Well as I was in the hooch after turning in all my equipment that day, I was sitting around and all the guys in the hooch threw me a good by party. I think we were all hammered and had one hell of a good time, but it was also very sad, as I was saying good-bye to some very GREAT guys that I had served with both in Hawaii and Cu Chi Vietnam, and we went through some very good times, funny times, and some very scary times to say the least. But my tour was coming to an end, and I was heading home. Not really sure what time I hit the cot that night or early morning, but I do know, that I had to be at Division HQ’s at 5:00 a.m. to get the truck that joined the convoy, that was heading to Saigon – and camp Bravo, as I had been told by Top. I remember saying good-bye to Major Russell, the XO of the Squadron, and my boss for well over 17 months and one of the many 3/4 Cavalry officer’s that I really respected, and he was almost like a father to me, so many times. I just remember getting up, my head was throbbing, and I thought Oh, this is going to be a long day. Little did I know just how long it was going to be? I had given all my stuff, clothes, fatigues and socks, and most everything else I had to the guys in my hooch that wanted those items. I didn’t have a lot of stuff to put in the duffle bag, but did have some things. I remember it being one of those very clear, hot dry days at Cu Chi then, and the Monsoons were over and the sun was hot, as always in our area about 120* during the day, even early morning it was hot. I don’t really remembering eating anything at all, and I am sure Vinnie Fallone, from NY. , was glad I was going home, he use to get the best peperone from home – being Italian as he was, from his mom & dad. In our hooch it was, whatever you got from home, after you opened it up, you shared it with the rest of the guys in the hooch. I ate three of them one day – and he was mad, but they sure were good, as they were homemade. You know to this day I will not eat peperone on Pizza, only will eat it by itself.
Well, after saying the last of the good-bye, saying “I will keep in touch, if you go home and come through Chicago, call me, and I will meet you.” I don’t remember hugging any of the guys back then, just the way it was back in the day, but I remember shaking a lot of hands, and getting patted on the back and just about everyone saying “Good Luck Mac – keep in touch.”
I headed down to Division Headquarters, and just remember being issues an M-14 and one magazine clip, and all of us saying that were leaving, “Is this all we are going to be issued.” We then got on the truck – open back end and sitting on the seats along the sides. As the convoy formed we were issued a spot and off we went. I remember pulling out, looking back and thinking about all that had been accomplished, those that had died there, and a lot of sweat and hard times, and being scared, but never talking about that to anyone of the guys, nor did they to me, again, just the way it was back in the day. But, you were everyone was, if you weren’t you weren’t human, and to a man everyone one was at one time or another, but you got through it, or it would eat you up, if you didn’t.
Now the really unreal thing about being on that truck, and being in that convoy, was the fact that is what we use to do for the convoy’s that were heading to and coming from Saigon every day, with our Track vehicles the 113’s and our Tanks the M-48’s, that was part of our jobs, and every Troop was assigned it, and did a dam good job of getting those convoy’s to Saigon, and up to Cu Chi, was again dangerous work, but that is what we trained for and what we did, it is the Cav way. Oh, yes there were so many other things we did also, Search & Destroy, MEDCAP Program, helping the Straight leg Units of the 25 TH when they got into trouble and everyone saddled up and we were out to help them get out of their tight spots. Lots of many very great things a Cavalry Unit does and these are just a few of them. So, as we were heading towards Hwy #1, and then down Hwy #1 to Saigon, there they were the 3/4 Cavalry Platoon doing their job of protecting us going down. I remembering standing up and yelling at some of the guys at different spots going down. I am sure some of the guys on that truck were wondering who the hell I was yelling to and at, as there were guys on the truck from all the Units of the 25 TH at Cu Chi. But I was leaving my Brother’s and was going to say-bye.
Well the convoy reach Saigon, and just as it was breaking up, for everyone one of the vehicles going to wherever they were all going when they arrived down there. I remember crossing the Hoc Mon Bridge, and looking at the country side, the rice paddies and all the little villages we passed as we were going down. Then as we split up, our driver was going down a four lane street in Saigon, with a big medium strip down the middle, that was raised up about maybe a foot or so. Then the thing no one wasn’t to see when they are leaving, there were thousands of Buddhist monks in all kinds of colors coming right at us, about a 1/2 block away. Well, we all jump up, and locked an loaded, I remember being on the drives side and up front toward the driver and started yelling at him, turn this truck around right now, and find some other way to get to camp Bravo, he wasn’t going to do it at first, but then realized that we all of us now yelling at him, and being locked and loaded, and seeing all those Buddhist Monks coming closer, up over that medium center he went, and headed the other way. Again, we all breathe a sigh of relief and were going into some compound, which was Camp Bravo. So, now it is about 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. in the afternoon, we get into this area, and are headed to a large room, where some Sgt. yells out, dump out those duffle bags, and if you have anything on you that you shouldn’t have, turn it over now. He continued you are not bringing anything home from Vietnam, no matter what you have, or how you have acquired it. So here we are about now like 50 guys dumping out our duffle bags, and them going around looking at everything laying on the floor, took some items from some guys, then told us load everything back into your duffle bags, and we are going to start processing you out for your flight home.
I remember we took showers, got new clothes; we were given and fitted for summer kakis at that time. As you see, we never took any of that stuff with us to Vietnam, only military issue, and green underwear, socks, we had shipped everything else home from Hawaii, before leaving for Vietnam back at Schofield Barracks. So, now we were all ready, we had seen Doctor’s and medical staff, wanted to know if anything was wrong – who would admit to anything being wrong when one is going home. So, after going through all that, we were sent to some Mess hall to eat dinner as now it was late afternoon early evening. Then we went to an EM Club for a few drinks, but were again told, remember you are going home, and NO ONE is getting on the plane drunk, you will be held over. So after that we packed our stuff again, and got ready for the flight home from Ton Son Nut Air Field. Now, I remember this as if it happened an hour ago. At 11:05 P.M. we started in line on the tarmac and heading towards the stairs to the plane, it was a walk up ramp, on the outside of the plane, with one door open and a commercial airplane TWA or American Airlines, I forget long time ago, I think I still have that ticket in my box of things. So, we start boarding, then all of a sudden they start taking guys from the back of the line, and there were some behind me, forget how many, as they were putting guys on the flight that had to get back to the states for some reason, well, as this was happening, I started getting closer and closer to the end of the line. I can remember this can’t be happening, I am not going to make this flight, well then it stopped, and I was the 5th from the end of the line. On board I went and got my seat. I remember how we all looked out the window, being anxious, and off the flight went “In later years called the “Freedom Bird”, don’t remember it being called that back in my day, but it sure was. Up Up and away we went, and can still hear to this day, how everyone was cheering when it took off, up in the air and we were heading out to sea, and you could see the firing going on down below. This was at 11:35 P.M.
So we flew all night, till about 5:00 a.m. when we were coming into Japan, out the window we could see Mt. Fuji, at first we were not sure what it was, then you could see the snow on the top, and the rest of the mountain below as the sun was coming up. We landed a Yakota Air Port in Japan, and they never let us off the plane, they refueled it, and off we went again. While we were on the ground, I remember looking out the window and seeing one of their trains, the high speed one’s going by off in the distance.
Now, we flew all night long and at about 7:30 p.m. we landed at Travis Air Force base in Oakland, CA., as we walked down the flight of stairs from the plan to the tarmac got down and kissed the ground. We then loaded busses, and they took us to the Army Terminal at Oakland, and put us in this big room, and a 1st Sgt. on the stage told us the following – If you are going to your next duty station go over here, if you are going to re-up go over here, and if you are ETS’ing go over here. So, after everyone got in those lines, they then told us, that they are going to start processing us out, and it will start right now. So, again we met Doctor’s and Medical staff, we were fitted for new uniforms again, and given our medals. This lasted all night long and the next morning about 7:00 a.m. we went to a Mess Hall and they fed us steak and eggs. I remember it tasting very good, and the milk tasted like drinking pure cream, never forget that either.
Well, after doing more processing and doing record checks and the other things, at about 1:15 p.m. that afternoon, I was the second one to walk to the pay line, and they paid me a lot of money and I walked out the gate of Oakland Army Terminal. I was in civilian life again for me, my ETS had arrived.
Now, when I was getting out, I had met in Saigon a guy I was with in Basic training Ft. Knox, KY., another guy I was in Scout School with in AIT at Ft. Knox, KY, and another guy that I had been stationed with down at Ft. Hood, TX. So, we decided that since we had all this money, and we were in CA. that we were going to spend a week together in CA. and see the sights. Well, we went and got a hotel room across the street from the Oakland, CA. Airport. We went and had dinner at the hotel, and it was GREAT, food, milk, bread, you name it we ate it. After finishing eating, we just decided to go back to the room and hang out for the evening, we were talking about what we had done, where we had been stationed at, and what Divisions that we served with. After a bit we all fell out sound asleep on the bed, remember we had not been to bed since we left Vietnam, for me up at Cu Chi. So, we all fell asleep, and were gone for the night. At, around 3:00 a.m. one of the guys moved in the bed and hit the back-board of the bed, and it cracked, we were all on the floor of the hotel room, everyone in a different position and looking for who was coming after us. After a bit we realized what happened, we all got back on the bed, started talking, and all decided that we would head across the road to the airport, and head home. None of us stayed in CA. we all just wanted to go home. So, we headed to the airport, said our good byes, and took our flights home. We all said we would keep in contact, but to this day, I have never been able to find any of those guys, believe me I looked, just never happened to find them.
I then went to get the ticket for my flight home, United Airlines, and ask I was near the counter to get the ticket; there was a soldier just out of basic, with his mom and dad, that they were saying their good byes, as he was heading to Vietnam. I heard his mom ask him as I had passed, look at that soldier he has medals on his chest, their son and soldier said mom, he must have just come back from Vietnam and he must be going home. I just listened to that conversation and never said a word to any of them.
Now, I got my ticket, after a while I boarded the plan and off I went to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, IL. I had left Oakland early that morning, like 10:00 a.m. or so, and then arrived in Chicago O’Hare 2:00 p.m. or so. Got my duffle bag and headed to the line for a cab and the ride home. I had only called my mother from CA. to tell her that I was back in the USA, but never told her when I would be home, but was on my way at some point. So, as I get into the cab, and it was an African American, and he asked me, “Soldier where are you coming from,” I told him Vietnam. He asked me in the cab ride home, what it was like over there, and I told him – “I don’t know what they are telling everyone here in the states, but it is really bad over there.” He drove me to my mom and dad’s and my house took my duffle bag out of his trunk in the cab and said to me – “Soldier Welcome Home”.
I walked up to the side entrance of my house and rang the doorbell; my mother answered the door, hugged me and cried her eyes out. I was glad to be home, my dad was at the firehouse that day, so he called me from the firehouse and said he was glad I was back home, and he would see me in the morning. I was just exhausted from the trip of days and nights of coming home, and I hadn’t been home or on leave for 17 months.
About 7:00 p.m. that night, a few of my buddies from the neighborhood came over, and we were sitting on the front steps of my house, and said – “let’s go out for a few beers”, I told them I don’t think so, as I was not comfortable being home, I was glad I was, but not comfortable, and it took a few weeks maybe a month before I did.
My Coming home and WELCOME HOME.
3/4 Cavalry HHT – HQ5 Track – ’65 – ’66 Hawaii & Vietnam Cu Chi
Driver/RTO for XO of Squadron SABER 5Bravo
By Roger McGill, HHT 65/66
After we unloaded the LST Westchester County at the end of the Saigon River, all vehicles were lined up in convoy and ready for movement. Well, as all of us do when we meet friends we haven’t seen in a while, we stop and say hello. Well, that is exactly what Major Russell the XO of the Squadron did, and they talked and talked, as the convoy moved out. Then Major Russell realized that the convoy was gone and said to me “MAC”, as that was my nickname – where did they go, well as I had been watching, they went up the street and made a right turn. I told him that, but said I have no idea where after that Sir. Anyway, he said his good bye to his buddy and we saddled up and off we went.
Well, the convoy was nowhere in sight, here we were in the middle of downtown Saigon less than a few hours in country and woops – where the hell are we going. So we just kept going and at a stop light, right next to a cemetery and a cab on the other side of us, he leans over and ask the cab driver. “Heh, you know where camp Bravo and Alpha is”, well the look on that guys face was priceless, but the look on the two Vietnamese in the back of the cab didn’t look good at all. So, the Major said where is my .45, I said right here Sir, and I locked and loaded it and gave it to him. His next comment was, “I guess we really are in country.” We saw an MP at some intersection and asked him, and he told us where to go, and where the convoy had gone.
Now the next morning day 2 in country was the trip North to Base Camp at Cu Chi, 25th Infantry Division base camp. Again, in the morning we all saddled up and out of the camp where we were at overnight, and in convoy formation. The 3/4 Cavalry was rolling and nothing was stopping us now. Well, there were gunships flying above and were there our whole trip up to Cu Chi, moving back and forth, ahead and then back again crossing over us on both sides. But, and there is always a but in every story there is, we reached the Hoc Mon Bridge, and the convoy was being held up, and this wasn’t good. So Major Russell said “Mac” get up there and let’s see what is going on, holding this up. I must tell you that M/Sgt. Pickering was with us again a Great NCO, and tested in WW II & Korea veteran. So, I pulled out of the convoy, and started moving forward on the side of the road, and there wasn’t much side of the road as I remember, and a hell of a lot of dust. So, we get up to the bridge at the river crossing, and low and behold we see the problem. Now, I know if you were like me when I was a kid, I saw just about every WW II movie there was, and I thought to myself, this is the same thing I saw as a kid in the movies from Europe, traveling on some road convoy, all their tanks and vehicles and tracks were being held up by something. Funny how the mind wanders back to time and places during live living times. Well, we get up to the bridge and here is one of our M 48 tanks moving like a snail , because this bridge, sure is not the bridges in the USA or any other place. So, Major Russell says, get across the bridge, I want to be on the other side. So, I being the good scout do just that, made it across, pulled over, and out jumps Major Russell, and M/Sgt. Pickering and me. Well, Major Russell goes right up to the bridge and starts with his fist raised, not in anger, but with his arm raised in a 45 degree angle, fist closed, and showing the driver of the M48 Tank which way to move the tracks and keep in the middle of the bridge. I’m thinking to myself, I have seen this picture before, but it was in the movies. Well, that is how the convoy goes moving again and across the Hoc Mon Bridge. The other interesting thing that happened right where I had pulled over, and while the Major was directing the M 48’s across the bridge, the 113’s and the rest had no problems coming across it, this Vietnamese comes out of nowhere, was there for a few seconds and was gone as fast, as M/Sgt. Pickering and I were looking and fixing on him. To this day we have no idea where he came from, or where he went. Top and I talked about that many a time after that, about that guy. Now we were in the middle of no place really, just the bridge, the river and us. Oh, I’m sure now where he had come from, but back then had no idea. Well, we made it up the rest of Hwy #1 to Cu Chi, when you got to the town of Cu Chi, you had to make a right and then maybe a mile or mile and ½ out to where the Base Camp was, as we were that far away from the town of Cu Chi itself. Hwy #1 went up North from there, and I have no idea what the name of the road was out to Cu Chi. There was an ARVN compound right at the intersection there as you turned to go out to Base Camp.
There is another part of this story that was told by Dave Cox – A Troop 3/4 Cavalry wrote after I posted this story, and I will tell his story here in his words.
On 629/2006 This story was added by Dave Cox – A Troop, Track A-14 ’65-’66 a very good Vietnam Veteran buddy of mine, that went over with us from Hawaii to Vietnam, and we have been to reunions of the 3/4 Cavalry since. This is the second story of the Trip up Hwy #1 – In his words:
“Heh Rog, I just read your account of the road march Hwy #1 from Saigon to Cu Chi, when you guys arrived in country. Good Stuff. The A Troop experience was a little different. We arrived in port late afternoon and they immediately began hoisting our vehicles off with a crane. As each vehicle came off the ship, it was driven by the crew around the corner from the dock area and parked in column on a street that bordered the Saigon River. This went on into the night and those of us who had tracks parked around the corner took turns manning the .50/radio all night ling. The other guys slept and there were some Saigon MP’s patrolling around. The area was partially lit up with street lights etc., plus there was a fair amount of commercial activity out on the river. Anyway, it was mid-morning of the following day when the whole troop unloaded. To this day, I don’t know how they got the tanks out of the lower vehicle well, because I wasn’t on had to see it. Probably just hoisted them out.
In any case around noon, I think we started the drive up to Cu Chi, we had MP escort to the edge of the city and then we were on our own. We did fine getting out of Saigon, but after we crossed the Hoc Mon Bridge, we managed to keep going straight when the highway made a slight jog to the left. Anyway, we went along for a couple miles, it seemed like until somebody realized we were on Berm Road. So, since there was no cross road, and at that point to get back over to Hwy #1, and we weren’t yet at that point where we’d just didn’t drive across farmers’ property. We ended up completely reversing our order of march and drove back down to the junction of the Berm Road and Hwy #1. There, we made a right turn and completed the trip to the Cu Chi base camp. We drove deep into the camp and ended up over on the west side behind the 27th Infantry area. Our advance party already had our tents set up (in the mud), and we pulled into line at a right angle to the 27th positions. I was driver on A-14 at that time and we were the last track, the far left of the line.
They told us to immediately begin digging foxholes next to our tracks, which we did. We also left the ramp of the track up with the single-man access door open. What we didn’t really pay attention to was the fact that right across the road on the left flank of our positions was a battery of 175mm self-propelled guns. I’m sure you remember those. Well, there we were, digging away, when one of those guns fired, right over our heads. To this day, I believe that all 3 of us went through that little doo in the ramp at the same time! LOL. We thought we were being mortared or shelled, or something. So, we’re sitting in there waiting for more explosions and I could hear the automatic loading system cycling on the gun across the road. So I said something to the effect of “Maybe that was one of our guns firing.”
So, Terry Walker, who was sitting next to the little door, decides to open it to take a look. Sure as hell, as soon as he sticks his head out, the gun fires again. BOOM! LOL We were only 150 feet or so away, that battery on the noise and concussion were almost deafening. So, we crawled out of the track with sheepishly looks on our faces and resumed digging our hole. Not long after that, somebody came to the brilliant realization that if it did hit the fan while we were parked there, we wouldn’t be staying in holes, but mounting up to move or fight from the tracks. So the hole digging stopped.
Anyway, that’s the main thing I remember about our first day at Cu Chi. I also seem to remember a 27th Infantry 1st Shirt driving down the line behind our vehicles in a jeep dropping cases of beer off at about every third track and saying, how glad they were to see us
I thought I would share another bit of History written by another 3/4 Cavalry Trooper Scout from our Unit. Thanks for Sharing Dave.”
From Art Bonevich, A Trp 1963/1966
The USNS Sultan that carried A Trp and C Trp to Okinawa enroute to Vietnam ran aground prior to docking at the port of Naha on Jan 16, 1966. See news article below.
Letter from General Otis (then LTC, squadron cdr) to the troopers of the 3/4 Cavalry in June 1968 after he had been wounded during fighting in May west of the Phu Tho Race Track.