Memories from Harry Thompson 67-68


Company A, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry

The Gunfighters


Memories by Harry Thompson, CMD Group




Sometime during the spring offensive in 1968, probably May, I made a trip into Chu Lai to visit one of our wounded guys in the hospital. The name escapes me now, but I can remember the ward very well. To me it seemed dark and dreary and stuffy. I can remember I had a hard time locating our guy, and when I did he was asleep, so I just stood there looking around.

In a few minutes two older men walked in and it took a minute or two but I recognized Woody Hays, head football coach at Ohio State. When I finally looked over to the other man I realized it was Bo Schembechler of Michigan. They were in the ward to visit and spread a little cheer to the guys in the ward. They had a routine of sorts, asking each soldier where he was from. They would come up with a name of a coach or football player at that school and ask the guy if they knew him and then say something about the state or school related to football. Occasionally they would ask if they played high school football, what position and so forth. I heard Coach Schembechler ask one soldier how big he was and if he was interested in playing football at Michigan.  I eventually visited with our A Company soldier and left, but before I did the ward no longer seemed so dark and dreary.  Those coaches really lifted the spirits of many of the wounded guys.





Not long after we arrived in-country, while the Company was stretched out along Highway One, I was somewhere in what looked to be to be a valley. Everything was green and had not been defoliated yet.  The Battalion was living in tents and I was by my lonesome, no 1st Sgt., no Raasch, Fuller, or any of the communication guys. Just me. The date may have been 4 November 1968.

Someone told me to put up A Company’s wall tent. It was a monster. It had at least 3 or 4 center poles, a ridge pole and several side poles. It took me what seemed like forever to erect the tent. I really worked hard to get that thing up and it gook a great deal of time.

About the time I almost had all the ropes good and tight a Chinook flew out to land at the helipad, which was very nearby—too close, in fact.  The tent collapsed and while I did have everything in place, and it was not like starting from scratch, it took a lot of time to put it up again.

As I was almost done the second time, a UH-1B came over and blew on the tent, and I just started yelling and cussing…but this time the tent held.  Then, as I was finishing up and the UH-1B was landing, I heard an explosion, and I saw it fall from the sky. It didn’t have far to fall, but it landed with a huge thud. The chopper began burning.

I was mesmerized by what was happening. Guys were flying off that thing like crazy. I am not really sure how many were on and how many actually got off. Did anyone burn up on the chopper? I don’t know, and when I asked it was explained to be that it really was not my business. I was an eye-witness of sorts, but no one cared.

The last guy to get off the chopper, the pilot, was in flames. I stood there watching him when my brain kicked in with, “Harry, you have got to help him.” I took off running toward him when all of a sudden all the explosives and various ammo on the chopper began to cook off.

I noticed that two other guys at about 90-degrees-left of my location had been doing what I was doing and they hit the ground and crawled back to where they had started. I had already done the same. But in just seconds both of the other two men and I went to the burning pilot and moved him away from the chopper.

Medics took over. I went back to my tent and never did find out what happened for sure. But thinking about it later, I figured that as the chopper was coming in the guys began to jockey for position to deplane and a hand grenade became separated from its pin.






When we arrived at our ship, the USNS Upshur, there were a few guys who started getting seasick even before we boarded.

I remember being told by Sgt. Lanny Grubb, who had made a troop crossing previously, to get a top bunk. He said a top bunk guy never got sprayed with vomit from above.

So when I got to the hole I lived in I got a top bunk with four other guys below me. What Lanny didn't tell me was while I wouldn't get sprayed, I would be where it was hottest and smelliest.

But I still think the top was the best place to be.






Man was I afraid of PSGs Homer Burks and Claude Bartley. They were both third platoon guys, older and to me fierce looking. I considered PSG Burks to be quite old as well. The average age of the nonprofessional man in the company was about 20 1/2 years old. As I look back now some 39 years later I realize that Homer turned 33 in Vietnam.

While we were still at LZ Gator, my dad, Willard Thompson, sent me a small baggie of dirt from Pearland, Texas, which was home at the time. With the small bag was a poem he had written about Texas home and the dirt.

As various Texans would come into the orderly room, I would show them that bag of dirt and they would hold the dirt and poem with some reverence and almost to a man become somewhat maudlin.

When I showed Homer the bag he was no exception, in fact he teared up slightly. I thought to myself that maybe Homer wasn't so tough after all--but I knew better--my dad had just found the sensitive side of Homer.                                                                                              Homer Burks





Before we left for Vietnam we had a battalion picnic. I really don't remember much, but most of the married soldiers who had wives living near post brought them. I lived and stayed apart from most of the company and really did not know many of the men. I did know several of the weapons or mortar platoon folks, including the platoon sergeant, PSG Lunsford.

While at the picnic I noticed his companion was a woman who looked to be much older than him. I thought it strange that he would bring his mother to a picnic. I was sitting at a table very close to PSG Lunsford and this lady when our battalion commander came up and introduced himself to PSG Lunsford and said what a pleasure it was to meet him and his mother. Lunsford immediately corrected the lieutenant colonel and told him she was his wife.

LTC Baxley was embarrassed, and I was embarrassed, but it did not seem to bother Lunsford.





Rumor had it that Sergeant Bess, our acting-first sergeant, was not going to get his promotion to E-8, that he was on his way out, and we would be getting a new first sergeant.  One afternoon shortly after that, Sergeant Bess cleared out his desk and disappeared without a word. Not 30 minutes later in waltzed this little blue-eyed Puerto Rican First Sergeant full of piss and vinegar. In fairly short order he established his territory and let everyone know who was in charge. This is how he did it.

A couple of days after his arrival I put an unusually sloppy morning report on his desk to be signed. I had been getting by Sergeant Bess with poor workmanship on a document that was supposed to be just so and error free.  First Sergeant Miguel Rodriguez yelled for me to come to him. He told me in no uncertain terms that it was a shit document and he would be absolutely not have work like that. Then I made a near fatal mistake. I talked back to him. I tried to defend my lousy work by saying it was okay with Sergeant Bess.

He exploded on me. He started a profanity laced diatribe at near the top of his lungs. One of his most favorite phrases was, “You dumb fucking Texan,” and he began to use that. People started exiting the orderly room. When he finished I stumbled back to my desk to begin to quiver and mumble. Mike Maney took leave of the room. I had all these thoughts about how I screwed up and got disciplined in the first place. What was I going to do? How was I going to get out of this? Man I was totally shaken and frightened. I had almost been reduced to a gibbering idiot when Captain Francis X. Brennan walked up to my desk.

Apparently the first sergeant had left the orderly room, maybe to find the ones he had scared into scurrying away. Brennan came up to my desk and I was even more intimidated, if that is possible. I did not get up and he looked down at me and said, “Man, Thompson, I guess we know who's in charge here.”

I said, “Yes sir we do.”

Then Brennan grinned and said, “Well, I'll tell you one thing, I'm really glad it was you and not me.”

In just about two minutes after he walked away, I was well on my way to typing the most perfect morning report ever turned in to the U.S. Army.


First Sergeant Rodriguez and Captain Brennan

in Vietnam



FEBRUARY 10, 1968

I heard we were the division standby company and were supposed to be ready to move out at a moments notice. A Company had been at LZ Gator just long enough to have a steak burning with mucho beer.

I remember waking up on February 7.  I cannot remember anyone else being around. I went to the front door and looked out and saw the company loading up on Chinooks and wondered what was happening. Then nothing. The company was gone. The first sergeant was around, but not many others.

A day or so later, the rumors started coming in; the atmosphere at LZ Gator was like the twilight zone. We heard the battalion had been in a battle and that A Company had been in the middle of it. Not a word on casualties, on our dead, nothing.  Then the phone rang. A clerk at S-1 named Joseph A. "Joe" Krusee called and said that the S-1 Sergeant wanted me to come to battalion.

I climbed the hill and walked into Battalion S-1. More twilight zone. All the clerks were staring at the S-1 Sergeant who was on the phone. He motioned for me to come over and look at a list he was writing.  It was a legal pad and he was writing names into columns, the first of which was a full column on the left-hand side. He took a break from writing and said, “Do you recognize any of these names”?

I said, “Yes”. Most of those listed in the left-hand column were A Company guys. On the list were names like Bowman, Pozo, Troyer, Hale, Dahm, and many more. Pointing to a place on the left-hand column near the bottom of the page he said,   “Down to here they are all KIA.”

He wanted me to identify all A Company dead and wounded and I did, but all I could think of was I had to tell First Sergeant Rodriguez. In shock, disbelief, and denial, I ran down the hill to tell the first sergeant. I really don't remember if I told anyone else on my way down or not.  My next memory is of being completely alone in the LZ Gator base camp because everyone else from A Company, Raasch, Fuller, Maney, and the first sergeant had all left. Molnar, Bush and Duncan had gone to the field with the company because Picarelli and Bush were on R&R.

Although the battle for Lo Giang(1) was on February 8, 1968, it was full two days before any real information on the battle reached the orderly room. When word did come it was all at once.

                                                                                                                      Harry Thompson                                





The Battalion S-1 Sergeant came to me one day in May 1968, at LZ Gator and asked me if I would come to Body Identification and see if I recognized any of the soldiers there. The battalion recently had received several replacements and A Company received many of them. Then something happened and in very short order some of those replacements were transferred out to, I believe, D and E Companies.

We had a Graves Registration Group in our Battalion Area. A sergeant and I walked into the room with the guys that were KIA and I immediately recognized the first guy. He had been with A Company but then was sent to another. The rest of the KIAs I did not recognize. I guess things were sorted out correctly later, but I never knew.

On another occasion that same S-1 Sergeant came to me and, acting like a secret agent or a spy, withdrew pictures from his shirt. After glancing around to make sure no one was watching, he asked if I recognized either of the men. There was one man standing in each Polaroid picture, and it was obvious they were under duress. One of them did not have a shirt on and they both looked like hell. For some reason, and the reason escapes me, they looked like Marines to me.
What I was looking at were pictures of US soldiers who had been captured while fighting for the enemy. Sergeant Ross was trying to identify them or at least see if they were from our battalion.


Harry Thompson

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