Home   Photos   Memorial   Post War Memorial   Roster   History   Guestbook   Then/Now Photos   Email



"6th of June 1968"

Holloway Attack - 7 Feb 1965

1970 - First Impressions

"Thank-You Vets"

"Welcome To Nam, Cherry"

604th Huey To Be Restored

Attack - 6 Dec 1968

1966 - 604th Comes Ashore!
(first-person account, plus
building the unit from scratch)

1966 - Trigger Happy!

De-Gunned in '69!

Cote's Angels

"The Final Inspection"
(The Soldier and God)

Nam Vet: Myth vs. Fact
(opens in a new window)

Buffalo Steaks Anyone?


The Night of the Mini-Mortars

My 30 Months In-Country

New Year's Eve - 1966

Always My Brother


Night of the 6th of June 1968

The rockets came a screaming,
While the 604th was dreaming,
Of their folks, friends, and their very best girl,
And of a place called home, around the world,
That terrible noise of the first fired round,
And then the second, with that whistling sound.
Some people laying on the barracks floor,
Others were scrambling for the nearest door.
The bunker meant safety from the flying debris,
Everyone afraid, especially me.
I laid face down on the muddy ground,
Listening to the scream of another round.
All of a sudden, the rockets were gone.
In the still damp night, I felt all alone.
I thanked the Lord that the nightmare had past.
Now there is silence, how long will it last?

By Don R. Chrisman, one of the three survivors of the helicopter crash that killed W01 Gerald Alan Cahela,
SP5 Jack Sizemore, Sr. and PFC Michael White on September 23, 1968.


This Page Depends On ... YOU!

Something you remember will be valued by fellow Highlanders - all of your,
'Hey, remember that?' stuff

 Email Contibutions HERE                                  

Found on the Internet (author unknown):                            

Early in the early morning of February 7, 1965, two days before my twenty-sixth birthday, the Viet Cong launched a mortar attack on the MACV compound at Pleiku. At the same time, sappers penetrated the perimeter at Camp Holloway, which was nearby, and placed satchel charges on or near most of the aircraft and at key locations on the airfield. The enemy also lobbed dozens of mortar round into the barracks area. The attacks killed eight Americans and wounded another 104. The flight line was turned into a graveyard of destroyed and heavily damaged fixed and rotary wing aircraft.

(ed. note: the 604th arrived at Camp Holloway in March, 1966)


In 1970, January, to be exact, I discovered a world that I wasn't familiar with. I wondered what all those chicken coops were for. I found out real quick ... my new home! The big bulls eye was a site to see coming in from the east on a slick from Nha Trang. It was as if those people, their land, their cultures was 12th century. Cardboard and tin can shacks, women wearing shorts and no tops, black pajamas.... it wasn't real to me 'til the bullets, mortars and 122`s started falling ... that was after two days in Holloway. The rest is history … does anyone remember who the civilian was, from AVDEL electronics, that got his head cut off at the lake between Holloway and the Air Force base? Someone out there remembers ....

James D Wood (Caretaker 13) - 52nd BN Avionics (onetree@eastland.net)


By Betsy Ramsay (August 8, 2000)

I've been thinking for too long a while how I have needed to express my thanks to those who served for me and my family. I may only be 39 and may not truly understand all that vets have done for me, but I know my Dad proudly served in the Navy in Korea, and have respected him for his courage to do so.                

I know that my cousin died in Vietnam, and my Uncle was a Green Beret. Aspects of war have affected me in many ways. I remember my Mom waking my from bed to let me know that the Peace Treaty had just been signed. She said 'the war is finally over' - how little we knew about the war and the hell that came home with our vets. I remember going to the memorial in Washington DC and being totally overwhelmed by its enormity. I feel so sad when thinking about the Vietnam war and I'm not really very good at putting those feelings into words, but I felt it was important that you knew that there are people out here who will never forget what you have done for us.

'I stand by the river where both of us stood,

And there is but one shadow to darken the flood;

And the path leading to it, where both of used to pass,

Has the step of but one to take dew from the grass,

One forlorn since that day.'

                                        Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Welcome To The Nam, Cherry

When I got my orders for the 604th, I asked the Battalion Sergeant Major in Nha Trang where Pleiku was. He smiled at me …"Rocket alley, young troop, rocket alley."                

I thought he might be screwing with me, but I couldn't tell. The first time I came in-country, in January, '69, we had to circle Ton Son Nhut for quite a while because of incoming rounds (in fact, fuel got so low that they almost sent us to Cam Rhan). It was night and you could see the explosions even from 10,000 feet.                

My first week at the 604th, in mid-January, 1969, my platoon sergeant put me on day-guard. I was pretty nervous. I didn't know what to expect or what to do or how to do anything if I needed to. The Sergeant of the Guard said don't sweat it, we never get hit during the day.                

A couple of hours later, I was feeling pretty good. I was starting to think that maybe they were right. I was even getting a little cocky, swinging the M-60 back and forth across my field of fire. "C'mon … try me."                

Out of the corner of my eye, at the end of the runway, pretty far away, I saw a big blast of dirt thrown up in the air. Then I heard the sound of a muffled explosion. "Man … what was that?"                

Instantly, it registered. Then I heard a whistling sound over toward the big hanger and all of a sudden I knew exactly what it was. I jerked down behind the sandbag tower wall and a second later …                

KA-WUMP!and the tower shook … and I could hear stuff hitting the sandbags and the roof … and dirt and debris started falling on the roof and into the tower and all over me … HOLY SHIT! WE'RE GETTING HIT!                

I didn't know what to do. Another whistling sound. Then a muffled explosion. Shit! … what do I do?                

I knelt up against the sand bags and peeked over them, even though every cell in my body was screaming, "NO!" - because I just knew that some VC was out there in the grass with the tower in his sights.                

But, of course, there was no sniper and I didn't see anything, except the wire … and grass … and scrub … the ARVN bunker … and the distant mountains. And then a BIG HOLE in the ground about 10 yards from the tower.                

The field phone rang. The Sergeant of the Guard wanted to know if I could see any flashes from rocket launchers or mortar tubes. I told him, no, I didn't see anything. He said to keep scanning but that I probably wouldn't pick anything up in daylight. I told him I'd keep looking ... “but why the heck did you tell me we never got hit during the day? “               

"Cuz we don't," he said.                

That was my first time … mid-January, 1969. And it was pretty active for a while. We spent a lot of time in the bunkers on into February. It's funny, though, how things change to you over time.                

Later on, sometimes we'd get hit and I was so darn bone-dead, weary tired that I'd just lay there for a few seconds cussing Charlie before grabbing my gear and heading for the bunkers. I'd be so pissed at those little bastards for stealing my sleep. Sometimes, they would throw in a few rounds and chase us into the bunkers for a couple of hours; then we would get the all-clear and start heading back to the hooches; and then BLAM, they'd do it again; and then again. Almost like it would be great if they really did some damage, but they were also just as happy to grind us down to exhaustion, so we couldn't work effectively.                

And we had important jobs, guys … very important jobs. Don't ever think different. I've talked to a lot of men over the past 30-plus years who spent boo-koo time in the field … and a couple of nurses who saved many of those medivaced in. The helicopters we kept in the air saved thousands of lives … thousands of men who made it home, who have lives full of love and kids and grand kids and happiness and satisfaction and even some greatness in business or politics or whatever … all because of our work, the work we did. Thousands. Be proud.                

Anyway … that's the story of me losing my cherry.

Harald Hendrichsen, SP/5, 69-70


604th Huey To Be Restored                            

On Wednesday, October 13, 2004, The National Vietnam War Museum took possession of its most important and significant asset to date. A UH-1H, serial number 70-15707, was delivered to Mineral Wells Airport and signed over to the museum by the Texas Building and Procurement Commission, Surplus Property Program, Fort Worth District. The aircraft will be displayed at the airport until the museum is built, at which time it will become a static display at the museum. The Huey joins the museum's OH-23D, M35A2, 2-1/2 Ton Truck, and 400-gallon Water Trailer as another major artifact.                            

The aircraft has a Vietnam history, having served with the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) (HHC 2nd Brigade); 604th Transportation Company; H Troop, 16th Cav (F Troop, 1st Squadron, 9 Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division); and 59th Aviation Company (CAC). The aircraft served in-country with these various units during the period from May 1971, through February 1973

The National Vietnam War Memorial - Full Article


Attack on Camp Holloway - 52 CAB - Date 680126                

52 CAB was a US Army unit

Primary service involved, US Army


Pleiku Province, II Corps, South Vietnam

Location, Camp Holloway

Description: The 52d CAB After Action Report states that Camp Holloway was attacked by four mortar tubes and elements of the 408th NVA Sapper Bn at 0230. The attack lasted about 50 minutes, the sappers concentrated on the 88th S&S Bn area, the mortars concentrated along the aircraft revetments adjacent to the runway and the 604th TC CO area. At least a 20 man sapper team breached the perimeter in the 88th S&S area by tying off trip flares and cutting the barrier wire. They placed 30 to 50 satchel charges adjacent to numerous supply and storage facilities and departed. While departing a trip flare was ignited or a flare fired at 0247 and fire was placed on the fleeing enemy, killing one and wounding another. Between 0247 and 0305 the Camp received 110 to 120 rounds of 82mm mortar fire. The heaviest concentrations fell into the 604th TC CO area, the miniport refueling area, and the aircraft parking areas adjancent to and paralleling both sides of the runway. Immediately, countermortar radar confirmed the location and return mortars, artillery and gunships were brought to bear and the enemy fire ceased. At 0310 a tremendous explosion occurred in the 88th S&S area. Ammo Pad #8 exploded causing blast damage throughout the complex. At 0320, the alert ceased and the Camp returned to 50% status.

Information source: 52 CAB After Action Report, 31 Jan 68

UH-1H 70-15707 being
delivered to the museum


604th Came Ashore At Qui Nhon Like D-Day!
(first-person account of unit arrival & first days)                

I was on the USS Nelson Walker when the 604th departed for Vietnam in January, 1966. We departed from San Francisco and went under the Golden Gate Bridge. The commanding officer of the 604th was Major Cote, therefore the 'Cote's Angels' patch.

What a trip. It took us something like 16 days to get to Qui Nhon and I was sick the whole time from the turbulence on the trip. I still have the ship's paper and the daily progress of our trip. Incidentally, my father, Apolonio Jaso, went to Germany on the same ship in WW II.

My platoon leader was a huge man we called the Jolly Green Giant, Captain McDermott. He was a great guy if you got to know him. Some of the guys didn't care for him because he was gung-ho. I remember when we came off the ship at Qui Nhon, we got off the ship like you see in the movies. Keep in mind that we landed at Qui Nhon and not Nha Trang because the word was that Nha Trang was under heavy fire. Little did we know, until later, that there was no such thing, that Nha Trang was actually an Australian Nurse resort.

Anyway, we climbed down the side of the ship on those big rope ladders and got into several PT Landing Craft ... fully geared for battle … guide-on flags and the works. I still remember that men were praying, thinking of loved ones and all that stuff. When the Landing Craft finally got to the beach, we watched the front gate of the craft drop and we all poured out into the water and began to run up the beach, hitting the ground thinking we were in for a fight.

Then everybody that was on the beach stood up from their lawn chairs and stared at us like we were crazy!

That was Captain McDermott! Many more stories like that and I learned to appreciate him a lot. He was at Mass every chance he got and especially on Sunday morning. Yes, we had a chapel that we put a Bird Dog propeller on as a cross on the steeple.

I was there when we built the unit up out of nothing. All we did was sandbag, sandbag, sandbag … and shoot water buffalo for luaus. We built a perimeter of wire and built the officers hooches out of wood, while the enlisted men had 8 man tents. We sandbagged each one and we stood guard in the rain, with polished boots and the whole question and answer bull.  We witnessed several monks douse themselves with gas and light a match in town. That was on our way to the lake or river on the other side of Pleiku, where we went to fill sand bags. We built an entire company from scratch and it was not the best experience.

I was so impressed in seeing the company area in your photographs. I remembered some of those areas personally and it really touched me. Most of your photos show a company area that was modern and we never had it that good. I was fortunate to see the beginning of the first wooden two-story barracks built. A few days before completion, Charlie got to them … as well as what would have been our first glimpse of hot water. Our floors were always the ground and we had alert after alert. But, we survived!

Several of our GIs were hit during mortar attacks and we were fortunate to witness a medal pinning ceremony by Gen. Westmoreland at the 604th for our wounded.

There are many memories … it's been a long time since these stories have come out.

Hernan E. Jaso, Sp/4, 1966-67

Trigger Happy!

[ed note: the 203rd Signal Det. (of the 219th Avn. Co., Camp Holloway) was reassigned to the 604th in April/May, 1966]

Those of us that were absorbed into the 604th [from the 203rd] didn't have to move over into that area because of being "short timers". We were allowed to stay in the 219th hootches because we would be rotating out in weeks. I remember that we were really thankful because of the action of the new unit.

Camp Holloway had a platoon of Infantry that was mainly for security of the entire compound. When any new unit arrived to stay at Holloway there would always be the usual military ceremony and then at night there would be a "special" welcome when part of the perimeter and the mortar pit would stage a mini fire fight to shake the newbies up a bit.

When the 604th got there they had all their weapons and ammo and for some reason they failed to recognize that we had infantry patrolling out side the wire at night. They started a fire fight with our own security platoon for three nights in a row. Their accurate fire resulted in absolutely no casualties but lots of dirty under wear. After the third night of this it became mandatory to request permission to fire unless there actually were people IN the wire. After that there were numerous requests for flares from the mortar pit, they always seemed to be over the 604th area.

Walter 'Lou' Costello, SP/5, 1966


De-Gunned In '69!

Anybody else remember when they took our weapons away from us and locked them up?

Man, they did some stupid stuff over there ... and I bet our Highlander brothers who were there before and after us are finding this one hard to believe. But it's true.

The CO called a company formation one day in August or September, 1969, and announced that we didn't need our individual weapons anymore. So we turned them all in and were issued weapons cards that we had to show to the armorer to retrieve them. And the crew-served and platoon weapons were all locked up in an arms room in each barracks and one of that building's SP/5s or Buck Sgts had the key. Like we were back in Basic at Ft. Campbell instead of in the middle of a frickin' war with three divisions of NVA deployed within a few miles of us across the Central Highlands!


Excuse my French, but what a jungle f**k that was! First time we got hit, we ended up at our defensive positions completely unarmed! Hmmm ... I wonder why everyone ran for the bunkers instead of standing in line in the middle of the company area while rockets were impacting within the perimeter?

There were no M-14s, no M-16s, no M-60s, no M-79s, no grenades ... NO NOTHING! The only people who were armed were the guys on guard duty and the officers and NCOs. If it had been something more than just rockets, the company would have been wiped out.

We got them back immediately. I found a letter the other day that I'd written to my sister about it ... the whole fiasco lasted just six days.

"Hey, Mr. NVA, Mr. VC ... don't shoot us just yet, please; not fair; first we gotta line up, squared off like good little soldiers, in front of the armory, all 200 of us right in a row, to show our cards and sign for our weapons ... and then find the guy who has the key to our platoon weapons that are locked up in the barracks .... and then, finally, run down to our perimeter positions to fight with you. You'll wait for us to do all that before you start trying to kill us, right?"

Like I said, un-frickin' believable.

Harald Hendrichsen, SP/5, 69-70


Cote's Angels!

My Name is Raymond O'Hearn. I was a Spec 4 in the 604th from 66-67. I had Cote as our CO. He was not liked at all. We were known as Cote's Angels. One quick story. He had a structure put up with a galvanized roof. Then covered it with a 10 man tent. That was his hooch. When night came the guards would throw rocks at it. It was quite a distance, but we managed to hit the roof once in awhile. Made a loud bang.

I would imagine he didn't get much sleep. It went on as far as I know every night. Wasn't long after he transferred out of the company.            

This story is about Old George. He was not your ordinary fellow. We had this guy for about a week, hid out on our bunker line. Well, time passed and we killed Old George ... and then we ate him. We were joined by guys from the Air Force base and from several units on post. We had cold beer and we all enjoyed Old George. SP/5 Thomas from the Armament Shop and Mortenson cleaned him. The BBQ sauce was about 5 fifths of Crown Royal and other stuff added to the cook out. Well, to make this story real, you see Old George was a water buffulo we stole from a nearby village. This the truth. 

Mack Lambert,  604th Eng. Shop. 1968


The soldier stood and faced God,

Which must always come to pass.

He hoped his shoes were shining,

Just as brightly as his brass.

"Step forward now, you soldier,

How shall I deal with you ?

Have you always turned the other cheek ?

To My Church have you been true?"

The soldier squared his shoulders and said,

"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.

Because those of us who carry guns,

Can't always be a saint.

I've had to work most Sundays,

And at times my talk was tough.

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny,

That wasn't mine to keep...

Though I worked a lot of overtime,

When the bills got just too steep.

And I never passed a cry for help,

Though at times I shook with fear.

And sometimes, God, forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place,

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around,

except to calm their fears.

If you've a place for me here, Lord,

It needn't be so grand.

I never expected or had too much,

But if you don't, I'll understand.

There was a silence all around the throne,

Where the saints had often trod.

As the soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you soldier,

You've borne your burdens well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

Contributed by David Scott    70-71


One night some drunken idiots fired off a back pack launcher full of CS gas in front of the 1st Sgt's. hooch (Vandover, I believe), and they had evidently paid his Mama San to remove his gas mask before hand (Disgruntled Employees? - don't know). Anyway, at 2am the whole company area was suddenly saturated with CS gas, and everyone woke up in a panic thinking there were Dinks in the wire or that they were already on top of us in the company area.

We all woke to heavy gas and, at first, raced out of our hooch's to find it was 10 times worse outside. My hooch mate at the time, Ed Caroglen, from Cleveland, OH, and I fought over the only gas mask we could find and Ed won. He cleared it and put it on and went out to see what the hell was happening. I had to piss on my shirt and breathe through it until I could breathe again without choking. I swear that at the time I thought I was going to die from suffocation there was so much gas.

Fortunately we weren't under attack, and the whole gas cloud was carried off to the west (to the 7/17 Air Cav troop - I don't remember which one) by the wind and they (the 7/17 guys) evidently didn't appreciate it much. Because about two days later, at evening chow time, they hit us with another huge CS gas attack!!!

Everybody took off running for their masks (which, by the way, I knew exactly where mine was after the first attack), and some folks wound up stuck in the concertina wire behind the mess hall squirming like pinned insects. I managed to get my gas mask cleared and on quickly and then laughed about it later. The guys that originally caused the whole mess were identified and dealt with by the CO. It was kind of funny later on, but at the time of the original gas attack it was miserable for me. It made the gas house at Ft. Ord, CA, that I went through in basic training seem like the perfume department at Macy's.

Bill Doak, 70-71

One quiet night at the 604th, there just wasn't a lot going on. The bunker line boys were all settled in for their shift on bunker guard. Well, it was just too quiet for the hopping place that we were. Then we heard the Nighthawk bird start it's engine. It goes up when there might be activity outside the wire. Not being able to draw our weapons to help on the line, we came up with our own plan. Throwing rocks at Charlie was not a good idea because of lack of range

The plan was to improvise our own weapons, which we did. Arky, Jones, Bogle and Nardini were there to save their fellow Highlanders. We got a 50 cal. tracer round, pulled the lead out of it and then poured the 50 cal. powder out because it burns too slow. Bogle and Nardini gathered up some fast burning M60 powder out of some rounds they found, while Arky and Jones peeled the bottom out of the tracer round. We filled the 50 cal. shell half full of the M60 powder then jammed the tracer round down into the shell while filling it to the top with M 60 powder. The mini- mortar is ready to fire. Well, Charlie doesn't show and we have nothing to shoot at ... or do we? Not wanting to waste good ammo, we put the mini-mortar between 2 sandbags and aimed it carefully. We light the powder with our trusty Zippo and it starts to burn down. Oh shit! Nighthawk is making another pass with the spotlight. Too late now, the mini-mortar is activated. We scramble for a close by hiding spot. The powder is burning down to the primer now, and the tracer is already lit. We hear that sound - POW - and the tracer is spiraling upwards and here comes Nighthawk. Oops!!!!! Looks like the tracer bounced off the gunner's door. Spotlights are shinning all around us, but we don't move a muscle. Finally, Nighthawk goes on it's way.

We just wanted to let the Ghost Riders know that we were there, toe-to-toe with them, doing our part. We couldn't tell them at the time because the CO might have not have understood our intention; helping our brothers-in-arms. Naturally, we trained the FNG's on these tactics when we left for the World. Ghost Riders, the 604th boys were there to help you Rock. On!

Robert Purifoy, 71 - 72

Spent 30 months in country, almost a year between Cu Chi and Phu Loi with B company, 1st CAV as the "weapons guy"... ugly places but then luck grinned and got on a C123 [POS] to Pleiku (spent the night on a bench at the AF base). Next morning a jeep arrived and was off to Camp Holloway... tired and cranky. First stop was that hanger with the bulls-eye painted on the east roof where I began as the new weapons guy.

What did I see in those 19 months living in the village and working on AH1Gs? I remember the two A1Es throttled back with full flaps flying in formation with a shit-hook, and one night at dusk those two bright lights coming up the mountain from the east closer ... and closer … then two F4s passing over at maybe a thousand feet in full burner, and thinking these guys are going out somewhere in a hurry to help somebody in a shit-storm ... my team, the Green Machine! And those guys who would stop at my little armament shop at the north-east end of the hanger and talk guns - the lieutenant who wanted [and got] mini-guns for his convoy-duty trucks and jeeps.

The scary shit was happening too, but not as bad as Cu Chi ... the mortars and 122s stomping the compound like crazed frigging giants, berserkers randomly trying to hit that bulls-eye or the smoke filled tents in revetments back behind the mess hall. I lived at the Korean center for awhile and on Sundays (we got Sundays off), I'd go up on the roof and wait for dusk, when there often skirmishes between the white-mice and Charlie; bullets sparking off walls as they'd shoot back and forth. Saw my share of blood and murder... yup, true story; a thousand days living dangerously. This ain't but a taste of it, but I do miss you guys. Them outside the wire were the bad guys, and we knew who the good guys were, no question … black, brown or white, if you were wearing green, you were on my side!

Salutes to Sgt. Hunter, Sgt. Mobley, and all those happy faces who did it with class! Best to you and those met in passing ... we weren't perfect but we were damn good!

Ken Bylund, Dynalectron, 70-71

As I remember New Year's Eve, 1966, we had just come back from being down town. I was laying in my bunk when John Harlow came up to me and stuck his 9MM in my ribs. He was always messing with me (in fun)!!! He suggested we go down to the club and have a drink. I could hardly refuse. After having a couple of drinks we headed back to the barracks, and as we reached the new water tower the whole perimeter lit up with small arms fire!!! People were coming out of the barracks firing their weapons in the air. We dropped to the ground wondering what was going on, when I realized it was Midnight. All this confusion didn't go well with the C.O. He called for a muster formation. I often wondered whether all this gun fire was pre-planned or spontaneous.

David Brock, 66-67

It's all about readjustment and healing. No matter how long you have been home, I find out there are things in my life that still help me feel better about those times of war.  I tell you this because something happened to me a few weeks ago that made a big difference in my life. I thought I had finally readjusted pretty well from my Vietnam experience but found out that there was still some healing to do. That healing came about with a visit to a friend (brother) who served with me in Vietnam. After I came home from a surprise visit with my Army buddy, Hernan Jaso, in his home state of Texas, I sat down to write a short article about what happened and how it made me feel to see one of my best friends, who I hadn't seen in almost forty years. I titled the article Always My Brother.

ALWAYS MY BROTHER               

It all started in 1965, at Fort Eustis Virginia, where I was about to start my AIT, which is an Army acronym for Advanced Individual Training.  Hernan Jaso had just arrived from Fort Polk, Louisiana, and I had come from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, also known as little Korea. They were two of the most miserable basic training sites in the United States. Jaso was a self-proclaimed Tex-Mex and I was a kid from rural, small town Wisconsin.  Jaso and I hit it off shortly after we met. He liked to entertain and I liked to laugh and agitate a might bit when I got the chance.

When you first meet someone, you talk about where you're from, where you went to basic training and your family. And, oh, by the way, what you were doing when Uncle Sam asked you to join him and serve your country. I was working at Oscar Mayer and Hernan told us he was working for a group that worked as entertainment agents for people like Freddy Fender, a country and western singer.  At the time, we had never heard of Freddy Fender so needless to say the fun began.  I said "Freddy Fender?  We had a singer where I come from named Johnny Bumper," after which my buddy from Kansas jumped in with "That's nothing.  We have one named Eddie Taillight," and on and on it went. My buddy Jaso never forgot that day as you will find out later in my story.  Jaso did a great impersonation of President Jack Kennedy.  He would pretend he was Jack talking to his brother Robert, or he would do the famous line from his inaugural speech "ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country."  If you didn't see him standing there, you would swear it was the President himself.

We had some great times together in those cold November and December months in Virginia, working to complete our schooling and waiting to see where we would be stationed next. Finally school was over and our assignments were given out.  Wow, what a surprise, I thought.   I'm going to Germany and I have been granted leave to go home before I go overseas. I thought for sure I was headed to Vietnam. I was excited, but it bothered me that some of my school mates from high school and AIT were going to Vietnam and I wasn't.  I told myself that it could have been the other way around but that still didn't help much.  The next day my feelings changed when I was informed that I wouldn't be going to Germany and I wouldn't have a thirty-day leave. What I would be doing is joining the 604th Transportation Company, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne Division, to get ready to deploy to Southeast Asia, and that meant Vietnam.  I told myself that was the breaks in life and the guilt of not going where my friends were going was long gone. I still had a three-day pass and that wasn't all bad.  Next they pulled our three-day passes and gave us "KP," or kitchen patrol, which meant working in the chow hall and going nowhere.  LOVE THAT ARMY!!!

Jaso, I, and our buddies Hanna, Valdez, Jimmy Finch, and a few more from our class, headed for Fort Campbell to join the 604th Trans Company, which became known as Cotes' Angels.  We were a combination of Mash and McHale's Navy.  If you've seen the television shows, you'll know what I mean.  If you haven't, just forget about it. We were young, free spirited, still together, and making the most of it.  We were going to Vietnam, and things like curfew or inspections weren't high on our list of important things to do. Why we had curfew was beyond me, but we found out that if someone set off the fire alarm, by the time all the commotion was over we could slip away to the club and not be missed for a while.

After a couple months at Fort Campbell, we were given a ten-day leave and shipped off to Vietnam.  They flew us to San Diego, California, where we were put on the USS Nelson Walker, a troop ship that would be our home for the next fourteen or fifteen days. I remember it so clearly; it was like a John Wayne movie—but not quite.  You know that part where there are hundreds of men and women lining the pier and the band is playing?  Well our send off wasn't quite like that. I remember seeing the four women, the old man and the dog. The dog was the only one I ever saw wave goodbye.  The band you ask? Just before we were pushed out into the harbor by some tugboats, a blue bus came flying down the dock and out jumped ten or twenty members of the Army Band, which began by playing the Air Force hymn, then the Marine hymn and last but not least, we could just barely hear, "As the caissons go rolling along," as we passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on our way out to the Pacific Ocean.

After fourteen or fifteen days at sea, I have a whole new appreciation for the Navy. Anyone who can live bouncing up and down all day and night while trying to shower, eat chow and write letters home, not to mention doing your job, is someone I admire. I'm just glad it's not me.  Go Navy!!!

After a lifetime on the ocean, we finally arrived in Qui Nhon, Vietnam, on a sunny, 102-degree day with no breeze. Our leader wanted us to storm the beach just like good old John Wayne did.  You're right, by this time I wasn't so fond of good old John Wayne. Being highly trained and motivated soldiers, we didn't ask where and how many Viet Cong or other enemy soldiers would be there to greet us, we just climbed over the side and into one of those WWII or Korean landing crafts where the front drops down and you jump into the South China sea up to your chest and take things as they come. War is full of surprises, some good, some not. The surprise we were about to get was one of the last good surprises I think I ever had while I was a guest of the Vietnamese people.  When the front of the landing craft dropped I was thinking what a great family I had, how lucky I was to have the friends I have, and wondering what the hell John Wayne would do – when I saw a whole bunch of GIs laying in the sun on the beach. I looked at my buddy and said "Just what in the hell kind of war is this?"

Shortly after we stormed the beach, we found out that Qui Nhon was a secure area and we wouldn't be there very long. They told us we were going to the Central Highlands, to a place called Pleiku. Pleiku would be my home for the next fifteen months, with the 604th Trans Co,  or flying with the 119th Aviation Co as a door gunner. We were told the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese wanted to split the country in half, and Pleiku and An Khe were where the split was to take place. We were going to Camp Holloway, Pleiku, to help with the aviation units.

I spent fifteen months in Pleiku because I had a three-month extension while my buddies were going home after twelve.  Yes, you're right; they were smarter than I was. Where was John Wayne when I could have used a little good advice?  It was a long twelve months with not a lot of good memories, except for the camaraderie of some of the most special people I have ever had the pleasure to spend time with.

The next thing I know, January, 1967, is here and my friends, like Jaso, Valdez, Jimmy Finch and the rest, are going home. My other close friend, Don Hanna, who extended with me, got messed up on a bunker one night in November or December and had been shipped back to a hospital and, hopefully, home shortly after that.  The last time I saw Jaso and the others was that day in January when they climbed on a UH60-D helicopter and headed back to the "land of the big PX," also know as the United States of America. Though I was happy to see my Vietnam brothers going home to their families and the safety of the USA, it was tough to see them leave. It was like the time my brother Bill left home for the Air Force when I was in grade school, or when my brother Ted left for the Army with his tank unit when there was still a Berlin Wall.  Though these guys weren't my blood brothers, they were STILL MY BROTHERS, and things weren't the same when they left.

The next ninety days seemed like ninety years as I counted my time on what seemed like death row on some days. But finally that day came where I climbed on the Freedom Bird and took my turn going back to the land of the big PX.

I was discharged from the Army at Fort Lewis, Washington, and headed back home to beautiful Wisconsin, where there was fresh air, green grass, trees, family and friends.

What happened to my buddies? Well when they came home they still had time to serve so they were stationed at different bases in the US and eventually left the service.  I didn't have any addresses for them because I don't think they had been given their assignments when they left Vietnam.  Then, about fifteen years later, my life changed on a cold, white Christmas Eve night when my phone rang. When I answered, the operator asked if I was Dave Hosking. I replied "Yes, Ma'am".  She then asked me to hold and told a person on the other end that she had located a Dave Hosking in Black Earth, Wisconsin. I heard the voice say "You haven't put him on yet?"  I knew immediately the person behind the voice that was asking me "Do you know who Freddy Fender is now?" "Yes Jaso, I know who Freddy Fender is," I said. He'd been looking for me for fifteen years.  He said, "Every Christmas Eve, I'd call that Mazomanie town and they'd say you didn't live there any more so this year I told that operator she better look a little further because I'm not hanging up this phone until we find you. How about that buddy?  We did it!!!" Since that time, Jaso has called me every Christmas Eve, and we talk about our families, Valdez, Hanna, Michael Army Taylor, and any other brother we can think of.

One night I sat on my bed from eight at night until two o'clock in the morning looking for my other Vietnam brothers.  I called every state in the Western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. I located six of them. Guys like Jimmy Ford in Hawaii, and Johnny Swallow in Alaska. No, we haven't gotten together.  When you're in Vietnam and you don't have your own family around, Texas or Kansas doesn't seem that far, but when you get home there is always tomorrow and those places seem like a long way to travel.

Then, a couple months ago, while planning a trip to Lackland Air Force Base to see my youngest stepson graduate from Air Force basic training, my wife and I knew it was time to meet my brother Jaso.  At one time Jaso's daughter Katrina e-mailed me to tell me how important I was to her father and how he looked forward to our Christmas talks, that we were brothers and hoped that some day we would see each other again and how much it would mean to all of us.  My wife e-mailed Katrina to tell her we were coming to Texas and wanted to see her father for a long overdue reunion.  She was so excited and wanted it to be a surprise.  She let us know that she and her brothers and mother would get her dad to a restaurant in San Antonio, and we could have the surprise reunion there.  I had dreamed of this day, and now the time was dragging. We flew to Texas on Sunday October 22nd.  We went to a restaurant called Steers and Beers (our friends in Black Earth and Mazomanie would like that place).  Was I a nervous wreck?  You can say that again! As the time grew closer, I was having trouble keeping my emotions in check. Over and over, I thought about what I was going to say when I saw Jaso.  Katrina called me from her cell phone and said they were running late, and not to do anything until they arrived.  Jaso and his wife were already right outside the same restaurant waiting for their kids to join them for what they thought was a family lunch.  Katrina wanted us to delay our reunion until she and her brother arrived so they could take pictures and enjoy seeing us together after forty years. I told her it wasn't forty years; it was thirty nine years, ten months and somewhere around ten days. Not quite as long as we thought. After a few minutes, through the door came Katrina and her brother, Jamie, who came over to tell me how much I meant to their father and how excited they were. Meeting those two was emotional in itself. I told them we'd better get started while I could still make it.

We were sitting off in a corner when Hernan and Julie Jaso came in and sat down at a table near the front of the restaurant. The time had come, and my heart was in the process of a stress test, whether I liked it or not. The time had finally come. I walked up behind his chair and after all my planning, all that came out was, "How are you doing buddy?" He stood up, quickly turned around and said, "Oh God, is it you David? Oh my God, oh my God." Tears were streaming down his face and mine weren't far behind.  We hugged, laughed, cried and just looked at each. Brothers, together again like it was yesterday.  We sat down to lunch and remembered our other brothers we hadn't seen in a long time and how it was time to hunt them down with computers or telephones.  We would take turns bringing up a name and then would laugh and tell a story about them.  I would say, "Do you remember Michael Army Taylor?" and he would say in a slow voice "Michael Army Taylor." Then a story would follow and the happy laughter of brothers who weren't related except for a war that made them value a kinship that only those who were there in those types of places can understand.

He was my brother, is my brother and will always be MY BROTHER.

A month after writing this article I got in touch with my Vietnam bother Ron Glass who I hadn't seen in 40 years. Life is good!!!

Dave Hosking, 66-67

Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top Back to top

We Gotta Get Out of This Place - The Animals
(use player controls for audio)