THE BOYS OF ‘67
Charlie Company’s War in Vietnam
By Andrew Weist
This is the powerful story of “Charlie Company”, in reality Company “C”, 4th Battalion of the 47th Infantry, of the 9th Division. To increase the military build-up in Vietnam, the 9th Division was re-activated by the United States Army. Its ranks would be filled by young men being drafted under the Selective Service System. The drafting of these men began in the Spring of 1966. Young men from around the country received their “Greetings” from “Uncle Sam” and after passing their physicals were forwarded to Fort Riley, Kansas to begin their training. They began to come together as a “family” of brothers.
After basic training, they went on to AIT (Advanced Infantry Training) which would involve training for specialties as machine gunners, mortar men and so forth. These men were destined to become the MRF (Mobile Riverine Force). This would be a joint venture of the Army and Navy to combat the control of the Viet Cong in the Mekong Delta area.
The Mekong Delta is the “bread-basket” of Viet-Nam. Because of the richness of the soil and the water available from the myriads of rivers and streams, rice grows well in these conditions. The area has few, if any roads, and traveling from place to place is accomplished by boat. This area was ideal for the Main Force Viet Cong, as it provided food for them as well as a hidden base to work from. Since there were no extensive areas of “dry” ground the establishment of an operational base was literally out of the question.
The MRF base was to be a couple of old LST’s moored in one of the rivers and operations to be conducted via landing craft to speed the troops to the area where they were needed.
After their training was concluded in December of 1966, the men of Charlie Company were granted two weeks leave. They disbursed around the country to see their families, some for the last time.
When they arrived in Viet Nam, the MRF base had not yet been established, so they were assigned to patrol an area known as the Rung Sat Special area. In this area they experienced their first taste of combat, and their first casualties. The area was mostly consisting of knee-deep mud. When they arrived their was no camp, just a muddy expanse of field. They had to build a camp, mount patrols for the Viet Cong and in general, settle in to this their new home for the next year. The soldier’s biggest problem was the land mines and other booby traps left by the Cong in their patrol areas, casualties mounted.
After some time the MRF base was ready for occupancy and the men of “Charlie” welcomed the change from the muddy conditions of Rung Sat. Here the patrol areas were mostly rice paddies, big open areas where you could see for a distance, and in turn be seen. Ambushes were prevalent in this region of the Delta, as well as the mines in the paddies and especially on the paddy dikes.
Men were lost during these ambushes and the remaining men went back to empty cots of friends who had been evacuated, or killed. The “family” began to get smaller. New replacements had the feeling they were not accepted into “Charlie”, as the veterans kept to themselves and didn’t go out of their way to make friends.
After serving “a year and a day” the remainder of “Charlie” returned home. “Home”, however was different, the people didn’t understand what these men had been through and while they tried to make the returnees feel comfortable, the “old” things had no meaning for some of the returnees.
After some time, a condition called PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) was recognized in these men and most came back to being somewhat “normal”. After some years some of the men of “Charlie Company” got together and reunited to share their experiences and to toast old friends who did not come back.
This book hit home to me, as I was called up in 1966, only to be rejected as being “too old”, I was 23. This book will bring home to those who were there, as well as those who were not something of the “real” Viet Nam conflict. This is not a political treatise on why we were there, or a history of the operations which took place, but a “blood and guts” story of what one unit of “draftees” went through, and the aftermath of that service.
I recommend this book to any person who served, or who knows someone that did serve in Viet Nam, or to anyone who wants to know what it is like to be in a combat zone during a firefight in the Viet Nam war. This book is not for the feint of heart, as it contains some rather graphic descriptions of wounds and casualties, and is heart-wrenching in its story that will affect the young and the old.
This book is available from Osprey Publications.