Ron Altier's Memory of Shipping to Vietnam

Ron Altier writes "I was originally in the 7/8 at Fort Bliss, Texas.  When the war got hot in 1965, we went to the 6/27 Artillery. The battalion went by train to San Francisco. I remember it well; our train car was the only one that didn't have air conditioning. I was in the original group that shipped to Viet Nam. It was the USS Gordon, I took basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia and that rang a bell when you mentioned it."

'The ship stopped at Okinawa on the way.  You could see the huge pock marks in the stones on the shore where the shells of WWII hit.  We had a huge beer party on shore where you could drink all you could hold.  It was a confined area, but many got out and were hauled back by MPs.  Many were thrown in the brig. This resulted in a big mess."

"One of the drunks set fire to a bunk, resulting in the death of one of our guys.  There were many that suffered smoke inhalation.  A Puerto Rican named Rodriquez (spelling?) died.  He was a small guy that was happy most of the time.  I heard later on that his family had an inquiry into his death, but i don't know if it was true.  I have attached a picture of the beer party. The guy pictured is Walt Lineback, my life long friend.  We went to school, to the army and Vietnam together."

"There were no other stops on the way to Vietnam.  None.  We unloaded troops at several points prior to us unloading when we got there.  I can not remember the name of the place [either Cameron Bay or Vung Tau] where we unloaded, but do remember it was a safe place."

"I was unaware that the guns did not arrive when we did. I was told we were at the staging area to get acclimatized. We chopped the area clear and set up shelter halves. In the next few days we switched to large tents. It did seem dumb at the time, because we didn't do anything. After a couple of weeks, we went back and got the guns. We then proceeded to Phouc Vinh. It was about 35 miles northeast of Saigon. I am not 100% sure, but I think all batteries went along 8 - eight inchers and 4 - 175s. We were the first big guns there. "

Our first night there, we had one hell of a firefight, only to see the next morning that we were exchanging fire with the Big Red One. The only casualty was a crippled dog.  We had no jungle fatigues and wore the same fatigues for a couple of months, until we could shower and have a way to wash our old clothes. It didn't make much difference, we all smelled the same. Our sweat rings, had sweat rings. "

"Another thing I remembered.  We had just set up the large tents at our home base at Phouc Vinh and were all set to make a home when a chopper landed near.  A general got out and had us get sand bags filled and placed all around our tents.  We were all pissed at him.  We worked our asses off for hours.  Three days later we got hit with mortars and I could have kissed the guy as I lay by my sand bags.  I later learned that he got hit by a .50 cal round in the chopper and blew his leg off.  I don't know if he made it or not.  He was known as a man without fear.  He would land the chopper in tall brush and the blade would chop off branches.  I wish now that I could remember his name.  By the way, the mortars only cracked some windshields and made holes in tents. The next time we got hit we were ready and we got a fix on where they came from.  We fired all guns and walked them down for a long ways.  Never heard if we got them, but we never got hit again.

"I think that Alpha Battery left Phouc Vinh after a month or so in early 1966, to support (maybe) the 1st Cavalry down south [settled just north of Bien Hoa]. I also went down later to help out. Didn't stay long as my Battery Commander wanted me back. I was in Bravo Battery and spent my tour at Phouc Vinh.  It was next to a dirt air strip and the village itself."

"We couldn't fire over the village as it scared the hell out of them and knocked pictures off the wall. The village chief (dow wee) promised to help in any way he could and wanted to set up a whore house. Our BC said no, but said he could set up a laundry, which we badly needed. The chief opened the laundry and stocked it with whores.  No, I didn't make it over there. I knew about the diseases they had and wasn't interested. One of our guys had to stay in the Philippines with his VD until it was cured or he died. There was no cure."

"I was unaware that the batteries split up like the history shows. I did talk to a guy that told me that some went up along the Cambodian border and got the shit kicked out of them. I don't know if that is true. My older brothers served in WWII, Korea and my younger followed me to Viet Nam. As one of them put it, " I got a million dollars worth of experience, but wouldn't give you a penny for another one"


"My whole Viet Nam experience can be summed up by saying, " I don't think the war was an honorable war, but we, the soldiers, served honorably."

Ron Altier

 

Note 1: Ron's memory differs from Don Graham's in that Ron states that the USS Gordon made only stop one stop in route on Okinawa while Don remembers a stop in Hawaii among several others.

 

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