“Find the bastards and then pile on.”
I enlisted on March 16, 1966, because I ran out of options in civilian life and believed in the American way.
Initially, I was sent to Fort Gordon, Georgia for basic training and then to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for advanced individual training (AIT), where I became a heavy-wheeled vehicle operator.
Although I volunteered to go to Vietnam, I was sent to Germany until I turned 18 when I could go to Vietnam. During my service in Germany as a Spec 4 with a mechanized infantry battalion, in my unusually, loosely supervised position, I was able to train in different infantry tasks and learn the way of Army organization and operations, which would later serve me well in the Republic of Vietnam. After volunteering again at age 18 and receiving orders to deploy to Vietnam, I was assigned as a Sgt. to Car Airborne Company of the II Field Forces, as a driver for senior officers and civilian staff members. After becoming disillusioned in a protected position, I again volunteered to serve with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment; A well-known fighting unit commanded by Col. George Patton, Jr. This was a separate, mobile crisis-responding unit, assigned to the II Field Forces whose motto was “Find the bastards and then pile on.”
A prime example of this was the TET Offensive of 1968 when I was assigned to 1st squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (1/11th Cav). I soon acknowledged what war was all about and how difficult it was. My service in the 11th brought me to areas in and around Loc Ninh, An Loc, Lai Khe, and Xuan Loc, among other vacation spots in the Republic of Vietnam. Serving as the truck master for the 1/11, I established relationships with some of the greatest people I have ever met. Their dedication to each other and to duty led me to some of the strongest bonds in my entire life. My worst memory was of a Vietnamese worker’s school bus, which hit a land mine resulting in many, many casualties. Shown in this picture taken in Vietnam is Spec 4 Zimmerman, the only man that I am aware of whose truck was heavily damaged by a land mine, and apologized for its demise afterward.
The ambush patrols along with the fear and realization of my comrades being wounded or worse, was a constant reality, which sometimes came through with dire results. Th ese are experiences one does not forget. The 11th Cav or ACR my unit worked with was the Big Red One, 1st Infantry Division. I continuously worked throughout the time I was with the CAV in a supporting role. The Cav added intense firepower with heavily armored fighting vehicles to the 1st Infantry Division. Th ese supporting operations were mostly conducted just north of Saigon to the Cambodian Border, adjacent to Highway 13, otherwise known as “Th under Road”. Th ese were not especially nice places to visit but war is what we all make it! Anyone who fi red rounds or was fired upon has some sort of hearing loss. My hearing loss was due to high frequencies caused by firing 50 caliber machine guns both in and out of actual combat. There are certain speech levels and crowd background noises that impede my hearing.
Subconsciously, to make up for my loss, I automatically smile and save the embarrassment of asking over and over what was said. This tactic seems to please the recipients more often than not and saves me from not so enjoyable outcomes. All types of explosions happened around me throughout my military career, from tank fire to mortar fire, and even explosives that I set up. The actual hostile mortar or rocket fire was never close enough to cause any damage, or more than likely I would be dead.
My wartime experiences were later reflected in my life as learning points and understandings of the world we live in. The good memories for me were my association with the lowest ranking soldiers, having been one, and how directives and orders affected them. I always made sure that things were fair and logical to them.
My family was happy to see me come home. But as experienced by many other Vietnam Vets, there was no open recognition of the tasks performed. Th e protestors at the time, I did not feel were appropriate. But in retrospect, if their true challenge were to stop the war, they would have been correct. I do believe that everyone should have a responsibility to the country with some form of national service, to which our future leaders would become well versed in our world realities.
I spent the next ten years as a civilian working as a lineman, police officer, and fi re fighter, but never ever a cowboy. I was a Sergeant when I was in Vietnam. Ten years after my Vietnam experience, I went through officer’s candidate school, retiring as a Major with 24 years of service in the U.S. Army, Ret. Corps of Engineers. Th is photo is with a Captain in the passenger seat during an observing, engineer operation. At the time I was a Company Commander. Th e last two photos were taken later in my military career in CONUS, (contiguous US).
Today, I am happily retired, working on a soon-to-be horse farm
in Central North Carolina.
~ Major Thomas B. Daly, (U.S. Army Ret.) Corps of Engineers, Vietnam Veteran
Thomas Daly’s full story appears in the book VietnamandBeyond.com
Veteran stories are interviewed and collected by JennyLasala.com