Monthly Archives: July 2009

MPC (Military Payment Certificate)


GI’s used the MPC for Transactions in Vietnam

One of the first things we had to do in Vietnam was trade our ‘Greenbacks‘ in for MPC currency.

MPCs were paper money denominated in amounts of 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar, 5 dollars, 10 dollars, and starting in 1968 20 dollars. MPCs were fully convertible to US dollars upon leaving a designated MPC zone and convertible to local currencies when going on leave (but not vice-versa), and were illegal for unauthorized personnel to possess, thus, in theory, eliminating US dollars from local economies.

Military Payment Certificates, or MPC, were used from the end of World War II until the end of the Vietnam War, between the years 1946 and 1973. MPC’s utilized layers of line lithography to create colorful banknotes that could be produced cheaply. Fifteen series of MPC’s were created but only 13 series were issued…

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Vietnam Bound


Setting Foot on Foreign Soil


After a grueling hour and forty minutes on a broken down Greyhound bus that was probably built before I was born, we arrived at Travis Air Force Base in California. There we boarded a huge cargo plane. I don’t remember the model, but they told us the only plane larger was the B-52 Bombers.

The flight was long (about twenty-two hours) with two stops before reaching our destination, which was Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam. Our first stop was Anchorage, Alaska and then Yokota Air Base in Japan. It was night time and very dark when we landed in Bien Hoa. This was one of the first US bases built during the Vietnam War. The air base was one of the busiest airports in the world during the war.

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The door of the plane was opened, and immediately I was bombarded by the heat. The intense humidity made my uniform stick to me and was quite uncomfortable. There was a smell in the air which seemed to be a combination of garbage and urine, with just the hint of disinfectant.
We were now in a foreign land, very foreign indeed…

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Journey to Vietnam Begins


First Stop was Oakland Army Base in Oakland, CA

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That two-week​ leave just flew by and time for my departure had arrived.
Mom, dad and little brother (Randy) took me to Eppley Airfield in Omaha to begin my journey. We stopped in Charter Oak on the way so I could say goodbye to my girlfriend (now wife) Rebecca.

We landed at Oakland Army Base (US Army Overseas Replacement Station) that afternoon. That is where troops heading to and from Vietnam got processed. After a short briefing, we were shown our sleeping quarters for the next couple of nights. There must have been a shortage of boarding space because we slept on folding Army cots on the floor of a huge warehouse. That could have been a sign the war in Vietnam was escalating at a rapid pace and any space available was used to accommodate the huge influx of troops.

The next couple of days consisted mainly of filling out necessary paperwork and of course, getting fitted for jungle fatigues and boots.

One thing that stood out in my mind is the look the returning vets had on their faces. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t smiling and happy. After all, they were going home, or at least to a new duty station back in the world. Instead, they looked worn and burned out. Thirteen months later I understood…

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Recon Training at Fort Knox


AIT (Advanced Individual Training)

At the end of Basic Training, you were assigned a MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). My MOS was 11 Delta (Recon) and my training was to be at Fort Knox, KY. I don’t remember the exact dates, but I know I arrived there sometime before Christmas of 1969.

We trained in APC’s (Armored Personnel Carriers) and believe it or not, I didn’t even see one in Vietnam.

I recall a two week bivouac, we did in the Kentucky mountains in the middle of winter. We slept in tents and half of our training company came down with pneumonia, including myself. Couple days in the hospital and good as new. Now that’s good training for the hot steamy jungles of Vietnam.

Then there was the day my buddy, and I got mugged walking back to our barracks from the PX. Three guys attacked us from behind. I received a karate chop to the back of my neck while the other two started kicking my buddy while on the ground. Before they could get our money, they were chased off by a bunch of guys not far behind us.

For the most part, AIT wasn’t all that bad. In comparison to Basic it was a cakewalk. We got treated with a little more respect, after all we were now considered soldiers.

In late February, I graduated from AIT and as expected I received orders for Vietnam. The next two weeks I spent on leave back in Iowa visiting with family and friends. The training we receive in Basic and AIT was much needed to prepare us for what was to come. They did a good job of brainwashing us, because I never once considered not going, and better yet not returning…

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Off to Basic Training


It was called “Little Vietnam”

Wouldn’t you know it, of all places, I was sent to Fort Polk, LA for basic training?
I have often said, if I had a choice between another Vietnam tour or Fort Polk, it would be Nam.

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Our Drill Instructors just returned from the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and they definitely had an attitude and a message for us. That message was “kill or be killed”. They had just eight weeks to transform us into a “Green Machine” and prepare us for a life changing event, from which many of us would not return.

One of the first things they did was give all of us a haircut. Now I’m not talking about a little trim around the ears, but a 30-second buzz job down to the skin! You’ve got to remember this was the late 60’s and most everyone had long hair, some down to their shoulders. The intent here was to demoralize us and make us all look the same. At that point, we were officially property of Uncle Sam and ready for a good brainwashing.

After the haircut, it was time to be fitted for new clothes. Not much choice here, small, medium or large (Only in Green). We were given a large green duffel bag for our new clothes and other stuff and bussed to our new Company Area.

It was early evening when the buses pulled into the parking lot of the Company Area. We had quite a greeting party. Five or six big guys with Smoky the Bear hats all shouting and calling us names (which I will not repeat here). They got us into formation and began briefing us on what our next eight weeks will be like. It was then the torture began. The Drill Instructor’s name was Brown, and he probably ate rocks for breakfast. He had us grab our 50 pound duffel bags and hold above our heads for a few seconds, then back down. Then back up, then down. This went on for what seemed to be 10 minutes or so and then the unthinkable happened to me. All the contents of my bag were spilling out all over the parking lot. I apparently didn’t have my duffel bag strings cinched tight enough.

This is when my dad’s idea of me going to college didn’t seem like such a bad idea, but too late for that.

Needless to say Drill SGT Brown seen what was happening to me and dismissed everyone else. I knew I was dead meat then! Just him and I in the parking lot with all my stuff sprayed all over the place. As I scrambled to pick up my stuff, he kept shouting and said he had my number. He had everyone’s number.

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Trainee barracks

During those next eight weeks, we did a lot of running, push-ups and low crawling. They whipped us into tip top shape both physically and mentally.
The Drill Sergeants kept telling us we had to go to Vietnam and kill this guy named ‘Charlie’. Just who was this ‘Charlie’ guy? I found out all too soon…

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How My Short Military Career Began


The Navy was My Choice, but was Not to be…

That’s right, I wanted to be a four year Navy guy.
In the summer of 1968 I enlisted in the Navy. I signed up for the 120-day delay program and was scheduled to leave for the Navy late that summer. I figured I could see the world and get my college education all in one shot. I took my oath in Omaha and was all set.

During that 120-days, I got crazy and wrecked my dad’s 1963 Chevy. Caution…Don’t drink and drive!
I had civil charges pending against me from the accident when I was scheduled to leave for the Navy. Because of that, they gave me a General discharge and that was the end of my Navy career before it even began.

Back then, the Army had the draft, and the war in Vietnam was escalating at a rapid pace. If you were the right age and could pass a physical, ‘Uncle Sam’ wanted you. There were ways you could be deferred, such as entering college or getting married because you got a girlfriend pregnant. As I recall, there were guys fleeing to Canada to avoid the draft. Who knows, many may still be there.

Sure enough, I was ripe for the picking! The summer of 1969 I got my induction papers from Uncle Sam. I think it read “I Want You.”
I had orders to enter the United States Army on September 2, 1969…

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My Short but Intense Military Career


Drafted into the US Army in 1969 at age 20

Charlie Troop 1/9th (Blue India, 1970)

After Basic Training at Ft Polk, LA, and Advanced Individual Training (recon) at Ft Knox, KY, I received orders for Vietnam.

In March of 1970, I arrived in Vietnam and was assigned to Charlie Troop, First Squadron, Ninth Cavalry Regiment, First Cavalry Division (Airmobile). We were a recon unit for the 1st Cavalry Division. Our primary mission was to find enemy activity and also QRF (quick reaction force) for downed helicopters. I was with Charlie Troop 1/9th my whole tour (thirteen months) and returned to the ‘World’ in April of 1971.

Upon my arrival at Oakland Army Base, I received my discharge from the Army.

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