MATURE SUBJECT MATTER, VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED: WEDU is honored to present the personal Vietnam War experiences of our local citizens. The stories presented here have not been edited and are presented as originally shared by the author. The content may contain coarse language, images, or remembrances that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
John K’s Story
Shared on September 15, 2017
210th Combat Aviation Bat.
My story is that I spent almost the entire year of 1970 in Vietnam as an army soldier. I was stationed most of the time at a small Army Airbase about 30 miles from Saigon. I did the dirty work such as pulling all night perimeter guard, building bunkers and stringing barbed wire. I was supposed to be just a general clerk, but volunteered for various jobs to off the base since we spent 24/7 on base with all areas outside this small base off limits due to fear of Viet Cong.
I worked in my unit’s civic action squad tasked with doing our share to win hearts and minds. I don’t believe we won any hearts or changed any minds. We made many trips to hamlets and small villages bring supplies to build schools. The next time we went out to the same place the school would be blown up by VC. The local civilian armed forces were supposed to be able to protect their hamlet. All this convinced me of was that the Viet Cong were all around us in the day time and when we left they would attack these small villages. Knowing they were all around and probably could have wiped us out at any time was unnerving. Just to leave the base and go to the small city a few miles down the road we had to carry our M-16’s, M-60 Machineguns and our M-79 grenade launchers. As soon as night fell we could hear automatic weapons firing and our artillery would get cranked up firing 105 and 155 howitzers. I often sat on top of a bunker and watched the gunships firin g miniguns into areas around the vast rubber plantations that abutted our airbase on three sides. Our grunts would set off ambushes at various times during the night and the howitzers fired what they called H&I fire at set coordinates. The 155 howitzers were so loud that if you were exposed to them at close range without protective head gear you might be stone deaf that same night. So I did my year among the carnivorous rats, snakes and insects. I came home knowing no one on the air plane feeling I had lost one year of my life for no good reason.
Sponsored in part by
Retired Officers’ Corporation at Freedom Plaza
Production Credits: THE VIETNAM WAR is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington D.C. Directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Written by Geoffrey C. Ward. Produced by Sarah Botstein, Lynn Novick and Ken Burns.
Funding Credits: Funding provided by: Bank of America; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; PBS; David H. Koch; The Blavatnik Family Foundation; Park Foundation; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; National Endowment for the Humanities; The Pew Charitable Trusts; Ford Foundation Just Films; Rockefeller Brothers Fund; and Members of The Better Angels Society: Jonathan & Jeannie Lavine, Diane & Hal Brierley, Amy & David Abrams, John & Catherine Debs, Fullerton Family Charitable Fund, The Montrone Family, Lynda & Stewart Resnick, The Golkin Family Foundation, The Lynch Foundation, The Roger & Rosemary Enrico Foundation, Richard S. & Donna L. Strong Foundation, Bonnie & Tom McCloskey, Barbara K. & Cyrus B. Sweet III, The Lavender Butterfly Fund