I was sent to the 1/327th as a replacement for the original batch off company grade officers who deployed with the brigade from Campbell. I was a former NCO, OCS grad who arrived in country Dec of 65 and was assigned to the Tigers to eventually replace the commander, 1st Lt Jim Gardner. I spent a few weeks getting my feet wet, ran a few patrols and then deployed with the entire TF to Tuy Hoa in Feb of 66. On Feb 7th I was overlapping with Gardner who was due to make Captain the next day and be reassigned to the S1 shop as the new Battalion Adjutant.
Unfortunately, we ran smack into a main force weapons battalion of about 600+ in strength. The two dozen Tigers under the command of Jim Gardner charged right into the VC battalion and we immediately found ourselves on the inside of their perimeter. So we had concentric circles of Tigers, VC and parts of the 1/327 and 2/502 on the outside.
Jim led us to punch back out of the VC battalion perimeter so Hackworth and the CP could call arty and air in on the VC. We took a lot of casualties and, unfortunately, Lt Jimmy Gardner was killed in heroic action that earned him the Medal of Honor in October of 67. He died on his 23rd birthday.
At that moment I suddenly became the CO of the Tigers a day earlier than I had expected. I stayed with the Tiger Force until I was banged up on a patrol west of Phan Thiet in May of 66. I was replaced by Captain Lewis Higinbotham who took over as CO of the Tigers.
Once I got back from 8th Field Hospital I was reassigned as the S3 LNO during the battle of Dak To. In the October of 66 I became the Battalion Adjutant.
Because of my time with the Tigers I got nothing but better assignments for the next fifteen years. I commanded two rifle companies; A Company, 75th Rangers; Fort Benning’s Honor Guard Company; two Special Forces A teams and an airborne battalion headquarters company. I was assigned to Germany, VN, Thailand and other spots in South East Asia and served in or commanded four LRP and Ranger companies and ended up teaching Special Operations at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth. I pulled my last tour in Vietnam in 69 where I was wounded by a mine in IV Corps while commanding a rifle company in the Delta.
I retired in 1982 at age 38 as a Lieutenant Colonel and loved every minute of my 20 years. The Army took me as a near high school drop out, put me through some of the finest schools and training the army had to offer: 7th Army NCO Academy, OCS, Abn, Ranger, Jumpmaster, Infantry Advanced course, the Drill Sergeants’ Academy, Freefall and C&GSC. The Army also put me through college and graduate school.
Since retiring I have worked as a screen and television writer in Hollywood, written half a dozen books, taught writing at three colleges and recently went back to school to get another graduate degree — a Master of Fine Arts in Writing.
I would have done none of these things had I not attended an Abn/SF briefing in Basic Training at Fort Dix forty years ago. At that briefing I was blown away by two impressive E7s who mounted the stage in the hot little classroom in greens with spit-shined jump boots, master wings, Ranger tabs and Pathfinder sleeve insignia to give a recruiting pitch for airborne and Special Forces. I had never seen Abn/Ranger/SF soldiers before that and have never forgotten the image the projected to this day.