Photo by William Dean
older brother Bobby was in Vietnam at the same time. When I requested to go to
Nam, I had to sign a waiver because he was already there. Seems the government
had a policy against multiple family members being in combat at the same time.
Being in the rear with my wounds gave me a chance to go visit him. This was his
second tour in Nam. He was a navy corpsman attached to a Marine unit operating
on top of Monkey Mountain near Da Nang. He and another corpsman ran the aid
I had been able to catch an in-country air shuttle that took me from Camp Evans
to Da Nang airbase. There I made a visit to the officers club while waiting for
my brother to pick me up. In conversations with some of the Air Force officers I
learned that for them, life in Nam was really "tuff". They slept in 2 story
cinder block barracks that not only had air conditioning but hot showers. They
also had maids that cleaned their rooms, kept their clothes washed and boots
shined. The Air Force, however, considered that this was substandard, so they
received extra pay for the "hardship". I just thought about the nights I had
slept in the rain, on the ground, covered only by my poncho and poncho liner. I
sure felt sorry for them.
After returning to my platoon life continued to be exciting. We patrolled during
the day and set up ambushes by night. A couple of times we worked with Army of
the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) units. This mostly consisted of helping protect
resettlement villages. Seemed like we did most of the patrolling and being shot
at, while ARVN stayed close to the villages. There were some areas, I
discovered, where you could not get artillery fire support because the lands
belonged to Vietnamese officials. Seems they did not want their property
This little fact hit home one night during an ambush on the coastal flats east
of Camp Evans. We had been in the flats working for several days and believed
that our positions were most likely known by the Viet Cong (VC). During this day
we had passed a medium size graveyard that had lots of grave stones and high
earth mounds. The Platoon Sgt. and I had decided that we would move past this
location and appear to start setting up for the night. After dark we moved back
the half mile to the graveyard. We reset our ambush and settled in.
During this patrol our company 1st Sgt. had come out by re-supply copter to see
how things were. He stayed a couple of days, I guess he needed the field time
for his Combat Infantryman's Badge (CIB). His being with us cost the platoon
some kills this night.
Half way thru the night I was alerted by a squad leader that some VC had moved
across a small creek to our front and had stopped. I moved so as to see them
thru the starlight scope the platoon had. Sure enough, about 50 yards away sat a
group of 5-6 people. I passed the word to prepare to open fire. At this point
1st Sgt. Tufts asked to look thru the scope. He then told me he thought they
might be Americans. I reminded him that we were the only GI's in the area but he
insisted I call Battalion Operations. I relented and told battalion what we had
and asked if there were any friendly troops in my area. I was advised that there
was a recon unit about 5 - 6 Km's from us. Sgt Tufts thought that maybe this
group was the recon unit and had gotten lost. Before I could say anything he
fired a flare. As soon as it popped the group to our front ran like hell. I
opened fire, as did everybody else, and we chased them for a half mile or so. I
called battalion and requested artillery fire in front of the fleeing group. I
was told that we were in a no-fire zone and could not get it. By then the flare
was out and I told everybody to return to our ambush site.
No sooner had we returned then the Battalion Commander, "Happy Warrior" was
calling on the radio. Seems he was airborne and had heard of our little
firefight and wanted to land to check it out. So here we were, in the middle of
the night with a blown ambush, getting ready to have our battalion CO land on
us. We established a hasty landing zone (LZ) using a strobe light. After he
landed, he wanted to know the complete details and why we had not gotten any
kills. I explained to him why we had chosen our location and how there had been
some question of them being GI's or not. He wasn't really happy about the
results. As soon as he left I ordered everybody to grab their gear and we moved
to a new locations. When the next re-supply copter came to us, 1st Sgt. Tufts
returned to the base camp.
DONUT DOLLIES- This was the name given to the American Red Cross Volunteers that
worked in Vietnam. For the most part, the only ones I ever met came to visit the
platoon in the field. I don't remember how it was arranged, but we had a couple
come to visit. They were really nice, had brought cold soda, Red Cross care
packages with all kinds of good stuff and pen-pal letters. They arrived in a
re-supply helicopter and stayed a couple of hours. The guys enjoyed the visit
and had lots of fantasies to talk about for weeks. Some, including me, had taken
the pen-pal letters from kids and young adults in the states. Mine was from a
young high school senior. At this time I can't remember where she was from, but
I think it was Colorado. We wrote and she sent a photo.
In the areas around the villages we were often, during daylight only, approached
by village kids. They would come out to sell cold sodas and fresh baked bread.
There was one group that hung around us when we worked near the village of Phong
Dien. One of my Sgt's fell in love with one of the girls. She was part French
and about 16 - 18.
Photo by William
Our days were long and the
nights even longer. We patrolled in heavy jungle, in the mountains and the
midlands in waist high saw grass. We worked along the coast and in the rice
paddies. We shot at people and they shot at us. We wounded and killed some of
them and they wounded and killed some of us. My final night in combat started
much like any other. It was August 8, 1970, a day that I will always remember
not just for the wounds I received but for the men I lost.
Copyright 1999 - William Dean
William Dean served as a platoon
leader in Vietnam with Co's D + E 3/187th Abn Inf. 101st Airborne Div. He
arrived in Vietnam in Nov.'69 and was medically evacuated (medevac) in Aug.'70.
Visit his website at:
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