My 1st Day in the Field
I arrived at L.Z. Sharon sometime late in June of 1968. I met Pepe there and we hit it off immediately. Mike (Mouse) McGhie , Don Mangels and I had went to Camp Evans for In Country training after being assigned to The Cav. After being issued our weapons and all other gear necessary to go to the Field we waited until being told to go to log pad to be taken to where the Company was currently working in the mountains of the National Forest. Carl (Pepe) Pipher and I were the last 2 to go out as there was only room for a certain amount of supplies and men aboard the Log Bird. There were several new guys going to the field. My first helicopter ride was memorable as I remember that I was holding on for dear life and being scared shitless as we flew out to the Company that was out around L.Z. Barbara in the jungle. Upon arriving we were greeted by the Platoon Sgt. Clifton who was with the 3rd Platoon (Wildcat). He asked where I was from and I told him “St. Louis”. He was from Dexter, Mo. so he liked the fact I was from Missouri. Pepe and I were taken to the Squad leader of 1st Squad (Robert Ross), a black fellow from North Carolina and I remember he was very nice to me. Here I am in brand new fatigues with everything I own on my back and all these guys are filthy dirty. I should have felt bad for them but I know Ross felt for me as I was one of the Cherries (New Guy). He told me I wouldn’t have to pull guard that night just to get ready to sack out for the night. Next morning, very early we got up ate something very small from our c-rations and got ready to go for the day. I remember we were the side of a mountain so we came down the hill to a trotter where I saw a green snake curled up. Bamboo viper I was told, very poisonous. I was somewhere pretty far back in the rifle squad as we humped through the jungle following this gook trotter. Several hours passed as we went along the trotter split going right up to a ridge and to the left down a draw. We went left down the slight draw and I hear shots ring out. Everyone hit the ground and there was allot of screaming going on. We were called towards were the firing had went on. Pepe and I ran forward and we did, we came to where the crap had occurred. Laying to the right was Ross bleeding and being worked on by the Medic. Richard Walls was standing over the gook in the bunker that had shot Ross and as we ran by, he emptied his magazine in the gook. There was allot going on including a medivac being called in as Pepe and I just watched out in the jungle from the perimeter we had half assed set up. There was a large hooch type structure in this opening that I assume was used by the gooks for storing supplies. This had to be why there was one gook in a small bunker watching this spot. Finally the Medivac arrived and they sent down a jungle penetrator through the triple canopy. Ross was strapped in and the started hoisting him up. As they did I turned to watch and about half way up, Ross’s head fell. It was his 21st birthday. I knew what had just happened and I thought to myself, will I make it out of this hell hole. Not the best question to ask oneself but after being in the field less than a day, I could go nowhere else. I knew Ross only by the way he treated me and I always will remember what a nice fellow he was. I often said I would visit Ross’s grave someday, and back in 20I4 I was able to do so when visiting our Son Joshua who was stationed at Ft. Bragg, N.C. He drove me to Charlotte and having been in touch with the newspaper there that helped me find the Cemetery where Ross was laid to rest, I was able to pay my respects. Was there closure in that visit? No, because I have always been haunted by that day but I was able to do something that I swore I would do many moons ago.
That was to say a prayer over this good man’s grave. Sleep in Peace my Brother.
God Bless you.
Below Are Stories From The Front Lines & Side Lines
And The 50 Yard Line.
The Stories Are Written By The Men That Served In The
Armed Services And In Vietnam
CAVALRY STETSON HAT
"LIVING THE LEGEND"
When are Spurs appropriate for wear?
The answer to that question is whenever you are wearing a "Cav Hat" or riding a horse - unless you are presently an active duty Trooper. Active duty Troopers are bound by uniform policies and wear of the Spurs is covered in the Memorandum of Instruction. All former Cav Troopers may wear their Spurs at their own pleasure but are encouraged to wear them to all gatherings of Cavalry veterans and unit reunions. The "Cav Hat" is always appropriate at patriotic observances like Veterans Day, Independence Day and Memorial Day. As with the "Cav Hat", never wear your Spurs in circumstances that would bring discredit to the Cavalry or your unit.
LTC Stockton transferred the "Cav Hat" tradition to the 1st Cavalry Division in Vietnam. By the end of the Vietnam War, many air and ground units were wearing the hat. The tradition was continued after Vietnam and has become the standard for all cavalry units in the Army.
The Cav Hat is not an issued item and is not covered in any of the uniform regulations but it is worn by the Troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division and many other cavalry units for ceremonies and special cavalry events. The type and number of items worn on the "Cav Hat" vary greatly and demonstrate the individuality and style of the wearer. The 1st Cavalry Division has published a Memorandum of Instruction (MOI) that covers the wearing of the "Cav Hat" and spurs for those currently serving with the First Team but for veterans the MOI is only a guideline of what right looks like. A link to the MOI is provided on this web page.
The "Cav Hat" is a standard black Cavalry hat, Stetson or other appropriate brand, with a 3 inch brim and a black leather chin strap. The chin strap is fastened to the hat cord and goes through the brim. The chin strap is worn behind the wearer's head unless mounted. When mounted the chinstrap may be worn under the chin to maintain the hat's position on your head and keep it from falling off. If your "Cav Hat" does not have a chin strap, it is just a black hat commonly referred to as a "cowboy hat".
Hat cords are worn and represent the rank of the wearer. General officers wear solid gold cords, field and company grade officers wear black and gold hat cords, warrant officers wear black and silver hat cords and enlisted troopers wear Cavalry yellow hat cords. The hat cords should be adjusted so that the acorn on the ends of the cord comes to the edge of the brim. Cords may be knotted if the wearer wishes. While many refer to the knots in the cords as "combat knots" there is no documentation available to support this idea. The Division MOI prohibits any other type of hat cords for those troopers currently on active duty with the 1st Cavalry Division.
Normally the branch insignia of the Cavalry, crossed sabers, are worn on the front along with the rank of the wearer. The rank is worn above the branch insignia evenly spaced. Both are centered on the front of the hat. Regular sized Distinctive Unit Insignia (DUI), commonly referred to as unit crests, or miniatures of your unit are traditionally put on the back of the "Cav Hat". Additional items like a CIB or CMB may also be placed on the "Cav Hat" along with reunion pins or other items if you are a veteran. Some of the "Cav Hats" worn by our veterans are festooned with numerous pins, miniature medals and other items. Active Duty Troopers assigned to the First Team must follow the guidelines of the MOI.
The tradition of the "Cav Hat" began in the early days before the Vietnam War. The 11th Air Assault Division cavalry scout pilots were looking to distinguish themselves from other troops when they adopted the Model 1876 campaign hat for wear. They felt a need to return to the traditions of the Cavalry so long forgotten. LTC John B. Stockton, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 17th Cavalry Regiment, is given credit for establishing the tradition of wearing the Cavalry Stetson, much to the chagrin of the Division command group. By the time the 11th Air Assault Division was redesignated the 1st Cavalry Division (Air Mobile) the members of his unit, the 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, were wearing the hat.
1LT Larry G. Brown, while assigned to Scouts, C Troop, 3-17th Cavalry in July/August 1970
The History Of Delta Company, 2nd Battalion 8th Cavalry
What’s In A Name
Hello Brothers, just got through with our 2015 Kentucky Kampout. What a wonderful time. It warms my heart, every time I think of you guys. We have a friendship like no other. I missed the boat getting signed up with the 8th Cav. Doing it now, going to get a life membership. For those guy’s that didn’t, please get signed up. Smiley is working hard on this. Let’s all get behind him, he has worked hard for all of us over the years.
This is my first entry of stories, or writing out of things. I hope I make some sense of what I’m trying to write.
Okay, put your thinking caps on. How many of you call me “Top Gun”? My guess is about 70%. Smiley, Larry, Billy Lewis and Duck Butter, for sure, call me Gus. My given name is James Glenn Dotson. As is common in the south a lot of the time, families will call their sons, brothers, etc. by their middle names. Glenn was the name my family called me. When I was in the 7th grade, we as a family moved to Chicago. When Mom gave my name to get checked into school it was James Glenn Dotson. Besides being called Ridge Runner, Hillbilly and Stump Jumper, to name a few, the kids and teachers alike called me Jimmy, a nickname for James. I HATED it. I also want to let y’all know that after that after me kicking some big-city ass that name calling shit ended. After a few years of being a street kid, I took another name: “Gus”. A wanna-be gangster, I wasn’t a mean kid. Just always had a habit of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Fast forward to May 1967. Our uncle came calling. Name at induction center: James Glenn Dotson, no Glenn, no Gus. Came to Nam January ‘69. Wanting to be cool and mean sounding I introduced myself as Gus. I mean, how many cool and mean guys are called Glenn? I don’t where I got the 60, don’t know the month. We were up north. The ‘67-’68 guys well remember Sgt. Leroy Dees. I think Leroy was a good leader, wish we could get in touch with him. Anyway, we were in a world of shit. Up the hill from our location we were getting fire from 2 gook bunkers. Leroy was on the ground on my right. I’m firing up the hill with my 60. Leroy hollers over to me, “Do something with that 60!” I did, getting up on my knees, bringing much lead up the hill. Don’t know why or how, the firing from the bunkers stopped. Leroy Dees looked me right in the eyes and said “You my Top Gun!”
That was the day the “legend” (ha-ha) was born. I have been accused of giving myself the name “Top Gun”. Ask Henry. So my brothers, that’s the way I remember it. So when we hook up together I can tell, without looking, who’s talking to me by the name they call me. But always remember, you can call me anything you like. Because of my love for each of you, I don’t care. What’s in a name?
James Glenn Dotson
Sgt Robert Edward Couch (Eddy)
On December 30th 1968 Eddy gave his life In Vietnam. Eddy was assigned to Company A 506th Infantry, 101st ABN DIV.
Eddy would have been 66 years old today. Eddy was born on July 22nd 1949. Eddy & I lived in Senoia, Georgia and graduated from
East Coweta High School in 1967. Eddy and myself Enlisted in the Army in October 1967. We both went to Fort Benning Ga. For
Basic training. We were in different Training Units. The last time I saw and talked with Eddy was Christmas 1967.After Basic Training
The Army sent us different ways. In April of 1968 I went to Vietnam And Eddy was still doing training at Ft. Benning for NCO school.
Eddy was sent to Vietnam in August of 1968. It was in November Before we got each other’s address. We started to writing Each other. The first letter I received from Eddy was a picture of A new car he had bought just before he left home. I still have the picture.
We continued to write each other until January when I received a letter Back that had Deceased on it .That is all you know until you get the next
Letter from home. Eddy, you are a great person and dear friend. You are a true American and hero. You have been missed by so Many for so long now. Eddy It has been an honor to have known you.
Rest In Peace My Brother.
PFC Jones Was Killed In The Korea War.
Prince of Wales Spur
The same MOI that covers the "Cav Hat" covers the qualifications required for the present troopers of the First Team to "earn their spurs" and also describes the spurs authorized for wear and how to wear them. Many veterans of the First Team will have no remembrance of earning their spurs since most of the unit spur programs came into being after the Division arrived at Fort Hood. Those troopers that rode horses in West Texas with the Division and rode horses earned their spurs learning to be a horse cavalry trooper. Those troopers that have been fortunate enough to serve in the Horse Cavalry Detachment have been earning the right to wear spurs for many years.
The Division's MOI states, "The 'Order of the Spur' will not be awarded to any Trooper based on arbitrary or meritless criteria such as rank, time in service, branch, and ability to endure hazing or other degrading behavior. Rather, Troopers must be in good standing within their formation (i.e. have no incidents of misconduct, record of adverse actions, or failures in obtaining basic Army standards) and then 'earn' the right to wear Cavalry Spurs through their demonstrated proficiency at both technical and tactical skills expected of Troopers assigned to the Division." Troopers may lose their right to wear spurs if they "fail to remain in good standing such as demonstrating an act of indiscipline." The Troopers are awarded a certificate and are able to wear 'Silver Spurs' once they have completed the Spur Ride (test) and been approved.
Those who have earned their spurs may also be awarded "Combat Spurs" if they conduct at least two combat patrols or missions outside of the Forward Operating Base, Combat Outpost, or camp. Being flown from one secure location to another does not constitute a patrol but does apply to pilots or air crewman with the primary duty of flying combat missions. Combat Spurs are "Gold Spurs" while those earned in peacetime are "Silver Spurs". Neither the Silver or Gold Spur are more prestigious than the other. The wearer may wear either color but the spurs being worn must match.
The Prince of Wales Spur, pictured above is the standard spur worn with either a black or tan strap. The 1859 Cavalry Spur, pictured below, is an alternate style of spur that may be worn
CWO Lou Rochat, A Troop 1-9th Cavalry 1970
When is a Cav Hat appropriate for wear?
The answer to that question is always - unless you are presently an active duty Trooper. Active duty Troopers are bound by uniform policies and wear of the "Cav Hat" is covered in the MOI. All former Cav Troopers may wear their "Cav Hat" at their own pleasure but are encouraged to wear them to all gatherings of Cavalry veterans and unit reunions. The "Cav Hat" is always appropriate at patriotic observances like Veterans Day, Independence Day and Memorial Day. Of course, never wear your "Cav Hat" in circumstances that would bring discredit to the Cavalry or your unit.
WHAT IS A NICK NAME???
In 1967 times were tough. A good job was hard to find especially if you were of draft age. Regardless of the tough times, I always had a grin on my face. My grinning made me look like the cat that swallowed the canary. October of 1967, I enlisted in the U.S. Army. After I arrived to boot camp in Ft. Benning, Georgia, the grin quickly changed. Somehow they always found a way to “wipe it off”
After boot camp, January of 1968,, I was sent to Ft. Lewis, Washington for A.I.T. pulse. A week of intense jungle training. The weather was so damn cold and wet. Our Squad Leaders were two E-5 Sergeants-Shake and Bake. Each squad was also assigned two Buck Sergeants and a Platoon Sergeant, though we did not see a lot of him. I was the only Kid in the company from east of the Mississippi River so my southern accent did not “sit” well with those gentlemen.
As a member of the fourth squad the two Buck Sergeants were “ in charge” of us all the time. Whenever we had a formation we would get an ass chewing for something, anything. I stood at attention on the back row but I had this problem of grinning. The grinning drove the two Sergeants crazy so when we got an ass chewing I would get an extra chewing for grinning. They hollered and cursed at me every day, all day and half the night, for nine weeks. The more they cursed the more I grinned.
April 1968 I arrived in Vietnam as part of the Delta Company. I was also the new guy now-FNG. On this day, Wildcat Platoon was to walk point. The squad leader ordered me to walk point. The Platoon had been ordered to move up and down a particular ridge line several times. In the past, every time a Platoon walked that ridge, someone got killed or wounded.
You do not say no, refuse or negotiate the duty. The squad leader could have shot me on the spot and it would have been less painful. I was 18 years old. It was mid morning. As I started out I did some serious praying. Needless to say my grin fell to the ground. The jungle was so thick that I was walking on the Vietcong’s trail. I was a little over halfway up the ridge when the Company Commander called up to the front and asked who was walking point. I stopped and turned around. Looking back I saw that neither the radio operator nor the Platoon Sgt. were responding. We all just stared at each other. Nobody knew my name. I had been their 4 weeks and not a damn soul knew my name.
I was about to tell them when Bill “Henry” Laferriere spoke up and said “Smiley.”. It was radioed back to the Commander the name “Smiley”. His reply, “Move faster Smiley”. The name stuck. They still call me Smiley to this day. It wasn’t until 1998 when I attended my first reunion that I found out that most of the guys still did not know my real name. Damn.
After I came home from Vietnam a good job was still hard to find. I was 19 years old, a Veteran of war, but still some places required employees to be 21 years old. I worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. One of the better ones was building houses. My brother in law was in the National Guard and he kept after me to join also. In November 1971, I did. It was a “try it one year program”. After a year if you did not like the Guard you could get out. Soon after entering the Guard those guys started calling me “PAW PAW”. That name stuck also.
Before the year was up I was offered a full time job with the Georgia Army National Guard. I was working in the Atlanta maintenance shop as a woodworker. I was the only carpenter in the shop. After about a month, Colonel Brown, the shop Superintendent, started to call me “Peanut” . This lasted about six months then it changed to “Termite” Unfortunately that name stuck like glue and all over Georgia I remained “Termite” until I retired in March of 2000.
Sometimes now when I go to the mailbox I find a letter or card addressed to “Smiley Harris”.
My smile returns knowing it is from an old friend.
Any name you want to call me will work and long as you call me.
Tommy Harris, aka Smiley, Paw Paw, Peanut, or Termite.