Memories of Vietnam by Dale McNitt
127th MP Unit Qui Nhon Vietnam Jan 16, 1970 – Dec 19, 1970

When I recently found this web site I looked at every picture and read every letter. I found the experience very enjoyable and wanted to share with the hope others will find the memories helpful/enjoyable. Only a very few can really understand what it was like to be there. While I was all over the North Quarter I tried to include stories that involved other MPs from the 127th.

Vietnam was for me a Shakubuku (a cosmic kick to the head after which nothing else seems the same.) It was a series of events that changed me forever and, I believe, for the better. I came to be there because I had received a draft notice and took an extra year to be guaranteed MP school.

Tet 1970
During Tet of 1970 either Camp Granite or the tank farm to our right as we went out the gate (east) or POL on our left side as you went out the gate (west) got hit every night. We prayed to be on night shift (12 Hour shifts) because you were going to be awake most of the night anyway. It was only during the day that you could count on having some sleep if you were not on shift. Those first weeks were a blur and I have no confidence in the sequence of events but these were some of the events that transpired.

It took me one night to learn the difference in sound of an M79 grenade being used for H and I (out going) and an 81 mm mortar (Incoming) after that I could wake up immediately to the mortar even from a deep sleep and even if it was at the other end of the compound and sleep through a H and I M79 explosion even if it was near by. It is amazing how the learning curve quickens when your life depends on it.

By the way, I always wondered what genius decided to put Camp Granite, a Tank Farm and a POL at the base of a mountain? They did not need rockets and mortars they could almost roll hand grenades down the mountain. Isn’t the first rule in battle to have the high ground? But I digress.

For the next month and a half I did a little of everything including tower guard, checkpoint, traffic, (I was the radar guy) Reactionary force.

Reactionary force
One night I was on reactionary force and we were dispatched to the POL, which was getting hit badly. The official story is that a mortar landed next to the truck and it veered off the road and rolled over. (It may have been connected to alcohol consumption) I think we rolled into an ARVAN compound (but I am not sure) there were about 15 of us in the truck and a lot of ammo and explosives. When I woke up I had a box of 50-caliber ammunition on my chest and I saw one of our guys with his locked and loaded M16 pointing into the truck obviously in shock. I was able to get up and gently get the M16 away from him and calm him down. All but two of us went to the hospital that night and I think some were injured bad enough that they rotated to Japan or state side.

Then things got weird.
I was called into the CO’s office and was told that I was going to be detached to the Detachment E 8th military Police Group (CI). They put me in the CID. I was 19 no police experience beyond one and a half months with the MPs and one semester of college courses. All the other guys there at the time either had 4 years police experience and 4 years college or were experienced MPs with CID school behind them.

I moved out of the barracks and into a BOQ on the water next to the Coast guard. I think near the corner of An Duong Vuong and Ngo May. We each had our own rooms and our own bar. I was in civilian clothes a PFC with a GS16 rating. I could use the officers club no saluting necessary and had my own jeep 24/7. If I did wear a uniform it had US in place of rank. I turned in my weapons and my new weapons became a S&W chief 38 special which I carried in a holster inside my belt under my shirt and a CAR15 both requisitioned from the evidence room. My jeep was also from the evidence room and was a light unmarked grey jeep.

CID Case 2 the loser
My second case came into the office referred from Saigon. Three other CID detachments had worked it and not solved the case. The FBI and Secret Service, who could not solve the case, had referred this case to the CID. Now it is very clear that this case is a loser so you give it to the lowest on the Totem Pole, Me. The case was hundreds of thousands of dollars were flowing out of Vietnam weekly illegally and into Florida banks from all over the Vietnam. Long story long I figured it out and now I am explaining to all these professional investigators both in our unit Saigon and stateside how it was being done. This resulted in me being made the partner of the Homicide War Crimes investigator and from then on either he or I oversaw all the cases of this sort in the North Quarter of Vietnam.

A busy year
It was a busy year. There were 383 fragging’s in Vietnam in 1970 more than any other year. My busiest day was 26 bodies. After the Mi Lai incident commanders were very cautious to not appear to be covering up and at the same time made it as difficult as possible to investigate because they did not want to have a scandal in their unit. There were also a lot of suicides, which I would have to investigate to determine if it was a suicide or homicide.

I had one incident that I investigated when during a raid on a local brothel a soldier who was built like the hulk and had been taking Binoctal, a popular and illicit French drug. The MPs called them gorilla pills because they made soldiers crazy and strong. In this case he injured several 127th MP Company MPs while they got had cuffs on him and then he literally broke the handcuffs. They ended up having to kill him. The MPs were exonerated and it was determined they acted appropriately. It was this case that taught me how inaccurate and subjective eyewitness statements as I had statements from 12 MPs and in many cases I could not even recognize it was the same event.

Miss America
In August of 1970 the USO sponsored a tour of Miss America and 5 of the girls from that pageant in which the girls did a song and dance show. I was assigned to be their security with two other investigators in our detachment for the time they were in the North Quarter of Vietnam. There were now shows in Qui Nhon just a few meet and greets and a little time for the girls including a boat trip out to one of the Islands off the coast. One big show was at a forward base with a Bob Hope stage, I do not remember where, and the girls were doing their song and dance. The show had recorded music and singing and the girls were just dancing and lip syncing the recording. The girls were quite nervous as you might expect as we would fly in on Hugheys and do a show and get out quick so this was all very new to them. The Commanders of the base for some reason thought the girls would be impressed if the had a shadow gun ship (AC 119) buzz the stage mid act. The plane came in so low it felt like you could reach up and touch it. The surprise was not appreciated and they ran from the stage mid song. But they quickly settled down rewound the tape and went back out to finish the show. Unfortunately it was late in the evening and the Shadow buzzing the stage stirred up termites from the surrounding jungle. The termites were each about two to three inches long and they bite and they were swarming very thickly. They were biting the girls who were screaming and flinching followed by the issue that the termites were also getting stepped on as the girls danced and the stage was getting slippery. It was not their best show.

What I learned from the Vietnam Experience

Violence begets Violence

. We alone are responsible for our choices.

God or universe brings us just the right lesson for us in a way we can learn it.

Some times the lessons are hard.

What we do with the lessons are up to us.

There is no one out side of us that has our answers. No parent, friend, minister, Guru we must find our way, even if it is deciding to take someone else’s advice. My peace is my responsibility and it is preferable.

After Vietnam I worked with civilian Law Enforcement for a while but eventually became a psychotherapist and am now retired.