D Company, 1/502d Infantry (Airmobile)
101st Infantry Division (Airmobile)
I was drafted into the Army out of grad school at Florida State University in 1970. My military occupational specialty was 11-C (infantry-mortars), and I was a "shake-n'-bake" sergeant only about three months out of NCO School at Ft. Benning when I arrived in Vietnam. My "tour of duty" in Vietnam came late in the war, near the end of Vietnamization, and was marked by me trying to stay out of the way of other guys that were headed back to "the World" and learning the hard way what it was like to work with Vietnamese Marines, engineers and armored units. I processed in through the 1/5th Mechanized Infantry "Red Devil Replacement Depot" at Quang Tri Combat Base in early June, 1971 and was initially assigned to C Troop, 3d Squadron, 5th U.S. Cavalry, the Division Reconnaisance force of the Ninth Infantry Division, then under the operational control of the 1/5 Mechanized Infantry. By early July 1971 the 1/5th Mech had stood down and was gone from Vietnam. As it left, 3/5 Cavalry came under the operational control of the 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile). By that time I had undergone a familiarization process with armor and cavalry operations as a rifleman and M-60 machine gunner, and in July I inherited one of 1/5th Mech's armored mortar carriers and became C Troop's first platoon mortar track commander. With 3/5 Cav I spent about five months in the only U.S. combat unit still patrolling the area just south of the DMZ (there were still several U.S. artillery units in the area, too, but that was pretty much "it"). In October 1971 3/5 Cavalry stood down and I got a new unit assignment: D Company 1/502d Infantry, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile) where after a brief but bumpy shakedown during which I learned basic things like how to carry a rucksack down the hill without falling on top of my platoon leader, platoon sergeant, and squad leader... all at the same time... (Yes I really did that. Mortar sergeants don't carry rucksacks and neither do armored personnel carrier commanders. I learned all about the rucksack the hard way.) I became an infantry team leader in the first platoon. For some three months I was there humping the boonies... elephant grass, brush and jungle - hills and mountains (not many rice paddies), around Hue and Phu Bai.
At about mid-day on 8 February 1972 I was one of the two-score or so tired and disgusted troops who had cleaned and cleaned and cleaned everything in sight for several weeks and then got to listen to a captain read orders ending the existence of the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and simultaneously bringing it back into existence at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He then ordered that the U.S. colors be retired from in front of Division HQ. At that point Division HQ was an empty shell and most of the hootches and other facilities at Phu Bai Combat Base had already been demolished by ARVN engineers. I climbed on the back of a single five-ton truck with most of the other guys, the captain got in his jeep, and we went straight onto a waiting Chinook at the Phu Bai airfield. I was in Da Nang that evening in time for a final, departing, late-night rocket attack on the airfield there, and after a brief stop in Seattle to pick up discharge papers, I was back home in Tampa, Florida, the morning of the 10th... out of the war, out of Vietnam, and out of the army after 19 months and 3 days in the Army and 8 months and 2 days in Vietnam.
I thought then that-that was the end of it; the end of Vietnam, the end of the war. But it wasn't. In one way or another Vietnam is still with us and I think that it will continue to be so for quite some time to come. So, this page is dedicated to our comrades in arms... living and dead, wherever they may be, and has been put up by me to complement Mike Kelley's long ongoing effort to keep the veterans of D Co, 1/502d Infantry in Vietnam, together. Enquiries concerning this site should be directed to: firstname.lastname@example.org or to Richard White, P. O. Box 20425, Tallahassee, FL 32316-0425.
All enquiries concerning membership in the D Co., 1/502d Infantry, Vietnam Association, should be directed by email at email@example.com or Mike ("M-60") Kelley, 2140 36th Street, Sacramento, CA 95817, or to (916) 455-1946.
Oh... and by the way, before I forget... (Caveat Emptor, Tempus Fugit, etc.): This site has nothing real or imagined to do with the U.S. Army or any other part of the gub'mint, except long ago and far away.
Richard White - 30 May 1998