War Stories -  Where Were You During Vietnam? (351 views) Notify me whenever anyone posts in this discussion.Subscribe
From: Dan (DANCULBERSON) DelphiPlus Member Icon11/11/17 10:10 PM 
To: All  (1 of 14) 

The Boomer Files
Dan Culberson
(C) 2017

I'll tell you something.

"The Vietnam War," the 2017 Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s ten-part, 18-hour documentary series, which "tells the epic story of one of the most consequential, divisive, and controversial events in American history" made me reflect on where I was and what I did during that still-emotional event. 

Technically, I was a draft dodger.

I attended the University of Colorado 1959-1963, and so I had an educational deferment until I was graduated. When I received a "Greetings" notice to take a military physical, I met with a local Army recruiting sergeant and discussed my options, because I did not want to get drafted, be sent to fight in Vietnam, and perhaps get killed in a war I didn't support.

The sergeant said only volunteers were going to Vietnam at that time, but who knew what might happen in the future. So, he told me that if I enlisted in the Army for three years instead of being drafted for two, the Army would guarantee what school I attended after Basic Training, which would give me a military occupational specialty (MOS) code of something other than infantryman and thereby probably avoid being sent to Vietnam.

Because I was a journalist and writer, I chose to attend the U.S. Army Information School (USARIS), located at Fort Slocum, NY, on Davids Island in Long Island Sound just off New Rochelle, and I signed the papers that guaranteed me that assignment.

The day for taking my physical came, and because I had bad eyesight and wore glasses, I cheated on the eye exam by claiming that I could read only as far down as the line above the line that I could actually see, hoping that would prevent me from having to serve in any capacity at all. It didn't work.

However, I was kept overnight at the hospital in Denver, where the physicals were being given, and I assumed that the examiners had found something that might make me ineligible, anyway. That night I made friends with another boy from western Colorado, and he said that he sure hoped he passed the physical, because this was his third time of trying. The next day we were all standing in our underwear in a large circle in one room, and a sergeant came up to me and told me to walk to the door and back. Because I thought that I had flat feet, and I believed that flat feet could keep you out of the Army, I walked to the door and returned, trying to walk as flat-footed as I could. When I got back to the sergeant, he said, "Did you know that your right shoulder is lower than your left shoulder?" I didn't know that, and I passed the physical.

I was ordered to take basic training in November 1963 at Fort Leonard Wood, MO. A week after I left home for Missouri, a draft notice arrived at my parents' house. As Maxwell Smart would say, "Missed it by THAT much!"

Basic training was Hell in Uniform. "Yes, Sergeant!" "No, Sergeant!" "Here, Sergeant!" I took three books with me, THE NATURAL HISTORY OF NONSENSE, FOLK SONGS OF PROTEST, and HOW TO WIN AT POKER, but they were confiscated from me, and I was told that if I had time to read, I should read the ARMY MANUAL, but that my three books would be returned to me after Basic. (I got only two of them back; for some reason, HOW TO WIN AT POKER had gotten lost.) However, the most notable aspect happened after the first week on November 22. I was standing in formation on the parade ground, and I heard someone say, "Did you hear about Kennedy? He got shot." I thought the speaker was talking about some soldier in our company named Kennedy and that he had accidentally shot himself with his own weapon.

After we were sent back to our barracks, we learned that President Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, but because we were Army recruits in the first month of basic training and it was a weekend, we didn't have newspapers, we didn't have radios, and our only access to news was the one television set in the company office, from which all the information we received of the events was second and third hand. We missed the shooting, we missed the capture and killing of Oswald, we missed the swearing in of LBJ, and we missed Kennedy's funeral and the iconic image of John-John saluting as his father's body passed by.

Basic training taught us to be able to kill, with our weapons, with our bayonets, and even with our hands, abilities that I still have today, although I have never used them. During Basic, we heard about one soldier who had accidentally been killed during the night-time infiltration course, in which we crawled on our backs underneath barbed wire with machine-gun fire shooting live rounds and tracer bullets to give us an idea of how high above ground the bullets were flying. It was raining, and crawling on our backs just scooped the mud up into our shirts. We never learned if the story about one soldier being killed was true or just a rumor, perhaps spread by the drill sergeants to keep us on our toes, stomachs, and fingertips.

After basic training, I was sent to electronics school at Fort Bliss, TX, outside El Paso, where I was learning what the colors on transistors meant, and after a week I was taken out of class and sent to Personnel, where a PFC handed me a piece of paper and said, "Sign this." I read it, and it was a waiver of all promises the Army had made me when I enlisted. I told the soldier that I wasn't going to sign it, he passed me on to a sergeant, who read my records and said, "You're not supposed to be here." I said, "I know that."

The sergeant said, "Don't worry. We'll send you to Fort Slocum," and I asked how soon, because I had sent my laundry out for cleaning that morning, and it took a week for it to come back. The sergeant said not to worry about that, but don't send any in the next week, and I was put on daily detail, which meant that each morning I was assigned to different duties each day, sometimes Kitchen Patrol (KP), Quartermaster detail to stack and hand out uniforms, and policing the parade ground, or walking around and picking up trash.

Three weeks later, now with a month's worth of dirty laundry, I went back to that Personnel sergeant, he recognized me and said, "What are you doing here?" I said, "That's what I'd like to know," and that afternoon I was on a commercial flight to NYC.

I attended both journalism and radio-broadcasting classes for a double MOS, and after graduation, I was retained to be an instructor in the Applied Journalism department and began teaching new students, but I had connected experiences with Vietnam. The commanding officer of the department, Lt. Col. Lane Carlson, always greeted new students with, "Vietnam isn't much of a war, but it's the only one we've got," I was part of a mock press conference in which we interviewed the first Medal of Honor recipient from Vietnam to give him practice answering questions, and I learned that
...[Message truncated]

 Reply   Options 

From: Jazzy720 DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host11/12/17 1:38 AM 
To: Dan (DANCULBERSON) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (2 of 14) 
 2138.2 in reply to 2138.1 

Dan (DANCULBERSON) said...

a sergeant came up to me and told me to walk to the door and back. Because I thought that I had flat feet, and I believed that flat feet could keep you out of the Army, I walked to the door and returned, trying to walk as flat-footed as I could. When I got back to the sergeant, he said, "Did you know that your right shoulder is lower than your left shoulder?" I didn't know that, and I passed the physical.

ROFL. Too funny. As I recall the news didn't call it a war, they called it police action or something like that. Do you recall that?

Thanks for sharing Dan.





YDD-Yellow Dog Democrats
Keeping Faith in America


Follow me to the Delicious Dish 


Help to rescue Beagles used for lab experimentation. 


  • Edited November 12, 2017 1:45 am  by  Jazzy720

From: Dan (DANCULBERSON) DelphiPlus Member Icon11/12/17 8:15 AM 
To: Jazzy720 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (3 of 14) 
 2138.3 in reply to 2138.2 

Jazzy720 said...

As I recall the news didn't call it a war, they called it police action or something like that. Do you recall that?

As a kid, the only "police action" that I recall was in Korea, because the U.S. Congress didn't officially declare war there, and I also believe that the United Nations was organizing that conflict. When I was in the Army during Vietnam, all I heard was that it was the "Vietnam war." However, back to the physicals, Paul Johnson was one of the other instructors I worked with, he was from Pittsburgh, PA, and he told the following story about his physical:

As he was being examined, a physician noticed Paul's splayed fingertips on both hands, which spread out noticeably like small spoons. The doctor examined inside Paul's mouth and said, "Did you know that people with splayed fingertips and a high roof in their mouth, both of which you have, are an indication of heart disease?"

Paul said no, and the doctor said, "Hey, Corporal, have this man examined by the EKG machine." The corporal said, "Can't, Sir, it's broken." And the doctor said, "Okay. Next!"


From: Marci (marcinmin) DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host11/12/17 3:41 PM 
To: Dan (DANCULBERSON) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (4 of 14) 
 2138.4 in reply to 2138.1 

thanks for sharing, Dan

Forum Host, Liberal Heaven
Assistant Moderator,YDD-Yellow Dog Democrats



From: The CrAzEy LeMmInG; WooWoo (ROBERTJVAN) DelphiPlus Member Icon11/12/17 4:37 PM 
To: Marci (marcinmin) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (5 of 14) 
 2138.5 in reply to 2138.4 
I was in almost the End of Vietnam.  I wrote a short about my time in.

USMC Enlistment 1/1972 to 1/1976

1/1972 till 7/1972 Boot Camp (Paris Island, SC)

7/1972 till 9/1972 Radio School [assigned 2nd MARDIV, I think](San Diego, Ca)

9/1972 till 10/1972 Awaiting orders overseas (Camp Pendleton, Ca, near the back Gates by Camp David)

10/1972 till 10/1973 Okinawa, main base at camp Courtney but was all over the island, was assigned to 1st MARDIV Hq. Company (Communication platoon).

With all the Forced Marches I developed shin splints; as they were never allowed to properly heal at that time, to this day whenever I walk or run hard they brother me.

I took many side tours, twice to the Philippines 1) Air Fire Support School

                                                                    2) Naval Fire Support  School

Saw Bob Hope during one of those Visits so had to be about December 1972

I was in “Operation Golden Dragon” in February 1973.

10/1973 till 1/1976 I was at Camp Le Jeune [assigned 2nd MARDIV, I think] but there again I went on many side tours. The first unit I was with was Hq Comm. Company (was in Field Radio, Cross trained with Radio Vans and cross trained for WIRE).

In late 1974 or maybe early 1975 I was temp. assigned to 3.2 (I think), sent to many places from there.

Onslow Beach for joint service Exercise "Solid Shield””. ? I was there

We had jungle training in Panama, visited Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica, for more training, We got a weekend pass in Fort Lauderdale, Florida so must have done good. I barely got back to Camp Le Jeune when I again left This time for Guard duty in Cuba, should have been eight months but was held over till December 1975. Got back to Camp Le Jeune in time to be discharged on January 8th 1976.

Firefox is the bestest

From: Marci (marcinmin) DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host11/12/17 4:44 PM 
To: The CrAzEy LeMmInG; WooWoo (ROBERTJVAN) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (6 of 14) 
 2138.6 in reply to 2138.5 

Thanks for sharing, Robert.

Forum Host, Liberal Heaven
Assistant Moderator,YDD-Yellow Dog Democrats



From: Bike (URALTOURIST1) DelphiPlus Member Icon11/12/17 5:02 PM 
To: Dan (DANCULBERSON) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (7 of 14) 
 2138.7 in reply to 2138.1 

In Vietnam, 1969-1970, Lt(jg) on a Coastal Gunboat.  Got my draft notice while I was there; funny, really, I had re-enlisted once for six more years, completed OCS and advanced in officer grades by the time the SSS caught up with me.

I found the 13 week adventure in boot camp to be just a middling inconvenient Boy Scout Camp.  At 18, I was in fine physical shape and mentally ready, coming from a multi-generational family including career officers and non-coms.  Modeled in part on MCRD San Diego, I never spent so much time running from barrack to grinder looking for that damned pink bit of gravel, gads.  Kind of enjoyed the weekly Monomoy Surfboat races, a 26' heavy row boat with 10 oars and a sweep oarsman and a bow hook sailor.   It is amazing how much work it is getting those things up to speed, and oars can break in the hands of a moose recruit, the reward for winning was good, advance to the head of the chow parade for the week, fail badly and you joined up with the FU&*/misfit company on chow parade.  I do remember that equality takes on a whole new meaning when a bunch of young studs are gathered in a room with a towel only and bald as a cue ball, not knowing ANYONE and not allowed to talk or sit but to stand around for an unconscionably long time to get herded to the next stop, getting basic clothing issue.

OCS was similar, shaved bald as a cue ball but treated like future whale dung, but respectfully(?), those of us senior non-coms from the ranks had our basic start of training uniforms (Seafarer type jeans and chambrey shirts or khakis depending on grade) but still shaved.  Great fun (RIGHT!) and actually a lot more mental than boot camp ever hoped to be.


USCG Engineer 1961-1982
  • Edited November 12, 2017 5:22 pm  by  Bike (URALTOURIST1)

From: Bike (URALTOURIST1) DelphiPlus Member Icon11/13/17 12:03 PM 
To: Dan (DANCULBERSON) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (8 of 14) 
 2138.8 in reply to 2138.1 


AKA Monomoy Pulling Boat.

Image result for monomoy pulling boat

My first ship (1962---) had a four oar type that was rowed in all weathers for morning colors and salutes.  We put it in the water underway nearly every day we sailed, good seamanship training, very old school.


USCG Engineer 1961-1982
  • Edited November 13, 2017 12:05 pm  by  Bike (URALTOURIST1)

From: Jazzy720 DelphiPlus Member Icon Posted by host11/13/17 3:28 PM 
To: Bike (URALTOURIST1) DelphiPlus Member Icon  (9 of 14) 
 2138.9 in reply to 2138.8 

I bet your guys were really ripped muscle wise. 





YDD-Yellow Dog Democrats
Keeping Faith in America


Follow me to the Delicious Dish 


Help to rescue Beagles used for lab experimentation. 



From: FlasherMak11/14/17 12:39 AM 
To: Jazzy720 DelphiPlus Member Icon  (10 of 14) 
 2138.10 in reply to 2138.9 

I served in Company A, 299th Engineer Battalion (Combat) - Vietnamese Central Highlands, FEB69-MAR70. I arrived at the beginning of February, shortly after the 4th Infantry Division had pulled out of Dak To and turned northern Kontum Province's defense over to the 42nd ARVN Infantry Division. We were attached to the 4th Division and not really part of it, so they chose leave us behind to defend the air strip and provide support to the ARVNs and the U.S. Special Forces base at Ben Het, which was about 12 klicks west of us almost on the Laotian border. We had HQ Company and D Company with us, plus a heavy equipment company and a battery on 155mm guns.

During my first week, I was sniped at on the road one day and mortared in the base camp one night. Several weeks later, the NVA tried to overrun Ben Het at night with a major infantry attack supported by tanks and APCs. Charlie mortared us hard to make us stay put, but artillery and air support allowed Ben Het to beat back the attack. So far, we'd come through in fairly good shape, though another platoon lost one dead and 6 or 8 seriously wounded on a mine sweep, when a 5-ton hit a box mine and the gas tank burst into flames. (Somebody on that mine sweep team had screwed up badly.)

Enemy action was low key until around late May, when the NVA returned and started targeting us. By July we'd been cut off by ground and had to be supplied by air, with some kind of incoming every single day, with occasional sapper attacks to test the perimeter. The 155mm guns engaged in direct fire with the NVA batteries on a number of times, taking their own casualties, and D Company's mine sweep got hit hard and actually overrun on the road to Ben Het. (One of A Company's platoons had to go get them out.) A Company got bit hard itself, when we were ordered to try to clear the road to Ben Het SF Camp. We ran into the NVA dug in, and lost our acting XO and his radioman, plus half a dozen others wounded seriously enough wounded to be medivac'ed to Japan.  A couple of my buddies and I were recommended for a Bronze Star for rescuing several wounded men under artillery fire one day, but the awards were rejected. (A friend in HQ Company said he heard them discussing the awards, saying they "had to save the medals for the officers.") The NVA finally pulled back in August, having suffered heavy casualties from the B-52 strikes. By then the press had discovered what was going on, and we suddenly had reporters flying in, asking a few questions, and then getting out as fast as they could. Even Gen. Creighton Abrams came up to see us, admitting that he hadn't even known there were any Americans left at Dak To. Charlie must gave heard of Abrams' visit, since they rocketed us just hours after he left, with several 122s striking the building where he had spoken. Abrams ordered us out of Dak To, which we were quite happy to do. (We did get the Valorous Unit Award for Dak To, which counts for something.)

A Company moved all the way down to the big An Khe base camp, about 90 miles from Dak To, which was far away from the NVA. We were mortared a few times, and some sappers got in one night to blow up some Hueys on the landing pad, but overall my last seven months in RVN were a piece of cake. A platoon got sniped at once while patching up the road, and I was with the same platoon when we spotted some movement in the tree line.  We did a reconnaissance by fire, but the bad guys ran away without returning fire.

So basically, my first six months were real war time combat, and the last seven months were almost like an R&R. My company lost 3 KIA and about a dozen wounded at Dak To, but the only injury at An Khe was a guy nearly killed in a stupid prank with an M79, getting shot in the mouth with an HE round at close range. I enjoyed my time at An Khe, especially since I was an NCO by then, while Dak To I have to say was "exciting". I extended my time in RVN by 40 days at An Khe so I'd be short enough not to have to pull any active duty when I returned to the States. I landed at Fort Lewis, and 48 hours walked out as a veteran.

The Army was an adventure, and I'm glad I served. But I was quite happy to hang up my uniform in my closet, where it still hangs to this day.




  • Edited November 19, 2017 8:03 am  by  FlasherMak

Navigate this discussion: 1-10 11-14
Adjust text size:

Welcome, guest! Get more out of Delphi Forums by logging in.

New to Delphi Forums? You can log in with your Facebook, Twitter, or Google account or use the New Member Login option and log in with any email address.

Home | Help | Forums | Chat | Blogs | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service
© Delphi Forums LLC All rights reserved.