Vietnam 1968

Who is this tall young skinny kid?
MUD in 1968
This is Sebastian Cabot and my recon team.

I had been out with these two when they completed their
basic training bivouac. Do you see that one of them brought
me a cold beer?

The hardest thing about Vietnam is to explain that like the State of California, it is quite different in the different areas. "Way up North" it is cooler and hillier inland with better weather along the coast. The North Central part or what we called II Corps was mountains and jungle along the western borders with some plains in the southern area and great, but warm, coastline. The closer you got to Saigon, or what they now call Ho Chi Min City was flatter but still jungle. South of there the place is like the delta in Louisiana, flat and swampy. When you add the difference in the terrain with the difference in the enemy it made for war stories that were so different that even though they started "Once Upon a Time" or "Hey, this in no shit" there was no continuity from story to story. Up north they faced more of the North Vietnam soldiers, in the middle a combination and down south the VC. Because they had to carry the weapons down the Ho Chi Min trail, the north faced some artillery fire, in the middle mortars and rockets and down south more mortars. Always there were AK-47's that could shoot well even in the mud the blood and the beer.

It is hard to describe the weather other than to say it was brutal heat, wet and monsoon season. Even the non-monsoon season had really good rains when they happened. During the monsoon season it rains, and rains, and rains until everything is so soggy that there is no dry place to be. If you wear a poncho, you would sweat underneath that you might as well stay out in the rain without one.

It was sad for me to see that behind the bullet hole laden walls there was a beautiful country with some great buildings. The biggest problem was that a war had brutalized the place so bad that you never saw a building without bullet holes and on occasion a wall with a tank round hole clean through it. As you flew out across the country, you could see holes where artillery rounds had blown the ground up. Dots and flashes of water would be seen from the hundreds of new small ponds. Where the Air Force had dropped their massive strikes called "Arc Lights" there would be stretches of the earth ripped open a hundred yards wide and what seemed like a mile long. Out in the Ah Shau valley, hamburger hill was stripped completely clean of trees and stood out like a poodle with a lion cut. Most of the hills in II Corps were covered with jungle except for the Artillery Fire Bases where the cannons were located. They were muddy, bare hills that had helicopters coming in an out all the time and artillery fire outgoing in between.

I really can't say much about the politics of Vietnam, as I was a field soldier and seldom in a city. I can say that the average Vietnamese person didn't seem to care much who was in charge. They had been fighting the war since WWII in the 1940's and From the Japanese to the French to the Americans, we were just another group of people intent on killing each other and going home. We did have some soldiers that lived and worked with the Vietnamese but the majority of us were some brutal "sons a bitches". Make that well armed SOB's and you might begin to understand the politics. Most of the Vietnamese I met seemed to be friendly and when supervised would work fairly hard. The farmers really had a tough life and worked darned hard to feed their families. They were often taxed by the South Vietnamese Government and the VC.

My part of the war varied from being out in the field with the infantry to being on a fire support base shooting for those guys out in the field with the infantry. I was assigned to the Battalion Ammunition officer slot for a few months but most of that time I was either flying convoy cover in the back of a bird dog or loaned out to some unit as a Forward Observer.

I have been shot at, mortared, rocketed and generally attacked by people that wanted to kill me. I think I did my best to shoot back with artillery and to protect those men I was responsible for. I have watched men die and I have seen the smiles as they opened letters with pictures of their wives and children. I would describe my time there as hours and hours of sheer boredom with adrenalin packet moments that still wake me up from time to time. Imagine going to Worlds of Fun (or 6 Flags or Knotts Berry Farm) and being in line for the wildest roller coaster. Now, imagine you are always in line and seldom get to bathe or eat a hot meal and with about a hundred people that smell as bad as you do. That was my Vietnam. Oh yes, throw in a gang that every once in a while want to take the roller coaster away from you.



  1. I have a picture of you in Nam framed in my living room. I also have one of you from when you were probably 6 playing Cowboys and Indians. I think Austin is going to be a lot like that. He seems to have the Petty energy.

  2. Yes, but don't forget the Kirkland influence. If it is the picture I think it is, Mom and Dad had been down in New Mexico on vacation and they brought me an indian head dress. I had been wearing my cowboy hat and was crying because they made me take it off to take a picture. I was standing on the south side of Erma's near Susank, KS. MUD

  3. Dang MUD, you were skinny! Still not too portly now...you done good.

    Well, I'll be danged! You met Mr. French? Heck, I was a kid when y'all were in SE Asia. But I sure followed it on the evening news. Momma and Daddy didn't say too much about it, but we had a few local boys that didn't come back vertical. I found out about that stuff later on when I was older.

    But I sure did like Sebastian Cabot. I'm glad to know that he made the effort. I don't know anything about his politics, or "why" he was there. But it must have been a real treat for y'all.

    I don't always comment, but I really enjoy reading the stories MUD. I mean it.