Vietnam Personal Accounts


Re-enlisting and going off to war
By Lloyd G. “Pappy” Reynolds © 2012

      I was in the Marines from 1959 to 1963 in the infantry stationed in Hawaii for two years. With the 4th Marines. I was involved in the what was then called the Laotian Crisis in early 1962. We (I) did not get ashore but we sailed off the coast of Vietnam for about a week ready to go ashore. (My platoon leader at the time was a freckle faced red head by the name of Ling who could speak French. He was sent ashore as an interpreter and we never saw him again. ???) Returning to stateside I requested duty with tanks and got it. Got married and did my time and got out of the Marines.

     I worked as a welder and a machinist in California. After I got divorced I moved to Louisiana and worked as an off shore welder in the Gulf. I got locked for being drunk and when I got out of jail I decided to go back to California to see my daughter. Vietnam looked like it might last awhile. So in November of 1966 I re-enlisted to go to Vietnam. Got orders to Staging Battalion at Camp Pendleton to get uniforms and join the next available replacement draft.

     As I had been out for three years I could not get my rank of Corporal back; I had to return as a PFC. My bonus for re-enlisting was Mess Duty. Seems there were not enough uniforms to go around. So they found me a set of Whites. Every day I’d go to the office and ask about uniforms. One day the Gunny yelled at me and asked if I thought I was in the Horse Marines (I was wearing Cowboy Boots, as I had not been issued Boots yet). Well I had been in the 4th Marines (the Old Horse Marines from China days). So I told him yea I was in the 4th Horse Marines! He went high and to the right. When the dust settled and he stopped to catch his breath, I jumped in to tell him of my woes in getting uniforms, we headed to supply. In a few days, after getting just barley enough uniforms (there was a uniform shortage) to go to Vietnam I was assigned to a replacement draft. This lack of proper uniforms was to cause me trouble later when I headed home from Vietnam. We then went through about a month of administrative stuff and intensive training (all infantry related, no mater what the MOS was).

     We were going to go over by ship about 1500 of us. We boarded ship in San Diego and sailed off. Fourteen days to Okinawa. As we got closer things were getting very tense, there was a lot of racial tension on board. The Marines had just started taking draftees and a lot of the replacements were draftees. Everyone was uptight, tense and scared. We were supposed to stay in Okinawa for a day and have beach liberty, (stay on the base and don’t go to town). This Corporal (returning for a second tour) and me said bullshit, we could get killed and this may be our last chance to get laid. We snuck off the base got a cab and went to town. Had some drinks, got laid and took our time getting back. When we got back the ship was pulling away from the dock and we had to run like hell and jump about ten feet to get aboard. (Missing a movement to combat is a very serious offense and usually leads to a court-martial.) Fortunately a senior NCO friend was there and he told the Officer of the Deck that he had sent us ashore to round up any strays. (Hell we were their strays.) He then told us to disappear and he would explain later. We were making our way down to our compartment wondering why the ship was leaving early. We noticed a lot of Marines with bandages and bruises cuts and scrapes. Some really banged up. When we got to our compartment we asked what the hell happened. Turned out that there was a race riot while on the beach. All started by one idiot red neck in the E club on the base. It sure did relieve the tension of going south though, looked more like a Hospital Ship coming back instead of a replacement ship going.

     Possibly because of the riot, I don’t know, but this was the last replacement draft sent over by ship. All other replacements flew over. This caused another gripe from the Marines. The Navy did a six-month tour (at least the Sea Bees and the SEAL Teams.) I’m not sure about the Corpsmen.), the Army and Air Force did a twelve-month tour. The Marines did thirteen months because they originally allowed for shore to shore including travel time. When Marines started flying over they still kept to the thirteen months which pissed a lot of guys off. Wonder how many got killed in their last month.

     Anyway we got to Vietnam the next day. We were to go ashore at Da Nang by Mike boat. Going up the river we could see some destroyed buildings and a lot of sandbag bunkers manned by Vietnamese. We landed at a pier and were taken into a big warehouse for in country processing. I already knew where I was going as I was a tanker and had orders to the 3rd Marine Division, so 3rd Tank Battalion here I come. There was about 30 of us going to 3rd Tanks. (Marine Tank Battalions are not very big.) We had to wait for a ride to our unit and then for a convoy to form. Now I was starting to get apprehensive. I wanted a weapon, a helmet, a bayonet hell a can opener, anything.

     Turned out that 3rd Tanks HQ. was just on the outskirts of Da Nang not to far from a shantytown we called Dog Patch. Also turned out that the Company I was assigned to was temporarily there to. When I got to Bravo Company I got issued most of the things I needed a sleeping bag, helmet, pistol, 792 gear, rain suit, ect. I also ran into a few Marines I had known in 1st Tanks at Camp Pendleton during my tour there in 62 & 63. I was assigned to the 1st Platoon, actually 3 of us from the ship all wound up in first platoon. The other two guys were draftees and turned out to be as good as any Marines I ever served with.

     When I had gotten out of the Marines in 63 we had the M-48A1 Tank which had a gasoline engine and a coincidence range finder. Now they had the M-48A3 Diesel engine with a stereoscopic range finder and a few other whistles and bells that I hadn’t seen before. I didn’t have the rank (or experience) to be a tank commander again. I didn’t want to be the gunner (when a tank gets hit, he is the last one out if he isn’t trapped inside), I asked to be a driver and after proving to the TC that I could still drive these big bastards he said I got the job. I stayed with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 3rd Tank Battalion for my whole tour.

     All of us that went over on that ship (and finished the tour alive and rotated home) spent two Christmases and two New Years in Vietnam. At least I did and the other two in the 1st Platoon. They made it to.