Many of the Villagers worked as hoochmaids and other odd jobs at Phuoc Vinh Firebase.
Hoochmaids were paid by the GIs on a monthly basis to do a number of chores. These included doing laundry, making beds, sewing patches on uniforms, cleaning hooches (our sleeping quarters) and a number of odds and ends.
I often wondered what Papasan hauled in his barrels.
Main Street Phuoc Vinh
Common means of transportation
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells, 31st HHC
Photo courtesy of Jordan Green
A Vietnamese village somewhere along the road from Phuoc Vinh to Long Binh
Photo courtesy of Chris Bussells
Either Bien Hoa or Saigon, in one of those Lambrettas
Photo courtesy of Stan Edington
Sgt. Tony Mizzi and I standing in front of a bunker on the Phuoc Vinh perimeter. Tony was from New York City, and as I recall wanted to be a NYC cop when he got back to the ‘World’. Tony, if you get a chance to read this, you still owe me twenty bucks.
Eddie Smith from San Diego with Tony and I on a greenline bunker. The greenline (perimeter) is the outer limits of a military position. The area beyond the perimeter belongs to the enemy.
During the night, you sat on top of the bunker with a M-60 machine gun and watched for enemy movement outside the perimeter. On occasion, you shot a flare into the air to light up the area. We also were equipped with a starlight scope for night vision.
We took turns doing two-hour watches, and when you were off, there was a cot in the dug-out lower part of the bunker where you could get some sleep. I recall one night a screaming noise and something running across my legs woke me up. It was rats fighting over food scraps laying on the ground next to my cot. That event intensified my hatred for rats…
I walked into my AO (my sleeping area in our hooch) one evening and found everything torn apart and upside down. Veronica the Charlie Troop monkey was up to her old tricks again! On occasion and for no apparent reason she would enter our hooch and go on a rampage.
I’m not sure if she actually had an owner. Someone apparently captured her in the jungle and brought her to our company area. She just hung out and took handouts, whenever and from whoever she could…
I was on the lead bird when I snapped this picture of our other chopper of Blues.
It was late afternoon when we landed in Phuoc Vinh after another long day in the hot steamy jungle. I was looking forward to a long cool shower and maybe a beer or two before I hit the sack.
As we walk the short distance from the helipad to our hooch someone hollered out those all too familiar words “down bird”. We all did an about face and scrambled back to our choppers, which were by then fully cranked and ready to go. We were informed that one of our Scout birds was downed by ground fire in Cambodia. We all knew it would be dark, by the time we reached the downed Loach but that didn’t matter in this life or death situation. There was always a chance the crew of the downed bird survived the crash and needed our help, so we had to reach their location as quickly as possible.
When we reached the area of the crash our Lift pilot hovered our bird over the treetops in position for us to rappel. Only a few of us Blues rappelled into the darkness of the jungle that night. I had a radio on my back when I went down and recall getting tangled up in the jungle’s undergrowth before my feet hit the ground. Then the real drama began!
It was our understanding, there were no friendlies in this part of Cambodia, which clearly made it a ‘free-fire zone”. We heard movement not far from our position, and it had to be one of two things. Either the crew of the downed bird survived or ‘Charlie’ was closing in on us. We were ready for the worse-case scenario which was of course ‘Charlie’. There was a slim chance the crew survived the crash so we expected the latter. That’s when a call came over my radio “hold your fire”. The movement was a squad of friendlies from a grunt company that beat us to the downed bird.
We stayed the night in the jungle and were extracted by our Lift birds the next morning…
Have you ever wondered what its like to be on the ground when these guys drop their pay load? There was a F-4 Phantom pounding a hillside within 300 meters of our position one day while we were on a recon mission. At that time, I still wore a steel pot on my head instead of a boonie hat, and I was glad I did. Even at that distance there was bamboo flying over our heads from the bomb blasts.
‘Charlie’ just dug a little deeper in his underground network of tunnels to escape this devastation from above.
One day we were inserted into an area of the jungle where a F-4 was either shot down or had mechanical failure. This was the only downed bird mission I was on that involved a fixed wing aircraft instead of a helicopter.
As our Lift bird made it’s approach in the suspected crash location, there were very few signs of any wreckage. All that was visible were some cleared out jungle and a crater caused by the impact and a few aircraft parts.
After searching for most of the day all we recovered was a thumb, which was evidence the pilot and copilot were not able to eject in time…
Weaver, ?, Mike Milton, Pat Cadenhead, Frank Biesel
I took this picture while waiting for a Lift bird to pick us up before being inserted on a recon mission.
Specialist 4 Mike Milton (center) carried the M-60 machine gun for the Blues. Mike’s heroic actions while on a recon mission were pointed out on page 89 of T.L.Criser’s book “The Ghost In The Orange Closet”. Tom Criser carried the radio (Blue India) for the Blues just before I arrived in Country.
Typically, two squads of Blues flew out of Phuoc Vinh on two separate birds early each morning and headed north.
In an older entry (Mortar Attacks) I wrote about a close call down at the helipad. ‘Charlie‘ pumped some mortars at the airstrip one morning while we were waiting for our choppers. One of the rounds landed just on the other side of the red barrel in this picture. Not a good way to start your day…
Used to Clear the Dense Jungle that Provided Cover for the Enemy
Agent Orange, named after the color of the stripe on the barrels in which the defoliant sprayed by American forces during the Vietnam War was stored, contained tetrachlorodibenzop dioxin (known as TCDD), one of the most poisonous chemicals ever made by man.
Agent Orange has caused reproductive problems, birth defects, cancer and other diseases in affected people on both sides of the war.
Between 1961 and 1971, the US Army sprayed some 80 million liters of the defoliant, containing 366 kilograms of the highly toxic dioxin, over 30,000 square miles of Southern Vietnam.
C Troop 1/9th operated in many areas of the jungle that was sprayed by Agent Orange. At the time we had no idea how serious being exposed to it could be.
In the early seventies, I decided to get tested for Agent Orange exposure. I drove down to the VA Hospital in Omaha where they checked my vitals, took an x-ray of my chest and shoved me out the door.
Somewhat of a joke back then but it’s effects are taken much more serious now…
Army Intelligence felt they located a POW (Prisoner of War) compound in Cambodia and plans were being drawn up for Charlie Troop, 1/9th to storm the suspected compound and free the prisoners. The rumor spread quickly in our Blue platoon and we just waited for the signal to go in.
I wrote a letter to my girlfriend back in the ‘World’ explaining what was about to happen, and it could be the last she would hear from me. Based on the nature of this mission I feared our unit would suffer high casualties. When our Scout birds confirmed it was indeed a POW compound, we planned to go in early the next morning. The NVA apparently got wind of our plans and abandoned camp that night along with the prisoners and headed North.
That letter never made it to it’s destination, probably because of the highly classified information it contained. A few other letters I mailed back to the ‘World’ were opened and censored before they were delivered with parts actually blotted out…