Here are some of my memories about the Army and the
First Signal Brigade
My name is Douglas Leach. I was stationed on V. C. Hill, in Vung Tau, from March 1968
to September 1969. 1st Signal Brigade, Long Lines Battalion South, HHC.
Some people knew me as Thor.
I grew up in Massachusetts and Florida. I was living in Phoenix,
Arizona when I got a letter that my friends and neighbors wanted me to join the
Army. I didn't know whether to be flattered or infuriated. But, like
all the guys my age I had been expecting it.
I went through basic training at Ft. Bliss, Texas. (We actually had
snow on my bivouac.) While I was there I listened to a propaganda speech telling
me that since I was a high school graduate I could select my career path rather
than letting the Army do it for me. All I had to do was give them one more
year of my life. Believing that one year was better than slogging in the
rice paddies, I bit. I selected microwave radio technician training and
thought that would be a good career field after I got out.
After basic, I received my advanced training at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey;
and, in the last week of school, I received orders for Korea. Boy was I
happy not to be going to Viet Nam. The next day my Korea orders were
rescinded and replaced with orders for Viet Nam. Major bummer.
I remember arriving at Long
Vinh. I was waiting for the plane to come
under fire and knew I would probably die before I landed. Of course it
didn't happen, but that is the kind of thing that goes through your mind when
you are young and scared. I wonder how many of us REMFs thank God for
having the jobs we had and thank the men in the paddies for all they gave.
One of my first official acts after arriving in-country was to get
drunk. The E. M. Club was ready to help. Rum and Coke. I
wouldn't be that sick from booze until I was short. But that's another
After three days several of us flew to Vung Tau Air Field where we got our
first look at V. C. Hill. There was this mountain with billboard antennas
on top and a dust cloud swirling around. I asked if it was always like
that. Our driver said no, sometimes it rained.
I will never forget the ride up that mountain. Any of you who were
there will know exactly what I mean. The road was built by the French, was
full of blind curves and switch-backs, and was only wide enough for one
vehicle. Whenever you met another vehicle going the other way someone had
to back up until they reached a spot where there was room to go around.
Down-hill traffic generally had the right-of-way. The driver made a point
of scaring the living s*** out of all of us. In months to come I was sure
to do the same for many other new arrivals.
Only the Army could have the wisdom to do what they do. When I got
there I learned that there were no open slots for a microwave tech. I
volunteered for a small team of men to do construction work around the
base. We built a B. O. Q., an E. M. Club, a leeching field, a new motor
pool and several other facilities. We later went to a nearby village, Cat
Lo, and built the local kids a schoolhouse. This was one of the most
rewarding projects I have ever worked on.
When my tour was nearly up I learned that I could sign on for another tour
(six months) and get an early out. I took them up on that offer and got to
take leave over Christmas, 1968. I didn't tell my family I was coming home
so it was quite a surprise when I walked up to the gate and hailed my sister in
the garden. When I returned to the Hill, the construction team was being
broken up. I took a new job in the motor pool as a driver and later earned
my Sergeant stripes and a new MOS as Motor Sergeant (63C40).
When I was short some of the guys got me drunk on 7&7 and beer. I
was never so drunk in my life, before or since. I lost a whole day and
took another three days to get well enough to have a hang-over.
I rotated back to the world and mustered out on 13 Sept., 1969. A date
I will never forget.
Please e-mail me your stories, pictures and contact information. I will
post them as time permits.