Fire Support Base Burkett is the place where Iíll begin my account of SSgt.
Jones, and what he did for me. On May 6, 1970 we were repositioning our two howitzers from FSB (Fire Support
Base) Burkett to FSB Wade. FSB Burkett was named after a 1st Sgt of the 11th
Armored Calvary Regiment who lost his arm while we were under attack at FSB Ft.
Defiance. We were also hit while at FSB Burkett and I mention it here to give
you the flavor of what we were doing at the time. The Fire Direction Control
track, the one I was supposed to ride on, was unable
to move on May 6 and had to be towed. Since I had a little rank, (I was an
SP5-E5), I chose not to ride on the FDC track way in the dusty rear of the
convoy. I got a ride on one of the 8 inch howitzers near the lead in the convoy.
My friend Roy was the gun sergeant for this 8 inch
howitzer, and I hitched a ride with him. Just he, I, and the driver, SP4 Roy
Ransom, were on that self-propelled howitzer.
As we traveled along in the convoy Roy was on the left hand side of the track
and I was on the right side near the rear of the vehicle. The vehicle driver,
Roy Ransom, was forward of me lower and inside of the vehicle. Roy and I were
riding on the outside. I had my M-16 locked and loaded and was apprehensive and
very alert. As we were approaching a water covered area I saw a lone Vietnamese,
dressed in black silk pajamas with a conical straw hat, on my side of the
vehicle. I was focused on him. He started to tilt and I had a fleeting,
disorientated thought, ďWhatís wrong?Ē
The next thing I thought was, ďOh God, what a horrible way to die.Ē Apparently,
the right track of the vehicle drove off a bridge we were crossing and the
howitzer flipped off and turned upside down falling 15 feet into the water,
pinning me under it; or at least thatís what I read about the accident later. I
didnít know anything other than what I could see was black. I was under the
water, I couldnít breathe and I thought I was going to die. I have no idea how
long I was pinned under the track, in the water, but long enough to figure out
that this was the end of my life.
Thatís when SSgt. Jones grabbed my head pulled it up and held it above the
water. I could see his face above mine. Next he handed me off to a couple of
other soldiers. Thatís when he started to look for Roy. I could see him as he
stretched and held his head above the water searching with his hands as far as
he could reach under the water. I saw his face grimace and I knew instantly that
he had found Roy, and I knew Roy was dead. I could see it on Sgt. Jonesí face.
The man he found was
SP4 Roy Ransom. I donít know what happened to my friend,
Roy, the gun sergeant.
Thatís all I saw. The next thing that happened was when they pulled me out from
under the vehicle and out of the water. From my waist down it felt the way your
elbow does when you hit your crazy bone. Thatís the closest thing I came to pain
then. I must have been in shock!
SSgt Archie L. Jones saved my life. I know it as sure as I am writing this
account today 35 years later. Without him jumping into the water and finding me,
and holding my head above the water, I wouldnít be alive to write this.
I donít know whether SSgt Jones received any recognition for his heroic actions
that day. I was medivaced out by helicopter and never returned to the Alpha
Battery or Vietnam. I know itís way too late, but I want his family to know what
he did for me on May 6, 1970. He was a hero that day.
Thatís not the end of my story. A happier memory of the time - My first daughter
was born on May 7, 1970, the day after the accident. She would have been born
without a father if it had not been for SSgt. Jones. Iíve told both my daughters
and my wife what happened that day and they all share my opinion of SSgt. Jones.
I regret that I never got the opportunity to thank SSgt. Jones in person for
what he did that day. The Vietnam War was an unpopular war and upon returning
home many of us just wanted to forget about it. Perhaps thatís why it took me so
long to search for SSgt Jones with the plan to offer my belated thanks for saving my
life. I was an angry and cynical young man after the accident those many years
ago. I am no longer young and I am no longer angry. I am proud to have served my
Country and to have served with SSgt Archie L. Jones.
click here for Archie's obituary and photos