Charlie Banner

MAY 1969

May 6 - Left Nashville at 7:00 then O'Hare Airport in Chicago. I sent Patty a postcard from O'Hare. Beautiful flight out. Stayed in Olympia overnight at Golden Gavel. Kind of lonely. It was a good thing I was sleepy on the way out.  It was real clear on the way to Ft. Lewis & I could see for miles and miles and miles. (Who said that?) I remember the pilot pointing out Little Big Horn. It was real pretty over Wyoming and Mt. Rainier was beautiful. I didn't want to go on and begin playing Army so I flew on to Tacoma. A man asked me if I had a ride from the airport and, of course, I didn't. He gave me a ride to downtown and showed me some places to stay. That was nice of him. Told Patty I figured I'd spent about $20 extra since I didn't take a bus (That was big money to us!).

May 7 - Came to Ft. Lewis about 11:30. The lady cab driver was from Townsend, Tennessee (our family was living near there in Gatlinburg until we moved to Florida)...small world. Processed and got new clothes (most of them fit this time).

May 8 - Detail in the morning and part of afternoon. Ration distribution or some farce. Sat down most of the time. Another detail tonight. "Too bad, we're out of people and you men who have worked all day will have to work tonight too" famous last words from Sgt. Called Patty tonight. It was real good to talk to her. Went to Chapel, picked up a Gideon New Testament...had another little talk. Met up with AIT Florida buddy, Glynn Smith. Made cheap photos (the B/W ones in the booths) to send to Patty.

May 9 - Stayed in bed till about 12. Had formation and were told when we would leave. Called Patty again. Telephone is a good thing...helped get us together, change our December wedding date, and now a final good-bye for at least 6 months. Turned in baggage at 8:00. Last VN movie.... 9:15-10:15 free time...wow! Loaded on busses at 10:30. Left McChord AFB at 12:00 on Seaboard World---DC 8...5 hours & 23 minutes flight. Can't help but think about how many will be back next year. Just pray to God that I'll be one of them. There's so much to live for. It was kind of rowdy before we loaded up on the busses. Then, it quietened off...perhaps to think? It's finally happening baby, "Oh trainee, going to Vietnam, oh trainee, going there today."

May 10 - Arrived in Honolulu 6:00 PST---3:00 Hawaii time. Hope to get R&R here with wife, very beautiful place. Crossed the International Date Line & now it is Sunday.   Sent a postcard from Hawaii.

May 11 - Arrived in Guam---their time 7:30. Kind of reminds me of Florida...but there's no place like home & this sure isn't it. Landed at Anderson AFB. Sent a postcard from Guam. At 12:05 we made it to Viet Nam. Landed in Cam Rahn Bay. I dreamed about Patty between Honolulu & Guam and again from Guam to Cam Rahn Bay. Thought I heard her say, "Watch out Mike!" (Going crazy already!) I had guard duty that night but just 2 hours worth. Opening lines from my first letter: "My dreams have come true---I'm here now! Damn, it's hot!" Bought a diary.

May 12 - Just messed around all day. We got time off because of guard duty and didn't do a thing. Found out we were shipping tonight about 8:30. We will be sent to Chu Lai with the Americal Division. Smith, Tomlison, & Schelbe are being sent also (AIT buddies). Most of the other C-11-3 (Ft. Jackson) guys are going to the 4th at Plaku and Ben Hoi. Had a gray alert tonight, whatever that is...closed down the EM club.

May 13 - Left at 3:30 in the morning for Chu Lai. Got here at 4:30. Processed in and then shipped to combat replacement area. Went swimming in the China Sea or ocean or some big pond. This place is really something---it's hot, sandy---it could be pretty but it's not. There's Army rot, bunkers, junk piles, billets (closely resembling a grubby labor camp) etc. You can sit around in the shade and not sweat but just a little effort will send it pouring. Can't wait till summer gets here. Will be back in the world May 8, 1970.

May 14 - Had an all day police call---a one-man police call. Had to police the road in front and down the middle of the center. Spent a lot of time in the shade by a lister bag or in the mess hall. Got my assignment this afternoon. Going to Co C, 1/20, 11th LIB which is stationed around Duc Pho---south of Da Nang. Had processing at night. Had a good first sleeve. Thinks he's in the states giving orders to new trainees.

May 15 - Started training today, mostly orientation. Had classes on civil affairs, safety, survival, marijuana, etc. There was definitely one gung-ho Sgt. here giving us a class about survival---definitely respected him though. Gave us a lot of good stuff about staying alive. Got paid tonight and started checking/savings account with American Express. American Express direct deposit with 5% compounded quarterly for all over $100. We needed to have at least $200 to go on R&R. 1st Sleeve wants clean shaves, haircuts, and most important, shined boots.

May 16 - Another day of training. VC mines & booby traps all morning. Charles is definitely a sneaky "fellow". Seems like he uses about anything for a booby trap. It's effective though--- most of the Americal's losses are from them. Had another class in the afternoon, then CBR training. The last rot was getting to run through the gashouse. CSII, twice as strong as what they used in BASIC. It was easier though.

May 17 - Got our first true bunker alert today just before formation. Went inside & finished some letters. The mortars went off a good way from here though. Nothing bad. Our training today was mostly a review of all the weapons we will probably be using. Had a night class about special equipment--starlight scope, tunnel rat rot, flares, etc. Missed Patty more than usual for some reason. Being this far away from home in a place like this sure makes you appreciate all you have had before. I'm sure ready to go back.

May 18 - Began the day with more training--patrolling, ambushes and counter-ambushes. All of this has been taught to us before so we didn't learn much. We did get to leave for church before our class was over. We got to go on an actual patrol this afternoon. It was a few hundred meters long with nothing really taught to you. We set up an ambush for the next platoon. When we got back to the stands, had a lecture about FAC. It makes you feel a little safer with all those jets & planes around. I'd feel safer if I was up there flying home though!

May 19 - Happy Birthday, Ho Chi Minh. Had map reading today plus the compass bit. Had to run a very short, very easy & very hot compass course. Then had class on calling in artillery support. Went on full alert at 2:00 pm today. Expected something from Charles since Ho Chi was having a birthday. Sure enough, 2:40 in the morning we had either a rocket or mortar attack. Haven't heard if anything came from it though. Smith & I have been writing poetry at night (the two I sent home were bad). You know there's nothing to do if it comes down to that to keep your mind occupied. Tomorrow's the last day of training. We won't be "playing" anymore now. Got actual orders for unit and address.

May 20 - Last day of classes! Had tactics, cordon & search. Last part of the morning searched a fake building---better than the AIT rot though. In the afternoon, we had some more 1st aid. Interesting class. The conflicting opinions sure come out over here. BASIC, AIT and now here, have told us different procedures. That's the Army. Tomorrow we'll be shipping to our units, maybe. This will be where we quit playing. I guess Charles can fire back now. Went swimming. Made PFC...the Private one not the Proud one.

May 21 - Sure got us up in plenty of time to ship out. Made a 6:30 formation. Went back to the same place at the airport as we came in. Not enough room on 10:00 flight. Did get one about 3 hours later. Landed in Duc Pho about 1:30. Seems like things get worse as you go along in the Army. Finally made it to our unit---turned in our records and some fatigues. After supper, we were issued rifles and cleaned on them till dark. There is much more action going on around here than anyplace we've been yet. You could wake up about anytime and hear either a fire fight (probably a mad minute but I didn't know what that was yet) or some of the heavier weapons firing. We should be in the field tomorrow.

May 22 - Messed around most of the day. Were supposed to go to the field at 1:00, then 4:00, and now back to 1:00. Army decisions. Got the rest of our gear and joined the company at Buddha. I was assigned to second platoon and went about 3 or 4 clicks on down the road to a bridge. Most of the old-timers are good guys; they do try to help you out. "Buck", Richad Buchanan remembered when we got there. They'd asked our names and ages and someone yelled to Buck, "Hey Buck, you're not Baby Buck anymore! We've got us a Baby DBuddhauck!" That was Duck Watters who was 18 at the time. Listened to the Beatles White Album tonight through the radio. Supply called in, went to the BS freq and listened to it. About 12:00, thought we had been infiltrated. Turned out to be nothing though. Another company had seven guys guarding the bridge a couple of days before we got there...they were hit and 5 of them were killed. It wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that there were about forty others there. They were ARVN's & PE's---all of these people ran off.

May 23 - Worked in the morning till 11:00 on bunkers. Made the locals fill and carry sandbags for us. We did work too though later in the afternoon. Several of the guys I've talked to since then have mentioned this day. Some of the ARVN's came back and didn't want to help fill sandbags but did respond to a polite request when the GI's rifles were pointed at them. We were charging 5 filled sandbags to cross the bridge. Jerry Fuller, our platoon Sgt. saw what one side was doing and went over to have them stop. By that time, the guys on the other side had started "charging" too. There was also a 5 sandbag fee to get off the bridge. Some didn't like it and were wading the river. One who really didn't like it was the Mayor of Duc Pho who called someone higher up and Jerry said he got in trouble for it. Eleven of us had to come back to Buddha. First platoon was going out on a patrol and we had to take over their positions on the perimeter. Buddha had been hit the night before...rockets & mortars. Nothing happened tonight though. ARVN's screwed around a lot. I can't get over the country, the people. There's one thing for sure, I still haven't seen too many reasons for us to be over here. Several years ago I noticed the crosses on Buddha (I know, I'm slow) and wondered why the Catholic Church had been renamed. A friend from the teaching profession was part of the 4-man LURP teams with Americal and was in country not quite a year before me---our time overlapped a month or so. He said they knew they'd be shot at anytime a convoy came by Buddha. Americans had agreed not to shoot at churches, etc. and the bad guys knew this and planned ambushes accordingly. After a while, GI's began firing back as you can see. (The more things change, the more they stay the same!)

May 24 - Slept most of the morning. About 1:00 five of us went out to guard a bulldozer about 200 meters outside of the perimeter. Had a spooky position to guard at night. We were expecting to get hit again, but, again, nothing happened. I got to thinking a lot about being over here. I really don't like it. You stay hot practically all of the time. You stay dirty except for the few minutes you are in the shower. The mosquitoes get you at night and the flies in the daytime. They're definitely the hungriest damn flies I've ever seen. What I can't see is why all this sacrifice, not to mention American lives and separation from loved ones?

May 25 - Went on a short patrol this morning about 10:00 and came back about 1:00. Just loafed the rest of the day. Got rained on for the first time in Vietnam. Probably won't be the last. Thought about Patty a lot tonight. Started during guard but I decided to keep my mind on the present. It's good to be able to look back and see so many of the good things you've done together. It also really makes you look forward to the future even more, especially under these circumstances.

May 26 - Left this morning on Chinook helicopters for Chu Lai and a 3-day stand-down. Clean clothes, showers, mattress to sleep on, hot meal, and cold drinks. I haven't been out in the field long enough to fully appreciate it. Wasn't really much to do today. Did get kind of depressed thinking about home and how much I miss Patty. You can always think how good it will be to get back with all your loved ones. You miss things much more over here than you do back in the world. We take a lot for granted at home. One of the things you don't take for granted (wife), but you know you can't see her for 6 months at least.

May 27 - CO had a formation this morning plus a police call...lifer...also told us about required attendance for awards presentations. Spent the day at the PX & USO. Came back in the afternoon & rode the waves on an air mattress. Wow. Had a floor show tonight, a Pilipino band with two dancers and a female singer occasionally. They were pretty good though. Everyone was mucho high. Too much beer and nostalgia doesn't go well with me. Seems like I think even more about Patty, home, etc.---the good things of life. Asked for presweetened Kool-aid for my first care package.

May 28 - Spent most of the day relaxing. Went to the Marine PX for bush hat, then to combat center for embroidering "Patty" on the brim---too bad the "local" put it upside down. Oh well. Got my first letters today---3 from Patty. It sure was good to hear from her---I might be in love! Sent her another one from the USO. Nothing to do at night. Someone stole the skin flicks they were going to show. There was a floorshow at the NCO club. A real greaser bunch. Johnny B. Goode was the first song. Left before it was over. Wrote another letter to Patty and tried to get some sleep but...alas, too many drunks.

May 29 - Got up this morning at 5:00 so we could catch the 11:00 Chinook, typical Army. Left Bronco about 4:30 for the field. Spent the night on an ambush for supposedly, according to Rumor Control, 35 NVA. Nothing except a backache from having to sleep in a ditch. That's perfectly all right though; I'd rather have a backache than be in a firefight.

May 30 - Came in from the ambush early in the morning and set up a perimeter around a ville. Since it was Buddha's birthday, we had a cease-fire. We weren't ever hit but I did notice things weren't much out of the ordinary, firefights, flares, arty, etc. Oh well, what do you expect really. Had some rain so we set up hooch. It wasn't real bad at night though. Still no action. I have been wondering if something's wrong with me. A lot of guys talk about being scared. I haven't been that scared yet. Chuck Seketa's records has our NDP location at 814424---about 5 clicks due east of the SOP at Liz near the west side of Song (stream) Cau.

May 31 - Earned my CIB today. We left the ville fairly early...7:30 and about 8:00 saw some dinks. As we went on they opened up on us. A lot of us (2nd platoon) were pinned down for the next 6-6 ½ hours. (2:30-3:00) There wasn't any shade where I was and I almost passed out from the heat. I was lucky compared to others. We had about 6 (8) killed and 24 injured. One of the boys (Thomas Watson) that came to the company the same day as I did got it. Delta Co. and some APC's finally got there to help us get out. Also had quite a show from choppers to jets. We did get at least 20 (29) confirmed kills (80 estimated). Still, it's so damn frustrating to see guys getting killed for this place. Chuck Seketa's records has the NVA complex location at 811429---about 5 clicks due east of the south end of Liz or less than one click north of our NDP. These numbers were from talking or Rumor Control at the time. The only one I can verify by Chuck's records is the eight KIA's. The numbers in parentheses were added shortly after my daily entry. Had a rain after it was over, it helped in a lot of ways. It redirected your misery from your mind to your body,

We lost about half of our platoon---mostly injured guys though. One of the men killed was by our own helicopters. I don't think we walked into an ambush...another Lt. (not Peanut, Lt. Vincent) said we just happened to come across a base camp for the NVA...it was a battalion plus for them. Some of the guys here who've been in country 6 months or more said that's the worse one they've ever been in. I was hoping it would be mine too.

(After talking with others who were there May 31, we may not have just happened upon them. We had radar on the South OP and one of the guys later told me he remembered them spotting a lot of movement the night before the 31st. We may have just happened to find them but they were set up in a classic U-shaped ambush by the time we crossed into their treeline.)

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