"My Vietnam Conflicts" by Paul Letourneau

Image Not Available!My Father in Law, Paul Letourneau wrote a book about his experiences in the Vietnam war called "My Vietnam Conflicts". He often gives book readings, and his book is available at:


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Copyright 2005, 2014 Paul Letourneau - On-line (Sample) Edition

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This is my story that I have never discussed or previously written about.

After September 11th and the Gulf War and the present world situation, my wife Kathleen encouraged me to write down experiences and feelings about my tour of duty in Vietnam.

My son and daughter asked me many times about my time in Vietnam. I would only reply that I was called and I served and avoided elaborating any deeper.

Vietnam was never classified as a War..., and we lost. Returning vets were not classified as heroes. The Vietnam Conflict was a devastating part of our nation's history. Perhaps all this discouraged me from talking about or thinking about my experience.

This book does not touch on the politics or the policies of our government. It tells the story of a few men, young men who were real people and were soldiers, not because they wanted to be but because they were called.

I was a one-term soldier, as were most of the men I served with, who didn't volunteer to go to Vietnam; we got out as soon as we could and didn't want to go back.

Movies I have seen like Platoon, Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now and books I have read by three term Vietnam vet lifers who were Seals, Rangers, Green Berets, and LRRPS didn't accurately at all depict how the real people served in the Vietnam Conflict.

My unit was a well-trained, disciplined unit of young men who became soldiers and brothers in combat. We did our jobs and returned to the real world, became productive citizens, and never talked about our Vietnam experiences and our Conflicts.

This is the Story of My Vietnam Conflicts written in 2002, thirty-three years after these experiences.

Former Sgt. E-5 Paul A. Letourneau

Chapter 1 - Bravo Troop

A huge explosion went off. Our lead track hit a land mine and blew four feet in the air with parts and pieces flying fifty yards in all directions. Machine gun and rifle fire came from our right side. Grenades exploded against the sides of the tracks behind us.

Instantly the drivers stopped the tracks and turned at a forty-five degree angle, and we opened up with everything we had.

My machine gun was blasting directly where I saw the muzzle flashes from the bush. The two gunners on either side of me did the same.

"Sarge!" Decker shouted, "These bastards can't be anymore than fifteen feet away."

The radio blasted in my ears over the gunfire. "This is 6. All vehicles turn due south and slowly move forward. Watch your field of fire so we don't shoot each other."

I pushed my helmet intercom switch with my left hand keeping my right thumb down on the butterfly trigger of my M-2 .50-caliber machine gun that was spitting out continuous five to ten round bursts into the heavy brush and bamboo just off the road.

"Jerry, you heard the man. Turn right and slowly hit the bush. We're going in."

"Guys we're going straight at them. Watch your field of fire and make sure we just get gooks and not our troopers," I said to my two gunners Decker and Horn.

"Jerry, if we don't shoot them run their butts over and stay on line with the other tracks. Button up and close your hatch."

The adrenaline was flowing full speed as we left the dirt road and hit the bush with all guns blazing.

The enemy was right next to us; therefore, we could not call in air or artillery support. We had to do this one on our own. The firepower of fifteen tracks with three machine guns each was an awesome amount of firepower for any ambush. This Viet Cong ambush patrol was certainly looking for a truck convoy, and they got Bravo Troop from the 11th Armored Cavalry. This was much more than they reckoned for.

"Sarge two-o-clock, ten feet," Horn hollered.

Decker and I moved our weapons and fired at the machine gun position with two Viet Cong dressed in black.

"They're history. Who's next?" Decker called out as we continued to spray our entire forward perimeter.

I pushed my radio headset button forward. "Be alert for any dinks we might pass that are still alive and watch your field of fire."

"Roger 3-1," responded the other three tracks in my section that were to my right.

We had gone about twenty yards into the bush when the radio blasted. "Vehicles halt! Fire your weapons ten feet in front of you and move them up to one hundred yards to your front. Fire!" the Troop Leader ordered over the radio.

"3-1 roger," I replied. "Do it guys."

The ground, brush, bushes, and trees in front of us began to bubble. Our rounds saturated the terrain as we shot our rounds from just in front of the track out a hundred yards forward.

"Cease fire." The command came from our Troop Leader. The silence was ominous. Everyone looked around to see what damage was done to our troop. Slowly the thumbs up signs came. The driver's hatches popped open and the drivers rose from the interior of the track. The entire firefight lasted less than two minutes.

"Every other track do an about face," Lt. Cook ordered over the radio.

The quiet was broken as every other track made a one hundred and eighty-degree turn.

The next order came immediately from the Lt., "60 gunners, grab your rifles dismount and move fifty yards to your front if you're facing south. Tracks facing north proceed ten yards back across the road. Make your kill shots on any enemy and retrieve all weapons and ammo during your body count. Are there any wounded in Bravo Troop?"

No answer came.

"Are there any wounded?" The question was repeated.

No answer again as the left and right gunners from each track grabbed their M-16 rifles and a bandoleer of ammunition and jumped off the tracks.

"6 this is 3-1, none in my section."

"6 this is 4-1, none in my section." Sergeant Downey responded.

"6 this is 2-1, none in my section." Said Master Sergeant Johnson.

"Sorry to say, 1-4 that hit the mine is in bad shape," Lt. Cook solemnly stated. "Doc is there now doing what he can. The dust off is on the way."

Shots began as the gunners were combing the bush. My track had turned around facing the road, and Horn and Decker were slowly walking forward of the track, making sure they stayed on line with the Bravo Troopers on their left and right. When they encountered an enemy, they would shoot their kill shot and retrieve the weapons and ammo from the bodies and stack the retrieved enemy gear on the track as Jerry moved slowly forward staying just behind them.

As Decker and Horn crossed the road, we all looked up to where the mine had gone off and saw Lt. Cook standing next to what was left of Sergeant Shay's track. Doc, our medic, was feverishly working to keep someone alive.

We continued across the road about ten yards into the bush on the other side and found nothing there. The gooks didn't want to shoot each other and were all on the south side of the road.

Jerry Sims, the driver of 3-1, my track, backed straight back to the dirt road and faced forward at a thirty degree angle to the right just as the helicopter with the red cross on its side landed by Lt. Cook's track about one hundred and fifty yards in front of us.

"This is 6," Lt. Cook quietly stated over the radio. "Section Sergeants bring weapons, ammo, and your body count up to my location."

The three Section Sergeants acknowledged the order.

The gunners from 3-2, 3-3 and 3-4 brought the confiscated weapons and ammo and placed them on my track.

Each track commander in my section came with the enemy body count. 3-2 found one, 3-4 found none, 3-3 found four and my track, 3-1, had five. This made sense that the bodies were mostly found by the tracks moving back toward the road.

"Jerry," I said. "Let's move out to the Lt.'s track."

We moved to the right side of the road and drove toward 1-1, Lt. Cook's track. 2-1, Master sergeant Johnson's track pulled out in front of me. He was the second in command of Bravo Troop, and 4-1 was twenty yards behind me.

As we drove up, the medivac chopper flew away with the four troopers from 1-4. Doc was sitting on the ground talking with some troopers from the Lt.'s track.

1-4 was lying on its side on the left of the road with the whole front right of the vehicle gone. Both tracks had been blown off and there was a huge crater in the road where the mine had exploded.

There were three ponchos laid out on the road where we were told to place all the weapons and ammo. Decker jumped off the ACAV, and Horn passed the stuff down to him.

I jumped off after I got my M-16 out of the back and with Master Sergeant Johnson and Sergeant Downey went up to Lt. Cook.

The Troop Leader solemnly stated, "Sgt. Shay, Specialist White, and PFC Rogers were killed. Spec 4 Montgomery is seriously wounded. A helicopter is on the way. Sergeant Letourneau, your section will stay here. When the helicopter arrives, you will hook 1-4 up so it can fly it out. We'll tie up all these VC weapons and ammo and put them securely into 1-4. We will proceed to Ben Cat and Ho Bo Woods immediately at Thunder Run speed as soon as Sergeant Letourneau's section catches up with us. We must be at the rendezvous location at 1500 hours to meet up with the entire regiment that will proceed to Ho Bo Woods. What's the body count?"

"Section 2 had six sir." Msgt. Johnson replied.

"Section 3 had ten sir." I said.

"Section 4 had seven sir." Sgt. Downey responded. "Sir, two of my vehicles took grenade hits; but the tracks, wheels and engine seem fine. It looks like just body damage, and I think they will be able to run at full speed."

"It's 1350 we will pull out at 1400," the Lt. stated. "Downey, your section will lead, followed by my three tracks with Msgt. Johnson behind. Letourneau, you catch up as soon as 1-4 is removed."

"Sir," Sgt. Downey replied. "Are we going to stay on the road?"

"Yes, Sergeant," the Lt. stated." I know it's more dangerous, but with the bush so heavy we could never get to our destination on time if we went off road."

"Shit, sir," Downey replied, "We won't get there on time if we keep getting blown up."

"Downey," Master Sergeant Johnson sternly stated. "Do you understand the order Sergeant?"

"Yes, Master Sergeant. Yes Sir, Lt. Cook, I do," Downey humbly stated.

All of us including the troopers on 1-1 and 1-3 helped put all the enemy gear into 1-4.

Sergeant Shay's track was a horror show. It didn't even look like an ACAV it was so mutilated and blown apart. It would have to be pulled over on its remaining wheels before the helicopter could lift it up or everything inside would fall out.

Downey and Msgt. Johnson got back on their tracks and returned to their sections. I jumped up on 3-1 and got on the radio.

"3-2 and 3-3 move up to my 20, (my location). 3-4 you stay in place until section two and four move out. After they do, move up about forty yards from us and provide rear security."

"Jerry," I ordered, "Park 3-1 on the left side of the road next to 1-2. I'll signal Crowder and Wendelken to pull in behind you."

Decker came over to me. "Sarge, is this a good thing or a bad thing?"

"Follow me," I said to Decker. "Let's have a group discussion on that subject."

I walked behind 3-1 and signaled the other two tracks to park right behind 3-1. I stood on the other side of the tracks by the bush facing the vehicles so our conversation was just between my three tracks.

"Guys," I said, "The troop is pulling out in five minutes. We're staying with 1-4 until a chopper comes and pulls it out of here. We'll then get out of here and catch up with the troop."

"Yeah, Sarge," said Stueben. "When is the chopper going to be here? How fast are these guys going to travel? Could we be driving to Ho Bo Woods alone?"

"Ye of little faith," I stated. "Have confidence in this man's Army. This is a full regiment operation, and I'm sure we'll have a Chinook in the area. That is the bad part."

"Tell us Sarge, what exactly might the good part be?" PFC Jones inquired.

"Sergeant Downey is leading the Troop out of here followed by the ten other tracks. We'll be able to run at top speed on secure road the rest of the way in." I stated.

"Crowder," I said, "You move up just ahead of 1-3, off road and park facing east. 3-3 and 3-1 will hook our cables up to 1-4 and pull it over. We'll secure it as best we can so when the chopper gets here we can hook it up and get out of here in a hurry. I'll go back and brief Young. You guys get started."

I briefed 3-4, and when I returned 3-3 and 3-1 had hooked up and pulled 1-4 upright. It sure wasn't pretty but it was successful.

The thrown tracks and debris were put inside, which was filled with the regular ammo, gear, and supplies on 1-4 and now the enemy weapons. We closed all the hatches and doors to the best of our ability just as the other eleven tracks pulled out.

I jumped back on my track, put on my command helmet, and got behind my machine gun. Decker was on the left gun, and Horn was on the right gun with Jerry Sims in the drivers hatch.

Jerry said, "Sarge, isn't it amazing that Downey didn't lead? He put Dunn in front, and that chicken shit, son of a bitch is fourth in line. He's the only Section Sergeant that doesn't pull duty. I can't believe the guys let him get away with that. Hell, even Master Sergeant Johnson pulls guard and takes point occasionally. Downey doesn't do shit."

"Bull shit," Decker said. "Downey's an asshole, but Sergeant Dunn probably volunteered to lead. That gung-ho idiot should have joined the Marines. He's a crazy son of a bitch. By the way Sarge, you didn't volunteer us for this job did you, and when's the chopper getting here?"

"Sarge, don't even answer that question," Wendelken said. "Sarge doesn't volunteer us for anything bad and gets us extra slack time when he can. But Sarge when is the chopper coming?"

Just as the words came out of Wendelken's mouth, the cracking sound of the double bladed chopper was heard to our south. I pulled out a purple smoke grenade and tossed it into the middle of the road.

"Blackhorse Bravo I have your 20," the radio sounded. "This is Red Hauler 3."

"Red Hauler 3 this is Bravo 3-1, drop the hooks and it's all yours."

"Roger Bravo 3-1," Red Hauler replied.

The giant double bladed helicopter hovered over the battered 1-4, dropped its hooks, and Decker and Horn hooked them on to the four corner posts and jumped back onto 3-1. Jerry pulled 3-1 away from 1-4, and we gave the signal to Red Hauler 3 to lift her up.

"Red Hauler, she is all yours," I stated. "6 this is 3-1 did you copy?"

"Roger 3-1, this is 6. Proceed to our location ASAP." Lt. Cook replied.

"Roger 6, we're on our way."

The four tracks from the Scout Section of Bravo Troop 1st Squadron 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment headed up the road with reckless abandon and caught up with the remaining eleven tracks of Bravo troop in less than twenty five minutes not concerned about land mines or ambushes for that brief period.

We had a body count of twenty-five Viet Cong and took a lot of weapons and ammo. Normally that would be an exceptionally good day. We had lost three maybe four of our fellow troopers. Nothing could make up for that. Even worse we were headed for Ho Bo Woods. We had been there before, and there was a great concern as to how many of us would not return from this three-day mission.