Douglas Leach


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  The next day my Korea orders were rescinded and replaced with orders for Viet Nam.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 story.

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. 

1st Signal Brigade
United States Army
Republic of Viet Nam
Updated 05/26/2003

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