Preserving The Oral HistorIES of Combat Veterans

COMBAT STORIES FROM Vietnam

John Wilhite | 1099th Transportation Company

2:45   |   A frequent mission for John Wilhite was the fuel run to Cambodia. They would take the boat downriver to the South China Sea and fill up a huge fuel bladder. Then it was back up the Mekong River to Cambodia. You could always tell when you got to the border because the place was crawling with North Vietnamese troops, allies of the murderous Pol Pot regime.

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Keywords   :     John Wilhite    Vietnam    Mike Boat    River Rats    Mekong River    Cambodia    Cat Lai    Charge of Quarters (CQ)    North Vietnamese Army (NVA)    Khmer Rouge    Pol Pot

Videos ( 9 )
Vietnam
  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  2:26

    They arrived at basic training and got a good night's sleep but when the Drill Instructor started beating on a garbage can and throwing it around the barracks, John Wilhite knew he was in for something different than he was used to. After basic, in Advanced Infantry Training, they were practicing air deployment when he noticed that the equipment was really being loaded.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  4:44

    When he flew into Vietnam, John Wilhite could hear mortar fire as they landed. The men scrambled out of the plane and took cover in drainage ditches. They weren't even armed, so it was quite a welcome to Vietnam. The first stop was the mess hall where the food wasn't quite cooked and the cooks were missing.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  6:31

    Assigned to the 1099th Transportation Company when he arrived in Vietnam, John Wilhite didn't even see an officer for four days. Fortunately, there were old hands around to get him up to speed. The job was simple, carry people and resources up and down the rivers in the Mekong Delta on Mike Boats, which resembled landing craft. These missions took them into Cambodia, he notes, despite what the President was saying.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  3:17

    John Wilhite traveled the rivers of the Mekong Delta with the River Rats, a transportation company using long, shallow draft boats called Mike Boats. The first time he saw the enemy, he was off the boat in a defensive position. When the firefight began, the .50 caliber machine guns on the boat cleaned up the situation.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  3:44

    It wasn't all warfare on the river. John Wilhite recalls the time his transportation unit took part in flood relief, carrying villagers to safety. He felt sorry for the people of Vietnam, who were deprived by years of war and angry at foreign armies in their land. He was especially touched by the plight of the orphans.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  5:01

    They tried not to have any more than three boats together on the river, says John Wilhite, a member of the River Rats, a transportation company. Once when they had six in a line, the enemy detonated a thousand pound bomb underneath the second one. The boats were carrying fuel bladders and the resulting blast blew the water out of the river at that point. Less effective were the homemade rockets that were like big fireworks.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  5:34

    The missions were continuous, one after the other. When they were out, they were totally alone, nowhere near any installations, so the River Rats had their food dropped right onto the boat by helicopter. John Wilhite's weapon was the M-60 machine gun and he used it both on the boat and in defensive positions on shore. Once, he overheated it and the breach popped up and smacked him in the face.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  2:51

    There was a Buddhist hooch on the other side of the river near their base camp. John Wilhite had seen people coming and going there for a long time, but they were respectful of religious locations so it was left alone. One day, while they were playing cards on the boat, the man across from him was hit by a large caliber round. Soon it was apparent where it had come from.

  • John Wilhite  |  Vietnam  |  1099th Transportation Company  |  3:15

    When the River Rats made the ocean run to fill up the fuel bladder they would carry upriver, it was party time. Through trading with sailors, they acquired the steaks, lobster and beer they need for a decent beach affair. After a night beside the South China Sea, it was up to Cambodia to deliver the goods.

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