On November 3, 2015, it will be 50 years since 506 Proud Americans stepped off the U S Gordon onto cargo netting hung from the side of the ship.we carried our rifles and all our worldly possessions. As I recall, our M14'S went on our right shoulder and the duffle bag hung on the left. The gear in the duffle's still included our cold weather gear. Fleece field jacket liner, gloves with liners and our dress over coats. Approximate weight we carried was between 70 and 90 pounds. We stepped off the cargo net onto landing craft that would take us to the Vung Tau beach less than a mile away. Remember how hard it was to walk straight after being at sea for 29 days. You get so use to compensating for the ship movement that our formation must have looked like drunks out for a stroll. Certainly, we could have used a cold beer after we marched about a mile from the beach after disembarking our landing craft. Heat and humidity started to wear us down immediately but our day was not over yet. We marched to a highway, where C130'S landed and took us to Camp Alpha, a secure staging area where we would spend some time getting our gear in order and getting introduced to the Vietnam climate.
Proud Americans Come Ashore at Vung Tau, Vietnam
November 3, 1965
The picture above shows us crammed into the Landing Craft and headed to shore, away from the ship. The white paper in our steel pots, contain the names of our next of kin. Why, I don't know, because if we capsized all the paper would be wet and illegible. This was just one of the many odd orders I received in Vietnam.
Freddy Fitting, while at Camp Alpha, needed a hair cut. He was in Vietnam only a couple of days and one of the first to get a hair cut. After talking to Sgt Jackson, he was sent to a Vietnamese Barber in side our perimeter. By the time Freddy found the Barber Shop, the barber had gone missing. Freddy ran into an MP and found out the Barber was VC (Vietcong) and had been shot. Upon returning to our camp, Freddy went to see Sgt Jackson and told him the story. He immediately acquired clippers and began cutting hair. It could have been a life saver for many of our guys.
During our brief stay (week to 10 days) at Camp Alpha, we were mortared frequently and enjoyed our 2 man pup tent accommodations. We learned to take showers in the rain and realized it was impossible to stay dry and keep our equipment free of dust and mud. We had regulation leather boots and within days the nails holding the heels on rusted thru and the heels fell off. Wearing flats was soon the norm. We got Jungle Boots in late December or January as I recall. They were used and I believe came from the Ia Drang battle, so well covered in "We Were Soldiers Once and Young" by Harold Moore and Joe Galloway.
I find it a good time to reflect on how difficult and dangerous those days in Vietnam were and hope that you Proud Americans, who came after us, have a little better understanding of the first few days in Vietnam. I think about those we lost in battle and feel very fortunate to be sharing my thought with you today.
Enjoy life Proud Americans, we have earned it...!