Military history


A 1/5 Alpha Company, First Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment.

AK47 A Russian assault rifle.

ARVN Abbreviation for Army of the Republic of Vietnam.

AWOL Absent without leave.

B-40 rocket A communist antitank rocket.

betel nut A nut, widely chewed by the Vietnamese, that stains the teeth and gums a pomegranate red.

body bags Plastic zipper-bags for corpses.

boot Slang for a new recruit undergoing basic training.

bush The outer field areas and jungle where infantry units operate.

Charlie Slang for “the enemy.”

ChiCom Chinese communists. Slang for enemy grenade.

choppers Helicopters.

claymores Mines packed with plastique and rigged to spray hundreds of steel pellets.

Cobras Helicopter gunships heavily armed with rocket launchers and machine guns.

concertina wire Barbed wire that is rolled out along the ground to hinder the progress of enemy troops.

C-rats C-rations or prepackaged military meals eaten in the field.

C-S A caustic riot gas used in Vietnam.

C-4 Plastique explosive.

C-130 A cargo plane used to transport men and supplies.

C-141 Starlifter A large jet transport.

deuce-and-a-half A heavy transport truck used for carrying men and supplies.

dink Slang for an Asian person, especially in reference to the enemy.

EM club Enlisted men’s club.

E.R. Emergency room.

flak jacket A vest worn to protect the chest area from shrapnel or bullets.

I Corps Tactical Zone The northern five provinces of South Vietnam, called “Marineland” by some. I Corps stretched 225 miles from the Demilitarized Zone to the boundary with Binh Dinh province and II Corps Tactical Zone.

frags Slang for fragmentation grenades.

Freedom Bird Slang for the flight that took a soldier home after his tour.

friendlies Friendly Vietnamese.

gook Slang for an Asian person, especially in reference to the enemy.

grunt Slang for any combat soldier fighting in Vietnam.

Hueys Helicopters used extensively in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh Trail The main supply route running south from North Vietnam through Laos and Cambodia.

hootch Slang for any form of a dwelling place.

humping Slang for marching with a heavy load through the bush.

K-bar A Marine Corps survival knife.

KIA Killed in action.

klick One kilometer.

LAAW Light antiarmor weapon.

LZ Landing zone.

MACV Military Assistance Command Vietnam.

medevac A term for medically evacuating the wounded by chopper or plane.

M14 An automatic weapon used in Vietnam by American ground forces.

M16 Standard automatic weapon used by American ground forces.

M60 A machine gun used by American units.

M79 A 40 mm grenade launcher.

nouc mam A strong-smelling Vietnamese fish sauce.

NVA North Vietnamese Army.

pogue A derogatory term for rear-area personnel.

punji sticks Sharpened stakes used to impale men.

RPG Rocket-propelled grenade.

R&R Rest and relaxation.

sappers Viet Cong infiltrators whose job it was to detonate explosive charges within American positions.

satchel charges Explosive packs carried by VC sappers.

SDS Students for a Democratic Society.

search and destroy American ground sweeps to locate and destroy the enemy and his supplies.

short-timer Someone whose tour in Vietnam is almost completed.

smoke grenade A grenade that releases colored smoke used for signaling.

Tet The Chinese New Year.

III Corps The military region around Saigon.

Tiger beer/33 beer Vietnamese beers.

tracer A bullet with a phosphorous coating designed to burn and provide a visual indication of a bullet’s trajectory.

VC Viet Cong.

Viet Cong The local communist militias fighting in South Vietnam.

web gear Canvas suspenders and belt used to carry the infantryman’s gear.

WIA Wounded in action.

willie-peter White phosphorous round.

Big Red on graduation from Parris Island. This was the photo the author did not recognize in the Cincinnati Enquirer years later. Notice in the photo below the change in Red’s looks that a few months in the bush caused. “Vietnam made nineteen-year-olds look like thirty-year-olds.” (Richard Weaver memorial collection)

Richard “Big Red” Michael Weaver. Three Purple Hearts, Bronze Star with V device, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and several other medals. Red was killed in action at Phu Loc, Thua Thien Province, I Corps Tactical Zone, on May 20, 1968. This photo was taken before moving into the A Shau Valley in 1968. (Richard Weaver memorial collection)

Pvt. Johnnie M. Clark. Boot camp graduation from Parris Island, South Carolina, 1967. Wounded three times in the 1968 Tet Offensive. The Silver Star, three Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with palm, Vietnam Civil Action Medal, Marine Combat Action Ribbon, and various campaign medals. (Author’s collection)

The author and PFC Richard Chan, April Fools’ Day, 1968, Phu Bai. A hot miserable dust bowl that felt like R&R compared to the bush. (Author’s collection)

PFC Johnnie M. Clark, holding the M-60 machine gun at the Truoi River Bridge, 1968. A new bridge is being constructed in the background by American Seabees. Photo taken just before the long hump into the mountains where we discovered the NVA training replica of the Truoi Bridge. (Author’s collection)

First Platoon, Alpha Company, staging at the southern tip of the A Shau Valley for choppers into Elephant Valley. Kneeling, left to right: Doc Michael Turley and Doc Chris Rieger. June 1968. (Photo courtesy of Doc Michael Turley)

Front row, left to right: Lance Corporal Layman holding a can in front of the sleeping author’s face, Stew Campbell, Cpl. Bob “Sudsy” Carroll, and Pvt. Abernathy. Lance Corporal Hensley is behind Abernathy. Back row, left to right: Cpl. Fred Huteson, Private First Class Mariani, L/Cpl. Bruce Trebil, and Pvt. Buford Unerstute, the Marine whose heart stopped. (Photo courtesy of Robert Carroll)

Gunny McDermott standing (back to camera) as the platoon is transported up the Truoi River. This is the same way the author was medevaced out later. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Stacy Watson)

PFC Pat McCrary, An Hoa village, 1969. Feeding the Vietnamese kids as Marines often did. Pat was PFC Barnes in the chapter “Dodge City.” He was wounded in the graveyard. (Photo courtesy of Pat McCrary)

Cpl. Jesus Quintana (Corporal Sanchez in this book) in a stateside naval hospital six weeks after being wounded. He was awarded the Bronze Star with V and two Purple Hearts among other decorations. (Photo courtesy of Cpl. Jesus Quintana)

Cpl. Quintana (Paunchy Villa Sanchez) just four hours before he lost both his legs to a 155mm booby-trapped artillery shell, An Hoa combat base. Four other Marines were killed and the gunny seriously wounded in Dodge City, Arizona Territory. (Photo courtesy of Jesus Quintana)

The author, looking and feeling exhausted, takes a break in the A Shau Valley, 1968. Soon after this photo was taken the author was wounded for the first time by a mortar round. (Author’s collection)

PFC Richard Chan poses after capturing an enemy soldier in Quang Nam Province, 1968. (Author’s collection)

Gy.Sgt. Mac McDermott fires his 12-gauge shotgun at the enemy along a river in the Thua Thien Province, 1968. Bridge duty was considered easy compared to being in the bush. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Stacy Watson)

Gunny McDermott of A1/5 gets Marines “saddled up” in An Hoa, August 1968. Note the shotgun and shells, Gunny’s calling card. (Photo courtesy of Sergeant Major McDermott)

Sgt. Stacy Watson of A1/5 stands with the flag that was raised over the Citadel by the 5th Marines after the victory of the Battle of Hue City during the Tet Offensive in 1968. Awarded the Presidential Unit Citation. Photo taken before his best friend, Cpl. Frank Burris (Jack Ellenwood in the book), was KIA, August 9, 1968. (Photo courtesy of Sgt. Stacy Watson)

An old French army tank and the three-story bunker that ARVN gunners fired from when the Truoi River Bridge was overrun. The M-24 Chaffee tank was equipped with a 75mm main gun, had a top speed of thirty-five miles per hour, and carried a crew of up to five men. (Author’s collection)

“Frenchie” writing a letter home from the Truoi Bridge. It was here that a Marine was pinned under the bridge and an entire Marine gun team killed. (Author’s collection)

Eighteen-year-old PFC Johnnie Clark in front of the three-story bunker at the Truoi Bridge, just moments before his first long-term experience in the bush, April 1968. (Author’s collection)

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