If I'm not mistaken, NCO = non commissioned officer and OCS = officer candidate school.
If I'm not mistaken, NCO = non commissioned officer and OCS = officer candidate school.
My best friend, Tom, and I went into Saigon - actually, Cholon which was a suburb of Saigon. We went to To Do Street, a several mile long strip of bars, steam bath/massage parlors, and other forms of entertainment (most of it horizontal). We started "relaxing" about 10 in the morning. At 10 that night, we were pretty relaxed. Unfortunately, we had relaxed right past the curfew for military personnel. If we had a jeep it would be no problem since it was assumed that a military vehicle meant you had official business. But a couple of GIs in a civilian cab or a cyclo (a motorcycle powered rick-shaw) were fair game for the M.P.s. We needed to get to Bien Loi - about 10 miles from where we were.
We were just discussing the possibility of asking a couple of the girls to put us up for the night - a pleasurable option for us and a profitable one for them - when the M.P.s pulled up in a jeep to the bar next door. A Lieutenant and 3 enlisted men jumped out and ran into the bar. They failed to perform a basic security task.
Jeeps didn't have keys. They just had a starter switch. To disable a jeep, you opened the hood and disconnected the coil. The hood was secured with a padlock. Most jeeps also had a chain welded to the floor. You turned the steering wheel all the way to one side and chained it in place. These MPs didn't secure the vehicle. It took Tom and I about 2 seconds of looking at each other to realize how lucky we were. We stepped out, got into our new jeep, and drove out to the compound.
Of course, to enter the compound we had to drive through a secured gate with guards. No problem. They recognized us and waved us through. We then drove behind the Command and Communication building (the headquarters office) and got into the paint locker. After all, we didn't need our new jeep to have all of those gaudy MP markings all over it. Two gallons cans of paint and a couple of brushes later, Tom and I congratulated each other on another successful mission and staggered off to our respective beds.
About O-dawn-thirty a PFC woke me and let me know that the First Sargent would like a moment of my time. As I stumbled, bleary-eyed, with an aching head and a tongue that felt like I had spent the night licking a pool table, I saw Tom making his way to the First Shirt's office. First Sargent Parker informed the two of us that a new jeep had miraculously appeared outside his office. It had one flaw. It was painted O.D. and black. Apparently in the dark we had gotten the wrong cans of paint. He also informed us that breakfast, and any hair of the dog, would be held up until the jeep was ALL Olive Drab and painted with the appropriate markings for our unit. It became his personal jeep. I won't go into how interesting it was keeping it maintained since it didn't exist - but he did buy us a beer that night in celebration of his new set of wheels.
Because I really DON'T know about various statutes of limitation - I will NOT tell you about how the Navy lost a quad .50, how a large number of premium war souvenirs wound up in Navy hands, or how we wound up with our own privately owned (my unit) "tank". It looked kind of like this (this is an official Army version, not ours) -
I didn't notice this until now, thought I should chime in considering Fort Campbell was my home (and a fine one at that) for 4 years. My father and my grandfather both have had the honor of being Screaming Eagles (my dad used to be in the 82nd, but he converted). Fort Campbell High School is one of only two mainland U.S. DODEA High Schools, the other being Fort Knox. It always gave us a bit of pride knowing when we put on our uniforms (or pulled up our singlets) we were representing the best division in the U.S. Army in our own way.
My grandfather was an officer in Vietnam so he wasn't allowed to have the good war stories. Although back when he was a young MP he once arrested the town's local sheriff.
Falcon - Just to repeat, I was never part of the 101, other than a short period of TDY. However, I have nothing but respect for the Screaming Eagles (and, for that matter, the All Americans of the 82nd). When you get the chance, please tell your grandfather, for me, "Welcome home, brother". (He's lying to you about not having good war stories. The officers just did a little better job of hiding them!)
Quinn - one more story about Tom. We were crossing an open field. I don't know why we hadn't checked the tree line on the far side before crossing - I'm sure we had some reason, but it wouldn't have been a good one. About 1/2 way across we come under fire from 12.5 mm machine guns from three different positions. They had popped a perfect ambush - except they set it off a couple of seconds too soon. A couple of guys were hit right away, but the majority were able to make their way back a couple of yards to a ditch that ran through the clearing. All except one really dumb guy who figured to move forward and take cover behind an old mahogany tree stump. The stump was about 2 feet wide and maybe 4 feet tall.
It didn't take long behind that stump to realize that I was the only real target they had - and that those three machine gun crews had figured that out too. They started whittling that stump away one chunk at a time (or maybe 10 or 20 chunks at a time).
Now I took a lot of care of my feet over there. Part of that was changing socks whenever the opportunity presented itself. I had an ammo pouch for the old M-14 magazines on my belt that I used to carry clean socks. Roll a sock up, stuff it into a rubber to keep it dry, put it in the pouch. Those 12.5s cut that stump down until eventually one of the rounds hit that ammo pouch. The pouch was on the left side of my belt. The impact was on the right side - where the belt smashed into my waist/rib cage. It completely knocked the wind out of me, spun me around, and threw me out into the open about 5 feet from the stump. I was actually uninjured - but I laid there for several seconds (it felt more like maybe two or three hours) trying to start breathing again. (Ever been hit in the solar plexis?)
Tom was back in the ditch. He saw me get hit, saw me out in the open, and saw me struggling for breath. He jumped up, ran 20 yards or so - with everybody in the world shooting at him - picked up all 205 pounds of me, plus my 75 pounds of gear, and even picked up my shotgun! - and ran back to the ditch. He dove into the ditch and immediately began pulling my gear and clothes off looking for the wound. By this time I had caught my breath. O.K., I admit I was probably a little giddy with shock and the adrenaline rush, but I started giggling. I laughed so hard I could hardly tell him I wasn't hurt. I don't think I have ever seen him as mad as he was with me. "What do you mean you aren't hit? I ran out there to save your )*(%*&*(& life, you *%%&& (**^*(& As(&ho*()&. You had **^*^^ better be hit!" He eventually did forgive me, but it cost me a lot of money at the club to get that forgiveness!
Daggone man! That is some brave and crazy stuff on both your parts. I can't even begin to imagine what was going on in your head when you realized your mistake.
Are you two still in contact? Were you originally from Cali or transfer there after the war? More importantly, are you still a svelt 205?
I lost track of Tom some years ago. He went through a really tough divorce and just disappeared. I frequently check Vets sites hoping he will show up. I moved to California shortly after I got out of the Army. My father had moved here and I settled near him. I vaguely remember 205. Actually, it was easy to stay at that weight. Strap on 75 pounds of gear and go crawling through a hot, steamy jungle all day. Somehow, I lost the motivation for doing that.
Tom had to forgive me some time later. I don't even remember what kind of an operation we were on, or what the circumstances were - but he got shot in the middle of the back. It hit him so hard it just dropped him flat on his face. While he was lying there he reached back under his clothing to feel his back - and it was soaked in a thick, sticky liquid. He brought his hand around to his face and was startled to see that the liquid was clear.
He had gotten a large can of peaches in a "CARE Package" from home and had hidden it in his pack. Now one of the unbreakable unwritten rules was that anything (food) you got in a package from home was the joint property of the entire group. Share and share alike. He had held out the can of peaches. The round that hit him caught that can squarely and stopped it. Of course, hydrostatic pressure had caused the can to absolutely explode - soaking the entire contents of his pack with peach juice. Because of his perfidity, no one would bail him out on the gear - he could just deal with it! And, he was forever after the "guy who got shot in the peaches".
Love the stories Mark, where are you at in California? I've spent some time in Riverside, Pinole/Fairfield, and Redding.
I understand what you mean to some extent about wanting to talk about your experience. While I have never been in a war and I have NO idea what you went through I do know that when we lost our first son it helped greatly to talk about it and to tell the story.