I'm going on 67 years old now, ( March 2016 ) and I would like to preserve these memories in a way that would be meaningful for others so that these memories will not die with me. There is much more however I can only recall them in part and I want to maintain accuracy.
Our main fire base was Camp Eagle but we operated out of L. Z. Sally, L. Z. Birmingham, and L. Z. Boyd. (L. Z. Meaning Landing Zone). These bases were known as fire bases as well. Our platoon (3rd.) stayed in the field most of the time and the other three platoons of "C" company would come together when there was a major campaign and our company fought in four of them. Otherwise 3rd platoon and sometimes 2nd platoon were on ambush duty along the Song Bo river as well as search and destroy missions on the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We did block NVA forces coming from the A Shau Valley in 1969.
I got there at the mop up of the TET offensive in Hue March 1968 and left March 1969. I started out in L. Z. Sally the night the 101st and 17th cav. were fighting on hill 309 (T–Bone) and joined them the next day and later we had to take hill 283 just East of 309. Hill 309 is where I busted my cherry and was wounded by a grenade which only caused me to piss blood for awhile so I stayed with the platoon without any need for medical attention. We fought in the rice paddies around Hue, Phu Bai and Danang for about five months and then we went to the jungles starting on hill 1003 to take out rocket and mortar positions that were hitting our Phu Bai air strip.
Just a few weeks after hill 1003 we left for what would become a big campaign in what we called the salad bowl where we lost most all of 2nd platoon and my best friend Gómez who was 2nd Platoon’s point man at the time.
Virtual Wall Tribute to Corporal Jesus Ephraim Gómez, Jr.
I was the radio operator during the last few weeks in country and I had the topographical map showing our movements and positions prior to 2nd platoon being wiped out in the salad bowl. We were with them but could not reach their position in time as they had walked into a major ambush. I gave the map to a Museum in Lexington Kentucky however I did make a copy which I have to this day.
Click Here to see the topographical map with our positions on it
I remembered something today that came from 40 years ago. In all the firefights I was in…no matter if it was just a sniper, or a ten day battle, I fully accepted that I was going to die…and then I fought like hell to live. For those who have never fought in a long intense battle you have never felt the rush as every move you make may take your life. You have never felt the taste of another mans blood or wiped away their brains from your face. Most of all you have never experienced the relief as the sound of gun fire becomes silent. And you have never understood the brotherhood bond that comes out of war. I have never regretted the defeat of my enemies, but only the pain I caused those caught in the conflict. The horrors that will never leave my dreams are of the burning bodies of mothers closely holding their charred children and the destruction of a village that was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I found profound truth that would never leave me at around 20 years old in Vietnam as I remember finding a hand reaching out of the grave and was told to dig it up to see if it were an enemy soldier. As I pulled him out of his grave the meat on his arm slipped off as if it was cooked. The site of his face, eyes and mouth full of dirt, with the smell burning my nose caused me to realize I was just a man.
I remember a very hot day when I came upon five shadows on the ground. They seemed to be fake, as they were black and flat and I had to touch and turn them over to fully accept that they were the charred bodies of my enemies that had died so fast that they were still in the walking positions they were in at their last moments of life….
I remember looking into the face of my friend as he lay dead and the rain was pounding him in the face. I realized that the rain filling the holes in his eyes had no effect because he was no longer there. I looked at his boots and realized that when he tied those boot laces this morning as we were smoking our cigs he had no idea that would be the last time to do so. When looking at the many solders lying dead during my time there I remember thinking that their mothers and their wife or children was not crying…but soon they would have to know what I’m looking at.
I remember a day I was walking point and my slack man (Watts ) and I came across three North Vietnamese regulars with their weapons shouldered. The enemy and Watts and I just looked at each other for what seemed a very long time and then one soldier dropped his shoulder causing the strap to slide off and his weapon to drop in is hands. All hell broke lose and I still don’t know how I made it to a ditch. I could not see Watts and thought he was dead because I also could not hear any sounds or calls for help. I crawled to the end of the ditch and realized it was made like a "U" and I discovered that I and the three gooks were in the same ditch just across from each other. As I considered if I should just jump up and fire into them but knew that at least one would out gun me so I realized I could roll some hand grenades like a ball and they would fall on the other side in with the gooks, so I pulled the pin on two grenades rolled them over and as a result wounding them. I then ran over and shot them as they were stunned by the blast.
As I was pulling the bodies out of the ditch Watts and the other men in "C" Co. 3rd platoon came into the wood line. I asked what took them so long and they told me that Watts said I was dead. I can understand why he thought I was dead because I was wondering why I was not. Watts ear was shot off for the most part but otherwise he was fine. I want it understood that I have seen Watts in action and he is one of the bravest men I know besides Otto (our Sergeant) so when he left me it was because he truly thought I was dead and he was wounded (without a weapon) needing help.
I remember a fellow soldier named Peterson. He and I did not get along from the first day we met and one day it came to a fight. He and I had equal cuts and fat lips on our faces after the fight but we never made friends. A few days after the fight we were shot upon by a lone sniper and as we would advance he would move back as well. This was normal tactics for a sniper as they would not last long if they did not move. Peterson was point man and I was his slack. His back pack was not secured as things fell from it namely his poncho. Sergeant Otto stopped him and instructed him to fix it before he went any further and Peterson who like me at the time had a bad temper and he got mad at Sergeant Otto and stomped down the path with his poncho in his hand. Otto told me to go after him and as I stepped up on the rice patty dike then after I rounded a curve chasing Peterson, shots rang out. I heard Peterson groan for help. As I began to approach the area Otto stopped me and stated that it was a trap to get others out in the open. I truly felt I could get to Peterson but I had my orders. Otto was right as the sniper was just on the other side of the dike waiting for me.
When the sniper realized no one was going for his trap he shot Peterson in the head. The sniper ran into the rice patty and a chopper gunner killed him. We made a stretcher from Peterson’s poncho and bamboo poles but one of them broke and his head fell back. His heavy body shifted and as I reached to keep him from falling off the stretcher my hand went into his head and…well I wore Peterson’s brains on my paint for weeks to come. The thing that bothered me most is that I saw the cuts on his face I had given him during our fight just a few days before and knew I would never be able to make that right. That was the day Otto looked at me and said you’re the new point man!
The official record reads; Peterson, Donald Lee— Born 1949— PFC Army— Friday April 30th. – 1968 —Killed In action July 7th. (Hostile.) Link to Donald Lee Peterson Virtual Wall Tribute
I remember the day when God saved my life.
I was walking point in the jungle following a cut in the mountain where water ran in heavy rain. The leaves were very green and I was thinking that it would be nice to be here if it was another time. As I continued on I noticed ONE leaf that was a bright yellow and for some reason I had a very strong feeling that I would not live to pass this leaf. The feeling was so strong that I hit the ground. Well when the point man hits the ground everyone hits the ground as well for obvious reasons.
Just as I was flat on the ground a volley of machine gun fire went right over me. I knew that the next coming volley would be lower so I rolled off the trail as did the others and then it came as expected. What I did not expect was that the bush I had rolled on threw me back on the trail. I rolled back on the bush and another volley came by and…well that damn bush threw me right back out there as if it was triggered by the machine gunner shooting at us. This last time I rolled on top of the bush and broke its spring action. Others flanked left and right of the enemy gunner and took it out as I was busy with my bush. I do believe to this day God saved my life that day in the jungle.
Below is a picture of Sergeant Montgomery playfully pointing his 45 at me and I was pushing it away with a smile on my face. He was a very good friend and I just now (March 2016) contacted him and we spoke over the phone for several hours.
I remember a day when we had been in a firefight with a village for weeks and this day the fighting had calmed down so we were getting resupplied with ammo and "C" rations. We also were getting a hot meal and our long awaited mail from home. Don Cobal and Ronnie told me I could go first from our position and they would go together after I got back. (You could not separate those two with a grenade) Anyway I went and their parting command was "Don’t forget the mail Youngblood." Well I ate my meal and got the mail but for some reason with all that mail and packages I got turned around and by the time I realized where I was it was too late. There was a "L" shaped building in front of me and I recognized it as the one that had an enemy gunner in it. If I remember it was a U.S. made Browning automatic Rifle (BAR) Used in WWII. Well it did not matter how I got there I was there and he was firing at me. I hit the ground and mail went everywhere. I remember looking up and the rounds were zig sagging towards me and I knew I was about to die.
About that time I heard a 60 and M–16 sound off behind me and I looked and
saw Don Cobal and Ronnie standing on the rice paddy dike blasting away at the
"L" shaped buildings window while hollering "Get the hell out of there
Youngblood!!!!!" As I grabbed my 16 and got up to head to the dike Ronny yelled "Get the Damn mail" so I had to go around picking up the Damn mail under fire that day. Oh well the mail had to get through right?
Below is a picture of me and Don Cobal. I'm on the .50 cal.
I would like to say that Sergeant Otto was a great platoon leader with a very good sense for combat tactics and I would like to find him. I have spoken to Sam Smiley, and Mike Dunlap on the phone but no one else at this time.
Dunlap bottom left. Me far right bottom row with sun–glasses.
Me holding the M-60
Timothy Youngblood far right with the ammo and combat gear. That is Phil Homme, (middle) talking to Sgt Pope. I had just come in from the Boonies and was going to get something to eat and some rest before I had to go back out.
This was sometime in mid 1968 and we were still mopping up after the Tet Offensive.
Timothy M. Youngblood
Email Timothy at email@example.com