THE YEARS OTHERS KNEW AS YOUTH, "WE" SPENT LEARNING THE MEANING OF DEATH.
THE TIMES OTHERS SPENT LEARNING TO LOVE, "WE" PASSED HOPING TO LIVE THROUGH ENDLESS NIGHTS.
THE MOMENTS OTHERS REMEMBER AS LAUGHS IN THE CLASSROOMS, "WE" REMEMBER AS TERROR IN THE JUNGLES.
THE INSTANTS OF PLEASURE TAKEN FOR GRANTED BY OTHERS, "WE" REMEMBER AS FORGOTTEN HOPES-LONG AGO CRUSHED BY THE REALITY OF WAR.
THE UNFULFILLED DREAMS OF OTHERS ARE YET TO BE THOUGHT BY "US" "SINCE WE ARE IN SEARCH OF OUR ELUSIVE YOUTH, LOOKING FOR YEARS LOST IN COMBAT, WHICH ARE NO MORE AND WILL NEVER BE.
We are the SURVIVORS from the 1st Bn 5th Infantry Regiment 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division that fought for a place called "CU CHI VIETNAM" also known as "HELLS HALF ACRE" because of the "FIERCE FIGHTING" that had taken place when we and the rest of the 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division arrived at it and made it our Base of Operations. Cu Chi had over 240 square miles of Tunnel Networks beneath it. To the Enemy, it was the equivalent of our Bunker Hill, Valley Forge, a Holy Place and it's a National Historical Landmark today. Only 23 miles Northwest of Saigon. It was surrounded by and only a short distance in any direction from the Fil Hol Plantation, Ho Bo Woods, Trang Bang, Tay Ninh, Boi Loi Woods, Michelin Plantations, Xuan Loc, Katum, French Fort, Cau Ding Jungle, Iron Triangle, Parrots Beak, Black Virgin Mountain, Go Dau Ha, the Fish Hook, Song Be, Trai Ba, Trung Lap, Ben Suc, Xuan Moi Woods, Bau Co, Ap Soui Tri, Ghost Town Trail, Dau Tang, Tri Tam, Tan An, Than Dien Forestry, the Angel Wing, Cambodia and the rest of "HELL". Any which way you went out of CU CHI, we were in "THE DEVIL'S BACK YARD". We were the Reactionary Unit for all of War Zone C & D. We were the "LEWIS and CLARKS" of the Vietnam War in III and IV Corps Area of Operations. We were among if not the 1st American Combat Troops to ever penetrate most of the Areas of War Zone C & D along with the 27th Infantry, 14th Infantry, 173rd Airborne, 1st Infantry Division and some Australian Units in early 1966.
We would load our Tracks (Armored Personnel Carriers) with Ammo,Weapons, Explosives, Supplies, Water and C-Rations to eat and could go out in the Bush under the Jungle Canopy and stay out for months if need be. Only needing to be re-supplied occasionally. We were "ALWAYS" under strength, taking 2 Guys from this Squad and 3 from that Squad and along with what was left of your Squad "STILL" only having 7 or 8 Guys for a Ambush or Patrol. (A normal Infantry Squad is 11) We ran Ambushes every day and night along with 3 to 5 man Listening Posts up to a several thousand or more meters out in the Bush . (We called it "BAIT"!) This was considered a rest even though you "DARE NOT FALL ASLEEP" from our normal daily routines. (Patrols, Sweeps, Ambushes, LP's, Search and Destroy Operations, Blocking Forces as well as finding and destroying the massive Tunnel Complexes, Trenches, Weapon Caches, Base Camps, Supply Cashes as well as Killing the Enemy or they would Kill us!)
Our Jungle's were thick and green where you can only see the day light as it leaked through the top of the Jungle Canopy ceilings. The floor reaped of "DEATH". Not only did we have to deal with the Enemy, but with the hundreds of different varieties of poisonous Snakes, Spiders, Scorpions, Red Fire Ants, Black Army Ants, the Tree leaches, Water and Paddy Leaches, Parasites, Malaria, Dysentery, Disease, , Heat Stroke, Booby Traps, Mines, Ambushes, Snipers, Punji Pits, and anything else they could throw at us. Our Enemy was also the Agent Orange, Agent Blue, Agent Pink and Agent White that we know about that they sprayed directly on top of us in the early years in Vietnam in our Area of Operation . The DDT in the little clear plastic bottles we rubbed all over us like baby oil to ward off the Mosquitoes and insects all the time. We used Spray Cans that were made up from DDT that we sprayed all over us and our Tracks. When we went in to the Bush and hit or banged into the Trees or the thick Foliage of the Jungle's, Nests with thousands of Red Fire Ants would fall all over us and bite pieces of flesh from us as they fell from their nests on to our bare skin. (We did what we called "THE ANT DANCE") We would take these spray cans as we tore off our clothes and spray all over our selves with it to Kill the painful Fire Ants.
The Enemy we fought was "THE CREAM OF THE CROP". The "BEST" they had. Well seasoned at the Art of Warfare, "HARD CORE", Viet Minh and Viet Cong and as time rolled on,the NVA. We had no maps in the beginning except for the 20 plus year old maps made by the French of very few of the Areas we were Operating in left over from the French Indo-China War. Our Weapons would JAM and "NOT" work half of the time while the Enemy's would. They dropped Leaflets and warned the Enemy that we were coming into an Area even before we knew we were going into it. Giving them ample time and go in and set up Booby Traps, Mines and Ambushes in anticipation of our arrival. We would take and secure an area only to leave it and than return again in a few weeks or a month and than back to another area we were in before or into new areas of the "UNKNOWN" while "DEATH" stalked us every inch of the way. Our Artillery was useless most of the time because we were always out of range. (Thank "GOD" for the "GREAT" Mortar Teams we had in the Battalion) Air support was limited and very seldom because of the weather or we were hidden deep underneath the Jungle Canopy and they risked dropping it on top of us. But when ever we got any kind of SUPPORT, be it by way of Air, Sea or Land when we needed it we would Praise the Aviation Units but Super when in range. , the USMC, Navy and Air Force Pilots, the Battleship New Jersey as well as the 8th and 13th Artillery or any one else we received it from. Some of "RULES" OF ENGAGEMENT they gave us from time to time was like, do not hit the Rubber Trees because the US Goverment had to pay for every bullet hole we put in them after a fire fight. Our Jungle fatigues would "ROT" off us as did our feet and skin from the tropical heat, humidity and wetness of the Country. We got our clothes from the "DEAD MANS PILE" which came from our Dead and Wounded that were better than the "RAGS" we had on. We bathed in our own blood more than we bathed in water unless during the Monsoons. Then we were soaking wet 24 hours a day for several months. No hot food unless on a rare occasion like Thanksgiving in the Field. (Thanksgiving 1966, they flew us out hot food in the field but it rained so hard the Turkey floated right off the trays as we watched the potatoes and cranberries dissolve and run like water off the trays. But we appreciated it and thanked "GOD" we were still alive.) Occasionally we would return to Base Camp where the first thing we would do is clean our weapons, eat a hot meal, shower, get some sleep, pick up our new replacements and than go back out in the Bush after a day or two or maybe after a few days if we were lucky. (That's usually because we were so under strength and or banged up real bad.) We were the Kids that became MEN over night that did our job every day and every night with out hesitation. Killing our Enemy! Swatting flies and Swapping Lives. The one thing that tore us apart more than anything else was why so many people back here in the United States hated us so much and were aiding and abetted the same Enemy that we were fighting?
We were very fortunate because many of the NCO's we had in the beginning were Hardened Combat Veterans from WW II and from the Korean War. We got what we called "ON THE JOB TRAINING". From our lessons learned we opened the path so many would SURVIVE that came after us because of our mistakes and experiences. Rank came fast in the Battalion because we had a very high fatality and causality rate. Many of us were 19 year old Squad Leaders and 22, 23 year old Platoon Leaders. We grew up fast. BUT! We eliminated many, many more of them than they did us. We are Warriors and if this was any other War or time period in History, we would of been RESPECTED and treated as a WARRIOR should be treated, with "HONOR and RESPECT". Our Country treated us as out casts and tried to take everything they could from us. But the one thing that they could never take was our LOVE for each other, HONOR, LOYALTY and the RESPECT we have for each other "BONDED by COMBAT". Why did we fight? We fought for one reason! For the LOVE of our BROTHER SOLIDER that was out there with us. For "WE" are BROTHERS by BLOOD, SWEAT and TEARS till DEATH do us part! "FOR AS LONG AS WE LIVE, THOSE THAT GAVE THEIR LIVES TO KEEP US ALIVE SHALL ALWAYS LIVE IN OUR HEARTS AND MINDS" (Norman "Butch" Petit - Squad Leader, Tunnel Rat and Pointman, Bravo Company 1st Platoon 3rd Squad also know as "The Pretty Boy Squad".)
We are the 1st Battalion 5th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division CU CHI VIETNAM 1966
"A LEGEND AMONG LINE UNITS"
During the year 1966, the 2nd Brigade 25th Infantry Division was Awarded the Valorous Unit Citation for the Battle for Cu Chi. We had 11 major engagements with Regimental sized Units or larger for the first 66 Days we were in CU CHI.
The 25th Infantry Division was also Awarded 5 CONGRESSIONAL MEDALS of HONOR during the year 1966 in III Corps.
* Feb 18th 1966 SP/4 Daniel Fernandez C Company 1st Bn 5th Infantry
Nov 5th 1966 Sgt John F Baker A Company 2nd Bn 27th Infantry
Nov 5th 1966 Capt Robert F Foley A Company 2nd Bn 27th Infantry
* Nov 13th 1966 1st Lt Joseph X Grant A Company 1st Bn 14th Infantry
* Nov 18th 1966 Sgt Ted Belcher C Company 1st Bn 14th Infantry