Memories of Viet Nam
Don Adams
127th M.P. Company, October ?68-February ?69

The recent war in Iraq has triggered a number of memories of when I was in Viet Nam, and when I first came in country. The plane left San Francisco for Honolulu on a Sunday afternoon, and for all intents and purposes, it seemed like it was an ordinary commercial flight. We took on fuel, and headed for Wake Island. We landed on Wake in the middle of the night, and I remember seeing the waves breaking on the shore when we turned around. We then headed for Clark Field, and things began to get tense. On the leg from Clark Field to Bien Hoa, you could have heard a pin drop. No one slept, and no one said a word.

The plane landed at Bien Hoa at about 4:00 A.M. We got on a bus with screens covering the windows, and went to the 90th Replacement Battalion in Long Binh. I remember how hot and humid it was, how badly everything smelled, and the hoots and hollers of the guys who were going home. I stayed a couple of days at the 90th before getting orders to move over to the 18th Brigade Headquarters. I was processed there, and held for a couple of days. While I was there, I ran in to 2 guys I was at Officer Basic with at Fort Gordon. Both of them were assigned to the 720th.

After a few days, I got orders to go to the 16th M.P. Group, and got on a plane for Nha Trang. While I was there, I met two NCOs I had served with at Fort Riley, Sgt. Major Rose, and SFC Carpenter. I hoped to stay in Nha Trang, but got orders to go to the 93rd M.P. Battalion in Qui Nhon. When I got on the plane, I was seated next to a long, narrow box. Being new, I had no idea what it was. About halfway to Qui Nhon, I discovered that it was a coffin, and that it contained the remains of an ARVN Captain who had been killed in action. I still remember the steep descent into Qui Nhon, arriving there about 4:30 in the afternoon just after a rain, and the Vietnamese picking up the coffin. I caught a ride to the 127th, and was put up in the officers? quarters. I still remember thinking, ?Charlie doesn?t need a tube to hit us with a mortar. He can throw them off the hill.? The other thing I remember is being very nervous, and very scarred that I would make a mistake and get me or someone else killed. This nervousness/fear lasted about a week. I got over it by volunteering to go with Lt. Harry Rushing to retrieve his gear from Bong Son when he was transferred from the 66th to the 127th. The trip on Highway 1 was nerve-wracking. I remember sitting in the jeep with a M-14 locked and loaded, looking at the destruction caused by years of war, and expecting to get shot at any minute.

At first, I was supposed to be with the PBRs. Then something changed, and I was transferred back to the main body. I remember pulling Duty Officer many times, playing basketball and football with the men, and the mini riots at the PMO whenever we detained men from the 173rd. I still have pictures of the Bob Hope Show at Phu Cat from Christmas of ?68. I also remember one night after New Years of ?69, when I was Duty Officer, I got a call to go to a joy house on Trang Co Van (Soul Street). There were two bodies in the back, one Vietnamese female, and one young male child. Someone had gotten upset, and thrown a grenade in the room. One of the patrols and I secured the scene along with an African American CID guy. (I can?t remember his name). I also radioed in and had the Provost Marshall and 127 C.O. notified. Before I knew it, the whole street was covered with M.P.s in flak jackets and helmets as the reaction force was called out. (To this day, I don?t know why). There are also memories of being appointed defense counsel in five court marshal cases. I think I really irritated the brass when I got acquittals on three of them.

In March, ?69, I was transferred to B/504 in Pleiku. My platoon escorted convoys on Highway 19 between the Miang Giang Pass, and Checkpoint 88 east of Pleiku. We would have contact about every other week. B/504 was quartered at Camp Schmidt, North of Pleiku. The NVA would fire rockets at the airbase, and we would catch the short rounds. One night when we went on alert, I was checking the barracks to make sure everyone was out and under cover. I was going down the outside staircase when a rocket exploded. The blast knocked me off the staircase, and I wrenched a knee when I landed, and couldn?t walk. Three men came and picked me up and took me to a bunker. I was evacced to Camp Zamma Hospital in Japan with a stop at the 85th Evac on the way. Stayed in Japan for a month before getting sent back to B/504. They never did anything with my knee. I guess they thought it was good enough to ride around in V100s. Got an early out to go to graduate school, and left the Nam in late August, ?69. On the flight home, they put one too many guys on the plane, and someone had to get off. This was the only time I ever pulled rank. I fastened my seat belt, folded my arms across my chest, and looked straight ahead. After the plane took off, it made a sharp bank to the left. I could see a lot of guys with their middle fingers extended in the windows toward the ground.

I got off the plane at McCord Air Force Base, and they had 2 customs inspectors for over 200 of us. Needless to say, it took quite a while to clear customs. Stayed about a day at Fort Lewis, and then went to SeaTac Airport for the plane home. I was carrying a SKS that I had picked up after a firefight on the highway in Viet Nam, so no one gave me any grief at the airport. My experiences at the airport are different from a lot of you.

Looking back, I realize that all of us have experiences, and that our experiences were influenced by our rank. I was in a position to see a lot of the duplicity (B.S.) and this tempers my memories. I am still proud I served, and treasure the friendships I made in the service. I am also thankful that I did not lose a man or have one wounded. One of my men did die when he and one of his friends were playing ?Quick Draw McGraw? at Checkpoint 88, and he was shot in the chest with a .45. I?m really glad I only had to go through one man?s personal effects, and that the C.O. wrote the letter to his folks.

After leaving the service, I've had a successful career in special education. The principles I learned in the service: accomplish your mission, and take care of your people, have given me guidance on how to act. I hope to be able to come to the next reunion, and meet some of those with whom I served.

Don Adams