The Mighty Ninth

Strive To Reach The Summit

I_m_Home.jpgReturned home from NamWell, I made it back home. I went over in a khaki uniform and still wearing it at Camp Chaffee, AR for the National Guard's ATT. I was the Safety Officer, assigned to protect the good people of Ft Smith from losing any cattle or their City Hall. They had reason for concern, too.'s my story in pictures.
Port_Call_-_1.JPGPort Call OrdersGuess what, buddy? You're going to Nam! Port Call orders dated 2Nov66. The story goes that the Pentagon had no way of knowing what posts the Field Artillery officers and NCOs were stationed back then. Soooo, they found a solution. The big brass sent a "get off your ass" letter to each Army Post commanding general and told them to report the presence of MOS 13 personnel living on post. Well, it worked. And, Ft Dix kinda resembled Nam...gawdawful place.
Jungle_Expert.JPGFt Sherman - Jungle TrainingBut first...we're sending you to Ft Sherman for jungle training. This course was worse than any experience I had in Vietnam, minus being shot at, of course. All the swinging on ropes and eating snake meat, killing a chicken and eating it, and the 24 hour E&E (Escape & Evasion) exercise was really survival training if you got separated. Didn't apply much otherwise. We were supposed to have a plane waiting upon graduation directly to Vietnam, but some Infantry battalion had a higher priority. That was OK by me; got another 30 days leave to ponder my fate.
Ft_Sherman_Book.JPGFt Sherman - Jungle Training PamphletThis training was tougher than Vietnam; many candidates dropped out and were ushered out of the country. The School was advised NOT to send the men on the final E&E exercise due to a major storm and river flooding, but did so anyway. The "partisan point" was 15' under water and marked by a pole. Landing craft picked up the students. Safety and property loss was NOT a concern as many M-14 were dropped in the Chagres River from the crossing ropes. After all the "safety first" training rules back in the States, this was a shock to my system. The Jungle Expert Badge was truly a "well-earned" award.
Jungle_Expert_Cert.JPGThe Most Valuable Certificate Ever!Many students were "dropouts". Several of the exercises were beyond those officers and NCOs who didn't have sufficient physical fitness. Some were petrified by having to rappel down a vertical cliff. The "practice" run was a mud cliff; the "graded for score" rappelling was done down a rock waterfall. Those very devious buzzards didn't tell us that. Crossing the raging Chagres River with two poncho halfs making a raft was very daunting for the non-swimmers. I was lucky to be paired with a strong swimmer. The 24-hr E&E was not for the faint-hearted, plus they threw us into a raging storm. The maps literally washed out of our hands from the driving rain as a monsoon started. Such fun.
CampAlpha.jpgWelcome to Camp AlphaNovember, 1966. The Beginning. This was the Reception Station that greeted the incoming unit "replacements" as they awaited orders assigning them to fill unit vacancies. The "Speedy Four" in charge took great pleasure in barking orders to NCOs and Officers alike knowing full well they could not do a thing about it. Every order we had was dumped into a trash barrel. You would wait for further instructions.

I was given a handful of dusty, dirty letters that had piled up. One was my promotion to 1st Lt.
FO_on_Duty_-_Hwy_19.JPGHighway 19 - Guarding the road with A-2-35Photo taken in January, 1967. Remember it well. Wasn't long after this photo was taken, the VC started lobbing mortars at our perimeter. The rounds were landing between A-2-35 and a nearby village. They knew it would be difficult for us to return the fire. But we did. An Infantry mortar hit a rotted tree trunk, setting it on fire. That gave us the target zone and we returned fire. No casualties, but we found plenty of blood near the impact zone.

But, let's go back to the beginning.
CampAlphaMonkey.JPGMy true friendJust to the left of the green awning In-Process center was this little Capuchin monkey enjoying his banana on the same rock-covered ground. He was the first and best friend I made at Camp Alpha. The folks there were pretty hostile to the incoming troops.
The_Gate.JPGCamp Alpha / Tan Son Nhut ABThis gate separated the incomining personnel at Camp Alpha from the Tan Son Nhut airbase just outside the city of Saigon.
Le_Van_Cho.jpgStreets of SaigonPort Policeman Le Van Cho on the left; Sp4 Jerry West on the right. Sp4 West was my "tour guide" in Saigon. Col Robert Sabolyk, the Provost Marshal of Saigon, arranged my one-day tour of Saigon before going out into the "field" with the 2/9th. I had a one week reprieve. Never saw Saigon again!
LeVanCho-Address.jpgSend me a copy!South Vietnamese police officer Le Van Cho, who worked the docks of Saigon, was really thrilled to have me take his picture. He tore off a piece of paper and gave me his address; he wanted me to send him a copy of the photo. Little did he know that I was off to the boonies and would never see Saigon again.
Downtown1.JPGStreets of SaigonA visual confirmation of the hustle and bustle of downtown Saigon, November, 1966. Despite "modern times", street merchants still persist.
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