Stars and Stripes

Slow Boat to Vietnam

by: Doug Scott
© 1996

Before I tell this story, there may be some details that I have dropped or altered over the years, but it is a true event that just came back to me this summer. If you were there, please drop me a line. This is how I remember it ....

U.S.S. William Mann - 1965 I went to Viet Nam with our Brigade (don't recall if it was the 1st or 3rd) of the 1st Infantry Division, in September 1965. Flew to Oakland out of Ft Riley Kansas where we boarded the William Mann, a 2000 troop ship with 3000 of us aboard. Twenty-one days aboard the ship gave one plenty of time to wonder what it was going to be like in Viet Nam, and also to dream up real dumb questions, like Hey ... where is our ammunition? We are getting real close to land, I want some bullets and some grenades!! Not to be.
      As we pulled into the bay, expecting to rappel down the rope ladders and hit the beach running---there was no beach. It was a hard stand with the First Division Band, civilians, and enough brass to make a movie about Vietnam! As we prepared to disembark, the thought came to me, if we don't have real ammo, the Private doth protest. I reached into my duffle bag and installed my bright orange blank adapter to my M-14 rifle. As we marched in formation onto the hardstand, the six foot four private with the unauthorized modification to his weapon stood out like a sore thumb. I'll never forget the glare of those two eyes---affixed just below those two STARS on the cap---and the STRIPES, more STRIPES than I had ever seen, motioning for me to leave the formation.
      So, what are they going to do---send me to Nam??? Sooooo, first there was the passing of the colors (the bright orange colors of my blank adapter) to my platoon sergeant. Then some collecting of composure and thought by STRIPES, and then the question, "Where you from soldier?" Carthage, Missouri, Sir" was my answer. "Well, you get back in formation and be careful, son."
      I guess I was shocked to not to have to do push-ups for the entire 12 months I was there, but now that I think back about that day, I really believe that STARS and STRIPES knew what we would go through during the next year, and applied their discipline accordingly. Logo
© 1995-2023. All Rights Reserved.