4:01 | One day at his Army Reserve weekend drill, an NCO walked up and handed Bill Patterson a truck driver's license. Then he pointed to the truck he would be driving. The entire unit was being switched to a transportation role and they prepared to deploy to Vietnam.
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Before they deployed to Vietnam, the transportation unit got brand new 5 ton trucks, which were loaded on a ship while the men flew over on a cargo plane. Bill Patterson will always remember the heat and the smell that greeted them on the tarmac at Bien Hoa.
Bill Patterson was assigned to sandbag detail on his first day in Vietnam. It was so hot and humid that the newly arrived Americans paid some locals to fill the bags. They were truck drivers and they were about to get firsthand experience of the decrepit roads that connected the bases.
The truck convoys in Vietnam had to keep moving even if someone broke down. That happened to Bill Patterson on the road to Quan Loi and he wondered what he was going to do with one spare and three flat tires.
Bill Patterson's transportation unit was housed near the perimeter of the huge base at Long Binh. When they were under attack from the Viet Cong, the truck drivers had to grab their weapons and man the bunkers.
There was some serious weaponry in Vietnam, recalls Bill Patterson. The truck driver felt his 5 ton truck bounce into the air when a huge cannon was fired. On another occasion, as he was delivering ammunition to a base, the ground began to shake so violently he thought it was an earthquake. The men unloading the trucks went calmly about their business as if nothing was going on.
The dangers to the truck drivers in Vietnam were mainly mines and ambushes, but their only loss was from a road accident. Driver Bill Patterson enjoyed listening to music on the Army radio station and as he listened one day to the news, he heard something that made him run to tell everyone.
As he returned from Vietnam and the plane was descending, the landing was aborted and the plane diverted to a different base. Bill Patterson and the rest of the men were thinking that they had survived a year of war and were now going to die back home in Georgia.
After heading to Phu Bai, Bennie Koon and his company went to Camp Evans to be stationed. Facing mortar fire, he remembers feeling terrified and not knowing when it would pass. Bennie explains the defenses they had set up to defend them from the Viet Cong.
With great difficulty, Sardo Sanchez recounts critical events that prove both devastating and fortunate. After taking the life of a VC soldier, he is hit by a sniper and told he may never walk again. In a state of shock, he narrowly avoids a fatal miscalculation.
Under heavy fire, choppers attempt to evacuate wounded GIs from Kontum. After one fatal crash, a dustoff chopper manages to lift Ernest Banasau to safety. Years later, Banasau meets the pilot who saved him, and learns how close he came to meeting a tragic fate. Part 2 of 2
When one of the Marine units supporting them left, Bennie Koon and his platoon had to think quickly to fill in the gaps to stay secure. In their down-time, they played games and drank beer, which became pretty habitual for him.
McMahon becomes part of the Combined Action Program (CAP), working with Vietnamese militia to protect villages from Viet Cong thugs. On one occasion, the village is spared from enemy attack by an army artillery unit acting without orders. He and the villagers develop a bond that would last for decades.
He made Buck Sergeant about the time he figured out that he and his buddies were basically fighting for each other and for no other reason. They were taking a large bunker complex and when two others were under fire, he went out to get them. After the fight was over, he was disturbed to learn what his superiors intended to do about the enemy base.
As Marine Captain Ron Christmas fought to regain the city of Hue, he found the enemy adept at concealment and surprise. Every soldier in a spider hole was armed with a rifle and a RPG launcher. He also encountered a nun with an AK-47. His action during this time earned him the Navy Cross.
In a letter home, Tommy Clack expressed his worry that something bad was going to happen and it did when his unit engaged the NVA near the Cambodian border. He saw the enemy soldier stand and fire the RPG that changed his life forever.
The RPG that severed Joe McDonald’s foot didn’t kill him. The machine gun fire that hit him as he still tried to help others didn’t kill him. The grenade taped to his hand might have killed him if the VC had found his hiding place.
Growing up in the Midwest in a military family, Rick Bates joined the Air Force with the desire of flying fighter jets. He had to learn quickly to prepare himself for the intensity of navigating these huge machines.
After re-enlisting in the service, Charlie Pocock passed his flight physical and was on active duty in Utah where he lived. When his plane was shot down over Vietnam, he had to think on his feet to run through the jungle and transmit his whereabouts via radio.
After spending so much time in Hanoi, Rick Bates remembers being released and feeling relieved after they flew to a base in the Philippines. Returning home and getting some leave, he decided to stay in the Air Force and finished out his career flying the F-4.
Deciding to re-enlist after Vietnam, Donna Lowery deployed to Germany where she had a nice deployment there and found readjusting to post-war life easy. She ended up spending 26 years in the military and retired a sergeant major. Donna also has some thoughts on the Vietnam Women's Memorial in Washington D.C.
While stationed in Vietnam, Peter Ruplenas had a number of enemy interactions that turned out to be extremely close calls and left him with a few injuries. Being a photographer, capturing these moments was still very important to him despite the difficulties.