I found this in a folder after my father died. I'm guessing it was written around 2002. He passed away as a proud Vietnam Vet at 60 in 2008. Everyone called him Pay.
I, Robert Pajich US52854083 arrived at Cam Ranh Bay the first week of July 1967. A trained as a radio operator (MOS 05B20) I was assigned to the 34th Combat Engineers at Pleiko with the 4th Infantry Division. With a change of orders, I was assigned to the 84th Engineer Battalion stationed at Oui Nham, which I served as a radio operator and a driver for S-2.
My job after radio duty was to take a Jeep to a place called Phu Loi. When I asked my sergeant for ammo for my weapon he told me I won’t be needing any because this was a secure area. Myself being a new guy said OK.
I guess you know what’s going on. I was 19 years-old at the time. No weapon, no ammo, nobody riding shotgun. After the fourth day my Jeep got hit with five sniper rounds. After returning to base camp, I confronted the S-2 (name unknown). We got into a physical confrontation. After the confrontation, he informed me I would not have to make the trip to Phu Loi anymore, that we would get the S-2 info by radio.
I asked him why he didn’t do that in the first place instead of risking my life. He told me I was a soldier, in a combat zone, and that’s the chances I should be willing to make. I agreed.
From 8-01-67 to 01-30-68, I continued with my radio duties. On 01-30-68 (Ed. Note -- The Tet Offensive), I got off my radio shift at midnight. Since I didn’t have to go back on radio shift til noon, I decided to take a shower. The time was about 1:30 in the morning when washing, all hell broke loose.
The VC had cut a hole in the wire right behind the shower. I knew right away something was wrong. I had only a towel with me. I got out of the shower, went back to the barracks and got my combat equipment. They even issued ammo for us, but still said we probably won’t need it.
If you look back in history there was a Personnel Co. at Phu Loi that had all the ammo locked in the ammo vault when the Gooks hit and the casualties were horrendous. Check back, there was a Congressional investigation over the incident. In Vietnam, there was no secure area. History proves that.
A friend Jimmy LaCari reported to the ammo shack which were were assigned. We got a radio call from a mountain outpost we had that contained the command post and 5 bunker outposts that after a mortar and ground attack, plus RPG penetration, they had not heard from three of their bunkers.
Since every bunker didn’t have a radio, their main communications was a landline run to a field phone. The OIC requested linemen to restore communication with his bunkers. All our linemen were assigned to our (unreadable) platoon which was on perimeter guard. LaCari and I asked our Sgt. Jenks if he would want us to go up and establish communication.
A typical lifer, he said no, that we were radio operators, not linemen. He was a stubborn old bastard. Finally, LaCari and I told him we were going up. He said OK and he would get us the equipment we would need.
We got everything to the helipad when supply showed up for resupply for the outpost. No problem. They gave us four cases of 7.62 ammo, two cases M-79s and two cases of grenades. When the chopper landed we loaded up and took off. The crew chief of the chopper said they weren’t going to land, hover at 6 feet, kick everything out and “I’ll see you later.”
At 6 feet we kicked everything out and all but one of them broke open.
The OIC (2nd Lt) told me and LaCari to police the LZ. It’s 3:30 in the morning, RPGs are flying and M-79 rounds are going crazy. But we did it. The Lieutenant never left his bunker. Jim LaCari, myself and that Lieutenant had a real short talk in the morning.
But after (placing?) the rounds we got with the Lieutenant, he told us hat he had no communication between his Delta and Charlie outposts. I asked him if he thought they were alive or maybe the communications were out. Naturally he didn’t know. So he ordered LaCari and myself to try to run new commu lines to the outposts.
I told him “OK, but if these guys are alive they are going to shoot anything that moves.”
We got the landline from the switchboard and started following it to the Delta outpost. Luckily, about 40 meters from the C.P., we found a break in the line. I spliced the line, got in touch with Delta and everyone was OK.
We returned to the C.P. and was told to get in touch with Charlie outpost. OK, Charlie outpost was about 130-150 meters from the C.P. and had got hit worse than any other bunker. We started following the line but could not find a break. Since it was getting light we started yelling to Charlie outpost and finally got a reply and entered the bunker, no break in the line, battery dead in phone.
While at the outpost, there was a bunker that had imploded. An arm was sticking out of the sandbags. I took his pulse, there was no reaction. I found out the next day he was KIA, name unknown.
At dusk the next morning, LaCari and myself left the outpost to return to the company. It was about a 2 kilometer walk we made, but a couple of hours later, an 8 man patrol came down, tripped a mine, had 2 KIAs, 3 WIAs. We missed it.
On 2-8-68 I had a death in my family and was sent home on emergency leave. I arrived back at the 84th Engineer Battalion on 3-21-68. When I returned, they informed me I was transferred to the 1st Infantry Div. at Dion(?). From Dion(?), I went to Loi Khe to serve with HHC-1st Battalion 16th Infantry. I was assigned t the communication platoon. My assignment was to carry a radio (PRC-25) for the battalion commander, his XO or wherever I was needed. I served with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta Co. in my job.
I’ve seen fire fights, mortar attacks, God-dammed RPGs, but was never assigned to a permanent party. You asked for names. I have no names, but I have faces. I was never with a unit long enough to have acquaintances. I carried my radio and did my Duty and didn’t worry about nobody but myself, which I realize now was very wrong.
At 20 years-old, I was one of the youngest sergeants in my battalion. I served at all the Thunder Road Support Posse on Highway One, Road 13. Ben Tre and the Iron Triangle plus the Michelin Plantation in which we weren’t allowed in because the gooks controlled it.
In Sept. 1968 I was an RTO for a Colonel Lathem. We were two klicks from a Vietnam village of Joe Nihn (?). (He) walked us into a NVA base camp at duck. Our whole battalion didn’t know we were in the base camp until we received fire from five different directions. We pulled out and called a B-52 strike.
On the way out, the radio I was carrying was hit with two AK47 rounds. We pulled back to the Special Forces base that doubled as a Fire Support Base for a unit of 105s and 155s canons. What wounded they could Med-Vac out were brought to the base so they could get the more serious wounded to an evacuation hospital.
(When I was) helping unload the least serious wounded I picked up a soldier who was apparently in shock and with both hands he grabbed me by the throat. I couldn’t get him off me and blacked out. Later, I came to and found out he was in shock and it took three soldiers to break his grip. I understood completely and felt bad because of the condition of the soldier.
About a week later we were informed that the whole Battalion of the 1st Battalion 16th Infantry was being transferred to the 9th Infantry Div. to be (reformed) as the 5th Battalion 60th Infantry. The reason for the move was the 1st of the 16th was a straight-leg outfit and the 5th of the 60th was mechanical. We went to base camp called Dong Tam (15-Sept.-68).
We were moved by landing craft up the Mekong River to Dong Tam. After arriving, we were informed that the battalion would be broken down into five-man killer teams. It didn’t set too well with any of us. I’ve seen more round shot at the battalion commander’s helicopter that I’ve seen shot at the Gooks.
Every five-man team needed a radio operator — a trained radio operator was trained to call in grid coordinates for artillery, gun ships runs and, if needed, air strikes. A typical RTO (radio telephone operator, which was basically an infantry man), could contact a Company or Battalion, but was not trained for much more. As a commo sergeant, I had at my disposable 12 to 15 trained operators a day or two before an operation. I would get orders to where and whom I would send my men.
I was 20 years-old, drafted (Ed. Note: This isn’t true. He volunteered to “Get it over with, but like most of his friends, he would definitely been drafted) and only wanted out of the Army. I think the responsibility put o my was not fair.
I would check the map to see what kind of areas my people would go. I would put the operator’s names on a piece of paper, put them in a helmet and everyone would pull a slip of paper and that would be their assignment. The worst assignment I left out and took it myself. My conscience would not let me do it any other way. But I think my men finally figured it out and really jumped my ass.
One soldier told me “we are all in this together and we share everything together.” In my time as squad leader, I never lost a man. I had two wounded, both light.
Back at base at Dong Tam, I was ordered to go to a fire support base called F.B. Moore. Myself and two other soldiers got all the equipment together, loaded up and was ready to set out the next morning to convoy out.
On the way to Firebase Moore, the truck in front of us hit a mine which set off a major ambush which only lasted about 10 minutes. Casualties were light, but two men in the truck were killed. Myself and my two men pulled out the bodies, laid them and pieces of them on the side of the road and covered them in ponchos and proceeded to F.B. Moore. During the next couple of days we set up a tactical operation center.
At F.B. Moore, they had a battery of 105 canons and a heavy weapons platoon of 4-4.2 mortars. All of the mortars were set up in well-constructed firing pits. Around midnight orders were sent out for a five-minute H&I (harassment and intermediate fire), which was designed to harass any V.C. outside the perimeter. A sort of “Mad Minute.” All our men on the perimeter guard, the 105s and the 4.2 mortars, would just open up for 3-5 minutes.
I was on duty at the Operations Center when the H&I started. The closed 4.2 mortar pit was set up about 45 to 40 meters from us when all of a sudden, a round landed right in the middle of the pit. Our first thought was we were taking incoming fire. But we figured only one round hit, it couldn’t be a mortar attack, especially a direct hit on the pit.
Myself and two other soldiers ran over to the pit and all four soldiers were just blown to pieces. We helped the medics pick up the bodies, put the pieces in body bags and they flew in a medavac and got them out.
The next morning our Colonel, an artillery Major with some staff officers, had an investigation on the hit. They finally had come up with had happened.
Out of the four soldiers in the pit, two had been in-country for less than 3 weeks and when the elevation for the mortar was set a mistake was made. Apparently, the elevation was set at zero and the round went straight up and right on the money came straight down, a very costly mistake.
The next day I got my orders to go home.
I was choppered in to Dong Tam and completed all my processing out. That evening, myself and a couple of friends went to the E.M Club to celebrate my ETS, as my discharge was waiting at Persidio, San Francisco, my service time was competed. After a couple of hours, we returned to the barracks to shower and get some sleep.
At about 2:30 a.m. we were hit by a mortar attack. I threw on some clothes and started running to the Commu Center, myself being a Chief Radio Operator. I had a soldier on radio duty who only had a few weeks in-country and thought I had better get up to Commu because as far as I knew this was his first mortar attack. It was pretty well lit with a few perimeter lights.
A I was running across the company area, out of the corner of my eye, I heard a fluttering sound to my right and saw what looked like a flashing light. About that time, the mortar hit and threw me about 15 feet in the air.
I remember laying on the ground with all this dirt and sand falling on me and saying to myself: “That’s that, I had a 15 month Vietnam tour that was ending tomorrow, that the Dinks didn’t get me then that they weren’t going to get me now.”
I jumped up and went into the Commo Shack where I spent the rest of the night. The next morning, an investigation stated that the mortar rounds that hit us were 120 mm mortar concussion rounds. Since Dong Tam was a man made base camp, most of the ground fill used was sand and dirt. The concussion rounds when hit the ground more or less buried into the sand which took up 85 to 90 percent of the concussion. If the round would have hit something solid like a concrete pad, the results would have been very devastating.
I flew out of Dong Tam to the main base camp of the 9th Div at Bear Cat. The next day I flew out of Vietnam, came home. When I got home to East McKeesport, Pa., I realized that a number of friends, mostly college guys that really didn’t have the balls to say anything to my face would talk behind my back. But I had enough friends that would tell me what these jack-offs were saying.
After about three months, 20 fights, not a word was ever said to me again about my Vietnam experience. I fought more at home than I ever did in Nam.
After that, I just went on with my life.