd.


At age nineteen, his growing celebrity led the National Film Board of Canada to feature Kidd in an eleven-minute, black-and-white film called Runner.  The documentary features a narrative written by the poet W.H. Auden, and a race in which Kidd defeats Laszlo Tabori, who had held the world 1500 meter record at one time, and U.S. Olympian Max Truex.


Another of his impressive victories came in l962 at the Compton Relays when he beat New Zealand’s Murray Halberg, the 1960 Olympic champion and world record holder for both the five thousand and three miles. With a lap and a half left, Kidd took over the lead and was never headed. Result: American records for both distances, and a Canadian junior world mark which stood for 54 years.


He was successful on grass and in the hills, as well.


At twenty, he won the 1963 National AAU cross country race in New York City’s Van Cortlandt Park, edging Peter McArdle by four-tenths of a second. Billy Mills was third, trailing the winner by twenty-five seconds.   A year later Kidd would face Mills again in the Olympic final, with a sadly different outcome.


With YouTube, you can catch a glimpse of Kidd among the 38 starters—he’s in the second row in a cream top and reddish-orange shorts. Twenty-eight minutes later you’ll catch a few seconds of him as he runs in the second lane and watches the Billy Mills Show roar by him in lane one as the American surges to snatch victory from the favored competitors, Mohamed Gammoudi and Ron Clarke. Kidd will cross the finish line in a desultory 26th place. He finished ninth in a heat of the five thousand and did not qualify for the final.

 Link to Tokyo 1964.  Ref to Paul's quote can be seen at 49:45 on the video. ed.  Tokyo 1964

Looking back at the disastrous Olympic race where he was favored to medal, Kidd told Toronto Star writer Milt Dunnell, “There is no doubt in my mind now that I had a thorough attack of stage fright, something unparalleled in my existence. You don’t go back and dwell on your victories, but you worry about your losses for the rest of your life.


“I was so scared that I didn’t have any thought processes at all.  I almost blacked out.  I can’t remember those guys lapping me.”


Injuries and overtraining put paid to athletic dreams. His only Olympic appearance marked the end of his elite running career.


Kidd’s academic credentials: his Bachelor of Arts degree is in political economy from the University of Toronto; his master’s is in adult education and came from the University of Chicago, where he also ran in University of Chicago Track Club events on the greatly-missed Stagg Field, notable for its oblong configuration.  His Ph.D. is in history and was conferred by York University.  He joined the University of Toronto’s physical education department in l970 and was appointed dean in l998.  


Encouraged by progressive parents to speak out on the issues of the day, often against the prevailing conservative culture, Kidd eventually criticized the racism and sexism of Canadian amateur sport, the treatment of players in the National Hockey League, and American control of the Canadian Football League. He was also a well-known advocate for gender and racial justice, and an academic leader at the University of Toronto.  His early activism centered on the apartheid system in South Africa.


In l968 he was named to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and in 2004, an Officer of the Order of Canada, which recognized his “outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.”


Roger Robinson, writing in Canadian Running Magazine in 2015, summed up Kidd’s life: “Bruce Kidd still stands—for his short period at the top—as Canada’s greatest ever long-distance track runner.  He also stands—for a much longer period—as an important sports intellectual, thinker, scholar, writer, opinion leader, agitator, and activist.  For five decades he has led, inspired, provoked and annoyed people—annoyed them more because in the fullness of time he has usually been proven right.”


On that l964 evening when the smokers’ haze clung to the Chicago Stadium ceiling, organist Al Melgard serenaded the two milers from the arena’s world famous 40,000-pipe organ.  Bruce Kidd bounded around the Stadium track twenty-two times, finishing second to Bob Schul who would win an Olympic gold medal that summer.


Bruce Kidd was an honored principal athlete performing in world-class company.




Paul O’Shea writes from his home in Fairfax, Virginia and is looking forward to attending his eighth

Worlds, in Eugene.  In his younger and more vulnerable years he believes he shared the University of

Chicago track with a spectacular Canadian visitor.

I always enjoyed this video of Bruce Kidd in his heyday with East York TC. Will you catch a glaring
error from the announcer at the track meet? ed.

Thanks to Paul O’Shea for his detailed review of Bruce Kidd’s athletic career.  I had the great privilege to witness all Bruce’s successes beginning in 1961 as a 16-year-old high school student when I joined the East York Track Club.  It was already a group of hard working and talented individuals who were volunteer coached by Fred Foot, a man who wanted to make a difference in the community following his WWII experiences.  It had a family – like atmosphere with lots of good humor during warm-up but demanded a commitment that only your best effort would be satisfactory.  People like Bruce and Bill (Crothers) bought into it and reaped the benefits.  I was consumed by it as well and ran a world 17-year-old high school best of 4:07.5 after 1 year of training in 1962.  Bruce was 19 years old and ran way over his head as usual and won the race in 4:01.4 to break the Canadian record by more than 3 seconds previously held by Richard Ferguson as a result of his 3rd place result in the Bannister – Landy Miracle Mile of 1954 in Vancouver.  Bruce was unstoppable in 1962.  I regularly watched in amazement at his achievements.  I worked hard in training but Bruce could always do more.  His sprinting speed was very average but he had such determination and guts.  Bruce would challenge the field when his competitors felt the worst and would leave them behind exhausted with no sprinting speed at the end.  He applied this attitude to all his successes in academia and activism later in life.  I am proud to know him as a close friend and have had him, as well as other East York Track Club members, as role models during my crucial teenage development years.   

David Bailey PhD (Pharmacology); Personal Best Mile 3:57.7

Excellent comments from Bailey. I remembered pretty well Bruce Kidd's precocious achievements but I guess he got overshadowed here in the States by Gerry Lindgren then Jim Ryun. I wonder to what extent he may have inspired what they did. Showed them the possibilities for young runners.  Geoff Williams

Louis Zamperini made the 5000 final at Berlin as a 17 year old, and of course Bob Mathias won the decathlon as a teenager.  Probably others but they don't come to mind right now.  Bruce Kidd definitely opened the doors in 60-61 indoor seasons.   I was a high school senior then and just could barely believe it.  George

Monday, November 15, 2021

V11 N. 74 Shizo Kanakuri: The Lost Marathoner


Shizo Kanakuri

In the 1960's the Kingston Trio sang a song about a subway traveller in Boston named Charlie who stayed on the subway for a long, long time.   I think the title was "The Man Who Never Returned".

The following story strikes a similar chord, but not exactly.  Shizo Kanakuri did return after disappearing on the  Marathon route in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.  He dropped out at 16 miles in the 90 degree heat and never got back to the finish line.  A kind Swedish family, the Petra's took him in, fed him and rehydrated him and gave him clothing. He came back to town quietly and travelled home without reporting to anyone.  His whereabouts were never determined by the Swedish authorities, and he was declared missing, end of story.  But not really.   He did return to Japan and later ran in two more Olympic marathons, and even completed the original Stockholm marathon in 1967, officially being credited with a time of 54 years 8 months 6 days 5 hours and 20.3 seconds, proving to me that the Swedes do have a sense of humor and Shizo Kankuri had a sense of honor.  The Swedes even announced that the 1912 Olympics were officially concluded.   During the course of that marathon, Kanakuri was able to father 6 children and had 10 grandchildren.   Today he is credited with being the father of marathon running in Japan.  

                               Shizo  Kanakuri finally completing his 1912 marathon

Recently (August 7, 2021)  Rick Maese told this story in an article that appeared in the Washington Post.

Here is that story.    Thanks to Thomas Coyne for forwarding the article to us.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

V 11 N. 73 Stories From Two of Our Readers, This Veterans Day

                                                          Big 8 Conference 880  1964 last turn
  Left to Right-  Tonnie Coane, Kansas, Dave Perry, Oklahoma State, John Perry, Oklahoma State, Walt Mizell, U. of Oklahoma,  fifth runner unidentified.

A month or so ago, John Perry sent me this photo of 5 runners going into the last turn of the Big 8 Conference 880 in 1964.  Years later two of them,  John and Walt would be doing their tours in Viet Nam.   John was a Marine Fighter pilot in the last days of American forces involvement (1972-73). Walt was a US Army intelligence officer in (1967-68).  Ironic in the photo John is in the air and Walt is on the ground.   Here is a brief youtube link of that race taken with my 8 mm camera, very amateur.  You will also see some action from the pole vault as well.  Big 8 880 1964

My Veterans Day Story:   John Perry

I received orders to flight school two weeks after placing 5th in the 800m at the 1968 Olympic Trials at Lake Tahoe. 

Fast forward 4 years: The Olympics are in Germany. My track running is over forever (achilles injury) and I’m in Vietnam flying A-4 Attack Jets as a Marine Corps Naval Aviator. 

The United States has pulled out all of the ground troops.  American advisors are imbedded with most of the ARVN units and there are only two jet fixed wing American squadrons in Vietnam, VMA 311 and VMA 211 of Marine Air group 12, 1st Marine Air Wing. We are based at Bien Hoa Airbase. A detachment of the First Air Calvary is also at Bien Hoa. The Air Force FACs that we work with everyday are based at Ton San  Knut Airbase near Saigon. There are also  FACs  from other bases but I think it’s supposed to be secret. 

I don’t know the exact numbers of Americans in Vietnam but it’s getting pretty lonely. We have around 40 pilots in our two squadrons and 200 enlisted and we are getting no new reinforcements. 

Our mission was to provide Close Air Support to any friendly troops fighting the NVA or other “hostile” forces. There is an American advisor with the friendly troops, he talks with the FAC’s, they talk to us and we deliver the ordnance by “dive bombing”, no “smart bombs”  then.

Anyway, I guess we were successful in keeping the NVA out of Saigon for a while. The Vietnam Peace Treaty was signed and became effective on January 27, 1973 and we flew our airplanes and equipment out that morning. 

This is the short version. Many, many contractors, equipment and supplies were still in Vietnam when we flew out. 

Saigon fell two years later on April 30, 1975! 

I was a 28 year old Captain and one of the oldest pilots in the squadron. The enlisted guys servicing our airplanes were 19-20 years old. It’s amazing how mature a young Marine becomes when he’s on duty in a war zone or flight line. Off duty, they can let off a little steam! 

Here is the last page of my log book from Vietnam. Red Ink means Combat. As I recall, we had a good “happy hour” in Okinawa  that day. 

Semper Fi, John 

    John's Flight Log
I love the vintage 8mm filming of iconic races back in the 50's and 60's. I'd love to know the placing and times of the top 4 guys. I was always astonished at how my old 49er TC club mates from Oklahoma could run each qualifying heat faster and faster while I was a one and done runner. Incredible to read about those guys. Love the footage, John. How about a brief summary of your training and the aircraft you flew while in the service of our country. I'm looking forward to the up coming movie "DEVOTION" about Korean War pilots flying F4U Corsairs and the ultimate sacrifice of America's best in that conflict.  Thank You for your service. Darryl Taylor

The second story is a long one (30 pages)  but one worth reading.  In it Walt Mizell refers to photos and numbers, but unfortunately we were not able to download them.  I've also added arbitrary numbers to the pages to help you find your way back to where you leave off reading. I've left out the section on Walt's training stateside, apart from a brief sojourn back onto the track while in the army, then the story takes up when he arrives in country.


Walt should publish a book. He did a great job of describing our dilemma in Vietnam.

 My experience was not that cerebral. Flying a combat mission was kind of like running a race in a dual meet with OCU or OCC where you don’t really know the runners. We just went to an intelligence briefing, then had our one on one briefing and went out and took off. We were always a flight of two, one pilot in each aircraft. 

We took off and then checked in with the “tactical air command” and they assigned us our mission, the call sign of the FAC, the frequency and rendezvous point and off we went! 

We usually went West to Cambodia but not always, sometimes it was South to the Mekong Delta or as far North as Laos. Sometimes it was the “shooting gallery” at An Loc. The NVA had pushed all the way to An Loc and they had plenty of 23MM and 37 MM AAA. 

We took off,  coordinated with the FAC who was talking to an American “advisor”, even in Cambodia where we had no “uniformed troops”. Then we dive bombed, shot Zuni Rockets and 20mm cannon and went back to Bien Hoa. There were no i phones or internet, so we never got much feedback on the destruction. I remember, looking back in my mirrors after a mission in the “parrots Beak” and it looked like a scene from Apocalypse Now.  The NVA had just taken over a bunch of estates and buildings and my wingman and I just obliterated them. You could see the smoke from 100 miles away. Never heard a word about that when we returned to Bien Hoa. Just went to happy hour and got ready for the next day! 


                                                             Walt Mizell's Story

Back in 1964, my last year of competition
in track at OU, we had a pretty good sprint medley relay team. A sprint medley team had two 220- yard guys, a 440-yd guy, and an 880-yard guy (me). Our track team, including that relay team, made the circuit on the Midwest relay meets (Texas, Kansas, and Drake Relays). At Drake, we were in position to win the race with me anchoring as the half-miler, but a half-miler from Ohio University, Barry Sugden, sprinted out at the end and won for his team, with me (OU) coming in second. It turned out that I ran my fastest time ever in the half mile that day only to watch as he won going away. It wasn’t even close. As things turned out, when the Holabird team went down to Ft. Belvoir, Va., for the 1st Army regional track meet, I look on the board to see who else had signed up for the half-mile, and here’s Lt. Barry Sugden’s name. This is the guy who had beat me handily on the best day of my life, back at Drake! Not surprisingly, he did it again. Thus ended my track career in the US Army.

On July 26, 1967, we landed in Pleiku, an event I will never forget. As we got off the plane, a long line of soldiers was at the foot of the ramp waiting to get on and fly back home. Their tours of duty were over. They were going home. The looks they gave us were a mixture of pity and disdain, even disgust. Not sympathy or anything like that. I remember watching one guy taking off his jungle boots and placing them in a trash can, then putting on a clean new pair of boots to wear home. I thought to myself that throwing the old boots away was a waste (they looked perfectly good). But a year later almost to the day I found myself throwing away my jungle boots, just like he had done. 

Pleiku is in the western part of the Central Highlands of what was then South Viet Nam. It was rainy and cold, and looked like it had been that way a long time. I could not get a flight to An Khe until the next day and when I did get to An Khe, the weather looked just as bad as it had been in Pleiku. Soggy and wet and cold and it looked like it would be that way a while. But An Khe had better facilities. I made it to my new unit, the 191st Military Intelligence Detachment, attached to the 1st Air Cavalry Division, and signed in and began the wait for my specific assignment within the unit. About an hour after I got there, they brought in a Montagnard (pr. “mountain-yard”) woman for interrogation, which was my first opportunity to see a wounded person and an interrogation. For more information about Montagnards, look them up on Wikipedia. Montagnards are an interesting but very primitive people, indigenous to the mountainous regions of both South and North Viet Nam. Left alone, they lived a very primitive existence, including hunting in the jungle with crossbows. We interrogated them frequently because we thought they might know something about what was going on in the mountains. 

This woman may have been a suspected VC but her status wasn’t entirely clear. The interrogation was not particularly enlightening, as I recall; the first of many such events to come. But Montagnards come into play later in this story, so it’s good to get a little information about them now. 

 During the first few days days at An Khe I got settled into the unit area. We lived in wooden barracks-type buildings, with lots of screens to allow air movement. We slept on standard army cots with frames attached to suspend mosquito nets. The best configuration was an air mattress on top of the cot, with a cotton mattress cover on it. We slept under “poncho liners” which were wonderful inventions and we still use them today. Mosquitoes were a constant menace. Regulations required every soldier to take a malaria tablet every day. They were large, bitter pills, and we were not sure they did any good, but we took them. The mosquitoes were mostly the anopheles type, and very small compared to the ones in Texas or Louisiana. When they bit you they stood on their heads with their tails in the air, unlike any mosquitoes I had ever seen in the States or anywhere else. Our barracks also had a contingent of gecko lizards, that made a sound which resulted in their receiving a colorful, and obscene, name. The first project was to go through the 1st Cav’s orientation program. This involved a few days of schooling about enemy forces and tactics, as well as learning about the 1st Cav’s way of doing things. Enemy forces were of three types: North Vietnamese Army (NVA) troops; Viet Cong Main Force (VCMF or usually just VC) and VC local forces. We were primarily interested in the first two types, which were their primary fighting forces. 

As for the 1st Cav’s tactics, we learned how they conducted air assaults, which generally used a combination of regular artillery and followed by and coordinated with on-site helicopter artillery to “soften up” a landing zone and suppress enemy fire. The 1st Cav’s attack strategy was developed by and for the 1st Cav, and maximized the capabilities of the attack helicopters in order to minimize U.S. casualties when troops were being inserted into an enemy area. My first major project was to get a “slot” which meant getting assigned to a job within the MI Detachment. I had been trained in photo interpretation, and that kind of job was available, but I figured out pretty quickly that I would prefer a job interrogating prisoners and “VC Suspects.” Since I knew a smattering of Vietnamese, I thought that might be a good foundation for doing that kind of work. So I started lobbying for that type of assignment, first with the detachment commander, but then also with Captain Rick Hegner, who was head of the interrogation of prisoners of war (IPW)section. He was a good guy, a California boy, and we hit it off pretty well from the start. In fact, as of this writing we still stay in touch. We both ultimately had careers as lawyers, and both of us are now fully retired from the law practice. 

 The detachment commander, a major, turned out to be a real zero and most of the work in the unit got done in spite of him, not because of him. I deliberately do not include his name in this writing, because I do not want to memorialize him in any way. But he did at least one thing right, in that he assigned me to work for Capt. Hegner and I didn’t have to go blind looking at photos for the entire year. There were all kinds of guys (no females) in that MI Detachment. Most were ROTC types like me, and most were planning to do their two years and then get out to start their civilian careers. There were a few who planned to stay in for careers in the Army. I gradually came to the conclusion that the most effective officers in the unit were generally the two-year in-and-outers. The career officers were too concerned with getting good officer efficiency reports (“OER’s”) and not concerned enough with just getting the job done the best they could. 

The two-year guys didn’t have to worry about OER’s because, as was commonly said, “What could they do to you, send you to Viet Nam?” They just seemed to do whatever it took to get the job done. There wasn’t a lot of tension between the two groups, but I observed that the two types of officers seemed to gravitate toward each other. Capt. Hegner, my immediate boss, intended to get out after his tour of duty and return to California to practice law. The detachment commander assigned me to the IPW (Interrogations of Prisoners of War) section, to be in charge of an IPW team assigned to the Second Brigade of the 1st Air Cav. That brigade had been operating out of the Bong Son plain, the eastern boundary of which was the coastline of the South China Sea. The relevant organizational background is as follows: Division headquarters was at Camp Radcliff, adjacent to the town of An Khe, which was in what was called II Corps (pronounced “Two Core”). I Corps (“Eye Core”) was north of us, and terminated at the DMZ. III and IV Corps were southerly. 

In II Corps, from the eastern coast inland the topography started out as essentially coastal plains, then fairly quickly turned into mountains which extended all the way west to the border with Laos. The mountainous area was called the “Central Highlands.” Highway 19 ran east-west from the coastal city of Qui Nhon, over as far west as Pleiku, where I had entered the country. The city of An Khe straddled Highway 19 and the 1st Cav’s base camp was on the north side of Highway 19, completely encircling a mountain massif known as Hon Kong Mountain (“Nui Hon Kong”). The base camp was protected by a barbed wire perimeter called the “Green Line,” with firing positions and lookout towers all around the perimeter. The base camp was a big, sprawling area, which looked to me as if it were impenetrable (wrong, as it turned out later). It had a large air field which would not only accommodate the 1st Cav’s helicopter fleet, but also had landing strips that could serve and house fairly large fixed wing aircraft. 

The 1st Cav was a new Army concept, the Airmobile Division. It ‘s deployment to South Viet Nam in 1965 was the first time a unit had ever been sent out for operations with enough helicopters to make it “airmobile.” The idea was to assemble a unit with its own helicopter fleet, capable of moving troops around quickly when the need came, in order to reinforce troops already on the ground when they needed it, or use surprise and firepower to mount “air assaults” (attacks) where the enemy was believed to be located. Its commanding general, Maj. Gen. John J. Tolson, had to become helicopter-qualified in order to take command of the division. He may have been the oldest helicopter pilot trainee in Army history. In late 1965 the 1st Cav had fought its Ia Drang Valley campaign, later made famous by General Hal Moore’s book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young. 

The commonly stated conclusion at the end of that battle was that in entering into that engagement, the North Vietnamese were experimenting with a more conventional-type warfare, with larger units challenging larger American forces, as opposed to their traditional use of purely guerilla-type tactics. While the 1st Cav suffered heavy losses in the Ia Drang Valley, the losses imposed on the North Vietnamese were believed to have been so heavy that they more or less ruled out the concept of conventional warfare and went back to their more tried and true guerilla tactics. Then in early 1966 the 1st Cav had another major engagement with the NVA/VC on the Bong Son Plain. 

As I understand it, the 1st Cav used blocking forces coupled with an attack force in a sort of “hammer and anvil” strategy, and trapped and destroyed a large concentration of North Vietnamese forces in that engagement. After those two big engagements, things seemed to have cooled off considerably, so that by the time I arrived, the mood was primarily frustration. That was the result of an elusive enemy operating in unfavorable terrain (from our standpoint) and a population that was not all that eager to help us. So the over-arching job for the intelligence types was to find the enemy. Once the enemy was found, the 1st Cav could deliver whatever forces were needed to fight and win; but finding them was the really hard part. After those first two major engagements (Ia Drang and Bong Son), the Cav was having to work harder to find and fight the enemy. 

The 2nd Brigade headquarters was at a base camp, called “Landing Zone Uplift,” shortened to “LZ Uplift.” This picture shows part of it, not a bit different from the rest of the LZ [picture no. 8] It was about 10 miles south of the town of Bong Son and another LZ known as “LZ English.” My boss, Capt. Hegner, and the main IPW section were located at LZ English. The Second Brigade IPW section (my little group) worked out of LZ Uplift. When I joined the 2nd Brigade in early August, 1967, the brigade’s mission was to find, engage, and destroy enemy NVA and VC forces anywhere in the brigade’s area of operations (“AO”), which stretched from the coast on the east side, up into the mountains to the west. The US 4th Division was located to the south and west of the Cav’s AO, the South China Sea was on the east, and I think either American Marines or Korean troops were to the north of us. 

My job was to supervise a little group of interrogators, both American and Vietnamese. One of my guys, Army Specialist Jeary Glenn, who was also from Oklahoma, had gone through extensive language training at Monterey, and spoke fluent Vietnamese. The rest of us operated with Vietnamese soldiers (interrogators themselves) who spoke English. Most of my work was with a Vietnamese of Chinese descent, whose name was Quang Dinh. He went by his last name, pronounced “Zin,” and he was a very intelligent and diligent soldier. [picture no. 21] We got to be pretty close friends over the 4+ months I worked in that section. Two of our Vietnamese, Dinh and another named Hau, spoke pretty good English. Another Vietnamese, named Luom, spoke OK English, but wasn’t in the same class as Dinh and Hau. 

There were five or six other Americans in my section, four with the rank of “Specialist” (including Glenn), two warrant officers, and one lieutenant. Our job was to support troops in the field as best we could, and help in the always difficult job of “finding” the enemy. Here’s a shot of me in our “hootch” which we built mostly from ammo boxes with a little additional lumber we traded for. [photo no.6] As far as my little unit was concerned, the principal tactic we were involved in was the “cordon and search” operation. In a typical cordon and search operation, an American infantry company would sneak up and surround a village, and once they had a secure perimeter set up so that no one could get in or out of the village, a helicopter would bring in an IPW team, some medics, and a civil affairs team. In addition, on some missions they would bring in a group of Vietnamese National Police (more about them later). 

Accompanied by a security team from the infantry company, the medics would provide such medical help as they could to the villagers. The civil affairs team would do their part to win hearts and minds. The job of the IPW team was to interrogate persons who might have useful information about the location and intentions of any enemy troops in the area. At the end of the day, if we had anything interesting to report, we would radio it back to the brigade intelligence section. Then we would round up any persons who looked like they needed more questioning, and head back to LZ Uplift, taking them with us. Sometimes the number of persons coming back in was far larger than those who had gone out, so in those instances the brigade would send out a larger helicopter, a CH-47, instead of a Huey. The CH-47’s would carry a whole lot more people, but the Huey’s were a lot faster and more fun to ride. For one thing, you could see the countryside from a Huey, while riding in a CH-47 was more like riding in a bus with no windows. 

On the ground that part of Viet Nam was hot and dusty, or muddy, and smelly. In the air it looked incredibly verdant and well-cared for in the cultivated areas, and in the mountains there existed more green forest (jungle) than you could take in and absorb in your mind. The Huey pilots liked to fly low over the treetops, and there are few things as exhilarating as a fast-flying helicopter flying at near-treetop level. Not only that, but after a day of sweating it out down on the plains, the moving air in the chopper was an incredible cool-down. It didn’t take long to find some action on the Bong Son plain. About the third day I was at LZ Uplift, the troops brought in an NVA prisoner. He was being held in a stockade under supervision of the 1st Cav’s military police, about 40 yards from where the IPW section was located. Before I got over to see him, up comes the Deputy Brigade Commader and demands to see the prisoner. 

The DBC was a lieutenant colonel, a big guy, very imposing person and strong personality. So I grabbed one of the Vietnamese interrogators to use as an interpreter, and the three of us go find the prisoner. The DBC proceeds to interrogate him and insists that the interpreter translate literally. That is, when he says “I want to know something . . .” the interpreter is to use the first person singular in addressing the prisoner, speaking exactly as if he were the one asking the questions. Supposedly that will give the questioner a more direct psychological contact with the prisoner. Maybe they had taught that technique in the Command and General Staff College or somewhere but the whole approach didn’t work. The DBC spoke to him loudly and roughly, and got absolutely no meaningful responses from the guy. I think the NVA soldier was scared to death. It was a good show by the DBC, but for my money it was a demonstration of how not to conduct an interrogation. 

But I later developed a lot of respect for the DBC; he was an aggressive and effective leader. That particular prisoner gave us no useful information, that day or later, no matter who asked the questions, or how. Some did, some didn’t . . . About two days later I went on my first cordon and search operation. We got zero results. But the day after that things got hot. The infantry had surrounded a little coastal village named Tan Phuong,located on the beach, right on the South China Sea. We went in with the usual team plus a contingent of National Police. National Police is a short term for National Police Field Force, or NPFF, which was a quasi-military force that operated throughout South Viet Nam. They were advised by US CIA operatives and were a pretty aggressive outfit. The soil in this little beach village was entirely beachtype sand, although the village was located 30 or 40 yards from the water’s edge and was up on higher ground. The NPFF guys came prepared for that type of terrain. They brought with them slender metal rods, about 4 feet long, and at random, stuck them down into the sand looking for underground bunkers. One of the NPFF soldiers actually hit something wooden when he stuck the metal rod down into the sand. As aggressive as a rat terrier or something, he immediately got down on his hands and knees and started scooping the sand away. 

He had found one of their underground bunkers. He shortly uncovered a wooden door. Quick as a flash he pulled it open. A pistol shot rang out and he was hit in the chest. I will never forget the sight: he fell backward and down, with all the palm trees and the deep blue South China Sea in the background. He didn’t die instantly, but he believed he was dying. His fellow NPFF’s tried to reassure him and treat his wounds, but he died shortly afterward. There were an unknown number of enemy in the bunker. Just after the NPFF guy was shot and almost before we could all get our wits, one of the guys who had hidden in the bunker jumped up out of the bunker and started running up the hill, away from the beach. 

The American infantry guys were ready, and opened up with a machine gun and he only made it about 30 yards. Then the other NPFF guys started throwing grenades and C-4 (a powerful explosive) into the bunker. That pretty well ended the fight. When all the dust settled they pulled four more enemy out of the bunker, for a total of five killed in that fight. Given the shot that killed the NPFF, and the fact that they were armed, there was little doubt that these guys were enemy fighters. But the residents of the village were tight-lipped. We found out almost nothing about them that we couldn’t deduce from their actions and the small weapons we found. I felt like I could have done better in that situation. I just reacted to events and didn’t try to make any impact on what was going on. The infantry company commander was a captain and was the one in charge. But it would have been a great opportunity to step forward and try to get the infantry and NPFF to try to take a prisoner or two, or even try to capture all four that were killed in the bunker. But in the excitement of the moment it never occurred to me. I was still a new guy and still learning the job, so I just stored it away for the next time, if there ever was a next time. In any event, it was a pretty exciting day, and I thought it would be pretty interesting if that was a representative sample of what was to come. Actually there was a next time at that village. 

On October 31, 1967, we did another cordon and search at Tan Phuong. This one was uneventful—found no hidden bunkers, all was quiet. It looked different from how I remembered the place. I’d like to see it today—probably would look different from my vague mental pictures. My impression was that it could have used a big coastal resort-type motel; it was a beautiful spot that will always stand out in my memory. A little more background is needed to explain the next sequence of events. The US Army and the Army of South Viet Nam (ARVN) had a program called the chieu hoi program, in which they tried to get enemy soldiers to desert and come over to our side. “Chieu hoi” meant something like “come over” or “open arms” or “returnee” but the term implied a voluntary change of loyalty. (You can find out more about the program on Wikipedia under that name.) True chieu hoi’s were not all that common. Even if an enemy soldier wanted to come over, it would have been a dangerous and potentially deadly risk for them to take. If caught, they would certainly have been executed by their own forces. So, most of the ones we ultimately called “chieu hoi’s” were really captured prisoners of war who decided they would turn against their former comrades, and cooperate with the Americans. 

The next few stories include chieu hoi’s of both types. On August 7, 1967, about a week after I had arrived at LZ Uplift, an American rifle company came into contact with an unknown number of enemy, again out by the coastline of the South China Sea. The IPW section first learned about the contact when we received a prisoner who had been taken at the scene. The troops, of course, wanted to know what they were up against and what the enemy plans were so we were going to try to find out and get the word back to them as soon as possible. So I did my first real interrogation of an enemy soldier that day beginning right after lunchtime and going through the entire afternoon. 

Despite the desire of the troops for quick information, I took my time and did it right. I wanted to get the whole story on this guy and we sat under the shade of a tent flap and worked through his personal history. He answered all my questions willingly and was actually a pretty likeable little guy. He was about 16 years old, but looked younger. He was about 4 ft 11 inches tall and weighed about 110 pounds. He was a Montagnard from North Viet Nam, and had been drafted into the North Vietnamese Army. He had no education to speak of, and his Vietnamese wasn’t very good, it not being his native language. He said he was part of a platoon that had come down the Ho Chi Minh trail and he believed they were slated to be replacement troops for NVA units in the Bong Son plain area. 

He said there were about 30 in his platoon, but that in the area where he was captured there were other NVA soldiers who were not part of his unit. He didn’t know anything about those others. But all in his unit except the officers were Montagnard draftees like him. The officers were North Vietnamese, and there were two of them, the platoon commander and the political officer. He told us how he got captured, but we had not seen the terrain out there and could not clearly understand his story until we actually went out to the scene. Accordingly, after we reported what he had told us, we went with him back out to the spot near the coast where he had been captured. It was only then that we could understand and fully report on what the rifle company had come up against. In order to understand, you have to visualize a mountainside falling down to the coastal beach at about a 45-degree angle. In a crease in the mountainside was a huge jumble of boulders. That seam of boulders was several hundred yards long from top to bottom, maybe 30 or 40 yards wide, and of completely unknown depth. There was room among the boulders for people to scramble in and out, and they could hide completely in that huge jumble of rocks. At the bottom where the land flattened out, maybe 40 yards from the seacoast, was a freshwater source (spring). 

The story he told was that that huge rock pile was a “way station” used by the NVA and VC as an over-nighting spot. A sort of NVA motel. Thinking about it, you could see how well it would work for that purpose. It was easy to find right on the coast. It had fresh water available. Troops could hide in the rocks for days and anyone coming by could not see anyone and would never be the wiser. The American rifle company had come from above, making its way down the mountainside toward the spring at the bottom of the rock pile. Once there, they had stopped to get water and cool off. The NVA troopers hidden in the rock pile knew the Americans were there. So while the Americans were taking a break, hanging around the area, the curiosity of a couple of those little North Vietnamese Montagnard soldiers got the best of them. One said to the other, “Let’s go see what those Americans look like.” And the other, just as curious, said, ”OK.” And so they climbed up and took a look. And one of the American soldiers spotted them. And the battle was on. 

But it wasn’t much of a battle. The Americans simply cordoned the area and started telling them to come out. The guy I interrogated was the first one to come out. The Americans would fire their rifles and pistols down into the spaces between the rocks, and roll grenades down into the crevaces, but until someone came out they didn’t know the results of those actions. It turned out that they did injure some enemy soldiers, and killed a few too, but they only learned that as days went by and more prisoners were taken. This “contact” with the enemy went on for about two weeks. When our guys learned that there were a good number of enemy troops down in there, they settled on the tactic of simply starving them out. 

Several surrendered and we would take them in and question them when that happened. We went out to the field several times during that period. At some point the infantry asked us to send the first prisoner back out to the mountain. They wanted to get him to talk to his comrades down in the rocks, and tell them that the Americans would treat them well if they would just put down their weapons and come out. We had used interpreters to send that message, but the guys in the field felt that the message would be more credible if one of their own identified himself and urged them to come out as he had done. So we sent him out with them. A day later we were informed sorrowfully that he had been killed. 

It happened this way. The troops first asked him to talk to his comrades using a bull horn. He did, and no one responded. So they decided that they would send him down into the rocks so he could talk to them “face to face.” But a sergeant expressed concern that he might just try to go back and stay with his former comrades, so they decided to tie a rope around him to keep tabs on his progress. Thus tethered, he actually climbed down into the holes between the rocks. Sometime after he was out of sight, a shot was fired. They pulled on the rope and brought up his dead body. So, the first enemy combatant I ever interrogated did not survive the experience, being killed by his own former comrades. 

Another very young Montagnard soldier also surrendered early in this same encounter. We gave him the nickname “Peanut” and he also did a lot to try to get others to come out. (But not by going down into the rocks at the end of a rope.) Although he was actually a prisoner of war, he was granted chieu hoi status for the things he did after he was captured. We ended up with almost all of his platoon accounted for, either killed or captured, including the platoon leader, a 30-year old 2d Lieutenant. A few others were rounded up who were not a part of his platoon, including an officer who had been wounded by a grenade fragment. His capture was somewhat dramatic. He emerged from the rocks at night, gesturing and crying “nuok” which is Vietnamese for “water.” Overwhelming thirst and his injury overcame his resistance. He was a “senior captain,” roughly equivalent to our rank of major, and was a political officer. Because of his potential value as an intelligence source he didn’t stay around our area very long. We got nothing useful from him at our level anyway. He was a pretty tough cookie, even with an injury. 

But Peanut was the star of the show. As a chieu hoi he got credit for the weapons that were captured, and he even got a monetary reward for them as well as his freedom. More on that later. To wind up the story about the rock pile . . . at one point I was out there with an interpreter and the infantry company commander used the occasion to put some questions to the captured NVA platoon leader. The NVA platoon leader was about 5 ft, 5 inches tall and weighed about 130 pounds. Even so, he was heavier and taller than any of the men in his platoon. The American captain was about 6 ft, 4 inches tall, probably weighed about 220 pounds, and was as impressive a fighting man as you would ever want to see. The captain asked the NVA lieutenant what he thought about the American soldiers he had been up against. The NVA replied to the effect that they were pretty impressive-looking soldiers, but loyal to his own troops, said that his men were pretty good soldiers, too. But then in the next breath he started talking about the fact that they were all just Montagnards, and how stupid they were, and how “you had to just get down in their faces” to teach them anything. (It reminded me of Fort Polk, La., back the summer before, trying to get a point across to those troopers in AIT, where our instructors “had to just get right down in their faces” to get their attention during instruction.)

 But despite the lieutenant’s disdain for his Montagnard troopers, he displayed more loyalty to them than you might have expected under the circumstances, being questioned by an intimidating guy holding a gun over him as a prisoner. This enemy contact finally came to an end a couple of weeks after it started. The infantry company had painted a replica of the 1st Cav shoulder patch on a big flat rock at the bottom of the hill. After giving multiple warnings that they were going to napalm the entire rock pile, and giving ample time for any remaining survivors to come out voluntarily, they did indeed call in a napalm air strike. With the belief that any survivors would have been suffocated or roasted by the napalm attack, the infantry company left the area. They had accounted for between 30 and 40 enemy either captured or killed, and maybe more. They had taken no casualties. They had captured the largest store of weapons that were brought in during the four months I was with the Brigade. 

The company commander, Captain (FNU ) Pratt, reportedly received the Silver Star for the results of this contact, and the area where it all took place came to be known as “Pratt’s Corner.” Here’s a picture of some of the weapons captured [photo no. 9], A version of this story is reported in a book by a former company commander in the First Cav, James Estep entitled Company Commander Vietnam, published by ibooks, Inc, originally published by Presidio Press in 1991 under the title, Comanche 6: Company Commander Vietnam. In the paperback version I have it’s described on page 63 as an event involving Alpha Company on the Bong Son plain. I think it’s generally accurate as described in the book. Peanut’s story wasn’t over yet. On October 17, 1967, my Vietnamese interrogator Dinh and I drove down by jeep to Binh Dinh city (down south of Qui Nhon on the coast) to attend a ceremony. Peanut was to be given his financial reward as a chieu hoi for the weapons that were recovered in the rock pile contact. 

About the time we got there, in comes the Brigade Commander’s chopper with the CO aboard. He didn’t know we were coming and we didn’t know he was coming. It was a grand occasion; lots of local bigwigs there. There were folk dancing, and speeches, and other celebrations and then they invited the Brigade Commander to make a speech. The Colonel was a fine officer and he rose to the occasion. With Dinh acting as interpreter the Colonel spoke (don’t know how he would have made out if we hadn’t shown up). But the Colonel wasn’t used to making speeches through an interpreter. He made a long speech without breaking it up into short parts that the interpreter could translate piecemeal. It was about the great results that could occur when Americans and Vietnamese worked together, and the immense value of the chieu hoi program. When he finally stopped, Dinh spoke for a few minutes. The crown applauded politely. I asked him later whether he had pretty well captured what the Colonel had said, and he said, “Yes, I got it.” As far as I know he did, and anyway I told the Colonel that, which he appreciated. But we’ll never know for sure if Dinh correctly transmitted the Colonel’s remarks. 

Peanut ended up with a big pile of money in his hand. He was free, and (temporarily, at least) wealthy. I had not seen him since August, and had no idea what would become of him, a Montagnard from the North, suddenly free in South Viet Nam with more money in his hand than he had ever seen before. He was literally standing alone in the parking area, holding it in his hand and gazing at it, seemingly trying to take it all in, as we got in our jeep to leave. [picture no. 25] We saw a sharp-eyed older man approaching him. 

I doubt Peanuts was a rich man very long . . . Along about this time another incident took place which was not nearly as satisfying as the rock pile event. On August 29, 1967, a true chieu hoi came in. His name was Tham and he was an NVA sergeant, equivalent to our rank of sergeant first class. He actually gave himself up like the chieu hoi program was designed for. He was brought in while I was out in the field, and the brigade commander (same one described above, but this happened earlier) ordered him to be taken to division level for a “professional interrogation.” This order combined with his reason for giving it incensed the members of my section, and me, too. We had been giving pretty good support to his brigade over the month of August, and this seemed to me and my guys as a gratuitous slight to all of us, American or Vietnamese, implying that we could not provide a “professional interrogation.” We felt we were as good as the guys at division level. So I went and found him and asked if that was what he really felt, and that it had given my guys a kick in the gut to hear him imply that they weren’t doing “professional” interrogations. 

After about the second sentence he had had enough, and told me in clear terms that it was his command and he would conduct it as he saw fit. So I stood at attention, saluted smartly, and departed. The chieu hoi Tham knew the area, and was willing to do all he could to help our cause. Division subsequently sent him back to 2d Brigade so that we could send him out to the field with our troops. But none of my guys wanted to have anything to do with him, and I was not about to order them to go after they had been insulted by the Colonel, so when he went out with the troops there was a language barrier, and when he would come back he would describe to us how opportunities were lost. We’ll never know whether it would have made a difference if they could have communicated better. The Colonel should have gotten an interpreter from division, where all the “professionals” were. 

Tham worked with our troops for some time. He eventually became trusted enough that they gave him a weapon. It was strange to see him carrying an M-16 through the mess hall line. The troops commented that it sometimes made them a little nervous to see a former foe carrying a rifle in such close conditions, but nothing ever happened. Along with Peanut, Tham was honored and received some kind of cash award at the awards ceremony in Bihn Dihn City. After that, I don’t know what became of him, but given the ultimate outcome of the war I doubt that he survived very long after the war ended. Here is how the weapons were displayed at the rewards ceremony. [pictures no. 10 and 27] 

Once prisoners left our custody, we never saw them again. We had only the vaguest idea of what happened to them when they were turned over to custody of the South Vietnamese. The exception to this were the chieu hoi’s. Seeing them at the award ceremony in Bihn Dihn City was the only time we ever saw any prisoners of war after we had turned them over to the ARVN’s. One day in August, 1967, we had an interesting non-combat-related incident. The Vietnamese use water buffalos for work in the fields and for food. It was not at all uncommon to see a small boy up on the back of a water buffalo, keeping an eye on him out in a rice paddy or similar area. [picture no. 19] The animals are very strong, and for the most part, are docile. But if you ever got one riled up, you had a real problem. 

LZ Uplift experienced one of those problems up close and personal. Our IPW area was about a hundred yards from Highway 1, the major north-south roadway in Viet Nam. There was a little road that came off Highway 1westerly, through a gate, and it went right behind our squad tent. One day I heard a noise and then some guy in a jeep shouting, “Shoot it, Shoot it!” Followed by a second voice yelling out, “Right here? Right now?” Followed by a rifle shot. We ran out and found two troopers in a jeep stopped in the road, with a dead water buffalo right behind them. Somehow the jeep had infuriated the water buffalo, and it started charging the jeep. They couldn’t get away from it, so they shot it right in the middle of our LZ. Just another day in the war . . .Here’s how the unfortunate water buffalo ended up. [picture no. 26] I went on as many cordon and search (C & S) operations as I could. For two reasons: first, they broke the monotony of life on LZ Uplift, and second, most of them involved helicopter flights to and from the village being searched. 

To earn the Air Medal, you had to be involved in at least 25 combat air assaults. Each time we went on a C & S by chopper it counted toward the medal. So if there was an opportunity to get out in the field, I took it. Eventually I had enough to qualify for the medal, and I submitted my list and I got it. Most of the guys in the 1st Cav hoped to earn that medal, so there was always someone ready to go out on these types of missions. Most of the C & S operations were pretty boring. In fact none was ever as exciting as the one at Tan Phuong when the NPFF found the underground bunker. Most of the time we would end up talking to villagers who didn’t want to talk to us. The typical villager would try to avoid any extended conversations, because the longer they talked to us, the more suspect they became. If they talked too long they might be pegged as informants and that could have been deadly the next night that the enemy troops came in. They would even tell us that that was the reason they didn’t want to be questioned. 

Sometimes my response would be that if they wanted the war to end, this might be their only chance to help make that happen, by telling us how to find the enemy. That didn’t ever work, because they knew that even if we controlled the village in the daytime, eventually we would leave and the VC controlled the night, and were ruthless in dealing with anyone they suspected was cooperating with the South Vietnamese or the Americans. Even so, being out in the villages gave those of us in the IPW Section unparalled opportunities to get to know the Vietnamese people, especially since we were always accompanied by a highly qualified interpreter. We learned why we never saw any military-age males in the villages. If a military-age male stayed around when either side came in, he was taken away and put into service as a soldier. 

Our side would classify them as draft dodgers and turn them over to the ARVN’s, and the other side would just put them in uniform as trainees. So all we ever saw were children, women, and old men. If the young men hid out in the village and were unlucky enough to get caught by our side, they were considered VC suspects. So mostly they would run for the jungle if they thought we were coming in, at the risk of getting shot if they were seen trying to get out of the village. It was a tough time for military age South Vietnamese males. 

One day in early 1968 we were out in a fishing village right on the coast, I got into a conversation with an 80-year-old man. This man had no reluctance to talk, so we had a nice little chat. He was a fisherman, and for 60 years had been going down to the beach each day, dragging his boat into the water, and fishing for food. Various armies had come and gone. The French, the Japanese, the Americans, the North and South Vietnamese; it made no difference to him except that he had to keep going out each day to fish. He couldn’t quit even at age 80 because someone had to bring in the food for the members of his family. All the young men were gone, either drafted, killed, or gone into hiding. In over 60 years (since approximately 1908) his life had not changed a bit. During that time there had been two major world wars, flight had been developed, telephones and television had arrived, man was into space, electric power was commonplace (not in his village, however), and skyscrapers had been built. But none of that affected his life. All he had ever known was life in that little fishing village, going out to sea in that little boat every day. He knew how the various wars had extended his work life. He wasn’t bitter. He was more like . . . wistful. He just wanted some peace and rest. 

I have thought a lot about that old man over the years and wondered if he ever found the peace and rest that he wanted. Operations with the NPFF were a little different from those when only American soldiers were present. The NPFF were very aggressive. Their CIA advisors ( who, by the way, would not openly admit that they were CIA) were ex-military, and were pretty hard-core, too. 

I will tell the story about General Loan, the national commander of the NPFF later. But suffice it for now to say that these guys meant business. Recently the movie Zero Dark Thirty demonstrated, and has generated a lot of discussion about, the use of the water torture. The NPFF were using that technique occasionally when they thought it might result in useful information. It’s a simple technique; it takes no complicated or heavy equipment (just a canteen of water and a handkerchief); and it doesn’t leave any marks on the subject. For what it’s worth, I was and still am against it, because I never saw it to bring about any useful, accurate information. In talking to enemy prisoners over this period, we learned how they were indoctrinated by their political officers about what would happen if they became prisoners of the Americans. Here is how their political officers explained it to their troops: If a fighter was captured, he would be questioned, then tortured if necessary. Whether or not he was tortured did not affect the ultimate outcome. If you refused to give the ARVN’s or Americans useful information, you would be killed. If you weakened and told them what they wanted to know, you would at that point be no longer useful, and you would then be killed. So either way you ended up dead. Therefore, it was better not to tell them anything and “die like a good soldier.” With that background, the actual treatment of prisoners was way better than they had expected. We would make sure they had adequate clothing, and give them a good meal, and gradually they would realize we were not going to kill them. From that moment, they would usually be willing to talk to us and answer any questions that they could. In short, the carrot worked better than the stick. 

The problem was, for the most part they couldn’t answer the questions to which we needed answers. They could tell us what unit they had belonged to, and maybe the names of the officers in their unit and up the line, but when it came to trying to describe where that unit was, or where it operated out of, or its operational plans, things became a lot more difficult. It is a mind-numbing exercise trying to go over a topographic map with a prisoner, trying to walk him back to the last-known location of his unit, only using a topographic map. We had to try to do it or we would be accused of not doing a complete interrogation; but it never, ever, worked. You could not get an answer without leading the witness, and when you led the witness the information became useless. I always dreaded having to go through this process with a prisoner, but it had to be done. There were numerous tactics that we used that were counterproductive with the Vietnamese populace. 

The dilemma of military-age males (described above) was one example. Another example related to the civilians’ food. Our troops were always looking for rice caches, based on the theory that they were there to support the VC. If they found a big basket of rice, they were liable to confiscate it or destroy it so the VC wouldn’t get it. So the villagers would hide their rice. If the troops found it, that was even more reason to think it was for the VC. Taking way their rice didn’t win hearts and minds. On only one occasion did our troops ever give back rice that was confiscated, and I think that was because the IPW team protested that it was denying the villagers their primary food source. 

Another example, which we didn’t see too often, was the havoc our tracked vehicles wreaked on the rice farmers’ fields. Like everywhere in the orient, rice fields are separated by a complex system of dikes and canals. They are constructed in a way that allows the movement of water into and out of the paddies as the rice crop requires it.[Picture no. 17__] Tracked vehicles, like Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s) cannot operate in those areas without doing a lot of damage to the dikes and channels. That kind of destruction did not win us many friends, either. I went on only one mechanized infantry operation, somewhere in the Bong Son Plain, with some other unit (the 1st Cav used helicopters, not APC’s, to move troops around). I will give the unit commander credit, he tried to minimize the damage, but if the choice was performing the mission or preserving the integrity of the rice fields, the mission came first. 

Unfortunately my pictures of the exercise that day were lost. Sunday, September 3, 1967, was a big day in the history of South Viet Nam. It was election day for president and vice-president. General Thieu was elected president in an election that was (to put the best possible light on it) probably less rigged than earlier elections in South Viet Nam had been. The day before had been my 25th birthday, and that night in LZ Uplift we were on 50% alert (that meant half of us had to be awake at all times, not all of us half-awake) because of the threat of mortar or rocket attacks by the enemy. 

My diary entry: “People expected a big VC/NVA attempt to defeat Americans before the election, but it didn’t come off.” My ears are ringing now and have been for 45 years. I attribute that to the fact that on LZ Uplift there was a battery of 8-inch guns located between our area and Highway 1. When they fired to the west (which seemed like most of the time) the shells went out right over our heads. And the sound of the guns was, well, deafening. It didn’t happen every day, but when it did it certainly got our attention. 

Another interesting phenomenon was the “Mad Minute.” Every night around 10 o’clock every trooper on the perimeter of the LZ would open up and fire whatever weapon he had for one minute. I don’t think this ritual scared anyone because it was so predictable, but it was fun for the troops. LZ Uplift also had a daylight-hours firing range you could go to during the day and practice firing your weapon(s). So the sound of gunfire was quite common and didn’t mean anything unless an alarm went out. 

There was some excitement on August 25, 1967. Miss America, also known as Miss Oklahoma, Jane Ann Jayroe, came to LZ Uplift. We had known she was coming for some time, and on August 14 I had written Oklahoma’s governor, Dewey Bartlett, requesting that he send us an Oklahoma flag via Miss America. Well, she showed up, but no flag. We guessed we didn’t get the request to the governor in time (never thought he would ignore us). Anyway, we decided (maybe some sour grapes here) she didn’t look all that good in fatigues, rain-soaked hair, etc. (We probably didn’t look that great to her, either.) The governor replied to my letter, which reply I received on Sept 8, and then on Sept. 17, the flag from the governor arrived and we mounted it prominently in our little area of the LZ.[picture no. 24] She came through at about the time the monsoon started in that part of the world. The monsoon wasn’t what I expected. I thought it would be constant winds, horizontal and cold. Mostly it just drizzled incessantly, and the weather was cooler. One effect was muddy roads. The other was morale.

 It was hard to stay upbeat when the rain came so often. The rains made the cooler temperature seem colder, and altogether not a pleasant experience. And that was for those of us in the comfort of an established camp. The guys out in the field had to just hate it; I don’t see how they could ever have gotten dry. The war for my little group was pretty much the same thing from September through November. Our field exercises were pretty routine; not much action or excitement. On Sept 27 I got promoted to 1st lieutenant, one year and one day from the day I went on active duty. 

My notes showed a significant increase in pay; all the way up to $505 per month. I had a goal of saving $3000 during my tour of active duty, and the notes in the diary reflect progress, or the lack of progress, toward that goal. As a 2d Lieutenant I didn’t make enough to save much, but with the promotion it became more reachable. By year-end I had $1100 in the bank; not much by today’s standards but a lot to me at that stage of my life. 

In November another one of the MI Detachment lieutenants went out on a field exercise with one of the units in our brigade, and they found some action. In fact the lieutenant was wounded by an enemy grenade. The first reports back to the 2nd brigade headquarters were that an MI lieutenant had been killed, and everybody assumed it was me. When I turned up at HQ very much alive, they were all surprised and I hope, not disappointed. The other lieutenant was injured, not killed, and evacuated to the army hospital at Cam Ranh Bay. In the melee he had dropped his M-16 rifle, and it got lost or mislaid. Army regulations required that an investigation be done to determine how the weapon was lost. The investigation is called a “survey” and I got the assignment to do it. It meant interviewing the lieutenant and others who were at the scene, in order to try to account for the loss. That meant I had to go to Cam Rahn Bay and to An Khe to interview him and the others involved. So from Nov. 7 until about Nov. 16, more than a week, I was travelling around talking to various soldiers and making my written report. 

As a result of transportation difficulties, I had to spend about three days at Cam Ranh Bay, which was, in addition to being a military hospital, a fabulous beach resort. My work there took approximately 2 hours, so most of the time I was able to relax on the beach or go to the Post Exchange. Tough duty . . .But it never ceased to amaze me how much time I had to spend on that useless exercise, doing a report on a weapon lost in a fire fight. 

Later in November our little section at LZ Uplift came into some construction materials, so we decided to build ourselves a “hooch.” Using stacked ammo boxes for walls, hinged plywood for windows, 4 by 4’s for rafters, and a thick tarp for a roof, we created a well-ventilated “work area” about 16 ft. by 16 ft, adjacent to and connected to our squad tent. It made our life a lot more comfortable. We also built furniture out of ammo boxes to furnish it, and stacked sandbags waist-high all around it. As conditions on the LZ went, it was pretty nice. We got a lot more visitors dropping by for a chat than we had had in the past. [Picture?] Toward the end of November I began to get signals that I was going to get a new job. 

After some uncertainty, it became clear that I was going to be assigned back to An Khe to serve as “G-2 Rear.” The 1st Cav had two one-star generals (Brigadier Generals) as assistant division commanders. The junior one of those, BG Oscar O. Davis, served as commander of the “division rear” which was located at An Khe. He had his own staff, including an intelligence officer to serve as his “G-2.” That was to be my job. It consisted of two parts: (1) giving him a daily briefing on what had happened around the division (enemy contacts and other intelligence of interest to him) and (2) keeping him posted on any intelligence that came in regarding the security of the base camp itself. It was the first time I had had any contact with general officers, and for a while I was a bit nervous about it. But the general was patient and I got the hang of it quickly and we got along fine. An Khe offered an opportunity to go out on missions occasionally. 

Two or three times in the month of December, 1967, I went out on helicopter missions. The first was a memorable reconnaissance trip south of An Khe along the Song Ba River. The plan was to do a visual recon by helicopter in the area south of An Khe, along the Song Ba river. I happened to mention it the night before at a gathering at the MI Detachment, and one of the captains there insisted that he be included in the mission. He was probably working on his Air Medal count, as most of us were. So, since there was space on the chopper, he went along. The mission was ostensibly to see if we could find any enemy forces by searching from the air. So we took off and flew down along the river to see what we could see. 

It was a normal Huey configuration, with a door gunner on each side of the aircraft armed with an M-60 machine gun. It was a free fire zone, which meant, basically, that the gunners could shoot at anything that moved, or anything that didn’t move, for that matter. From time to time they would just open up on a “suspicious” spot, but for a long time we didn’t see any living persons. Here is how the river area looked from the door gunner’s viewpoint. [picture]We went further and further south, and I began to worry that we might have strayed into the 4th Division’s Area of Operations. Then we came upon a hill, covered with a sparse growth of trees, and saw a number of Vietnamese soldiers under the trees. 

They were making no effort to hide, and in fact were waving at us. The obvious question was, should we open fire on them? The captain who was with us was the senior man present, but he didn’t know what to do. The rest of us weren’t sure either, but for my part I was certainly not about to issue any order to fire at them. So we just circled around the hill once or twice, waved back at them, and went on. I never knew for sure who they were or what unit they were with, but when we left they were all as healthy as they had when we came onto the scene. After that encounter the flight back was pretty routine. All in all, when we landed I was greatly relieved because nobody did anything that would have gotten anyone court-martialed. 

 Later in December, on Christmas Day in fact, I had the opportunity to go out on a “Night Hunter” mission. These were conducted by helicopter also, except they were done in total darkness at night, with blacked-out helicopters. Once airborne, flying over territory that was under enemy control, I was greatly appreciative of the fact that the helicopters were blacked out. Even then, I thought we were entirely too visible from the ground, and like everybody else, I was glad I had a flak jacket to sit on (not that it would have done much good). I went out on two or three of these despite the tension that inevitably went along with this type action. We used night vision glasses in the total darkness, although I didn’t think they worked very well. Occasionally our artillery guys would light up the area with illumination rounds (a type of flare that would hang in the air by parachute and slowly drift down) and that helped a little, but no matter which technique we used we never saw anything on any of the missions I went on. 

 On one occasion, the major who commanded our MI Detachment heard that a Night Hunter mission was imminent, and insisted that he be taken along. (Once again, working toward his Air Medal, I assumed.) In any event, once we took off he never said a single word, never took a turn on the night vision glasses, and just sat on his flak jacket taking up as little space as possible. He may well have held his breath the entire mission. Oh, well, at least he didn’t get in the way. (Now a side note: lest anyone suspect that I had problems with authority figures, I must say that there were some captains in our unit, including my immediate boss, Captain Hegner, who were outstanding officers, any one of whom would have done a great job as detachment commander. It just happened that this major was totally unsuited for a command position, and everyone in the detachment felt the same way about him. It galls me to this day that he left Viet Nam with a command assignment on his record, of which there are very few in the Intelligence branch, and would therefore have been positioned well for further promotions and long-term career opportunities in the Army’s Intelligence branch). 

 Our New Year, January 1, passed uneventfully, but on Jan. 4, 1968, the action started to pick up. About 3 AM that morning Camp Radcliff got mortared, with most of the 80-some incoming rounds landing in the vicinity of the “Golf Course,” which was the name for the area where the 1st Cav’s helicopters were parked overnight. The impact area was about ½ mile from where I was quartered so I didn’t get too excited. Later in the light of day I inspected the area (as did many others) and then went out to the perimeter of the base camp to check on “security.” The enemy mortar unit that did the firing was probably moving out by the time the last rounds hit, and never in any danger from our defensive troops, but for all intents and purposes this one came out to be a scoreless tie. Then on Jan. 5 the local action continued. A group of six VC attacked the Vietnamese police station in downtown An Khe and destroyed it.[picture?] I spent the day trying to get an accurate story of what happened, in order to report to the general. But the investigation was frustrating and I am not sure that I got an accurate account. 

In any event the attack destroyed the building, but my notes do not reflect our side taking or inflicting any casualties. My notes reflect that on Jan. 9 my general’s volleyball team, of which I was a member, won three straight games against the “division forward” team. Volleyball was a big deal since it took up little space and needed little equipment, and gave everybody playing a chance to take out their aggressions against the other side. Needless to say, and appropriate for the circumstances, we played by “Jungle Rules” which meant that any play that didn’t tear down the net was fair, for offense or defense. 

 On Jan. 15 we got BIG NEWS. The entire division was to move north, much nearer to the DMZ and up into I Corps! This came in the form of an alert, not an order to move. But the alert meant that we were to start planning and preparing for the move. The significance for me was that, since there was no longer a “division rear” there was no need for a separate intelligence staff officer for my general. So I would be looking for a new job within the division or within the MI Detachment. At that time I had no idea what that might be. In any event I spent most of the next few days preparing for the move; shipping stuff home, packing stuff to take in the move north, and getting rid of unnecessary items. Two days later I got word that I had been approved for “Rest and Recuperation” (“R & R”) in Sydney, Australia, for February 2—just two weeks away. 

About that time the Commanding General of the Division, who had been out of the country for R & R for some time, was coming back to the unit. I had drawn the assignment of briefing him on enemy contacts and activities over the period he had been gone. I had had no prior face time with General Tolson, and this was a big deal for me at the time. So on Jan 21, 1968, I gave him my summary of what had been going on. He made no comment; my own assessment was “it went OK.” By Jan. 25 I was out of my office and one day away from being out of a job. General Davis was to go forward on Jan 26, so that would be the end of that. 

 But Jan. 26 was a big day, anyway. For our part of the world, that’s when the Tet Offensive began. If you look up Tet Offensive on Wikipedia, it tells you that it was supposed to coincide with the Chinese New Year, which was Feb. 3. But in fact there were attacks in several areas that took place before the official Chinese New Year’s date. Ours was one of those. At about 1 AM on Jan. 26 a unit of NVA “Sappers” attacked the main air field at Camp Radcliff. Sappers are essentially combat engineers who specialize in breaching the defenses of a camp, then either destroying equipment or causing casualties, usually by use of satchel charges (explosives carried on the person and detonated at close quarters; sometimes as a suicide mission). 

This group of sappers penetrated the perimeter near the airport, and headed for the airplanes that were parked overnight at the field. So just after 1 AM I rounded up a Vietnamese interpreter (he wasn’t all that pleased to have his sleep interrupted) and we headed over to the airfield to see what was going on. At that time there wasn’t much activity and not much to see, and no prisoners to interrogate, so we decided to go back to bed and headed back to our area. But around 5 am word came in that the troops on the ground had taken a prisoner. So I rounded up the interpreter again (he was even less enthused this time) and we headed back to the air field area. We found that there was indeed a prisoner, and we questioned him right on the spot, before the sun even came up. He stated that he was part of the H-15 Battalion of the 3d NVA Regiment, which regiment was a unit the 1st Cav had been fighting off and on for months in that area. 

The sappers got close enough to damage a plane or two, but they paid for it. The local troops—clerks and maintenance guys, not line infantry—took up arms and defended their turf and their planes, and killed a good number of the invaders. Why they took this prisoner I never knew. But our guys acquitted themselves well. It was pretty clear that their blood was up; several of the deceased enemy had somehow had had their ears removed as “trophies.” I thought it was interesting that these guys, normally far removed from any combat, reverted to their more primitive sides when the fight came to them, and wanted some sort of reminder or souvenir to mark the occasion. 

 We had alerts several times over the next few days, but no more attacks through the perimeter. We didn’t know at that time that there were offensive actions underway, or planned, by the enemy for many different areas in South Viet Nam in late January-early February. 

 Some time before I arrived at the 1st Cav, the engineers in the unit had been ordered to build a school house for the children of An Khe. No doubt this was intended to help win their hearts and minds, but the project became a real tar baby. It was nowhere near completion when the Cav moved North, and I suppose that it never got finished. It was a monstrosity by local standards; two stories high and numerous classrooms. My guess is that there were numerous sighs of relief from the American engineers when the “move out” order came and we had an excuse to stop working on it. One of my last events at An Khe was a party at the site of the school construction project. It was hosted by the Division S-5, which is the administrative arm responsible for winning the hearts and minds of the local people. I doubt that the impact on their hearts and minds was commensurate with the effort, labor and materials, that went into that unfinished project. But it was a good party and according to my notes, I even got to make a speech. 

Unfortunately I don’t remember even attending the party, much less making the speech, nor do I recall any of the undoubtedly inspirational points I would have made. Here’s a picture of the school building the 1st Cav built—pretty impressive even if unfinished. [picture] On Feb. 2, I left An Khe to go on R & R. The first leg of the trip was the flight to to Cam Ranh Bay, and then the next day, we left for Australia. 

We landed at Darwin around 11:00 PM local time, then waited a few hours for the departure to Sydney. The take-off time from Darwin was dictated by the arrival time in Sydney: we couldn’t land in Sydney (and wake up the residents) before 6 AM so it was 1:30 in the morning when we left Darwin. I saw nothing of Darwin but a few lights, since our entire time there was in darkness. We arrived Sydney at a legal time—6:10 AM. By the afternoon I was at a beach called “Coogee Beach” which was fairly crowded. February is in the Australian summer, so it was a good time to be there. Briefly, my stay in Sydney was pleasant but generally uneventful. I went on a tour up north of Sydney to a town called Gosford, visited an animal park, went scuba-diving (after a brief training session), learned how to throw a boomerang; and went to a few night spots. Later in the week I went out to Bondi Beach where I tried (unsuccessfully ) surfing. (Next time to Bondi Beach—April, 2010—on a visit with Ferne to Greg and family). R & R e

While I was in Sydney the Tet Offensive really went into full swing. We were hardly aware of it even though we did have access to Australian TV. The only detail I recall seeing is the famous photo of the head of the NPFF, General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, shooting a VC officer with a pistol. That photo went around the world, but I don’t think the US troops in the field saw it. (You can Google the photo—the site is “Images-Nguyen Ngoc Loan.” That photo became one of two major iconic photos of the Viet Nam war (the other was a little naked girl with burns, running away from the site of a napalm attack). Those two photos, as much as anything, helped turn public opinion away from the prosecution of the war. My interest was the fact that I had been on several operations with the NPFF, and this was their national commander committing a highly questionable act. It was some time later that the scope of the Tet Offensive became known to most of the troops in the field. For many of us it caused serious doubts about the possibility of a successful outcome in the war. 

Subsequent analysis and comment, mostly from the military, presented the overall outcome of the Tet Offensive as a disaster for the NVA and VC, but at the time it didn’t look that way to those of us in the field. To me, it looked like all the reports of us “winning the war” and being able to see the “light at the end of the tunnel” didn’t ring true, when regardless of their losses the enemy could mount successful and highly disruptive attacks anywhere and anytime they wanted to. We were intensely aware of the difficulties that conventional troops had in combating guerrilla forces, even when our forces were as highly mobile and well-equipped as in the 1st Cav. 

When the dust settled on my personal move North, I wrote my father a long letter expressing my thoughts and reservations about the ultimate success of the war. Unfortunately, as far as I know he didn’t save the letter, and I never saw it after returning to the States. The new base camp for the 1st Cav was at a site called Camp Evans, located in the coastal plain about 20 miles northwest of the city of Hue. This photo shows a picture of our camp area at Camp Evans [photos 3 and 4]. The city of Quang Tri was the northernmost city in the coastal plain of South Viet Nam (not far from the DMZ), and Camp Evans was located roughly halfway between Hue and Quang Tri. 

When I got there, the first thing to do was find a new job. Eventually I was designated to be located in Hue Phu Bai, a major airport about 10 miles south of Hue City. Our MI unit’s image interpretation section (the II Section) was located there (logical, since they had to have access to the airplanes that took the photos, and the planes needed an airfield to operate out of). Hue Phu Bai also was the headquarters and base camp of a major Marine Corps unit that operated in the area south of Hue. My job was to be liaison officer between the 1st Cav’s intelligence section and the Marine Corps’ intelligence section, and also to interrogate (or observe interrogations) of wounded prisoners, who would be evacuated to a hospital in Hue Phu Bai for medical care. 

It looked like an interesting job and I was looking forward to working with the Marines. My counterpart with the Marines was a Captain Brown (first name unknown, unrecorded). I should have stayed a long distance away from him but didn’t know that at first. I was just getting settled into my new work and living area when Captain Brown came up with an idea for intelligence-gathering. He had learned that there was a wounded prisoner being held by Marines in Hue City, and suggested that we go into town and see what we could get any useful intelligence from him. To understand the meaning of that proposed plan of action requires some additional geography and history. Hue is an ancient city, formerly the imperial capital city of Viet Nam. It is bisected by the Perfume River, which runs west-to-east toward the coast. Before Tet in 1968 it was a beautiful city, whose chief feature (other than the river) was old imperial city located on the north side of the river. The imperial city was about 2 km by 2 km, surrounded by a wall, and complete with a moat around the wall. Water for the moat came from the Perfume River, which went by on the south side of the Imperial City. So it was, in essence, a city within a city. Inside the wall was a fortress known as the Citadel.

 Details on the Citadel can be found at the Wikipedia site, “Imperial City, Hue.” It was an impressive structure, even when seen after the attacks and fighting during the Tet Offensive. This is a picture of the Citadel.[picture no. 16] When the NVA and VC (reportedly a division-sized force) attacked Hue On Jan. 31, 1968, as part of the Tet Offensive, they took over the Imperial City and the Citadel, and it took a long time and a lot of heavy fighting to root them out. First the Marines tried it, but it was only after the 1st Cav came on the scene that the Imperial City could be retaken. And that was at heavy cost in terms of casualties, and in terms of destruction to the architecture of the City. The Wikipedia site gives details. During February, 1968, while the fighting was going on at the Citadel, there were roving bands of enemy troops roaming around the countryside around Hue, doing whatever damage they could do using essentially hit and run tactics. Thus, it wasn’t all that safe to be out in the countryside during that time. And inside Hue City there was a continuing fire fight going on, as the Americans and South Vietnamese tried to oust the enemy from the Imperial City/Citadel. So now we return to the Marine captain. 

On Feb. 19, 1968, he came up with a plan. Captain Brown’s idea was to go from Hue Phu Bai into Hue City, ostensibly to interrogate the NVA prisoner. But to be honest it was really just to take a look at what was going on in Hue since we knew that fighting around the Citadel was still going on. All we had to make the trip in was the captain’s jeep. As I write this I can’t really believe how dumb it was, but to show that I was willing to go if he was, I agreed to make the trip with him. So we loaded up our jeep with the two of us, and a couple of Vietnamese interpreters, and headed out in our one-jeep convoy to go into Hue City. Once underway, the four of us were, to put it mildly, a bit concerned about the security of our convoy. 

Well, I suppose it was four concerned people; I know at least three of us were—not sure about the captain. The road into Hue was lightly populated, mostly rural and did not have a lot of people around even during secure times. At this time with NVA and VC roaming around, there were almost no people anywhere along our route. Here are my notes, with today’s comments, about that trip into Hue. First we checked at District MACV to see if the road was clear—OK. District MACV was an office outside Phu Bai where American military advisors worked with ARVN troops as more or less as occupation forces. They were supposed to know about enemy conditions. They pretty much gave us a green light, based on who-knows-what –kind of intelligence, to go on into Hue City. Then we sped down the road for about two miles and found a road block. 

A typical ambush tactic is to set up a road block, then when the vehicles stop to deal with it, hit them with RPG’s (Rocket Propelled Grenades, still in use today in Middle East conflicts and very serious weapons indeed) and/or machine gun fire. When I saw that road block I thought we were in for it, but it turned out that there were actually a few ARVN troops in the area and we didn’t get ambushed. We would have been an easy target since we were essentially alone and very lightly armed. But we got lucky. ARVN’s said that VC were about 500 meters back down the road the way we had come. So we turned around, raced by with the interpreter firing. Naturally, we turned around and went back the way we had come, back in the direction the ARVN’s had told us VC supposedly were, toward the MACV post. After a couple of hundred meters we went by a large building with a big hole in the wall which had been made by an RPG round, and the interpreter in the back seat got so nervous that he opened up with his M-16.

 None of the rest of us knew he was going to start firing, and we hadn’t seen anything to shoot at, but when he started shooting the rest of us just about had heart attacks. We didn’t know if he had seen anything, or if so, what it was, and he didn’t tell us; he just opened up firing. It took a few seconds to realize we weren’t under attack and it’s fair to say that the three of us were greatly relieved. Checked again at MACV—no VC. How they knew that is still a mystery. So we tried again. Why we did that is an even greater mystery. But we started back down the road toward Hue. 

They moved the road block and we got there (to Hue City) all right. The “they” in this entry refers to our interpreters. So actually, we got out and moved the road block and went on into town without further stress. But on all our minds was the fact that later that day we were going to have to come back on that same road to get back to Hue Phu Bai. Much still going on, especially across Perfume River. We were on the South side of the river; the NVA/VC were on the north side, inside the walls of the old city and in the Citadel. We drove down a street that paralleled the river, and saw Vietnamese Rangers firing across the river at anything they thought might be moving. 

We stopped and talked to them. They asked us if we wanted to “zero in” our rifles—this was an invitation to join them in shooting at any targets or supposed targets on the other side of the river. We declined politely and went on our way. We found the prisoner, and questioned him for a while, all the time keeping an eye on light conditions, since we had to be back in Phu Bai before dark. We got no meaningful information—no surprise there. But by the time we left it was late afternoon, and light conditions were deteriorating. 

We sped back, hit no road blocks this time, and made it back to Phu Bai only slightly the worse for wear. All in all it was stupid to have gone into Hue under those conditions. My final diary entry on this outing: “It was a foolish trip to take, but we made it back OK, so it’s allright.” That first part is an understatement. For the next few weeks there wasn’t a lot to be done. A few wounded prisoners came through and so some interrogations were necessary. But I had to depend on the Marines to provide me with an interpreter, and that didn’t work very well. I kept requesting that an interpreter be sent down from division to work in Phu Bai, but never got anywhere on that. By March 10 I was ready to change jobs. There just wasn’t enough work at Phu Bai to keep me occupied, and I was tired of spending so much time just reading or studying Vietnamese. So around that time the unit CO told me to come back to division at Camp Evans and join the division IPW (interrogation of prisoners of war) section again. I was glad to get that assignment, since I would be working with Capt. Hegner again, and others in that section. 

 Along about this time I had to go down to Da Nang on some kind of investigation (I think it was another lost weapons survey) and because of air transport problems, had to stay a couple of days longer than anticipated. While I was there, I hung around with some guys with the 101st Airborne Division, and they were trying to talk me into putting in for a transfer to the 101st. I thought about it, but when I found out that it would require a commitment to extend the tour in Viet Nam by six months, I didn’t pursue it. I did think about it, though, and even wrote home that I was considering it. I don’t know how that news went over, but it didn’t matter since eventually I decided not to extend anyway. 

From March through May, while I was working in the I corps area, we experienced a lot more mortar and rocket attacks than we had while stationed further south in the II Corps area. My notes show mortar or rocket attacks on Feb. 25, Mar. 4, Mar. 25, May 1, May 20, May 21, and May 26. On Feb. 25, while I was doing the investigation at Da Nang, mortar rounds came in both north and south of where I was spending the night. At about that same time both Camp Evans and the airport at Hue Phu Bai were hit with rocket attacks but neither sustained much damage on that occasion. On March 4 at Phu Bai I recorded that “we are getting a lot of incoming rounds here tonight.” On March 25 I was staying overnight at Camp Evans when we received a number of incoming mortar rounds. 

Part of the area where the MI Detachment was located was hit this time. Several were wounded and a young soldier in our Detachment, Sp4 Ross Applegate of Bergenfield, N.J was killed in this attack, much to my sorrow. He had worked for me back at the Camp Radcliff (An Khe) base camp and was a good soldier. Mortar rounds incoming were very imprecise weapons, and to be hit by one was just a bad stroke of luck against all odds. But now and then they would hit something or someone, and this time they got this poor guy. He was the only MI Detachment fatality in the year I was there. 

We spent the day after this attack reinforcing and enlarging our bunker at Camp Evans, for obvious reasons. Also on March 25 about 85 mortar rounds hit the Phu Bai airfield, but none of them came close to our unit’s area. On May 20 Phu Bai was again hit by mortars, this time much closer to our area than the last time. On May 21 they hit us again, and this time they did come in close and we all bailed out for the bunkers. It was weird listening to the mortar shells walking up (gradually exploding closer to) toward our bunker. We were under cover and not in real danger, but it was a chilling experience notwithstanding. The closest call came at about 2:30 am on May 26, when incoming mortar rounds actually landed in the 220th’s motor pool area, where our II van was located. 

One of our warrant officers exited the van in a hurry, and in his haste in the dark ran straight into a barbed wire fence and got cut up a little bit. I heard later he put in for the Purple Heart, but the rest of us treated it as a joke and scoffed at the idea that such “injuries” would qualify for the award. The closest incoming round to me personally (or to him, for that matter) was about 100 yards away, which presented no real danger, but they were “walking them in” toward where we were, and I will say that hearing them coming closer, even if you are in a bunker, is an event that will focus your attention. By that time I was getting “short” (meaning, not much longer in the war zone) and my notes indicate I was the first one out of my hooch and into the bunker that night. When the enemy lobbed a few mortar rounds our way, usually all it did was interrupt a good night’s sleep. 

I think they knew they were doing little damage, but wanted us to know that they were out there and could shoot at us any time they wanted to. Speaking of being “short”—there were lots of jokes about things a “short-timer” couldn’t do. For example, you could not start reading any long novels. Or light up any king size cigarettes. And you had to work on your DEROS-tan. (DEROS is an acronym for “Date of Rotation OverSeas” also known as “going back to the world.”) No one wanted to go back home looking pasty, so getting a DEROS-tan was an important project for short-timers.

 On May 21 Camp Evans received a serious mortar and rocket attack and ammunition dump was hit and went up. The NVA got a lucky hit this time. It created explosions and a fire that went on for 8 hours while the unexpended rounds exploded or “cooked off” A couple of days later I went up there and saw about 6 acres of “black ground” littered with expended 105 howitzer shells. Now a few words about weaponry. The US Army brought the M-16 rifle to Viet Nam. In theory it had a lot of advantages, but in practice it didn’t work very well in the Viet Nam environment. They kept jamming all the time. I was issued an M-16 but found out quickly that it wasn’t worth much and I quit carrying it. 

The Marine version of the same rifle was called the AR-15, and it had modifications that made it a far more effective and reliable weapon. Somehow back in my days interrogating prisoners I had come into possession of an M-1 carbine. It was not as lethal as an M-16 (less range and only semiautomatic) , but it worked and I thought that reliability was more important than firepower. So for some months I carried the M-1 carbine, which was about the weaponry equivalent of driving a ’48 Ford. Anyway, as I was getting ready to move back to Camp Evans from Hue Phu Bai, a Marine captain saw my carbine and wanted it. I wasn’t signed out for the carbine so I could freely trade for anything I wanted. So he offered a Marine AR-15 and I took the deal. That was a great trade. Neither could be taken back to the States, but I got a highly effective rifle out of the deal, and when I test-fired it, was not disappointed at all. 

My notes for April19 show that I went out and test-fired the AR-15 that day and concluded “I am a believer in this new version of the M-16—it really shoots. May even be better than the Rus/ChiCom AK-47.” This was another weapon I wasn’t signed out for, so I could trade it freely. I don’t recall, however, what became of it. While in the prisoner interrogation business I also came into possession of an old MAS-36 boltaction rifle (made by the French and a relic of the French war in “Indo-China”) and a semi-automatic SKS rifle, a Russian-designed and built rifle, which was pretty commonly used by the NVA/VC. 

The preferred enemy weapon was the AK-47, and although I saw plenty of them, I never acquired one. These rifles were useful only for trading or for selling. Enemy weapons were commonly available in our line of work, and useful for trades. I sold one (can’t recall what type now) for $30, which I used as part of the $50.00 cost of a Smith & Wesson Special .38 caliber pistol. I registered the pistol and sent it home. I also registered the MAS-36 and I think I sent it home, too, but I never saw it back in Monroe and don’t know what happened to it. I must have sold or traded the SKS but can’t recall just how I disposed of it. They were valuable as trade items so probably I traded for something in the last month or so. 

As March wore on I realized that there wasn’t enough work at Camp Evans to keep me busy, so once again I requested a change of duty from our illustrious major. I wanted to be sent back to Phu Bai to work in the Image Interpretation (II) Section, which would have enabled me to use the Army specialty I had been trained for. At first he declined but toward the end of the month he changed his mind. At the end of March the division headquarters and the MI section moved up nearer to Khe Sahn to a place called Ca Lu, about 8 miles east of Khe Sahn. The purpose for this move was to be positioned to give greater support to the Marines at Khe Sahn. But at about the same time they moved, I was moving back to Phu Bai to be in the II Section.

 I was delighted to be assigned to a spot where my training could be useful ( I thought) and by March 30 I was back at Phu Bai and getting settled into the new routine. When the II Section had relocated to the Phu Bai airport back in February, they didn’t have any suitable place to stay. So the then head of the section approached an Army unit stationed there and asked if the section could just move in with them in their area adjacent to the runway, and the commander of the flying unit gave it the OK. This unit was the 220th Reconnisance Aircraft Company (220th RAC) commanded by a Major (FNU) Clark. They called themselves the “Cat-Killers.” This was a pretty rowdy bunch of fliers, primarily flying O-2E observation planes (the push-me-pull-you dual propeller type of aircraft) for reconnaissance and fire missions. 

Usually two planes would go out together, one flying high and one flying low, and if they found any targets they would call them into the artillery and see if they could do some damage. The pilots flying low generally came back at the end of the day pretty well worn out because they were exposed to enemy fire at low altitude. They worked hard in the daytime, and played hard at night. They had well-constructed quarters and an excellent officers club. The II section never had it as good as the time they were living with those guys and sharing their facilities. 

We even had maids. The one who did the maid service for our hootch was married and had a little girl. Her name was Ba Vui, and her husband was somewhere off in the army. Here’s a picture of her and her little girl. The best word for her was “stoic.” The war had interrupted her life but she was dealing with it as best she could. The II Section had two basic functions. 

We developed and “interpreted” aerial photographs taken by aircraft available to the section, and we did the same for radar and infrared images taken by the same aircraft. Most of our surveillance missions at this time were in the area just south of the DMZ, out west of Quang Tri as far as the Laotian border. This included the famous Marine fire base at Khe Sanh, and others in that general vicinity. The 1st Cav’s mission was, in part, to give support to the Marines in that area. I was given the task of writing up what the MI Detachment had done in that campaign, as part of a division-wide effort to get the 1st Cav to be awarded a unit citation. I didn’t keep a copy of what I wrote up, but my notes state that the 1st Cav “did all right” in the Khe Sanh action. 

The Marines will probably never admit it but we helped them out quite a bit. In our II Section, we divided the day into three shifts and I was in charge of the 4 pm to midnight shift. Here’s a picture of the van that the II section worked in. [photo no. 28]I liked that because it left my days mostly free and gave me something to do to keep me out of the officers’ club at night. It soon became apparent that the airport at Phu Bai was going to be something of a hub of activity. On April 3, my 4th day on this new job, General William Westmoreland’s plane landed at Phu Bai and taxied over to our area. The general got out, and from my distance about 30 yards away I threw up a snappy salute, and he returned it. It reminded me of my dad’s story of throwing a salute at General Patton while out in the desert on maneuvers in California back in 1941 or ’42—except that Dad said Patton did not deign to return his salute. After getting my return salute, I raised my camera and took a picture of the general, but later learned to my dismay that there wasn’t any film in it! 

A few weeks later General Creighton Abrams (a four-star general who was at that time preparing to take over for General Westmoreland) came to Phu Bai. He was slated to meet President Thieu at the Phu Bai airport and confer with him while in the Hue area. General Abrams arrived first and was on the ground waiting when President Thieu’s plane arrived. Since we were located close by, a few of us hung around the area to watch the proceedings. When Thieu stepped out of the plane, General Abrams saluted first and then Thieu returned the salute. It was the first and only time I ever saw a four-star general salute first. Macarthur supposedly did that when Truman called him to a meeting in Midway Island during the Korean War, and I suppose it has happened from time to time in history, but it’s pretty unusual to find someone senior to a four-star, and apparently General Abrams felt that this was one of those times and that it was appropriate to defer to the President of the country we were fighting for. 

General Abrams took command of U.S. forces in Viet Nam in May, 1968. Since my days were not filled with duty obligations, I spent a lot of time reading, including some readings in political science, getting ready for graduate school which I anticipated to start in Sept., 1968. My diary notes show increasing awareness that in the fall I would be entering into a new phase of life, work toward a PhD in Government at either University of Oklahoma or University of Texas. I had applied for graduate assistantships at both, and got favorable responses. Then on April 25 I flew back to An Khe to take the Graduate Record Exam. 

On May 8 a letter came from the University of Texas officially offering the assistantship, and in my diary there’s a notation that I decided then and there to accept it. Later on I got news from the University of Texas that I had been awarded a fellowship also, which meant an additional $2400 toward graduate school, which was no small amount in those days. So my decision to head to UT in the fall was firm. 

In April and early May there was not a lot of work to be done in the II section, due to inclimate weather. If photo or radar missions could not be run, we had nothing to develop or interpret. By May 9, however, the weather had cleared up and we were “swamped” with work. From time to time, entertainment groups would come to our area. Carol Channing, for example, put on a show for the 1st Cav while I was there. While at Phu Bai, on May 14 a Korean entertainment outfit was in town playing American rock music. It was strange to hear Koreans singing “Johnny B. Goode” and “Mustang Sally” but it was a good show. The II Section in Phu Bai consisted of a captain (section chief), a couple of warrant officers, me, and 3 or 4 enlisted men. Duty in the II Section was mostly pretty hum-drum. The planes would bring in the “images,” we would process them, and then we would pore over them trying to find something significant. We rarely did. One time during the Marines’ heavy fighting at Khe Sanh we thought we had identified some Russain-built T-34 tanks, but as far as I know that was never confirmed in the field so it probably was just wishful interpreting on our part. 

To liven things up, from time to time I was able to go out on visual recon flights. These would last from 2 to 4 hours in a light plane, looking for the enemy and occasionally taking pictures. The most exciting of these was a flight in an Army Mohawk, which was a two-engine, high-speed, fully aerobatic reconnaissance aircraft used for photo missions and infrared radar missions. It was a ride I will never forget—not because of enemy action but because the pilot wanted to show me what the plane could do. Among other things he did a “split-S” where from high altitude he turns the plane over, and from the upside-down position flies it downward in a loop to bring it back to level flight going back the way it had come from. It created tremendous g-forces, enough to cause a person to black out if not wearing a pressure suit (which I wasn’t). I felt the blood running from my head, and my field of vision started to narrow until all I could see were little pinpoints of light. Then things went black—but only briefly since we completed the half-loop. Quite an experience! 

 Other than those occasional flights, the only excitement came from the occasional mortar attacks, most of which were not aimed anywhere near our location. We received “alerts” or warnings of impending mortar attacks from time to time, but most of the time these were just false alarms, and I never knew how our forces were supposed to get wind of these attacks before they happened. Most of the time the first warning came when the first rounds hit inside the perimeter. 

 The spring of 1968 brought a lot of news from the States. In March, Richard Nixon began to look strong for the Republican nomination with a good showing in the New Hampshire primary. On April 1, LBJ announced he would not seek re-election as President. On April 5, Martin Luther King was shot and killed in Memphis. Later, Robert F. Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles. On May 2, Nelson Rockefeller, Jr., announced for the Republican presidential nomination. We followed these events as best we could, but had few sources of information. The Stars & Stripes, a military news publication, was our best source, but we knew it didn’t publish stories that would have been detrimental to the troops or the war effort. The fact is, most of the events in the U.S. seemed so far removed from our day to day existence that we found it hard to follow them. In my mind, I recall feeling that when I got back there would be plenty of time to catch up on what had gone on “in the world” while I had been out of it. 

 From time to time out detachment would undergo inspections from the Inspector General, or IG. The purpose of this, as I understood it, was to have an outside agency inspect to determine that we had the fight equipment for a unit of our type and size. The key word was “TO & E” which meant “Table of Organization and Equipment.” We were supposed to have the right number of everything, no more and no less. Somehow in the fog of the war the Detachment had acquired an extra jeep. Naturally we liked having extra transportation around, and for the first IG inspection the major just told us to hide it—keep it out of sight. That worked. The second time around he decided it would be best to get rid of it, so he traded it to someone in the personnel section of the Division for some extra R & R’s. I have no idea how that all was made possible, but the ultimate effect of the trade was that some of us got to go on second R & R’s. So Capt. Hegner and I put in for a second R & R to Hong Kong, and lo and behold, we got it. So from June 3 through June 11, 1968, after some uncertainty about actually getting on a flight, we got to go to Hong Kong! 

By that time I was getting pretty short (less than two months to go) and he was shorter than I was. So it was a good way to use up some of our remaining time and see a new area, not to mention getting a chance to spend a lot of money. One of the guys in our unit knew a Chinese girl who lived in Hong Kong, and had written to her that we were coming, and asked her to take us under her wing and show us around. Well, she and her whole family welcomed us to Hong Kong and into their home, and made the stay in Hong Kong quite memorable. They took us to places like the race track jockey club that we would otherwise not have been able to see, and generally tried to help us see the Hong Kong not seen by most of the people there on R & R. 

In addition, we took full advantage of the shopping, right up to the last minute brfore we had to leave. It probably took the big PX in Hong Kong several weeks to re-stock after we left. Most of the stuff we shipped directly home from Hong Kong, which was convenient because on the trip back to Viet Nam we were over the weight limit anyway. It was an interesting experience and certainly a change of pace from what we had been accustomed to. Back in Phu Bai things were winding down for me in the last couple of months of the tour. On June 14, 1968, the II Section chief rotated back to the States, and I took over “command” of the Section. We celebrated this event with about 80 man-hours of work on an incoming photo mission project. 

My leadership of the section was pretty uneventful. The major would come around from time to time to make sure we were all awake and working (we were), and he’d usually spew out some sort of sarcastic comments. But toward the end he seemed to lighten up a bit, maybe because his tour was also coming to an end. On June 29 he came down unexpectedly and delivered a pleasant surprise. He called the section together and presented me with the Bronze Star for my service in Viet Nam. It sounded good but you have to keep in mind that there are two types of Bronze Star: one with “V” device for valor or bravery in combat, and the other, plain one, was just rewarded for doing a good job, or not getting court-martialed or embarrassing anyone. I got the plain one, and appreciated it; it was the usual award for officers who served at that time. To have NOT gotten it would have been an embarrassment. Fortunately for me, he came through. The II Section muddled through from May on into July, the month I was slated to “DEROS.” On May 31 my orders back to the States came through, and I found out I had been given a 4-day “drop,” meaning that I was leaving four calendar days earlier than the date I had arrived. Actually it was only three days, since 1968 was a leap year, but leap day had already come and gone and with a net three days’ reduction I wasn’t in a position to complain. Starting the journey back from Phu Bai, the trip first required a stopover in An Khe, then a flight down to Cam Ranh Bay, and on July 21, 1968, my war was over. These photos were taken while at Cam Ranh Bay awaiting the homeward flight. [photos 20 and 22]We boarded a nice shiny jet, with real American girls as Flight Attendants, with real air conditioning, and headed out. Our flight was routed through Japan, with a short stopover in Yakota Air Force Base near Tokyo. We happened to be coming in as the sun was setting behind Mt. Fuji. Here’s a picture.[photo no. 1] On the way to Ft. Lewis, Washington, we flew into July 22, then back into July 21. The Army knew we were all anxious to get home, so they out-processed us during the night, and while it was July 22 again, many hours but only one calendar day after leaving Viet Nam, I was a civilian again. From there it was a flight back to Oklahoma, and resumption of a normal life. The flight to Oklahoma and the reunion there were priceless, and my year in the war seemed like no more than a dream. 



 Thus ended my tour of duty in Viet Nam and my service in the US Army. Now, 45 years after that period, when I try to recall my feelings about the experience at the time, it’s hard to isolate those thoughts because they can’t be separated from later events as the war effort went downhill and ground to a close. As I think back about it now, I don’t regret or resent the time spent in that war, despite its dismal outcome. Compared to the sacrifice others made, I really gave up nothing. 

V 11 N. 79 New Bio Pic on the Life of Emil Zatopek

  The Czech film industry has produced a movie on Emil Zatopek finally.  David Ondricek has directed the film "Zatopek"   with Va...