During the Vietnam War I enlisted in the Army as a private. I was commissioned as an Infantry Lieutenant upon completion of Officer Candidate School at 20 years old. I was assigned to Company A, 3rd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division. Initially I was the Executive Officer, later assumed additional duty of Rifle Platoon Leader. While in Viet Nam I served as a Rifle Platoon Leader, Executive Officer and Rifle Company Commander, including combat operations incidental to the Tet ‘68 Offensive.
Upon returning from Vietnam I graduated from Georgetown University and worked in real estate while going to law school at night. While practicing law I also worked in real estate and mortgage banking for about 30 years and finally achieved my lifetime ambition to be a high school history teacher.
Several readers have asked me about the genesis of the two articles, “Cone of Violence” and The Day Smith Died. The Day Smith Died was written first many years ago, probably right after I saw the mini-series Gettysburg on television for the first time. Watching it, I was struck by the similarities in courage of the Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, MOH, and the VC Province Chief I had run into near Phan Thiet, RVN. So, I wrote the article soon after. While I have never regretted shooting the Province Chief, I have almost always regretted the necessity that required me to shoot him. It was probably the death of Jim Bunn and Smith, and the killing of the Province Chief that drove me from the Army—I have always hated killing people.
I refight that day, February 2, 1968, every day in my mind’s eye. At one point when I was doing that in front of a computer, I just started writing and “Cone of Violence” was what came out. It came out all at once, complete. That was several years after I wrote The Day Smith Died. To me: one is history, what happened, and the other is emotion, what was felt.
Both “Cone of Violence” and The Day Smith Died are now in my new book, Steel Rain, the Tet Offensive, which is available on Amazon at (https://www.amazon.com/Steel-Rain-Tet-Offensive-1968/dp/1977045448/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1517494115&sr=1-1-catcorr) My Mother’s machine-gun which is my personal favorite, is in the book as well, but is also still available in the “Vietnam” category in the right side column on this page.
In the “Memoir” category on the right, you will find the story of United States Senate candidate Ruthann Aron, and how she once hired a hit man to kill me and another lawyer according to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney. (See: https://johneharrison.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/have-you-ever-been-the-target-of-a-hit-man/) However, after she had failed at poisoning her husband’s chili, she changed her mind and decided to have the hit man murder her husband, instead of me. And you thought that being a lawyer was a safe job, all inside work with no heavy lifting? Danger lurks in the strangest places.
One of the neatest things about the blog has been the feed back, particularly from people that were there when the action happened. but also from people that have added to the stories from their own experiences in their comments. After I wrote A Dangerous Tossing Game Played At Night I found out from several readers that something called “rock apes” prowled the highlands and delighted in throwing rocks at troops and others. I also learned that while there were numerous “guerrillas” no one has ever seen a gorilla in Vietnam.
We met “rock apes”, tigers, elephants, snakes, peacocks and many other animals, great and small, in the wild, often with deadly results for the animals. However, other than snakes, the Army mentioned none of them in training. We trained mostly for combat patrols in the jungle, but fought mostly in pitched battles in cities, towns and villages. There are fewer and fewer of us every year and at some point Agent Orange, deployed originally for troop protection, will probably prove itself more deadly to us than bullets. It is these ironies that interest me right now, but I have not yet written of them and I do not know why.
Thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy the blog.