Art Wacaster

B Company 1968
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I’ve not made much of an effort to keep in touch vis a vis the Vietnam Vets. I was with the 2/327th from January to May 1968. I had the great privilege of serving as a platoon leader in B Co, 2/327th while Chargin’ Charlie Beckwith was the Battalion Commander. Colonel Beckwith died in 1995 in Austin, TX of a heart attack. From time to time, I’ve traded letters with Mrs. Beckwith. I joined the 2/327th not long before Tet and moved with the battalion to Firebase Panther, from which we could see into the City of Hue and watch the Marines battle to reclaim the City. We had a few hot fights with the NVA who were departing Hue for points west. We moved from there to Firebase Henry, which almost no one who wasn’t in the Battalion has every heard of. It was a low hill on the Song Hue Trach and Highway 547 between FBs Birmingham and Bastogne, although at the time Bastogne didn’t exist. At some point the Marines had been on the hill that became FB Henry and had salted the hill with powered CS. Everytime the artillery fired the CS came out of the ground and blinded all of us on the hill. I started out as the anti-tank platoon leader … some of you may recall when we had 106 recoiless rifles mounted on jeeps. No enemy tanks around, but they made pretty decent bunker busters. We needed them as the Battalion made its way west on Hwy 547 to Bastogne. On March 21, C Company got in one hell of a fight in a bunker complex just SW of Henry and lost several people, including, if my memory serves me, two Platoon Leaders.

Anyway, I was a green butter bar from Infantry OCS and airborne school. We went up Highway 547 and opened up Bastogne, followed by a side trip north to LZ Jane and environs during the relief of Khe Sanh. Following that, we air assaulted back onto Highway 547 and set out west towards the A Shau. That was in very late-April or early-May 1968. I think late-April since I was wounded and my platoon sergeant, SSG Oscar C. Gallegos of Alice, TX, was killed on May 11, 1968. I was medivaced home through Japan, the Philipines and San Francisco. After changing branches to Signal Corps, I returned to the 101st in August 1970 as Battalion Signal Officer, 1/501st. Unfortunately for me, by then we were somewhat short of infantry officers and I was pressed into duty as Assistant Operations Officer (Air), and Commander of first E Company and then HQ Company. We went down Highway 9 to the Rockpile and Khe Sahn when the ARVNs invaded (or attempted to invade) Laos. We also were the first unit to DaNang to provide perimeter security when the last Marine units packed up for home. Sad to say, I wasn’t good enough to bring all my guys home and there are three names on the wall that I visit with regularly. Living in Arlington, VA and working in DC I have an easy time of it visiting The Memorial.

I owe everything to Oscar Gallegos. He kept me alive and taught me much – every green LT who survived had a good NCO behind him and Oscar was mine. I wish that he had made it, but he didn’t. All I can do is honor his memory and visit him at the wall, along with my other friends and comrades.

Art Wacaster