Ed "Spooky" Nored

RVN Sep 69 - Sep 70

 

Dec. 1 1969 L.Z. Ellen / Boonies

(Nored/DOL)  We have 2 new replacements for Delta and they are Jim Schmidt who will go to our 3rd. platoon and Lt. Mike Piekarski who is assigned to 1st. platoon. (He will be transferred to 3rd. plt. later on) Delta company saddles up heavy and prepares to start another mission out in the bush. We are exchanging places with Charley company. The first lift off from Ellen is at about 1300 and by 1345 the transfer is complete. Soon after arriving 3rd platoon moves off in a different direction to work on its own. We move into a  very murky and creepy looking swamp. My letter says we spent about an hour in it. My pack is way over loaded with an extra  12 cans of apple juice my parents had sent me. The DOL entry reports that we ( 3rd. platoon 3/6) have found a grave with 2 soldiers killed by small arms. It is speculated that these are probably the 2 killed by our company about 3 weeks earlier. If that was the case. One of the dead would have been missing an ear.

Dec. 2 1969 Boonies.

Noted in letter of Dec. 2nd is what I had for breakfast that morning and most mornings. An empty can has been turned into a stove for heating food and water inside the canteen up. As mentioned earlier we used a heat tab or a small chunk of C-4 explosive to heat the meals.

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(Nored/DOL)  My letter mentions I had my usual breakfast of hot chocolate, peanut butter and jelly on crackers. We saddled up heavy and 3rd platoon still on its own moved right back into that stinking swamp. I mentioned Loren Dolge took a photo of me in it with his camera. (Photo? Whereabouts unknown) It was a swamp right out of the horror movies and I was glad to be carrying a gun as we moved thru it. We moved till about 1000 and set up a parameter. I had time to start a letter  and mid way thru it was startled by our own artillery as it landed too close and shrapnel fell thru the trees. I wrote "old Doug (Gorton) put on his helmet". You could hear the faint boom of the arty firing from Ellen and just seconds later the rounds impacted. We saddled up again and moved out. Later in the afternoon we crossed a stream and set up parameter and "Tennessee" had me take most of the squads canteens and fill them. I did so but as I was climbing the banks of the stream I dropped 2  back into the water. I threw the full ones down and had to chase the others as they quickly were washed down stream. After retrieving them and returning to the squad I was greeted with smiles and faces trying to hold back laughter over the great canteen chase.It was also a bad day for leeches. Loren Dolge had 27 leeches on him. (canteen and leeches from Dec. 3 letter referring to yesterday) Entry # 32 from the DOL mentions "D", Delta company, having to destroy a bridge and finding small amounts of rice and elephant tracks on trail. In my letters I do not mention when exactly 3rd plt rejoined the rest of the company.

(DOL/Bravo) Our sister company, Bravo, operating elsewhere in our A/O (area of operations)  has walked into a bunker complex. Bravo suffers 4 KIA and 8 WIA. The enemy fires on the medavac bird and wounds one of the crew. Names of  Bravo's dead and wounded entry # 48. Circumstances entry # 49.

(Arlyn Perkey) I was used to the "ground leaches." They were a little slimy brown critter about -inch to 1-inch long. Many photos show boot strings tied around grunts knees and lower legs to try to dissuade them from gaining access to the upper torso, including the most private of parts. We did not wear underwear so that string around the knee was that line of last defense. It was very often inadequate, and the critter could find a place to attach and get a meal wherever it happened to choose. Applying insect repellent (Deet) would usually cause them to let go and they could be readily removed. However, I think it was in this swamp that I first encountered what we called water leeches. They were much larger, lighter in color, and even more slimy. Fortunately, I never had one attach to me to suck blood like the ground leeches did. I do remember reaching down to knock several of them off my leg as we walked through the water.

Dec.3 1969 Boonies.

(Nored/DOL) 3rd platoon is still on its own. We moved  out from our night lo about 0830. At 1030 we took a brake and Loren Dolge takes out a small gift from home to eat. Its a small can of chocolate pudding called Hunts Snack Pack. God it looked good. We saddle up and move till about 1200 where we form a parameter and set up  another patrol base. Our squad, by itself, went out on a short patrol. We returned with negative findings and ate lunch. I ate a can of spaghetti with meat sauce and washed it down with some Tang.(Thank you Mary Sigman). The DOL at entry # 49 states that the rest of the company has found a large bunker complex with freshly built structures. Read entry # 49 for complete list of items found. At DOL entry # 51 the map coordinates show 3/6 is still on its own. It looks like Delta spends the night in the enemies complex.

Dec. 4 1969 Boonies Log day. Designated Log bird "Potato Masher 693"

(Nored/DOL) Information for this day is real thin. DOL entry # 16s map coordinates still have us located away from the rest of the company. That was about 1000 hours. At entry # 22 3/6 is still on its own. At DOL entry # 25 at 1450 hours it states 3rd platoon (3/6) has moved into an old bunker complex. The DOL suggests this complex was where Delta company had had a previous contact. Its suppose to be a log day but there's no info from me or the DOL. I wrote no letters on the 4th or the 5th. At the DOL entry # 32 it shows 2nd platoon (2/6) is away from Delta. In any case Delta company is in the right neighborhood to find the enemy and his supplies.

Dec. 5 1969 Boonies

(Nored/DOL) The company saddles up heavy and moves out from its night location. First platoon has point and we are working an enemy trail. At around 0800 machine gun fire erupts up front at point. A firefight ensues and Thomas Bowman is hit in both legs. Green tracers from the enemy's weapons fill the air around First platoon. It is not known at this time if Tom was walking point. The company forms a parameter and arty is called in. The gunfire stops and a medavac is requested. The command and control bird or "Charily Charily" (CC in DOL) decides to pick Bowman up. They take him to to 15th medical detachment at Quan Loi. In a search of the area 2 bunkers are found as well as empty shell casings from AK- 47 and a 30 Cal. Machine gun.

Delta saddles up and moves out again. At about 1100 gunfire opens up again on the 1st platoon point. Rodger McRight, walking point, is hit and killed. First platoon is returning fire. Some of the men are able to take cover behind a fallen tree. Medic Jerry Hauschultz has crawled forward and is trying to get to McRight but is struck by enemy fire and is killed. A bullet strikes the helmet of Peter Drips (Joe Michaels believes Peter was the squad leader). Lonnie Hartline and (Kelly?) Leslie Durkee are both wounded as well. One of the men with the name "Lucky" (cant confirm if Lucky is Hartline or Durkee) suffers a finger shot off and the other has a broken collarbone. At about 1130 contact was broke and air strikes were called in. According to the DOL a medavac was requested at noon time and by 1245 all 3 of the wounded were on their way to the rear. Sniper fire was also reported in the DOL.

A footnote concerning Peter Dripps. On April 27th, 1970 Pete would have another close call. While at L.Z.Thomas   friendly artillery is called in on suspected enemy movement around the L.Z.  One round of arty impacts inside Thomas's parameter and kills one U.S. soldier and wounds Pete in the leg. Pete was not with Delta company at this time but most likely had been able to secure a "rear job" some time after this Dec . contact. From entry # 66 at April 27th, 1970 DOL.

The wounded were picked up and the company moved out carrying the 2 bodies. We moved for a short time and set up a parameter. I remember it was getting dark and I turned to the center of the parameter and was able to watch a very dramatic scene play out. A helicopter showed up and hovered above the canopy and lowered cables to the 2 body bags on the ground. This all took place on the edge of a large bomb crater filled with water from the recent rains. Once the lines were secured the copter was given the lift signal and it began to winch the bags up. As the pilot adjusted for the weight of the bags they swung out over the center of the bomb crater and began lowering into the water. The C.O. quickly slid down into the murky water and held up the lower bag keeping it from submerging into the water. He cradled it in his arms till the pilot corrected and the two bags rose above his head and out of reach. As the two bags were winched up they began to spin from the down draft of the rotor blade and I was left with the impression that the copter would not be able winch them into the bird. The last I saw of them they were crashing through the limbs of the trees. Two Grunts on their way home.. . ....

(Nored) Footnote to info above. In describing the above event I had always assumed it was a medavac bird with a winch. I could not see the bird directly, only the 2 cables or ropes  hanging down thru the canopy. After reading most of the DOL's I realized that the Medavac birds with their special equipment and trained medical crew were not put at risk to pick up bodies. Deltas dead were most likely picked up the same way as Bravo's dead were picked up on Dec.3rd. Entry # 19 reads "Log bird 2-100 ft. ropes + strong individual."  That would certainly explain why the pick up looked so sloppy.

(Don Ketcham)  I too, also remember the body bags (of McRight and Haushultz) being air lifted out of the spot by the bomb crater.   The day was heavy overcast and looked like impending monsoon rains about to unload.   The company, from the viewpoint of the platoon I was in (on the far side of the perimeter from the captains platoon) , watched the entire episode with the body bags and helicopter.   A sort of depression was cast over the company and left the feeling of more carnage to come.  It was difficult to actually watch the two bodies being airlifted out and yet hung down so far from the copter ( appeared to be about 40 to 50 feet)  and left many visibly shaken.  There was a lot of activity with sightings and Charlie was taking potshots at us with occasional 30 cal and AK-47's, and literally seemed to surround us.  Felt like the Battalion Commander had us running in circles.
        As one watched the depressed grasses move from the down wash of the helicopter blades and the splattering of water from the bomb crater, it was felt that Charlie had one up on us. The next few nights made for very uneasy days and night and made one acutely aware of ones surroundings.  

( Ed Griffith) On page 9 (Dec 5) Ed Nored mentioned "Lucky" losing the finger.  That stands out with me because Lucky came back near the CP to have his hand bandaged and when the CO asked him what happened he said that SOB shot my finger off.  With the field dressing in place he grabbed his weapon and went back into the fight.

(Arlyn Perkey) I can confirm that Lonnie Hartline had the nickname Lucky. Lucky had been in the 3rd platoon prior to transferring to the 1st platoon. I remember watching Lucky being lifted up through the treetops when he was being med-a-vaced. Also, as the DOL indicated, there was sniper fire that day. When we were moving up, I can remember Danny Smith being in front of me and we came to an opening that we were spreading out to cross. Danny was not anxious to go, but the other person in front of him was getting pretty well ahead. I can remember saying Danny, we have to go. He did. I was glad we both crossed OK. I also will never forget the aircraft support that day. There was some type of jet and his spotter. I remember hearing the sound of the jet descending to make his drop. I looked up over my shoulder from the prone position and could see the pilot in the cockpit coming down. It looked like he was looking right at me. I'm sure he wasn't, but it seemed that way. Again, I thought, I hope he is good at what he does. I hope he is really good. He was. At least he didn't hit any of us that I know of, and I hope he was close enough to target to do some good. If nothing else, if the gooks could hear him and see him coming, how could it help but scare the living daylights out of them. I don't know how many dives and bombs he dropped. There was one bomb with each dive. You would think I would remember, but I don't. Apparently, I am not the only one with stark memories of the incident with the body bags (McKnight and Hausshultz). As Ketch said, our squad was right there and it seemed so cumbersome and disrespectful. I know there was absolutely no disrespect intended. I'm sure the folks in the helicopter were doing the best they could do with what they had. This incident comes to my mind when I think of a phrase that used to run through my mind "there is no where to low for a grunt to go." I am proud to say that we had an officer with enough sense to immediately respond and get into that water and do the best he could. I think that did send a message to us. ----- I'm not sure who this officer was. Do any of you know for sure? It doesn't seem to me like it was Folsom. If anyone knows, I think it would be good to recognize them by name. He tried to do the right thing.

Roger McRight (KIA 12-5-69)

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(photo courtesy of Tim Klebar)

Dec. 6 1969 Boonies

Jet bombers are strafing and bombing the area we had contact in the day before.

Dec.7 1969 Boonies / Log day. No contact.

Our C.O. Capt Folsom had a relapse of malaria. Info source is from a letter Loren Dolge sent home.

Dec.8 1969 Boonies

The company moves out again from its night location with 1 st. platoon at point. The point man leading the company, Randy Miller, walks around a bomb crater and moves about 15 feet into the bush when automatic weapons fire his heard. Randy is hit in the leg but manages to run back to the bomb crater. The platoon returns fire and the company sets up a parameter. The med-a-vac is called along with artillery and air strikes. Jerry Spurlock remembers that at some time while Randy was being winched into the med-a-vac bird Randy Miller died. Jerry remembers one of the crew in the chopper, after pulling Randy inside, leaned out, looked down and shook his head at the people below. Lt. Piekarski remembers that Randy had gone into shock and they couldn't get him out of it.

Randall Miller (KIA 12/8/69) This was Jerry Spurlocks nephew.

(Nored) This photo was taken on one of the L.Z./F.S.B.'s  . Randy looks like he washing out some clothing. Using what looks like a empty 50 cal. ammo can as a tub.

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Jerry Spurlock

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Arlyn Perky was in my platoon (third), and in "Pineapples" squad. This is his account of how he remembers it ,after Randy was picked up and the company began to move again. "We went across the creek and into a large enemy base camp. It had some of the most elaborate facilities I had seen to date. I tried to take some pictures of the cooking facilities in one bunker, but unfortunately it was too dark and the pictures did not turn out. As evening approached we established our night location in that bunker complex and my squad had a section near where the creek was. We were told that in the morning our squad would have point for the company when we moved out in the morning. Just before dark one of the squads near us got a probe by some gooks. There may have been a shot or two fired I'm not real sure. Several of us had a bad feeling about what might happen in the morning. The gooks had gone to the trouble to find out exactly where our night location was. That was a good sign that they were probably going to try and ambush us. I was concerned but I can remember thinking that there wasn't any need to worry about it because it wouldn't help anyway. I also remember that I wrote a letter to the folks that never got mailed."

 

Dec. 9 1969 Boonies

 

 

Arlyn continues" I slept well that night and the next morning was pretty routine although I couldn't help but be a little nervous about what might happen."

I want to leave Arlyns account to explain what the company did after we saddled up and moved out from the bunker complex. We moved down a trail for a short distance and then the Company commander had 1st. platoon move off the trail and set up an ambush. They did so and then with 3rd platoon at point and 2nd platoon behind we continued up the trail a short distance and then made a left turn off of the trail. We moved a short distance when the point squad, leading the company, wade a right turn. Lets return to Arlyns account. "Pat Toon was walking point that morning because Bryan Tyack had finally had enough of it and it was time for somebody else to take some of the risk. As we moved out, the lineup was Pat Toon, Don Ketcham, Dan Smith, Marcell Gorree aka "Pineapple", myself (Arlyn) who was carrying the M­60 Gary Borkowski assistant gunner. Bryan Tyack, and Jerry Reeves. Followed by "Tennessee's" squad. Pat, Ketcham and Dan had just all made the right hand turn when the shooting started. At the first sound of gunfire I dropped to my knees and down on my side. I rolled the gun (M-60) off of my back. Someone ahead relayed that one man was shot. I remember hollering back that one man was shot. I pulled a string of ammo off my pack while looking to see where I wanted to go to start shooting. I saw a mound of dirt that "Pineapple" had just taken cover behind on the right side. I set the gun up on the left side of that little rise and Gary got down next to me on my left; beyond him was Tyack and Jerry. I got the first belt of ammo hooked up and I opened fire on the area in front of me, just firing in a wide arc. I had not seen anything yet and didn't know exactly where they were at. Everyone was firing and then there was a kind of a lull and I heard "Pineapple" say to look for a target. I was straining my eyes to see anything when all of a sudden I heard myself let out a groan that now reminds me of a cow bawling for her calf. I was now lying on my side instead of being in the prone position I was in only an instant before. My left arm had a dull ache in it. I looked at it and saw blood coming out a hole and I knew that I had been shot. I remember Dan Smith groaning and saying how bad it hurt, for he too had been hit in the left shoulder from the same burst of fire. I got my bandage out and held it on the wound, but I found I could not tie it. "Pineapple" quickly reached over and tied it for me. My wrist seemed to be limp and useless. I just lay there for a few seconds. There was firing going on but it seemed kinda dull and unimportant to me. "Pineapple" asked me if I could move out of the way and I said I could. He said for me to get up and move back. I found my feet and moved back several feet. "Pineapple" started hollering for me to get up and move back more. I didn't move right away and he repeated his order to move back. I got to my feet and moved another 6 to 8 steps before I again went down on my side. I just laid there listening to the shooting and pretty soon could hear the sound of "Tennessee" yelling at his squad to move up. He had to really urge them on by yelling at them to get up and move. I heard the M-79 (grenade launcher) being fired. The enemy bunkers were only about 25 yards away and shrapnel from the M-79 came back and wounded some of our own people. I know Pineapple got a slight wound from it in the arm and I think Dan Smith did too."... .. ... That's the end of Arlyns account.

 

L-R: Jerry Reeves, Arlyn Perky (who was wounded the 9th of Dec) and Gary Borkowski.

(Jeff Cronstons photo)

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Jim Schmidt on his first mission also caught a piece of shrapnel. Donald Ketcham is shot in the leg and is lucky it does not hit the large main vein. "Ketch" also remembers "Pineapple" applying a bandage to his leg and also remembers that Staff Sgt. David Stanley had a bullet hit his helmet and crease the top of his head. He is bleeding from the head but "Ketch" remembers it isn't a serious wound.

Shortly after the shooting dies down we hear an explosion and gunfire erupt behind us where 1 st platoon had set up there ambush. 3 enemy soldiers obviously heard shooting and were heading up from the rear to help their friends in the bunker complex. Lt. Piekarski at the ambush site with 1 st. platoon gives his account on what happened. " We did an excellent job of covering a 100-150 meters of this trail with claymore mines and everything else. It wasn't long before that the rest of the company made contact. About 10 minutes into their contact I looked over to my left and saw 3 NVA soldiers slowly moving down that trail. From my left to the right. They were had! With my counting three of them through this small clearing, moving down the trail. All of a sudden this guy who was behind one of those huge trees and directly in my line of sight, stands up and starts yelling "Gook! Gook!". Well shit, we blew the claymores for what they were worth, the NVA turned and fired a B-40 (RPG) right up the same clearing I was watching them through and that was the end of the ambush. We hooked up with the rest of the company who, by this time, had broken contact. There were several wounded in 1 st. platoon . as well as quite a few in the 3rd platoon and we were pulled out of the boonies." End of Piekarski's account.

Don Ketcham provides more info after being med-a-vaced. First to L.Z. Ellen and then later was taken to the 93rd Evac in Saigon."We found out later the NVA who shot me was in a bunker only about  12 paces away. I couldn't see him but I sure could hear  his AK-47.Dan Smith was shot through the left humorous and blown apart. I don't think he returned to the company because I never saw him again. Arlyn Perkey had an AK-47 round in his left shoulder. I remember seeing an ex-ray of Arlyn showing  a complete bullet in his deltoid muscle. My x-rays indicated the round in my leg broke into several fragments and I was lucky the bullet went through the  root of a tree I was climbing over  before hitting my leg just as we were fired on. Those fragments have ,over the years, moved up to the area of my chest and I have seen x-rays of them. The VA doctor I have has mentioned several times." Ketch also mentions being there with the platoon sgt Stanley who had been hit in the helmet. Ketch stayed in Saigon for several weeks before returning to the company.

(Don Ketcham) "Amazing how a small piece of information triggers the memory.   9 Dec 1969 sticks out for me and all of the activity that went.    I can even remember the helicopter ride in to the landing zone, on a LOH of all things, then I was shipped out to 93rd evac in Saigon for treatment of the leg wound and healing, the surgeons refused to remove the pieces of bullet, since mine split into several pieces when it went into my leg.    Wasn't like Perkeys where one could actually see the round in his shoulder.   Then I really felt bad for Danny Smith, never saw him again and always wondered if he had lost his arm.   Such a piercing scream when he was hit." 

Dan Smith is pictured here at the company rear at Quan Loi. He was wounded Dec. 9.

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Photo taken at Quan Loi, left to right: Don Ketchum "Ketch", Pat Toon, Lt. Piekarski and Ed Nored.

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"Dec 9, 1969 is when 3rd platoon, 3rd squad was up front and ran into the bunker complex, very well camouflaged, and the shit hit the fan.  When the shooting stopped, I counted the paces to where I could hear the AK-47 firing from and I could see where I had fired a full magazine of 16 out at the sound, it was 12 paces away yet I could not see the muzzle flash nor the doorway to the bunker.   I was behind a tree about 2 inches in diameter and firing away at something I could not see.   This was all after being shot in the left leg above the kneecap and listening to Danny Smith (had the M-79 grenade launcher) with the piercing scream  and hole through his left upper arm,.   SSgt  David Stanley took the AK-47 round through the pot and into his scalp, Arlyn Perky, carried the M-60 machine gun and took a round to his left Deltoid muscle ( I actually saw the X-Ray with the bullet still in place.)   My X-Ray also showed the broken AK-47 round in my leg and I felt fortunate that Charlie opened up as I was crawling over a large tree root.  The round went through the root and into my leg.   That burning sensation gets ones attention with that immediate slap.    As there were many calls for Medic, including me, all of a sudden here comes Pineapple (Marcel Gorre), low crawling up to the front), patching people up.    He bandaged my leg and I got busy back to shooting.   Never did find out from him what he saw coming up to me.    I was behind point and I believe that was Bryan Tyack - he did not get hit. "

"Something else that was noticed was the aroma / smell of the area just before all the chaos took place.   I believe that we were that close to Charlie and picked up his body odor for a short period of time.   In the books I have read since, apparently those on nothing but rice diets, emit a body aroma."    

"The bunker we walked up on had blended in with the background extremely well, the mound of the bunkers were tapered to the ground and small trees had been cut and jammed in to the top surface of the bunkers.  This made them meld right into the background - didn't even see it until the shooting was all done. The bunkers were fragged and checked out for anyone staying behind.   No one was there for all of the shooting going on.    Shortly after the rear of the column was hit.    Charlie was moving quickly. "

"I do remember action ahead of the Dec 9, 1969, for it was a busy area for the NVA."  

(Nored) The following is what I remember the most that day and it is a personal thing that I don't think lasted more then a couple of minutes. It is a fear so deep you can't move. It's something that the Army cannot duplicate in training. I was never as scared again as I was this day and will always be very happy I got up and followed Doug. But God it was hard. I will never forget it. Never.

When Arlyn Perky mentions that "Tennessee" had to really yell at his squad to get up and move forward he's quite correct. When the enemy soldiers opened fire on the lead squad we naturally hit the ground. I instantly went thru 3 magazines firing into the bush. I had taped 2 magazines together on my "16'. I stopped firing after sticking the 4th magazine in. Straining to see anything in that damn jungle to shoot at. The noise level was incredible. You went from near dead silence to an explosion of gunfire and people yelling. Soon, standing above me was "Tennessee" (Dave Justice) my squad leader yelling to "Get up and move forward". "Dirty Doug" (Doug Gorton) was on the ground ahead of me. I'm looking at "Tennessee's" face and can hear him quite well. But I cannot move. A fear has taken over me and paralyzed my body. I know if I move one inch the enemy will be able to see me and kill me. I'm thinking everyone in the point squad is dead and now it's my turn. But every thing changes when I see Doug Gorton get up and I think "Doug don't get up. If you stay down I can stay down." A childish thought to say the least. Seeing Doug get up meant only one thing. I had to get up. To this day it was the hardest thing I ever did. My body seemed like it weighed a 1000 lbs. Crouched over we moved forward past people lying on the ground and then I spotted Tom Cocker, his back to the enemy location, directing where we should spread out in front of the point squad. There was no cover to speak of and we took to the ground weapons ready and strained to see a target or movement ahead of us. But none was seen.

I'm going to speculate that turning left and leaving the main trail allowed us to come into the side of the bunker complex. Had we stayed on the trail I'm sure it would have curved to the left and gone right into the bunkers. The N.V.A., I'm sure, were expecting us to stay on the main trail and most likely would have had more guns and explosive mines waiting for that point squad to walk into. I think we were lucky. The 3 N.V.A. that 1st. platoon saw coming up the trail obviously heard the shooting at the complex and were moving up the trail to support them. As Lt. Piekarski pointed out what allowed those soldiers to live was an over excited soldier who in yelling a warning to the rest of 1st. platoon also alerted the enemy.

(Nored) This photograph ,I feel, best represents what I write about below. The dark, depressing and deadly world of the "boonies". Where the frontline was 360 degrees from where ever you were standing.

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To say the least our nerves were on edge. "Smokey" in my squad went into shock during the shooting. Arlyn mentions writing one of those letters to loved ones back home when you fear there's no tomorrow. It wasn't just this one day fight that took its toll on everyone but it was a culmination of previous incidents that had started on the 5th of December. Working those trails and finding their bunkers and evidence everywhere that we were in an area heavily infested with N.V.A. I remember that since of dread every time we found a trail or seeing a piece of the bamboo stalk obviously cut down by a machete. Only a matter of time I thought. Only a matter of time. Even our own artillery and air support was stressful. You were out there in the damn thick jungle. You can't see the enemy. The artillery is coming in over your head. You can't see that. The helicopter gun ships and the jet fighters are dropping bombs, firing rockets, machine guns and cannon fire. The pilots can't see us. You can't see them. Pieces of jungle and shrapnel are landing near you. All you can do is lie there. Not lying like you were at a picnic but lying face down pressing every inch of yourself against the ground. You feel the ground shake when the bombs hit. The jungle jerks as the concussion and shock wave travels from the explosion. When the jets come in with cannon fire the first thing you hear is rounds from the cannon exploding on the ground then a second later you hear the sound of the gun being fired then a second later you hear the jet scream over head. I will never forget that sound. You pray that all these people know what the hell their doing. For most of us out in the jungle it was a war of sounds. If you have ever seen a wild animal in the forest look startled at the sound of your foot steps that was us. It didn't take long for me to feel that it was not a human being dressed in an enemies uniform that would kill us but it was the "bush" itself that was our enemy. A sense of helplessness against such an enemy existed with in me. The fact that there were no "front lines" on the battleground led you to believe that you were constantly surrounded. A military nightmare. Our nightmare. The only safe and secure ground was with in a parameter that we had formed. With this feeling that the enemy was all around you and the canopy of the jungle above you. You began to feel trapped, enclosed and at times suffocating. When the helicopter came out and hovered above and lowered a cable through the roof of the jungle to take out the dead and wounded or when on log days we would get a "kick out". It would only reinforce the subliminal thought that we were trapped beneath this surface of green. A sub world where even our support aircraft could not get to us except for a thin life line.

(Jerry Reeves) I was in the 4 th platoon and I think December 5 (could have been December 9) was the date we were the lead platoon and stumbled into a gook bunker complex.  I believe our platoon leader then was named Stanley, who was a lifer.  He took a round through the front of his helmet and out the back, knocked him cold but didn't kill him.  Arlyn Perkey was wounded too as was Danny Smith on the same day; I think Pineapple was also wounded.  Gary, you should remember that day pretty well, since you were working the MG with Perkey.  What was left of us in the 4 th platoon was blended into third platoon the next day I think.

(Comments from Ed Griffith Artillery Forward Observer for our company)

Also on page 9 (Dec 9) Ed Nored talks about the stress of the close in Arty, Gunships and Tac Air and hoping we knew what we were doing.  If he thinks that was stressful he should have been on my side trying to bring it in close enough to do some good and not hit friendlies and doing it by sound alone .  In one firefight I had a Cobra pilot (kind of excited) telling me he needed to change his line of approach.  When I asked why (as this was a very unusual request) he said "Because I just about got a F-104 up my Ass ! "  Request granted.

(Nored)  If there was one person during  a contact  with the enemy who had  to remain cool, calm and collected. It was  a companies FO or forward observer. This person at any given time had to be aware of where every squad or platoon was located on a map and in the jungle  every  minute. Lt. Ed Griffith was our man, thank goodness. Coordinating artillery and air strikes with Delta company from Sept 69 till April 1970. His burden of responsibility was  a weight that certainly exceeded anything the rest of us was carrying. Thank you Lt. Griffith.

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FROM BEHIND THE M-60 TO MY FATHERS CHAIR

(Arlyn Perkey) To Sergeant David Stanley and Tennessee and all of his squad, thank you seems like an inadequate expression. Nonetheless, THANK YOU. We did need the help. * MED-E-VAC. The 8 wounded were brought to a common point to wait for a med-e-vac. Captain Perkins came to speak to each of us. He looked at my arm and said "Well, it is all over for you, you are going home." I think I just looked at him in stunned disbelief as if to say, "well, how do you know?" I think he observed that my wrist was limp and useless. It was not going to be a quick fix. * Unlike Ketch in the LOH, I was in a regular Huey for the ride to LZ Ellen. I remember being anxiously greeted along with the other wounded by a Lt. who had been our Platoon Leader for awhile. I wish I could remember his name. He was a good one, and he cared about us. * From Ellen, Ketch and I were probably on the same bird that went to an aid station where they X-rayed my arm. The technician marveled at the perfect conical shape of the bullet, indicating that it had not deflected from anything before hitting me. It was not lodged against the bone. It was laying in flesh. Why had it stopped there? An AK 47 round fired from that short distance (25 yards) would normally go through an arm and in my case into my body cavity (close to the heart). I had my left hand on the M-60 to hold it down while firing. * All I can say is that I had 2 grandmothers (and many others) who were committed Christians. They probably had half the State of Iowa praying for me. I certainly wasn't spared because of my good behavior at the time. Anyway, it wasn't my time to go, and I remain ever grateful to God for the good life I have enjoyed since then. Whenever December 9 rolls around, I try to take it as a "be grateful that I am alive day." In Vietnam, we learned that life can be short. * From that aid station we flew by Huey to a hospital in Saigon. When we landed, I hopped out and headed to the door. I was saying to myself, "this looks like a good enough place to me, I will go for this." They soon caught up to me and told me to get back on the Huey. Shucks! It took off and we went to Long Binh where this time, I was allowed to go in. When I was on the hospital bed they started to remove my boots. I said "it might smell pretty bad when you take those off." The guy never looked up and never said a word. I suspect he was thinking he didn't have any trouble smelling me with the boots still on. * HOSPITALIZATION Before they knocked me out for surgery, I asked if they would save the bullet for me as a memento. They said yes, but when I asked for it the next day it was long gone. I woke from surgery about 7:30 pm and was taken back to a ward with bed after bed of patients. I didn't have my glasses and couldn't see much. I wasn't very social. * The next morning I retrieved my glasses and other things that were on my person when I was shot. I had not shaved for several days so I looked like hell and probably smelled worse. Out in the boonies, that was the way it was for everyone. I didn't think much of it. When I returned to where people were clean, I became conscious that I was not. The staff told me to go shave and shower. I did. What a shock I encountered. There were about 6 guys in the bathroom doing their treatment for VD. Being from rural Iowa, I had never seen anything like that. * When I returned to the ward, this South Vietnamese guy tried to talk to me. He had noticed in my personal things one AK47 round that had not been fired, and 1 empty shell case from an AK47 round. He recognized what they were, and I think was curious about why I had those. I tried to explain that I carried them to remind me that when I was out in the boonies, it wasn't a walk in the park. Those two AK47 rounds (fired and unfired) carried in my pocket, were to remind me to remain ever cautious. I don't think he understood more than 2 words that I said. * On the 10th or 11th, someone came to see me and asked if I wanted my parents notified regarding my wound. The alternative was I could write to them. I chose the letter option. They said, "Write them a letter now." I did. When my mother opened the mail box she said she knew immediately that something was wrong because it was on different stationery. However, she saw it was my hand writing so she thought, "well at least I know he is alive." * The doctors told me the bullet hit a nerve making me unable to raise my wrist. It was limp. I remember hearing of a radial nerve before, but I was going to learn much more. * On the morning of Dec. 12 someone came in and called for me to get my things and be ready to leave. There wasn't much to assemble. Yes, I was leaving Vietnam to go to Japan. The word was, if they sent you to Japan, you would not come back to Vietnam. * I'm not certain where I went in Japan. The second day I was there it started to sink in about what had happened. I was moving beyond just being glad to be alive and starting to think about this. The doctors and nurses had been making a point to tell me, we can fix that (my arm). "Don't worry, we can fix that. It is going to take awhile, but it will get better." I remember at one point going into a stall in the bathroom, closing the door, and crying. For a moment I had convinced myself I was going to be a cripple, a gimp. I know, those are terrible words to say. Believe me, I'm not proud of it, but that is what was overtaking me at the time. After awhile, I thought of the people out there in the ward who had wounds that made mine look like a cat scratch. That ward was eye opening. I pulled myself together and never acted like that again. I was in Japan about 1 week. * RETURNING HOME From Japan it was an Air Force hospital plane to Travis Air Force Base in California, then to Fitzsimmons Hospital near Denver, Colorado. On December 23, 1969, I arrived back home at the farm near Prairie City, Iowa. Two weeks ago I was behind a machine gun in Vietnam, now I'm sitting in my father's chair. My arm is in some kind of gismo that holds my fingers up with rubber bands. I'm looking out the window at the farmstead and just thinking about what has happened. When I left I weighed 185 pounds and now I weigh 165. I'm happy to be home. * Rural Iowa is conservative, or at least it was at that time. Everyone around home was happy to see me and made me feel welcome. This was most certainly not the case everywhere, as I would later find out. Public support of the war was on a steep decline, and things would get much worse. Everyone was polite and didn't ask probing questions, and I didn't volunteer much. I just said we walked into an ambush and let it go at that. * About 1 week after arriving home on my 30 day leave I started getting sick. I woke up one morning and knew I was really ill. I felt pretty certain I had malaria. My parents took me to the VA hospital in Des Moines where they confirmed my suspicion and initiated 1 week of treatment in the hospital and follow-up treatment at home. I recovered and enjoyed the remainder of my leave.

Dec. 10, 1969 Boonies / L.Z.Ellen

(DOL) At 1400 the airlift of Delta company from the bush to L.Z. Ellen begins and by 1449 is complete.

 

(Nored) This next group of photos is shown in the order they were taken. All 20 shots from this roll of film are accounted for. All were taken on or just off of L.Z. Ellen. The first photo is L-R Ed Savobada,Ed Nored, Doug Gorton, Loren Dolge and Dave Justice. Nored has is hand resting or guarding  an unopened package from home. In the background you can see what looks like a bucket hanging between 2 posts. That's a shower bucket. On the left you can see how the vegetation is starting  to grow out of the defensive dirt burm that formed a circle around the L.Z.

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Negative # 1

(Nored) On Nov. 8th at L.Z. Ellen my trusty Kodak instamatic stopped working. On Dec. 10th I received a replacement from my parents. You can see the yellow box sitting to my right. I include this info to stress that I try my best to place the photos as close as I can to the date they were taken. Most of the time the companies who developed  our film placed a processing date on the back or the front border of your prints. That date suggest your pics were most likely taken in the previous 5 to 30 days. While in Nam we either sent the film home, to Hawaii or Thailand for processing. I never lost any film no matter what source I used. It was all very reliable. I still marvel at the memories captured by that very inexpensive camera. and even more so to be able to share them after all these years with the rest of you thanks to Gordon's website.

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Negative # 2

Services are held for Randy Miller, Jerry Hauschulz and Roger McRight. This is a very rare photo. Its the only photo that I took or have seen that captures all of Delta company. First, second and third platoon. Minus the casualties from Dec. 5-9, people who were sick and on R&R.

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Negative # 3

5 Hueys lift off and snake their way off to another mission. Copter crews always had someplace to go. Another troop insertion, extraction, log day and on and on. This war never "closed" it was open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.

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Negative # 4

High above Ellen 8 Hueys are caught silhouetted against a metallic sky.

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Negative # 5

(Nored) Upon joining Delta company one of the first people I grew to admire was my squad leader. That was Dave,"Tennessee", Justice. I hated screwing up in front of him. On two different occasions on my first missions in the bush I had accidentally set off a trip flare. He gave me the nic name "trip flare Eddie" and I hated it. I never tripped one again after hearing that. Soon after this photo was taken Dave Justice got a rear job and did not have to return to the field. It was always good to see "Tennessee" smile. One of the observations I had made during these first months that alarmed me was the expressions on "Tennesee's", Tom Cocker's, Doug Gorton's, and Marcell Gorree's  face much of the time. There was such a dead serious expression on their face the likes I had  never seen  in civilian life. Seeing their faces suggested this experience , this war, would change me and that scared me. I had a good sense of humor and no hate in my heart for no one and  I wanted to keep that. All these gentleman had good reason for that serious look based on incidents that had happened before I joined Delta company. In any case it was always nice to see them smile. Especially "Tennessee".

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Negative # 6

(negative # 7 photo not worth posting. Negative # 8 is photo of barbecue on Ellen posted on page 3).

L-R Scott Lemanski, aka "Parttime".Kneeling, Stanley Krysminski aka "Ski". Dick "the Bitch" Fowler.Ron McLaughlin, Pat Toon ?, Earl Falkinburg, aka "the Duke" with right arm bent and leaning to his left. Can't I D next man. Doug Gorton ,aka "Dirty Doug". Loren Dolge, can't I D this man and far right is Marcell Gorree aka "Pineapple".  Pic take at LZ Ellen.

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Negative # 9

(Nored) Medals are being awarded to men of Delta Co. on L.Z. Ellen. There are 3 officers with their backs to camera. I am fairly certain from their physical stature they are left to right, McKlosky ,no I.D. on man in middle but I am  sure that's Capt. Perkins on the right. Of the men receiving the medals I can only I.D. the 3rd man from the right wearing helmet. Larry who would become the company armorer. See photo in misc. section. (click here)

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Negative # 10

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Negative # 11

Ed "Spooky" Nored on L.Z. Ellen late 1969

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Negative # 12

(Negative # 13 photo is not worth posting)

(Nored) Earl Falkinburg crossing a stream with M-60 ammo draped over him and smoke grenades hanging from the waist.

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(Photo taken Dec. 69 just off  of L.Z. Ellen.Negative # 14)

(Nored) Dick Fowler walking point on a patrol from one of the L.Z.'s In nearly all cases this job to say the least was on of the most dangerous. If you were on a trail like Dick is on your safety is off and you move slowly and quietly. Nothing is more maddening to the squad up front as when someone in the line of march behind you gets clumsy and makes a noise. I was walking backup for Dick this day and we got word that we should return to the L.Z. (probably Ellen) I took the instamatic camera out of my pocket and snapped it off. Most of the pictures you see with us that I took while on patrol were when we were further back in the line of march. It was just too tense up front to be snapping off pictures. Photo taken Dec. 69 off L.Z.Ellen.

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negative # 15 from Dec 10th 1969.

(negative # 16 is underexposed)

Ron McLoughlin and Dave Arronson (his assistant gunner).

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Negative # 17

(negatives # 18 and 19 not worth posting.)

(Nored) Back row L-R is Ed Savoboda, South Dakota. Forrest Sanders, Miss. Loren Dolge, Wash. Earl Falkinburg, PA.  Front row standing. Tom Cocker, Georgia. David Justice, Tenn. Stanley Krzyminski, New York. Ron McLaughlin, Va. Kneeling, Ed Nored ,Ca. on the left and Doug Gorton, New York. L.Z. Ellen. All from 3rd. platoon. Dick Fowler or Chris Parrish may have taken the photo for me.

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negative # 20 last shot on roll.

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Dec 11, 1969 L.Z. Ellen

(Nored) In a December 11th letter I mention Tom  of 3rd platoon is out with malaria. I have photos of Tom but no last name. It is not Tom Coker. Last name might be Langley or Allison. Will update information asap. Letter also mentions  that we, 3rd platoon, are just lying around listening to tapes on a cassette player. Steppenwolf, Creedence Clearwater, Tommy James and the Shondells and the Classics Four.

Dec 12, 1969 L.Z. Ellen

Dec 13, 1969 L.Z. Ellen

DOL entry # 16 says 2nd. platoon (2/6) ran a patrol to the south of Ellen and found an old bunker sight with 8 bunkers and one "u" shaped  recoilless rifle position. The complex showed no signs of recent use. 2nd platoon left at 0928 and returned to Ellen at 1201.

Dec 14, 1969 L.Z. Ellen

DOL entry # 18 says 3rd. platoon (3/6) ran a patrol from Ellen to the south east. They departed at 0900 and returned to Ellen at 1600 reporting negative findings.

Dec 15, 1969 L.Z. Ellen

Dec 16, 1969 L.Z. Ellen

DOL info. entry # 15. At 0835 1st. and 2nd. platoons head North on a patrol off of Ellen. The only thing they find is large pile of fresh dirt. The C.O. ,"6", speculates the gooks are digging a tunnel and dropping off the dirt in different areas as to not lead anyone to the opening. The patrol returns to Ellen about 1315 without incident. At 1430 3rd. platoon saddles up light and recon to the south east and then return at 1600 and report negative findings.

Dec 17, 1969 C. A. 'd off Ellen to boonies

The C.O. wants 3 men from each squad to go the Bob Hope show. Some of the squads drew cards and in others they simply went by which man had the most time in country.My letter doesn't say who won. Tennessee and Smocky get rear jobs and will not be returning to boonies with us. There is so few in our platoon that we brake it down into 2 squads. We were also informed we would not receive packages on log while out in the bush. Every other log will be a "kick out" with no mail of any sort.We got some replacements in yesterday.

Ed Nored posing by a Huey with the name "Linda's Love" painted on the nose. L.Z.Ellen.

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Negative # 2

Doug Gorton sitting on the same bird at L.Z. Ellen.

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Negative # 3

A B-52 strike is hitting the area we were in.

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Negative # 6

(Nored) This photo was taken shortly before lifting off Ellen for another mission in the bush, Dec. 17th. Looks like my clothes are clean and I may even have a new towel hanging around my neck. From this side of the pack we can identify the  Claymore mine in its bag, above the canteen is the gas mask, the ammo can for personal items and the orange stake attached to one of my trip flares is visible. My sideburns are too long and I remember Capt. Perkins bringing that to my attention.

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Negative # 7

(Nored/DOL)  On Dec. 17th. Delta company saddled up heavy and prepared to return to the bush. We are going to take Alpha companys place. The phrase "Daisy Chain" is used in the DOL. Alpha company, out in the bush, is securing a landing/pick up zone. As Delta leaves Ellen and lands where Alpha company is we unload and Alpha grunts reload and go fly back to Ellen. According to the DOL the "Daisy Chain" started about 1400 and by 1500 the 2 companys had exchanged positions. All 3 of these photos were taken on DEC. 17th as the rest of Delta company arrived from Ellen  to start another mission in the bush. Photos are shown in the order they were taken.

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Negative # 12

 

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Negative # 13

 

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Negative # 14

Vinny Sciarretti  arrived in Vietnam Nov. 22 1969. He too was chosen as a replacement for the First Cavalry.  Based on his letters sent home ,Vinny was at the FTA  (First Team Academy) from Nov. 24th to about Dec.15-16th. On Dec.16-17th He was at Quan Loi and most likely the same day was flown out to  L.Z. Ellen in time to join Delta Company as they were about to make another Combat assault into the bush and begin another mission. Ed Noreds letter home mentions Delta had received some replacements on the 16th. In either case Vinny as well Jim Wastradowski joined Delta during this period.

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Dec 18, 1969 Boonies

(DOL Bravo Co.) Second platoon of Bravo company has had one man killed after having a meeting with the enemy. His name is William R. Hassel. More info at DOL entry # 14 & 15.

(Nored)  Jim Wastradowski arrived in Nam on Nov.21 1969.  After going thru  the First Team Academy (F.T.A.) course he was assigned temporary duty tearing down Fire Base Copperhead. He did this from Nov.28th thru Dec.14th. and then finally received orders for Delta company 1st Battalion 8th Cavalry. Jim also kept a diary and his contribution of info for each day is prefaced with his initials   (JW). He finally joined Delta on Dec 18th 1969.  Welcome to Delta Company Jim.

L - R: John Farrior, Jim Watradowski and Jim Schmidt..

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(photo courtesy of Jim Watrodowski)

Dec 19, 1969 Boonies

(DOL Bravo company) Bravo suffers another K.I.A. Last name  of Rucker. See DOL entry # 18.

They have put us into a new area that is quite open compared to the thick shit we had been in. Lots of rubber trees.

Dec 20, 1969 Boonies

Dec 21, 1969 Boonies

(DOL Delta company) See DOL entries # 21 and # 27 for bunkers and enemy equipment found. Delta continues to find and work the trails.

From Vinny Sciarretti letter Dec. 21,1969. " When I get back home you won't know I'm the same person. I really appreciate  things a lot more. If you can believe that.... Mom, being in the infantry over here really does something to you. It really teaches you a lot of respect toward yourself and your friends. You really grow up fast over her. I appreciate life a lot more then I did before".

 

Dec 22, 1969 Boonies

Scott Lemanski ("Part time") is sick and goes to the rear on the Log bird. He leaves his 45 pistol with Ed Nored (from letter written  Dec. 23).

Dec 23, 1969 Boonies

Were working a large bunker complex that has been hit by B-52's. We found 18 mortar rounds and 1 U.S. carbine rifle.

Dec 24, 1969 Boonies

Christmas eve in the boonies. We humped 6 "klicks" then back tracked 2 "klicks". The company got lost. Everybody was tired and pissed. Were supposed to secure area for a new firebase.

Dec 25, 1969 Boonies

Christmas day in the boonies. "log day" Got lost again. The captain heaved a smoke grenade out and nearly hit Dickie. I got pissed and popped my own and threw it back at him. The squad cracked up. We finally got situated and secured an area for the copters to bring in the bulldozers.

Dec 26, 1969 Constructing L.Z. Kathleen

(Nored) The location of L.Z. Kathleen. This base was placed on the road connecting Song Be and An Loc. It was approximately 32 km ENE of An Loc, 12 km SW of Song Be and 7 km ENE of Bu R Drang.

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LZ Kathleen from the air

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(Photo courtesy of Ed Griffith)

LZ Kathleen from the air

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(Photo courtesy of Ed Griffith)

Ed Griffith with 105 Howitzer

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(Photo courtesy of Ed Griffith)

L to R: 1st Sgt Peacock, 2lt Wiggins, Capt. Perkins

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(Photo courtesy of Ed Griffith)

Front L to R: Ed, "Beetle" Bailey, Sgt Mills, Rudy 

Back L to R: Capt. Perkins, 1st Sgt Peacock, 2nd LT Wiggins.

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(Photo courtesy of Ed Griffith)

(Click here for map)

Click here to go to Ed Griffith's photos of L.Z. Kathleen during construction.

Musings of an Artillery Forward Observer

by Ed Griffith

I have been asked to tell about the life and job of an Artillery Forward Observer with Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry during the Vietnam War.

I was Commissioned a 2nd Lt. out of ROTC at Marshall University in August 1968 and assigned to the Field Artillery Branch. I reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma in September of 1968 to learn just what that meant. The Field Artillery Officers Basic course at Fort Sill consisted of learning the various sizes and types of Field Artillery Pieces that is the 105mm Howitzer, the 155mm Howitzer, the 8" Howitzer and the 176mm Gun. The reason the 176 was a gun and not a howitzer is that it shot at a very flat trajectory rather than a high arching trajectory.

In the classes we learned to shoot and maintain the 105 and 155. The 8" and 176mm were specialty pieces and if you weren't assigned to work with them they were demonstrated for you so you could see their effects and that was all.

We were also taught how to calculate the data used to make the pieces hit what we wanted them to hit. This involved a lot of specialty equipment, Slide Rule type instruments, books of mathematic tables, large blank charts with grid lines on them that you used to plot where you wanted to make things blow up and a special type of protractor that you used on the chart.

Fire Observation was the next big class. We were taken out to one of the live fire ranges handed a little map mounted on a porous board and covered with plastic, some stick pins, a pair of binoculars, a compass, and directed to sit on a folding camp chair. You were told the coordinates of where you were and it was up to you to locate them on the map and put a pin there. They then pointed out a junk vehicle body somewhere out in front of you and told you to tell the artillery pieces located at a set of coordinates where to shoot to hit it. Many of our first attempts where followed by a return radio transmission telling us that we were dead because we called in fire too close to our own position. Eventually we learned how to use the Binoculars to accurately locate our targets.

After learning the basics we moved on to "Air Support" classes. The basic air support we learned about were Huey and Cobra Gunships properly called Aerial Rocket Artillery, and "Tactical Air Support". Tac Air belonged to the Navy and the Air Force and were those big birds that came roaring to the rescue. Calling for the gunships was requested through the same channels that the 105 and 155 support was. Tac Air went through higher channels and was often denied.

After completing the Officer Basic Course I was assigned as a Training Officer at "Tiger Land" at Fort Polk, LA. Tiger Land was an advanced individual training course for Infantry Soldiers. There we 2nd Lt. Artillery Officers learned how to live with and work with Infantry Soldiers who were on their way to Vietnam. Seven months later I was sent back to Fort Sill for more training and in September of 1969 got on a big bird in Fort Lewis, Washington and got off in the Republic of Vietnam.

In Vietnam officers were herded into a big room with posters on the wall telling what ranks and MOS's were needed in the Units In Country as well as which Staff Officer seated along another wall to see about those openings. 7 days later I got off a Huey at FSB Jerri into 18 inches mud. "C" Battery, 1st of the 21st, Field Artillery was there supporting the 1st Battalion, 8th Cavalry and I was their newest Forward Observer.

I spent a few days getting to know the Infantry Battalion Command party and the Artillery Battery staff. I was told one morning to get my gear, enough food for 4 days and be at the helicopter pad at 1000 hours. Before 1045 I was stepping off a helicopter into a little clearing hacked out of the jungle and there stood an E-5 Hunter that was in my company at Ft. Polk when I left there for the Vietnam Orientation Training. I had joined "D 1/8".

At that point my real Army job began. After getting to know everyone in the Company CP, I sat down with my radio operator and he told me about the CP and who to trust and who to look out for. His opinion of that Infantry CO was not very high. We operated for about a week and with no enemy contact and the only work I had was to fire marking rounds to verify our locations and at night to preplan defensive targets in-case we got hit during the night.

Then came my first firefight! The point platoon triggered an ambush and the CP was about 20 yards behind them. Nobody had instructed me that the little tabs on the shoulder straps of my pack could be pulled and it would just fall off. There I laid trying to crawl to my Radio Operator with a full pack on my back. I had to borrow some food after that because the machine gun bullets do a number on "C" rations. Finally I got to the radio and called in a few rounds of fire which were probably wasted because after the opening volleys the enemy had broken contact and left, but I had learned to stay close to the RTO (Radio Telephone Operator) and that the Binoculars were worthless because you couldn't see over about 20 yards.

In a more protracted fire fight things were a bit more busy. First thing was where were we and where is the enemy?? Map reading and navigation were a big part of the FO's job. With the infantry COs I worked with the FO was the principle navigator and the infantry assigned navigator was a double check. After contacting the artillery battery with the words "Contact Fire Mission" which put everyone on high alert and set things in motion on the firebase. The FO had to determine what were the nearest firebases and what size of artillery was available on each. He had to ask the infantry CO if he wanted to make the decision to call for air support or if he wanted the FO to decide. Once I knew which firebases would be supporting us I had to look at the surroundings to determine how tall the trees were in the line where the shells would be coming and if shells were liable to hit the trees and explode over friendlies, if so tell the firebase to use "High Angle" fire to prevent that. At the same time determine how big the shells would be so you didn't call them in too close. The weather was a consideration in cases where I wanted air bursts rather than explosions on the ground. If an air burst was desired, artillery used a fuse which contained a radar transmitter which could be set to explode at a specific height above the ground. If it was raining heavily or really foggy they didn't work properly and could be set off by the moisture in the air.

While this was running through your head you shot an azimuth with the compass and estimated a distance to the enemy and gave that to the firebase and your corrections to the fires would be based on that. At the time I was there the Cav had an SOP that you couldn't fire any size artillery closer than 200 meters and Aerial Rocket Artillery (ARA, Cobras) closer than 100 meters except in extreme circumstances and then only after extreme hoop jumping. We FOs learned to lie a bit and worked out code words with our fire direction centers and ARA pilots who normally supported us when we really needed it closer.

While this was going on, if ARA was coming you had to determine what heading you wanted them to use to attack the target so they were firing parallel to your lines and not toward you or over your head as a long or short round could be disastrous. In determining his heading you also had to consider where the regular artillery was coming from so it didn't shoot the ARA chopper out of the sky. Another quick check you had to make if the Jets were on the way which heading did you want them to use hitting the target to keep them from hitting the ARA choppers. The worst cussing I ever got in Vietnam was from a Cobra pilot who when asked what was wrong said "I just got an F-104 up my ass".

Not all of these things happened on every fire mission but sometimes another consideration was Med-Evac which had to be accounted for and protected as well.

About of the way through my time in the field with "D 1/8" I was assigned a radio operator by the infantry CO to replace a worthless one assigned me by the artillery. He made an excellent RTO and became a proficient FO who I was sorry to see go back to the Infantry CP when I got another Artillery RTO whose actual MOS was Scout Car Driver, go figure?? The Scout Car Driver was also very good and actually took over as FO for a short time when I rotated back to the Battery as Firing Battery XO.

I served with 4 Infantry Company Commanders in my time with "D 1/8". In my opinion they ranged from marginal to "Great". I was an outsider being from the Artillery Branch but I think that Capt. Cary Perkins was one of the best officers I served with in Vietnam or for that matter my 11 years active duty and reserve time.

 

Dec 27, 1969 Constructing L.Z. Kathleen

 

Ed Svoboda on the left, (his picture) and Dave Arronson from Albert City, Iowa on the right.

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Dec 28, 1969 Constructing L.Z. Kathleen

Dec 29, 1969 Company moved to Quan Loi

Dec 30, 1969 Quan Loi

Dec 31, 1969 Quan Loi