Monthly Archives: September 2017

Mike Fox – Gun 1 Crew


Lucky To Be Puny

I got drafted September 1969. I was twenty-three. I would have been there in 1966 but I couldn’t pass the physical on account of kidney problems. I finally got an induction letter to show up in Cincinnati for a physical and I passed that one. The Marine Corps was in there and this corporal was picking people to be drafted into the Marines. He got the guy in front of me and the guy behind me. He must have thought I was too puny because I only weighed about a hundred and thirty pounds.

I went straight to Ft. Dix for basic. They test you for everything and ask you what you want to do. I put down artillery because I had a real close friend in Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division down in the Mekong Delta. He was on the 155mm howitzer split trail. He was one of my good friends. I said if he’s in artillery I’ll put down artillery too. So they took me. I also put down Vietnam, and they sent me to Germany.

Worth the Risk

When I got in country I was put in Service Supply for the 27th Artillery Regiment in Phan Rang. We stayed in those old wooden billets that the 101st Airborne built in 1966. You went to work at seven in the morning and got off at four in the afternoon. When we got off at night this guy had an eight-track tape of The Grass Roots. All night long he would play “Sooner or Later” and all these other hits of The Grass Roots. Over and over he just left that eight-track on. In the morning we did police call looking for cigarette butts. You had to have your boots polished and uniform pressed. I had this crap over in Germany and didn’t want it.

After a couple of weeks I said enough of this shit, and I went to the battery commander and said, “Sir, I want to go out on the guns.”

He said, “You want to go out on the guns?”

“Yes, that’s what I was trained for.”

He said, “Okay. I’ll see what I can do for you.”

I told the guys back in Service Supply I’m getting’ the hell out of here. They said you’re crazy, man, you could get killed out on those guns. I said that’s the risk I’ll take because I sure as hell don’t want to do this stateside shit over here.

“Now You’re a Combat Veteran”

Two weeks after I got to Sherry on March 6 we took a recoilless rifle attack. The 75mm recoilless was a crew-served weapon that fired a twenty-pound shell capable of penetrating four inches of armor. A wicked, wicked weapon. The thing about a recoilless rifle is they first shoot a .50 caliber tracer round, and as soon as they see the arc of that tracer they fire the big round right behind it. As soon as you see that tracer you know the round is coming. It’s not like a mortar that comes in on a high loop and throws a shrapnel pattern in a 360 degree circle. A recoilless rifle throws most of its momentum forward when it explodes because of the velocity and low angle of it coming in. They are a lot like a 105 howitzer shooting low angle.


Viet Cong loading a Chinese 75mm recoilless rifle. The photo was discovered by the 5th Royal Australian Regiment during a bunker search in 1967.

I was in a little empty bunker by myself, because I had just come onto the gun, when I heard the first two rockets come in and the siren. I jumped up and ran out towards the gun. As I was running past the ammo bunker it took a direct hit. There was a big yellow flash, a quick bang, and sand went everywhere. I went back and started getting ammo out of the bunker.

By that time they were firing the shit out of Gun 1. We already had the time fuses set and the gun at 060 quadrant for low fire. Everything on that base opened up like a Mad Minute. Then you couldn’t tell what was incoming from what was outgoing. That’s when I looked up and seen that tracer coming at us. I thought it was going to hit me right between the eyes. Sergeant Smith grabbed me by the neck, threw me down and fell on top of me. We all thought it was going to hit in our parapet, but it hit the Gun 2 shower instead. We got back up and started shooting again. I looked over and saw flames shooting up on Gun 3. I thought, oh shit that’s probably killed everybody. And then just that quick it was over and everything got quiet. Sergeant Smith was real comical when it was all over. He said, “Gentlemen, you are now combat veterans.” I laughed at that.

Sergeant Smith
Sergeant Smith

The S3 Operations Daily Staff Journal for March 7, 1971 reported that commencing at 2235 hours the night before, LZ Sherry received three enemy rockets of unknown caliber and seven 75mm rounds, four of which landed inside the battery. Sherry’s Q4 anti-mortar radar acquired the source of the attack at 2245 hours, resulting in artillery fire upon the target. Return fire ceased at 2259 hours. In all the battery expended forty-three high explosive rounds. Four U.S. personnel were wounded in action (slightly the report notes).

The report does not include the ammunition shot by the two Quad-50s, the two Dusters twin 40mm cannons, the machine guns in the towers, or the many illumination rounds always lofted during an attack. A great deal of hot lead flew out of Sherry when it was under attack.

The strikes on Gun 3 ammo bunker and Gun 2 shower are well documented. This is the first account of what happened on Gun 1.

The next morning we looked at the damage to our ammo bunker. The recoilless round went through high on the bunker wall and exploded on the inside. We only had about a hundred rounds in the bunker that didn’t explode. It’s amazing it didn’t set the rounds off, I still can’t get over that to this very day. Where the round came in at the top, we normally had ammo stacked up that high to the brim. It was low that day. We was supposed to get ammo that day, and we didn’t get it. If we’d of had ammo up there it would have took that firebase out. And we had about ten rounds of white phosphorous and beehive right out front in the door of the bunker, and it looked like someone took a twelve-gauge shotgun and shot holes through the brass canisters where the shrapnel penetrated. They didn’t go off either. It was just pure fate, is what that was.

Gun 3 Ammo Bunker
Gun 3 Ammo Bunker

Two recoilless rounds hit Gun 3 ammo bunker. One hit to the right of the doorway and ignited a pile of powder charges on the ground. The other passed through the door of the bunker and out the back wall, missing the ammo inside and exploding in an empty area behind the bunker. This second round may have been armor piercing with a delayed fuse.

It’s a wonder the round that hit Gun 3 ammo bunker wounded only four guys. It went right into the side of the ammo bunker near the door and caught fire to the powder bags laying on the ground. My good friend Gerald Gideon was hit on the knee, and a lieutenant got it on the side of his leg up along his hip. Gideon was ready to come home; he had been there like eighteen months and told me the firebase got hit every Saturday night.

The war was supposed to be winding down, but ol’ Charlie was pretty good and maybe just pure luck that he made direct hits on two of our ammo bunkers from that far out. We found the recoilless canisters. I was going to make a lamp out of one of them. I tried to take it home, but had to put it in a bin when I got to Cam Ranh Bay, and I’m sure an Air Force guy got it.

Recoilless canisters recovered from launch site
Recoilless canisters recovered from launch site

Two days later we took mortar rounds down along where Murder Incorporated was set up. The mortars came in along that perimeter there and I think three guys got wounded.

The S3 Operations Daily Staff Journal for March 9, 1971 reported that LZ Sherry received six 82mm mortars at 1740 hours and responded with fifty-four high explosive rounds and fifteen firecracker rounds. Three U.S. were wounded in action (slightly the report notes). Again the report does not include the supporting fire or illumination rounds.

We then had that Purple Heart ceremony a couple days later.

Gerald Gideon center
Gerald Gideon center

Sergeant Smith, the chief on Gun 1, I wish I would have put him in for a Bronze Star with V for valor, because he grabbed me around the neck and threw me down and fell on top of me that night. We all fell down because with that big yellow tracer coming at us we thought the round was coming into our gun pit. He fell on top of me, that was great valor, something you do in a hurry. Even though it didn’t hit, it was the thought.

General Brown came out on a Chinook helicopter to look at the damage, and of course when generals come out they always have gunships with them. We all had to stand at attention and he went down the gun sections and greeted everybody. I got my ass in trouble because I had zippers on my combat boots instead of the regular shoe strings. You took your regular shoe laces out and used them to tie in the zippers. That way instead of having to redo your laces every morning when you put your boots on, you could just zip them up. Guys would get them because when you had a fire mission you could just zip up your boots. They were super quick, but not regulation. The captain later on said something to Sergeant Smith who chewed my ass and told me you’re supposed to have regulation. They like to have everything regulation when a general comes around. After the general left and everything cooled down we all just put them back in again.

When It’s Dark Out

I can’t get over seeing that tracer coming at me when Sergeant Smith threw me down. I see that tracer every night when I go to bed, and those Gun 3 bunker flames in the air, and that round hitting beside our ammo bunker when I was next to it. That’s stuff you can’t forget. I don’t notice it any other time of the day, but when it’s dark out I see that. Once I get up in the daytime it ain’t nearly as bad, but when it gets real quiet and dark it’ll come back to me sometimes. When July 4 fireworks come around that brings back LZ Sherry. It ain’t no big deal.

Close Call

fullsizeoutput_297aWe got a fire mission in broad daylight, which was unusual because most of them were at night. At the same time a Chinook is coming in, and he is really cranking with our new medic on board. The chopper starts taking sniper fire. The medic is sitting there and a bullet just missed his head. He was a lucky, lucky guy.

FO School

They asked anybody if they wanted to go to FO school, they had some slots open. I said I would go. I just thought it might be interesting. So I went to FO school up in Nha Trang in April of 71, me and another kid named Lee. You learned azimuths, and shrapnel patterns that they had displayed on a big wall. The worst shrapnel pattern was from the 122mm rocket, wicked terrible shrapnel when those things exploded. We took two or three rounds of 122 at Phan Rang when I first got in country. It was my second night and I had not even been to my unit yet, all of sudden these sirens went off and we had to run down into this big bunker, a big long trench with sandbags over it. The rockets hit on the far side of the airbase and I am glad they did not come close. They are wicked, wicked weapons.

We were supposed to be up there a week but were only there for four days. Lee flunked out, and I barely passed. When I got back Lieutenant Kanak said do you want to go out and work with the ARVNs and call in artillery? I said hell no, I didn’t want no part of the ARVNs.

Long, Cold, Wet Night

I had to do illumination shooting one night. Gun 1 was the illum gun that night. The ARVNs called in and they were guarding a bridge and they were being probed and they wanted illum around them all night. It was pouring down rain and I was the only guy up on Gun 1. I shot an illum round about every fifteen minutes. You could see it coming down real slow beneath its parachute way out there. It was an eerie, eerie thing to see floating down in the darkness. It only took one guy to handle illumination. We already had the quadrant and deflection set, so it didn’t take a whole gun crew. All night it just rained and rained and rained. I’d go sit in the little gun hooch there by the radio, and every fifteen minutes or so go out and sump another round into the gun and fire it off. I took a picture of all those canisters the next morning. And you’d see the gooks come out to hunt those parachutes for the silk.

Rituals on Gun 1

Every night we went around the perimeter and raked the sand smooth, so if anybody tried to probe your perimeter you could see the footprints the next morning. As it got dark I liked to get me a cup of Kool-Aid or coffee in my metal Army cup – I couldn’t stomach that stinkin’ water – and I would go set on the bunker of Gun 1. There was an ARVN mortar unit somewhere that every night would shoot for ten or fifteen minutes. You could hear that WUMP every time one of the rounds hit. They did it like clockwork, and I would listen to them work out. I’d hear that KABOOM, KABOOM, KABOOM. It was just indiscriminate fire.

Then I’d look out toward LZ Betty for flashlights or movement. Betty had a big tower searchlight that you could see all the way from Sherry. That was a free fire zone you could shoot anywhere into, unless the province chief called down coordinates where you couldn’t shoot. But I’d see flashlights and movement out there. (The battery fired on movement only when it was within mortar range of the firebase.)

The night at LZ Sherry was a wakeup because you’re on edge and you never know when something is going to happen. It’s that adrenaline. It can happen so quick, and stop that quick. You’re a sittin’ duck out there with nowhere to go. It was really bad at the end because you had no American infantry. You’re relying on six 105s, two Quad-50s and two Duster twin 40s on the perimeter. I was kind of gung ho at first because nothing was happening, and then all hell broke loose the night of March 6.

When daybreak came it was my job to tear down the breechblock. We’d punch all the bores with solvent and check it with a bore sighting board. I would rebuild that breechblock and make sure it functioned real good because of all the dust and the grime out there. We always kept that gun in A1 shape.

 Starlight Scope

View through a starlight scope
View through a starlight scope

I wish I would have taken a picture of the starlight scope in the far tower facing the mountains. I only looked through it one time. I pulled guard duty up there one night for about four hours. I turned the toggle switch to turn that big star light scope on and I could not believe it. It was two o’clock in the morning and it looked like Saturday afternoon. It was wavy looking, you know like how you see heat waves coming off the concrete in the summer. God, there was no way Charlie could sneak up on you with the starlight scope.

Sobering Demonstration

Concertina wire at Sherry
Concertina wire at Sherry

A Chieu Hoi sapper came out with a MACV major, and he put on a display of going through our wire. We had triple concertina wire and trip flares. He just took two pieces of bamboo and he went through all of our perimeter wire like it was nothing. He was with the 306th North Vietnamese sapper battalion, which was up around Da Nang. Through the interpreter he said he had brothers fighting on the side of the south. He did not want to fight against them, so he Chieu Hoi’d over.

Lizards, Rats, Beetles, Cockroaches, Centipedes, and Invisible Bugs

When I first got to Sherry I slept in this little bunker dug into the ground. When I was laying there I had a flashlight and I heard this chirping noise. I shined the flashlight and here’s these damn big lizards on the wall. There was a window at ground level covered with a piece of mosquito netting. As I lay there trying to sleep these rats came past my window. You could see their silhouettes through the mosquito netting, piles of them. I don’t know who got the idea, but we’d take a bar of soap, pull the lead out of an M16 round and pack it full of soap. With that guys would blow a rat to pieces. Thirty-four hundred feet per second is what an M16 round will do.

There was a big well by Gun 1. We would take 40 mm Duster ammo canisters, put them in a canvas sling and drop them down in there and fill them with water for our shower barrel. You’d look down in that well and there’d be dead rats floating in it where they drowned. Then the water you got was full of sand, so that after you showered with it and dried off you had to brush all this sand off with your hands.

I was walking out around the Gun 1 parapet and seen this massive orange-ish red looking centipede. He must have been ten inches long. I would have hated to get tagged by him because they got some serious venom in them. I went and got my bayonet and I chopped that damn thing up in pieces, while it was wiggling all over the place. I came back a couple hours later and that damn thing was totally gutted by red ants. They ate everything but the outer shell. I thought wow nothing lasts over here.

I came across a beetle so big I had to take a picture of it next to a Pepsi can to show how big it was. I thought it was a cockroach at first, but I ain’t never seen a cockroach that big.

The cockroaches would fly around, some an inch and a half long, to the point I’d have them land in my coffee at night. We always had to have somebody on the phone next to the gun in case a fire mission came down. I would sit next to the phone with the coordinates book, and the cockroaches would just swarm over the place. There were all these little lizards, which scared me at first but I got used to them. I would sit there for entertainment and watch the lizards sneak up on the cockroaches. They’d grab a cockroach almost as big as they were. It was a continual feast of them lizards gorging themselves on cockroaches.

We had about forty guys that got serious diarrhea. I wrote a letter to the Adjutant General saying we had a serious problem and nobody was doing anything about it. So they came out, made everybody shit in a little medical sample envelope. They took them all back and found out that the gooks who cleaned the trays in the mess hall did not have the water hot enough. There was bacteria on them trays if you ate in the mess hall. From then on they made sure the water was super-hot. I did not eat in the mess hall very often.

I got bit on the neck one night and I didn’t even feel it. My neck swelled up so big it felt like a golf ball, but I didn’t have no pain. I thought what in the hell tagged me to cause that kind of swelling? The medic looked at it and said if it gets any worse he’d call a Medevac. It was swelled for about a day.

It was a smorgasbord of insects out there. You had the food chain of everything eating something. I never got very much sleep and I never took my pants off. I always slept with my pants on because I could never get over all the cockroaches, lizards and the damn snakes. I’d take my jungle boots off, leave my socks on, and I’d put my boots on top of the bed and tuck that mosquito net around me. I didn’t want no scorpions and God knows what else crawling in on me. In case we ever had a fire mission I could just slip my boots on and run out. I probably averaged about four or five hours a night. Never got a full eight hours. And that damn heat.

Rat Skin Billfold

I don’t know what happened to my billfold, whether it was falling apart when I first got there. The prostitutes would come out twice a week to those culvert half shelters right outside the wire. They would bring watermelon and all kind of stuff that they made. I bought a billfold off one of them made out of rat skin. Believe it or not when I got paid I accidentally threw that billfold away with four hundred bucks in it. Me and a bunch of guys went out to the trash dump, that big old pit outside the base where we dumped everything. We hunted through all that stuff and luckily we found it. I was only a Spec 4 and hated to lose all that money. I got the billfold back and I still have it in my possession. It has medium brown hair on the outside. The gooks would make stuff out of anything. Of course they ate rats too.

Live Action

I went over to Gun 3 later and took a picture of the crew during an actual fire mission. I got up on top of the bunker and shot the picture. And you can see the shell in midair checking out of the tube, the next guy getting ready to throw another round in, and another guy bringing up the next round.


Version 3

That sergeant with the deck of cards on his front teeth came in my bunker one day. Anybody who ever saw him smile could never forget him. I never had a chance to take a picture of him. Of all the pictures I didn’t take I’d love to have a picture of him. He seemed like a decent person. At the time he was Chief of Smoke. I remember a major came out to do a readiness test to see how good our firing battery was. He made that sergeant lay the whole battery again off his aiming circle, and he couldn’t do it. He was embarrassed because that was his job.

When he came into my bunker he saw this picture I had on the wall that a gook had painted of Snoopy laying on his dog house with the little bird, it’s painted on a kind of velvet. Snoopy is saying, “F___ it, just F___ it.” You know what the word is.

Version 2He said, “Why you got that on your wall like that?”

I said, “That’s my attitude about Vietnam.” He didn’t ask me to take it down. I still have it wrapped up. It’s just a killer picture.

And I got a patch that I bought that says VIET CONG HUNTING CLUB that I wore on my flak jacket. I still have that too, because they are very collectible.


There was so much dope when I was there, it was really bad. Guys were buying pure heroin. It was so bad that one of my guys on Gun 3 who was in my bunker with me stayed high all the time. His nose would run. He couldn’t even do a fire mission. He would get so damned stoned if you had infantry out there he would put you in jeopardy. He was a very nice kid, but he didn’t give a shit. He had an eight-track player and he would send back to the states to the Columbia record club and they would send him all these eight-tracks. He would never ship them the money. He’d say what are they going to do, come over and confiscate them?  And Gun 2 had a guy that shot up with heroin. There was another guy on speed who wouldn’t sleep, and he looked like the walking dead, like a zombie. We had a medical officer come out trying to get guys into rehab. He said if you turned yourself in we would not prosecute you. Nobody would step up; they just did not trust the military. 

Sending a Message Vietnam Style

We teargassed a First Sergeant out there, he was a complete asshole. We threw a canister of CS gas in his bunker. He threatened to court martial everybody, and he went around the base trying to find hand grenades and stuff. He called a formation and said whoever did that is going to Leavenworth. He wanted you to have your boots polished and all that bullshit. We hated him.

There was a kid on Gun 1 with me – I got a picture of him, his first name was Kent – he threw the CS. Trouble was when that shit went off the wind brought it back over our gun. You talk about coughing and eyes burning. That First Sergeant he stayed with the Captain because he couldn’t go into that bunker for a week that CS odor was so bad. A week or two later he came back to his bunker and somebody had laid a frag grenade under his pillow. It changed his whole attitude; he didn’t screw with us no more. He got the point that this ain’t back in the rear, man. You’re out here and we got enough problems. You can’t screw with us with your stateside shit. That cleaned him up pretty good. I think that would put the fear of God in me too.

The Business End of a Howitzer

Right before I came home I took a bad concussion in my right ear from Gun 3, on one of the last fire missions we done. It was maybe a week before we stood down. We were shooting for an ARVN unit that was getting hit. We were shooting full Charge 7 and it was late in the night. The azimuth of the gun barrel was right over the top of the entrance to the ammo bunker. I went to get another round and as I came running out they fired that 105. I took the whole muzzle energy right in the head when that round left the barrel. It rung my ears for days. Within a week or so I was coming home. It’s bothered me my whole life.

Last Jeep

The last month at Sherry the fire missions really went dry. We had very little going on and we were short staffed. The last week we did not shoot our guns, so it felt like things were really winding down. You were supposed to have nine guys in a firing section, and we only had six.

Word came down suddenly that we were standing down. Everybody celebrated and they had one massive drunken party. I didn’t; I didn’t drink. I think it was on July 4. They got a big cooler from the mess hall full of water and ice, it must have been twelve feet long. Then these very strong guys were going around grabbing everybody they could find and throwing them in that tub. They went through all of the bunkers all over the base. If they found that you weren’t wet you were going into that cooler. I was laying in my bunker there on Gun 3 trying to get some sleep. They came in and grabbed me, one of ‘em had my feet and the other had me behind the arms, and they drug me outside. I seen they were heading for that big cooler and everybody was laughing standing around drunk. I said, “Let me take my billfold out, man.” They threw me in that cooler, and it was pure cold.

We left Sherry the next day on July 5. Two sergeants from MACV stayed that night at Sherry to hold the base for the ARVNs. I seen them there and thought they must be out of their damn minds.

When we were leaving the Duster guys let their dog ride up on the main Duster. He was a light brown dog, we called him Snoopy. That dog was blind, he had no eyeballs in his sockets, but he could walk around that firebase, and as long as you didn’t move anything he didn’t bump into it. He could smell you and would only go to certain people. He wouldn’t come near me.

I rode in the very last jeep on that convoy with the Sergeant First Class whose teeth looked like a deck of cards when he smiled. Me and him pulled rear guard. I had an M79 grenade launcher and this vest on with all the pockets filled with 40mm canister rounds with buckshot. And I had my M16. We took off out the east road and then up highway 1. Our job was to scan the sides of the mountains and the rear of the convoy to make sure nothing was coming up on us. We didn’t worry that much because we had three or four Cobra gunships that flew long circles around that convoy all the way back to Phan Rang. I think they were worried about somebody popping up with an RPG rocket and taking out the first vehicle, which would shut down the whole convoy and then you’re in an ambush situation. With the two Quad-50s and two Duster twin cannons we had plenty of firepower to take on almost anything.

Almost half way we came up on this big old bridge. Oh my God, it must have been seventy-five yards above the river way down in this gulley. The bridge had crumbling cement and must have been built by the French back in the 30s or 40’s. We did not think it would take the weight of the Duster, which is heavy like a tank. The Captain said if it collapsed it and a Duster fell that far it would kill everybody. There was a winding dirt and gravel road that went down the side of the gulley. The whole convoy followed it down to a big dam. A jeep went across first above the dam real slow to see how deep the water was. The Duster came behind and then the rest of the convoy followed. One of the trucks went too far off and turned on its side. It had a potable water tank on the back of it. We all had to go out and push it upright so a Duster could come and put a chain on it and drag it out. After that we got the convoy back up the side of the gulley and onto Highway 1 again.

I remember one big hill we went over where Firebase Mike Norton was that got overrun in 1970 and killed a bunch of people. (Charlie Battery 5/27 occupied Firebase Mike Norton for a time in 1970.) That was kind of a scary area, but it was so beautiful. I remember looking off to the left at an old narrow-gauge railroad that the French had built. And out there was a French tank with a big hole in its turret like it had taken a B-40 rocket. I said I wish I had film in my camera.destroyed tank along road on last convoy – Version 2

Steve Bell did have film in his camera and shot a blurry picture as the convoy sped past.

I thought what a lonely place to die, because they were fighting the Viet Minh back then.

The Viet Minh was formed by Ho Chi Min in China in 1941, to fight the Japanese in Vietnam during WWII, and then to gain independence from the French. With the division of Vietnam into North and South the Viet Minh took control of the North. When it tried to root out counter-revolutionaries it lost the support of the people and disbanded. It was replaced in 1960 by the Viet Cong.

We hit a blinding monsoon rainstorm about twenty miles out from Phan Rang. It poured by the buckets and we got drenched. Our main deuce-and-a-half truck had a bearing that was going bad and the wheel was smoking horribly. We were worried that the wheel was going to crystalize and break off. When we finally made it into Phan Rang in the pouring rain the colonel had a celebration for us, beer and T-bone steaks, because we had been convoying all morning.

The Duster guys told me they had to shoot Snoopy once they got to the rear, because they didn’t want the gooks to eat him.

The next day when we got up we heard from S2 Intelligence that once we pulled out of Sherry it got hit. There were only the two sergeants there and from what I heard they got hit real bad. I don’t think there was any hardened NVA in that area at the time. But all they had was a perimeter and some bunkers. If they got hit by a Viet Cong unit they would be in trouble. If they got into one of the good bunkers on the perimeter with a M60 they might have held them off long enough to call in a gunship. Just guessing.

That morning we had to go north to Can Ranh Bay to turn in the howitzers. The driver of that deuce-and-a-half started the truck up, drove about ten feet, and that whole wheel broke right off. Once it cooled down overnight, it didn’t want to go any further.

Home in A Flash

Coming home out of Cam Ranh Bay they took thirty-two guys off my flight because they couldn’t pass the drug test. We all had to go in a latrine, and they had this guy sitting in a chair above us. They gave each of us a tube and we had to piss in it, put a cork in it, and write our name on it. If your test came back positive they pulled you off the flight home. You had to either detox at Cam Ranh or get back to Ft. Lewis and detox before the Army would release you.

We also had to take everything out of our pockets and lay it at our feet. I had an Army knife they took from me saying it was illegal. Of course I also had the 75mm canister I was going to make a lamp out of I had to throw into a bid.

It was so quiet on my flight home.

I got into Ft. Lewis, Washington and they took pictures of the plane and guys sitting in the lobby you could buy. The next day they asked me if I wanted to re-up and I said hell no. They give me a steak dinner, process me, give me whatever pay I had coming. I caught a plane to Chicago, then went down to Dayton, Ohio. There was a phone strike so I couldn’t call home, nobody knew I was coming. Some old farmer saw me walking down the highway with my duffle bag on my shoulder. He picked me up and took me into Troy, which is about ten miles. Five days after leaving LZ Sherry I am back at my old job. It took a while to adjust to that.

Holy Ground

It was sad. Anywhere you go and see those mountains and you think of all the killing that went into the beautiful little country you never forget it. I knew even at that young age it was an historical event. I’m glad I got back. To stand next to an ammo bunker that took a direct hit and walk away from it is pretty good.

It was a short, quick time in our lives when we all got together on one little piece of land out in the middle of nowhere and hoped we made it out of there. We don’t realize until later in life that it was a wonderful experience in some ways, and a sad experience at the same time. It was something you never forgot no matter what you go through in life. Some made it and some didn’t, and when you look back it’s holy ground, very holy ground.