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 are available in the “Vietnam” category in the right side column. “My Mother’s machine-gun” which is my personal favorite, is also there.
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.
This is my December 2014 year end report:
My blog, 8 months old, has now had over 16,000 reads from 73 countries including many readers from Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and surprisingly two from the isle of Jersey as well. Jersey is one of my favorite places in the world, Vietnam, not so much although both share being incredibly beautiful. “Staying Alive by Being Inept” is by far my most popular article, and “Cone of Violence” is number 2. They are both far ahead of number 3, “A Sad Story: the Soldier Who Would Not Kill”.
“A Sad Story: the Soldier Who Would not Kill” was very difficult to write, while “Staying Alive By being Inept” was easy, and “Cone of Violence” practically wrote it self. They are very different, but each struck a similar chord with my readers.
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.
I wish you all a happy, safe New Year, and thanks for reading.
It has now been exactly one year since I started my blog. In that one year I have made 28 posts, that have been read almost 31,000 times, by people from 88 countries. Many of my readers have taken the time comment, some were there when the events I describe took place, some tell similar stories. I have learned a great deal from both. Personally i think some of the comments really bring the stories to life. The comments appear immediately after the stories.
My most popular story is: “Staying Alive By Being Inept” read over 5,000 times, next is “Cone of Violence” read about 4,000 times, followed by “A Very Sad Story: the Soldier Who Would Not Kill” read almost 4,000 times. If you Google those titles, my story pops up first. Wow.
I still like “My Mother’s Machine-gun” best. It is fourth at almost 3,000 readers.
While the United Kingdom is my biggest foreign source of readers, Vietnam is a close third. That still surprises me. Lots of readers from India, but not a single reader from Pakistan or China, except for those living in Hong Kong and Macao. Strange.
Thank all you readers everywhere. Thank you daughter Johnna for setting up the blog and all of you who have encouraged me to write. I still know a few good stories, so some more are coming.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. I’ll be visiting some friends at Arlington.
This is my year end 2015 Report. Since I started writing, my stories have been downloaded over 60,000 times. It is equally incredible to me that these stories have been downloaded in 107 countries around the globe. No advertising, no publisher, that is the power of the internet; just people, sharing what they like.
My Vietnam articles lead the list of downloads, but “How To Study Less and Get Better Grades” (https://johneharrison.wordpress.com/…/how-to-study-less-an…/), does well too. This is a study guide that I wrote for my students when I was teaching in high school. It becomes popular twice a year at the beginning of the Fall and Spring semesters, September and January, and then it fades away until the beginning of school the following year.
The second most downloaded non-Vietnam article is “Have You Ever Been The Target of A Hitman?” (https://johneharrison.wordpress.com/…/have-you-ever-been-t…/). This is an article the I wrote for the Washington Post about a case I had where a woman, a former Republican candidate for the United States Senate in Maryland, took out contract with a hit man to kill me and two others after she lost a case. And you thought that being a lawyer was safe.
The number one story by far is still “On Staying Alive By Being Inept”, (https://johneharrison.wordpress.com/…/on-staying-alive-by-…/). It is followed by “Cone of Violence” (https://johneharrison.wordpress.com/…/…/22/cone-of-violence/). The rest of the pack is well behind, but the humorous stories are clearly ahead of everything except “Cone of Violence”. They now total 30 stories and articles.
Of course, the United States leads all countries in downloading by a wide margin, but Vietnam and Canada have been duking it out all year for third place. First place is Australia, followed by Great Britain.
To all my readers a sincere thank you, and I wish you all a safe and happy New Year.