Our Memories

327 Infantry Veterans

Our Memories


When I came in country in May of 1967 I went through p-training in Phan Rang. Sgt. Welker went through p-training at the same time, along with Cipriani, Dominguez and others. We ended up going to A Company, 1st of the 327th together. Cipriani was killed in action within a few weeks 5/29/67. Later, I learned Cipriani was from Albuquerque New Mexico.

Sgt. Welker shared his dream of becoming the Sergeant Major of the army. It was a dream that was not to be realized. He died as a result of a bouncing betty mine 7/27/67.

In going through some of my photos I pulled this one out, of Sgt. Welker, thought I’d share it. He seemed like such an old man at the time. I think he was around 27.
Dan Clint

I remember when Sgt Walker was killed. If I remember correctly didn’t a CIDG step on the mine and it went off between him and Sgt Walker. He was the first Abu killed in my tour.
Bill ABU

Bill, do you remember the two surgeons that dropped out of the sky that day that had been cruising the air in a helicopter as an attempt to treat people surgically in the field as a means to speed the process up for medical care in order to save lives? I wasn’t there when Welker was killed, got the story from others. By that time I was in another platoon or with the Tiger Force.

I do remember once Welker was in front of me and how he had walked right over the three prongs of a mine and I how I was behind him and saw it and immediately stopped the column and alerted to the mines in the area. I subsequently gave Welker a bit of grief for not paying attention. I pointed at the mine, a bit ticked, probably out of the pressure of the reality of being in a mine field, and told Welker, “that’s your death you just missed it this time, by luck, if you don’t pay attention you are going to die here!” (He liked me and was telling me a story when he had missed the mine). I liked him as well and I was taking that particular time of potential exposure seriously. Lucky I was.

Then while the column was being held up, don’t know if it was intentional, later in thinking about it thought that it may have been, but a water buffalo came lumbering down the trail. The mine was placed in an area where the bushed funneled, corralling the buffalo toward the mine and we had to physically push the water buffalo to keep it from setting off the known mine while we were attempting to determine if there were other mines in the area while we cleared that one.

It was my first exposure to the actual “three prongs” that we had been trained to look out for. It would be nice to hear that Welker had not actually been the one to set off the mine that had killed him. Over the years I have harbored the belief that he ended up a victim of his possible inattention due to this earlier experience. Since it was your first combat casualty perhaps you can offer greater memories.

I appreciate how you have been a source of collective memories. Do you also remember Runyon? He joined me in the Tiger Force from A company and was killed while serving with us there.

Had Runyon lived I am sure he was destined to become one of my best life friends. When he died that was one of my heartbreakers. I was fond of Welker and Cipriani as well. Welker did have a great attitude in the Nam. He maintained a very positive outlook, had volunteered for Vietnam to advance his career. As I understood it he had a wife and children at home.

I can’t say that I remember the Surgeons, but I do remember 2 chaplains that came out in Duc Pho. They had a field service. When they left their Chopper crashed right after it took off. A door gunner jumped clear and was killed. Everyone else survived but were banged up.

I do believe that it was an attached CIDG that set off the mine that killed Sgt Welker. We were told the CIDG was in front of Welker and the mine went off in between them. We got in a little contact that day and got ground support from some US A1E Sky Raiders.

Your commo jars my memory. I have to say that at this point in time, Summer of 67, I was pretty much ignorant about what was going on around me beyond my squad and platoon. You seem to have been a little more in the know. Dan, I was just a lucky guy. You know the casualties we sustained in that time period. Very few of the people that I knew who got there with me made it out in one piece. In January at Song Be 7 months into my tour, I got promoted to E-5 because I was still alive. I was already one of the old guys still 18. No heroics or anything, I just survived. I could write more on this, and I guess i will later.

The wife has me studying for a real estate license. My new weekend job is to be her assistant. So to the books.
Bill ABU

I remember the Captain’s RTO. It may have been prior to your arrival, but he had apparently neglected to bend the cotter/grenade pins. His nickname was “Whitey” due to his very blonde hair.

When one of his grenades dislodged and subsequently blew, it killed Whitey and wounded the two chaplains that were in the field for the day. We were thick jungles. That was with A company. Put the time around June or July as well. I recall that one of the Chaplains was purported to have been blinded.

The thing with CPT Mitchill’s RTOs was in September in Chulai. Earlier in the day we had encountered what turned out to be an NVA Hospital unit Set up near a stream that was located in the creese of a saddle. A scout dog alerted on them, 1st platoon, with me, went to the other side of the stream, to seal off the escape route. Just as we got into position, the other platoon opened up, I think that it was 3rd platoon, and quickly killed about 15 or so NVA. Several of them,including 2 nurses hid behind trees and threw grenades. Basically suicide as they were trapped and M60s chopped up the trees. I don’t believe we had anyone hurt. A couple of hours later the company CP group, With Chaplain Tommy Thompson accompanying them, was moving through our position. We were on the side of a hill about 200meters up from the stream where they got the NVA. I was sitting near a tree about 50 meters from the CP group as they walked by when the grenade went off in one of the RTOs ammo pouches. Both RTOs were killed several other people were wounded. Cpt Mitchell was very close to the explosion but was shielded by the RTOs bodies. Several of us went to them immediatly. The medics were working on a couple of guys. Cpt Mitchell was stunned or in shock for a while. Chaplain Thompson was wounded by some schrapnel in the face just under one of his eyes. It was raining and one of the Medics, whose name escapes me, had me hold the sleeve off of a C ration box over Chaplain Thompsons face until he could get to him. Chaplain Thompson was pretty shook up, I talked to him for a while, but I cannot remember what I said. Later on I helped carry one of the RTOs to an LZ It was raining and slippery as we walked down hill. It just seemed like a shame that we got all of those NVA while losing no one and then lost two killed to an accident.

I ran into Chaplain Thompson at the Chu Lai Air Field a month or so later as I was flying out to go on R&R. He remembered me and noticed that I did not have any Jump Wings on my uniform. He gave me his so “I would not look like a Leg.”

The incident with the 2 chaplains took place in late July. Probably around the time SGT Welker was killed. I did not see the chopper go down, but I remember guys running out to it from where we were. It happened very quickly, they were in the air about 15 seconds when the chopper kind of flipped over on to one side. I guess they were at about 50 feet. I was routing around in my rucksack and heard the crash.

That is about it,
Bill ABU

I remember the Captain’s RTO. It may have been prior to your arrival, but he had apparently neglected to bend the cotter/grenade pins. His nickname was “Whitey” due to his very blonde hair.

When one of his grenades dislodged and subsequently blew, it killed Whitey and wounded the two chaplains that were in the field for the day. We were thick jungles. That was with A company. Put the time around June or July as well. I recall that one of the Chaplains was purported to have been blinded.

Could this event have been on 9-5-67? Ben Thomas was Captains RTO and was killed by grenade in the same cirumstances in co CP. I was told the gernade was on the gear of a new guy. Ben and I arrived in VN the same day in November 66 and he knew his way around.

This is a question for us with memories that are apparently a bit affected by the passage of time. The incident I was referring to, though, I think must have occurred quite a bit before September. I also remember that it wasn’t too long after a stand down, fairly new into a new operation. I also remember the nickname “Whitey” quite clearly and I knew the man peripherally remembering that he was the Captain’s RTO and that he had very blonde hair.
Dan Clint

Could have been a different incident.

I believe that the incident that I referred to earlier was the one on 9-5-67. Chaplain Thompson got a frag wound right under his eye. I know it was after the casualties of the third week in August because I was sharing a hooch with a guy who was a parachute rigger who had been sent out to replace some of our casualties. I don’t remember another chaplain there that day, although one could have been with one of the 2 platoons that were not with us. It was the CP group and two platoons. I know for sure about the two RTOs who were killed by the frag. I was close enough to respond in seconds.
Bill ABU

Dan Clint,
Steve Merrill here. I’ve been reading some of the comments on the Screaming Eagle site, yours and some others. Mostly about B’rhm and the “daisy cutters”. I saw that someone was looking for a guy named Merrill. Ron replied he remember the “…gaggle in June ’67…” guess the Merrill would be me. So what’s up? We were in a saddle digging a bunker when they hit. They were close. I remember red-haired kid (can’t remember his name and I should) about fifty yards from me lying face down on the chopper pad. Big piece of metal through his chest. What saved us from getting killed was our heads being below the ground in the hole I heard the noise form the bombs and as I looked up I saw their shadow tumbling on the ground. I could almost see the next position on the steep side of the hill but after I could see the whole top of the hill. What was left of it. I was hit in the chest, arms and legs. Mostly dirt and rocks in the upper body and metal in the legs. What concerned me most was the hole in my sack. The guy named Richards was Kenny but I thought he was from Leechburg PA. He came in with his buddy Joe Lafatch. I also remember volunteering for a patrol through with four or five of us and as it was getting dark was quite relived to get to where ever we were going. Remember a tall black man getting an NVA officers pistol, I think it was a P38.

What do you remember about the patrol where Moore got the pistol? Did you remember he was wounded, shot in the leg and that we had to assist him? I was on that patrol, packing the radio, the intelligence had indicated an NVA headquarters and we found it after a careful hike/wade up a creek, (staying off trails) and then we did the raid on the building/hootch. Caught them completely by surprise, they were officers with communications equipment. There were only a hand full of us on that patrol. Do you remember a guy named Bruner? Have you seen the Tiger Force book? I remember Richards and Davis, Davis was freckled, a tall Texan, a bit lanky and geeky. We were getting mortared on Birmingham when Richards grabbed Davis and shook him saying, “Davis! Wake Up! Come on you gotta wake up to die?” Davis was groggy and wondering what the hell was going on and Richards had my laughing. Maybe it was the tension under mortar fire, but Richards had a great sense of humor.
Richards, Davis and I were all on the 4.2 mortar for a while under the direction of Lt. Norris. Just on Birmingham. I have been in touch with Lt. Mike Norris. He lives in El Paso Texas. Also have been in touch with the brother of a Lt. that was killed on Birmingham with the bombing.
I think you were working supply at that point, seemed like you were in the saddle. I was up pretty close to where the bombs struck and was amazed that I came out unscathed while you and others that were a ways away suffered injuries. I remember talking to you about your injuries post bombing. We seemed to check in with each other quite a bit.
Bill Hall is another guy who recalls Birmingham and was wounded that day, (16 March 1968?). Bill was on the 81 mm mortars I think he said. Also Bill was with A Company for a part of the time that I was with them. I remember another guy, think he went to B company, a guy I went through p training with named Hill.
Do you know when you went into the Tigers?
Did you remember Dan Bersch, a machine gunner with A company? Starr, Crowell, Plata, Bersch were all in my squad in A Company. Doc Tomlin? Runyon? Davis – another Davis, small guy from California, was killed. Custer, “Coke bottles Robinson?” Barnett (has since died from cancer). Ybarra, died prematurely from his indulgences (stateside) – at around 35.
Kerrigan ended up as a Chef, and he passed away not long ago also.
Dan Clint

Yeah, brings back some memories. That’s me at Phan Thiet, Damm. It must have been with the line company judging from the steel pots. Just before Tigers. I guess I was on that patrol, I sure remember the dead NVA and Moore happy as hell he got a pistol. Wasn’t there a belt buckle too?
Thanks Steve

I am going to add comments to your letter in blue – certainly very many common recollections.

Hi Dan,
There might have been two teams that day with Moore. I carried the radio for a while so we both wouldn’t have had one.
It is possible that you and Moore went into the hootch. Two of us remained up on the ridge, high ground to provide protection but when the gunfire erupted Moore signalled us down. I didn’t bother to do much more than look in the hootch very quickly and saw the officers bodies. We knew our asses were in a wringer and we had to get out of there fast.
Maybe they were two different patrols. Anyway, what I can recall are NVA rucks and a hootch that seemed to be up on a small rise in the terrain.
For the incident I recall, when we came out of the jungles we were on a rise and as we crested the small rise, the hootch was below us. Then it was downhill from there for our hasty exit. We used the trails, and Moore was wounded. We had a brief rendezvous while we awaited his medivac and that’s when he showed the P-38. That was the last time I saw Moore.
It was larger than most and just around a small bush line that Moore was running along. He was tall.
Maybe he was hobbling. Now that I think maybe he WAS hit in the leg although I can’t say I really remember that clearly. So many things are so jumbled and the timeline so messed up. My head is flooding with images I can’t put in order.
Yeah, these are things that we haven’t talked or thought about much. On this particular mission we didn’t have any problems with a gunship. On the rapid running hasty exit I was supporting Moore’s weight for part of the trek. There were however two other occasions with the Tiger Force where gunships opened up on us. One time with rockets and the machine gun. Another time I was with A Company in a cratered church, when the gun ship spun around and started unloading on us.
It may have been around the time we crossed a small river and came under fire from one of our own gunship. I did have the radio that time. Three of us tried to squeeze through the opening to one of those underground rooms inside hooch. It was a scene right out of the three stooges. I pulled the cord on the handset only to find no handset. Just wires dangling. I recall hearing that the machine gunner stood in the open threatening to open up on the chopper. The pilot saw him and realized we were American. We ran back to where the LT or Captain was.
On the third time we actually opened fire on the chopper and it was very effective at getting them to back off.
Also remember a well-used curved trail we were following. I think Green came face to face with an NVA. Maybe Runyon was slack, maybe you were. Anyway the gook was killed. We stayed awhile and me and maybe Fisher were sitting in a small cleared spot. The grass was wet with blood and we found a pair of black glasses. The kind Varney wore. Just then two VC came up the trail from the other direction.
Fischer talked to me about this saying he had sat down, leaned back and then discovered blood on his hands and then tells of finding Varney’s glasses. He had been the medic that had medivacced Varney and was surprised that they had ended up back in the same position where Varney had been killed. Ingram was the other guy who died the same time as Varney. Also I think it was Cash who had been medivacced believing a leech had crawled up his privates, he came into the field hospital where I was stuck post surgery.
There was another time, I had spotted a cache of mortar rounds off the side of the trail. At first we thought they may have been booby trapped. While they were being processed a courier came down the trail. We took him out, and thus then created a new incident to process (good intelligence and paper work and a weapon) so we moved down the trail a bit and shortly another NVA came down the trail. We also took him out as well, suffering no casualties, but also getting another breather while this was further processed and so we moved down the trail a bit further. No sooner did we begin setting up when another NVA came around the elephant grass, he caught us totally off guard.
We thought no way would anybody be coming this soon after we had totally lit up the valley with rifle fire, but here he came, and very cautious and alert. There were three of us, setting up the first position on the trail, stomping down elephant grass to make a position. (It was me, Maclain and Rogers) My back was to the trail. I heard the gunshot and quickly looked to it’s source, it came from Rogers. I saw him struggling with his M-16 jammed and saw Maclain try to fire and his gun jammed and I spun and realized I was staring my death in the face. The NVA had his rifle pointed directly at us and for some unimaginable reason was not firing. I spun and opened up, but Jeppesen had also been positioning the machine gun for a perfect long look at the trail, from the rear, and the and Rogers shot had alerted him and the others as well. We all seemed to open fire at once. I don’t know how many rounds the guy took before he hit the ground, but later when we looked at the body, we noticed the top of his skull had been cleanly lifted off to reveal his completely untouched brain.
Upon examination of his rifle and with our full adrenalized wonderment, we discovered a bullet hole in the AK-47’s magazine. We concluded that the one round that Roger’s had been able to fire had struck the magazine and jammed the rifle, saving our lives. Both Rogers and McClain were short timers – only had a couple days left in the field before derosing.
We can talk luck, but the three of us felt like we had won the lottery of the “weird” that day, and had largely accidentally been given our second chances.
This was part of Operation Wheeler because at the end of it I remember Ghostrider citing the 80 something weapons captured (89?) when he pulled us off out of the field saying, when we were down to twelve that we could no longer be considered an effective fighting force.
We had started Wheeler with 69. But also I remember Colonel Morse listing the cache of 56 or so mortar rounds that I had found. They were in woven baskets.
The two Tigers at the rear got them both. One had an M-16. I think the machine gunner was a stocky black guy and got a sucking chest wound.
I believe that guy may be “Wright”. As I heard it, the bullet passed so close to his heart that the membrane from his heart had plugged the bullet hole and kept him from bleeding to death. It was that close.
Heard he made it.
I too had heard that he had made it.
We split right after the medi-vac left. I remember talking to an F.O. (A Lieutenant? or was it the guy from Special Forces?) it was pouring. The late afternoon usual. A chopper drew fire from near by. I think Green, Runyon Ybarra and myself maybe the medic went after them. We came up on three of them grab-assing in the rain. Green and Runyon ran ahead and got two of them and the third was wounded badly but got away. Green popped one in the gooks head and cracked it open. Sam took an ear and I propped them up with one arm around the other. The other’s brain fell out into his hands. I think the medic maybe Fisher couldn’t believe it. I seem to remember a grenade was placed under one of the dinks ass, pin pulled but I can’t be sure.
Not sure where Fischer was during this particular bit.
I also remember ghostrider getting shot down and we tried to get to him but another chopper got there first. It seemed that we received fire from every little opening in the jungle. We crossed a larger river and setup on the bank. We started receiving fire from the side we just came from. Someone captured an old grease gun. And someone got shot through the cheek. (remember that as well) A gunship broke the contact. It was before the ambush Green got killed in because I was talking to Ed Beck. He was killed in the same ambush Green was.
Of course remember Beck and Green. Beck was great! One of my favorites. I had asked him to look after Fischer when I had been wounded. I don’t know if you recall when I was wounded, it was when Oakden was killed and Diaz lost a leg, and Fulton had took a large enough piece of schrapnel in the back of the thigh to shatter his femur and send him to Japan.
We setup on top of a hill from the river, in an abandoned NVA encampment were the holes were already dug. It was pitch black that night. Some gook was beating on a coconut or something all night. I think all this was around the time of the patrol Moore got the P38. All the teams traveled in small numbers by day and often joined up for the night. Before all that Tommy Kellogg and I were in the ambush that Messier got killed in.
Remember Kellogg and Messier sounds more vaguely familiar.
The book got that wrong too. I think Lee was the Sergeant. A dink darted out and ran for a rice paddy.
The point man wounded him at the tree line.
I think that was me pulling point. Do you remember, was that the “dink” that was wearing a white shirt? When we got up to him he had been hit in the wrist. We couldn’t find any other injury but he was stone dead. We surmised he’d died of shock, but we were puzzled about it.
Lee and I walked into the paddy and they opened up on us. Jimmy got it. Yes I read the Tiger book. Sam Ybarra always talked to me. He didn’t seem hard to be around in spite of what was said. He got moody sometimes but didn’t everyone? I went into the Tiger with Kellogg and Messier around the end of July or early August. Came from B Company. I was in the saddle at Birmingham and I was with supply, in Headquarters Company, and went on the advance parties for most of the Tac CP’s. I was advance party for Birmingham. Was there from day one. Bersch and Starr sound familiar. Richards I remember. We were together from AIT. Also remember an Allums and Ledbetter.
Yep, remember Allums, Ledbetter, and also Richard’s friend that he called “Stony”. Somewhere I think I may have a picture of Richard’s and Stony.
I better end this BOOK!

Hey, thanks for the memory check. There are not too many people in the world left, that I can walk down this particular memory lane with. I am going to forward this along to Fischer as well. He will get a kick out of the mutual recollections.

I was with the unit for two of the incidents described our platoon had just left a village and was walking in single file. We were in the lead and a group of CIDG was with us, we walked several hundred yards down a trail in fairly open terrain when there was a loud explosion. We all hit the deck and waited for further information. What apparently happened was about the last of the CIDG troops stepped on a mine.

Sgt. Welker told us all to stay put then took off to see what he could do etc. he apparently hit one too. When we were putting him in the chopper he was alert but in shock. He was bleeding from his upper leg, near the groin. we all thought he would be ok because it did not look to bad, we then got word on the radio the he died enroute to the hospital while in the chopper for blood loss, it likely hit his femoral artery. He did seem so much older than the rest of us, his biggest worry was that his wife was driving his brand new T-bird he bought just before coming to the nam.

The helicopter crash happened on take off. We were all sitting on the side of a rice paddy as it took off, and all of a sudden it sounded like an M-60 or something had opened up on it, whack whack whack whack, then it started to spin and crashed into the ground. Several of us were pissed thinking the cong had opened up and we ran out to the bird to protect those inside. Everyone seemed to be ok, there were some combat engineers if I remember right.

What had happened was the rear rotar flew off, thus the whacking sound, and the bird lost stability and spun in.
Steve Black

It was cpt. mitchells RTO that was killed that night. I had just started humping the radio for 1st platoon. The head medic was teaching some of the RTO`s how to start a albumin (spell?) IV. I can`t remember his name but he was short and a homeboy from Maryland. I was told his grenade was on his ruck got tangled in a vine and he pulled hard enough to pull the pin. If I remember correctly he only had 15 days left. The blast blew me face down on the ground looking back it`s amazing more people didn`t get hurt. He was the one who got me put on the radio after a month on line. I ended up becoming the head RTO for ABU. TWO other mishaps I remember are the LZ being accidently bombed on one of the fire bases when we were in the Ashau by a marine pilot ??? and when the 20 milimeter run came thru the back side of the perimeter. Those memories are pretty hazy for me but if any one remembers them I could use some clarity. I was carrying the radio for CPT. Hopkins when those two occured. CPT. Hopkins relieved CPT. johnson who came on after Mitchell left.

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