C Troop "Tell Your Story"

MY TOUR OF DUTY IN VIETNAM

by Robert Bartruff - C Troop 1969 to 1970


The following was written by Robert Bartruff for his grandchildren and future generations. Good job Bob! Ole' Bill

1 Oct 2001

Grandpa

Trent at your request here it is. I am giving this to you to share with the others or do what you see fit. Trent I am very proud of you and all you have accomplished. You are truly a great person.

Remember I am writing these 31 years after returning from that awful place. I am not very good at putting things down in written form but I will give it a try. The place itself was very pretty and most of the people were very nice. They just wanted to live their lives in peace and not have any of what was going on happening as they were in the middle of a war zone and many of their lives were destroyed. What was awful about the place was the war that was taking place. Never knowing what was going to happen one minute you may have been talking to a fellow soldier and within a few minutes or even seconds that person may be gone. A hero is someone who did something that saved the life of others all I wanted to do was survive and come home. What I did was to do my job the very best I could and try to insure the safety of those around me. Here are some of the things that I saw or did in Viet Nam. The reason I guess I am going to write this is so that my future generations will not only know what I went through but also let them think what happens when our nation sends us to fight even if the battle is worth fighting a price is paid. I am proud to have served my country when it called upon me. At a time when being a soldier was not the popular thing to do and being 19 and the country in a war in a distance land I was drafted into the US Army. During this time people were protesting against the war others were going to Canada to avoid the draft. The country was in a big uproar. The troops in Viet Nam did not have the support of the people in America. When we came home we were spit on as well as eggs being thrown on us. I only tell you this so you know what we felt like. Most of us were only there because we were told to be and didn't think it was the thing to do by going to Canada. One thing that we should always remember is the right thing to do is not always the popular thing. We have the freedoms because some that came before us gave their all. I always felt while I was in Nam was that the people there did not want to ruled by the communist that they wanted their freedom just like us. That is the reason we were there in my mind and after being there for some time the people are just like us and should not have anyone dictating to them what they should do. The day I received my draft notice I did not know what to do as I said earlier these were very confusing times the 60s. I knew my life would never be the same. The day I went to the induction center to go into the army some sergeant came in and said they needed people for the marines would anyone like to go. They did not have enough so they started telling people that they would chose who was to become a marine. Being a Marine was sure that you would go to Viet Nam and they were a lot harder on the people that went to the Marines. When they started naming people the person on each side of me were called, I was glad I was not one of them. The trip to basic training was uneventful. Basic was taken at Ft. Bliss Texas. They taught us many things of how to be a soldier. Texas was very hot as I was there in June July and part of Aug. We were constantly being broken down by the drill instructors so that they could make us learn to work as a team and with others as an individual in combat you would never survive. We did not know all this and took it as the drill instructors were just harassing us. The training was very hard most of it was physical which for me was not as hard as some of the others. The mental part was what got to most people, as the drill instructors never let you think on your own. The classes we had were simple and had to do with basic survival. Everything that you did was for a reason be it pushup or a 25 mile forced march with full equipment. Most of it was to prove to your self that you can do what ever is ask because in combat some things were very difficult to do as I would find out later. After finishing basic we were all given what field we would be going into. Most of the guys I was with went to the infantry because that is what was needed most in Nam. I was assigned to be in armor at Ft. Knox, KY. I was thinking I would be on a big old tank that was not to be. I was assigned as an armored reconnaissance specialist. Before going to that training I was to take a 4-week class on leadership. While I was in AIT I would be assigned as a squad leader, which meant that I would not need to do any additional duties such as KP, work in the mess hall and that was hard work. You would get up at 2:00AM go to work in the kitchen help all day there get off duty at around 9:00PM and then need to get all your equipment ready to be up at 4:30 for a full day of training. During this time we were all told that we would end up in Nam, as this is where the action was. I tried to learn everything I could so I could survive when that day came. We learned how to do tactics as they were done in armor. We learned how to shoot and maintain many different weapons. An APC, armored personnel carrier, had a 50 cal machine gun as its main weapon, 2 m60 machine guns, each person had their own m16 rifle and some had various other weapons. The APC is made out of aluminum and was very easy to move around. It was fast for something that weighed over 22 tons. Each vehicle had a crew of 4 the TC who was an NCO, E5 or above, 2 gunners and a driver. One of the more interesting skills we were taught was how to read a compass and map. I enjoyed map reading and how to find out where you were, where you were going and how to plot where things were. Reading a map and using a compass went hand in hand these skills I would use my entire military life. After I finished my individual training I was selected to attend an NCO academy. This was a school were you learned to become an NCO and to lead men. It would last for 12 weeks and contained some very intense training. As you were a student in the school you were promoted to the rank of Corporal E4, you got more money and the first step of an NCO. Upon graduation you were to be promoted to Sgt E5 or Staff Sgt E6 depending on your ranking at graduation. During the 12 weeks you took many test and if you failed one you would be dropped from the course and put on detail until the class graduated at which time you would receive orders for Viet Nam at the same grade they started school as. Another way you were dropped from the course was at the end of each week you were graded by your peers as to how they thought you were as a leader. The bottom 3 were dropped from the course each week no matter what your test scores were. You were expected to be at your very best at all times. Your uniforms must always be cleaned and pressed, boots must have a spit shine. Your room was to be set up a certain way and every thing must be in its place. Your books were to be lined up according to the height of the book your desk must have a 5X8 picture of some one in one of the corners but I can't remember which one it was. The floors including the halls must be able to reflect your face. We accomplished this by doing the floor with Johnson paste wax and then buffing with a buffer and a towel on the brush. We would do the floors in the hall every other night and the rooms every night. We would walk down the sides of the hall with our boots in our hands and put them on outside. We were inspected every morning to make sure we were prepared for the day. If something was wrong with your uniform or you did not have your assignments ready you would receive a gig and after so many gigs you were dropped from the course. The gigs you received in the morning were added to the ones for your room. The training we received during this time was very good and covered ever aspect of being a leader in a combat situation. All the instructors were Officers with the rank of Major or above and all had been in combat. I started this training in Nov 68. Most of the training was in classroom with a field hands on exercise. The weather in Kentucky during this time of the year is always cold damp and windy just the opposite of what we would see in Viet Nam. Many of the things I learned during this time I used for all the years while I was in the military. They became of real importance when I taught leadership training in the reserves. As I indicated above it was a very intense course and the failure rate was high. Test were given on a daily basis. The test I remember the most was the hardest of all. It was the very last test that we took and was given on the day before graduation was to take place, again if you failed you failed the course. They loaded us on buses very early in the morning the bus windows were painted black so you could not see where you were going. After the bus stopped you were given a number when your number was called you went out the door where your were given a map a compass and a piece of paper with coordince on it. Ever 5 minutes a new number was called. You would then need to plot where you were and where you were going then take off running. The course was 12 miles long and you must complete it in 4 hours as well as pass all test along the way. After you took off and found your first location a test was given to you. One of the test was you went into a mud hole about knee deep a tank was stuck you would take the cable off hook them to the drive wheel and then hook the other end to an object out of the mud hole and then tell the driver to start the tank and it would then pull itself out. Another was you would come to a 50 Cal machine gun load fire it misfired and you would do corrective action to make it fire correctly. After you passed each test you were given another piece of paper and you would plot your next location take off running. All this was done with army boots and field gear on. You were required to complete 25 different task in this time frame so everything you did was in a hurry. The very last station for ever one was the same it was a communication bunker your test was to go inside turn the radio on properly and then sign into the network and you were given a message that in code that you must use you CEOI book to decode properly. The message was congratulations you have just completed the final phase of your training. As you were taking each test if it was not completed properly you were told to stop and were taken out of the field and did not graduate. This was one of the hardest things I ever completed in my life both physically and mentally but it gave me confidence to know I could accomplish some thing like this. We were told they did it this way because it was as close as they could come to putting you under the same type of stress that you would have in combat to see how well you handled it. The next day we graduated received our strips orders for our next assignment and where we ranked in class. I graduated 6 out of about 52 that graduated the class stared with over 240 troops so this indicates how high the drop rate was.

My next assignment was to a unit and teach recruits how to become soldiers. This assignment was for 8 weeks and then I was off to Viet Nam. The only thing strange about this assignment was the new soldiers I was teaching were national guardsmen so after their training they went home and I went to Viet Nam. The next assignment was the one to a far away place the 'NAM'. When I received these orders I was also given a 2-week leave at home. I do not remember anything I did during those 2 weeks. I guess that is because I was so concerned about what was going to happen this is all I thought about. I was to report to Oakland, Calf. Army Deport to be transported to Viet Nam. We were put into a hanger that was to be used as a clearing point. We were given flight numbers and when your number was called you were to get in formation and then were put on a buss to go to Travis AFB and put on a plane for the Nam. The only thing I can remember about the flight was that it was long. I remember thinking what am I going to do and what is going to happen. When the plane arrived in Nam and the door opened it was like standing in front of an open oven door that has been on for a long time. The weather was hot and dry. I arrived in country some time around the end of June 69. We were taken from the airport on a buss that had screening over the windows to keep grenades from being thrown in. We were taken to a replacement center where we were given our assignments of the units we were to be assigned to. I was assigned the 1st infantry division. After arriving there I was then assigned to the � Cav. Before going to the unit we were to attend an in country jungle school. It taught us the things and fighting that was unique to Nam. While in this school I was with a Lt. Philips that I would serve later with. During my stay at this place I would learn how heat affects the body. You wore as few clothes as you could which included not wearing underwear or tee shirts. This took some getting use to but saved me from getting heat rash in these areas. Nam only has 2 seasons hot and dry and hot and rainy. When it was hot and dry it was very hot. When it was hot and wet it was wet. The rainy season was called monsoon. The rain came very hard and lots of it. Places that were dust during the dry season were giant mud puddles. You were always covered with mud. I was assigned to be in C troop of the � cav after our first week. All of us that were assigned to C trp were put on a helicopter and sent out to the field were our troop was. After landing the company commander gave us a briefing on what we were to do and our new jobs. I was assigned as TC to Charlie 20 because the old TC had rotated to the states. I introduced myself to the crew. I can't remember but one name and that was Darrel Mosley who was the gunner. We had a briefing as to what we were going to do the next morning. We were RON, remain over night, outside a rubber plantation that was suppose have a major unit of VC, Viet Cong and NVA, North Vietnam Army in it. That night I was to find out what war was all about. We put the vehicles in a circle formation with the guns facing out. Each vehicle had a guard posted on top while the rest of the crew slept. Guard duty was divided between everyone on the vehicle. About midnight all kinds of noise started. I woke up not scared, as I didn't know what it was. The gunner who was on guard duty said get up here in your spot as they have started to attack us. There were mortar rounds going off very close to our ACAV. I saw flashes from weapons being shot at us. I started to fire the 50 cal machine gun that was my main weapon and the gunner started firing the M60 machine gun. The driver got in the hatch and started the ACAV up just in case we needed to move. I had never fired a weapon at any one until this time. I could not see what I was firing at other then in the direction of the mussel blast. We were in this fight until the sun started coming up. After it slowed down we took a survey of damages and losses. We had a couple of guys injured but not killed. My ACAV had big holes in it where the mortar round had hit close to the vehicle. We were to go on into the plantation in formation. Upon entering the plantation we started to receive fire. We were being shot at from bunkers that were under the trees. There were tunnels that connected to each bunker. We had spent about an hour in the plantation and only advanced about 50 yards when I heard and saw a large explosion. One of our tanks had been hit by an antitank weapon RPG. The tank exploded as the round had gone through and hit the ammo stored inside the tank. The tank burned for the next 2 days. The driver, gunner and loader were all killed and their bodies were never recovered as they were burnt. We continued to withdraw for the night after fighting all day. That night we RON for the night and we could see the tank on fire inside the plantation. We could hear the VC yelling at us. That night was just like the night before. The next day we stared into the plantation again. This time most of the VC had moved out. This was my introduction to the war in Viet Nam. I think that is why I remember more of what happened because it was the first firefight I was in. We lost a number of soldiers while we were there some killed others wounded. For the next few months we were going from place to place looking for the enemy. We got into a lot of firefights. At various location and times. It seemed to me that we were going around looking to be shot at and not accomplishing anything. We would go to an area have a firefight leave the area and then return in a day a week or a month later to have another firefight. During this time we went into an area called the Iron Triangle. This was an area were we knew there were a lot of the enemy. As we were going through this area one of our tanks sunk into the ground. As we were looking to see what had happened we discovered it caved in a tunnel. In this tunnel some VC were trapped by the tank we tried to save them but it was to late they had died. As we checked we found that there was a large tunnel complex. We took position and called in the group that went into tunnels, tunnel rats is what they were referred to. They found that we had discovered a large underground hospital complete with operating rooms. There were some wounded VC I guess they were too bad for the enemy to move them and knew we would take good care of them. They stared to remove medical supplies from this hospital. Most of the supplies were made in the US. These supplies were given to the enemy by groups that did not believe we should be in Viet Nam. One of the biggest protesters was Jane Fonda and until I die I will always believe she was a traitor to this country and caused the death of a number of US soldiers. Not long after this experience November I was asked to go to sniper school. I said I would do it as I had met some of them while I was doing other things. It appeared to me as you could choose more of what you did. I went to the training to learn how to properly fire a weapon and how to protect your self as you would be out in the bush with only one other person your spotter. Sniper training took 2 weeks to complete. Many that went did not finish the course for various reasons. I learned many things about how to properly shoot a weapon. You learned how to shoot at night using a starlight scope and daytime with a scope or open sights. We learned how the heat, wind, pressure all affected the flight of the bullet. We were introduced to who was going to be our spotter and spend the rest of the time in the bush with. After completing this course I was assigned to a group that called themselves the Rat Patrol. What this group did was set ambushes every night and let the enemy know where they were. The group was voluntary except for the sniper. The commander of this group was the Lt Philips that I came into country with. This unit would go out during the day and look for places that they knew the enemy was. We would make noise and let the enemy know we were going to be there that night. We would set up and wait. As the enemy would start to come at us I would start hitting them from a distance. As they got closer we would then pop the ambush. There were only 8 guys in this group so we had to hit hard and then run. We were very successful at killing the enemy. We became a target for every enemy unit that was in our area. One day as we were getting ready to go do our recon I ask to stay behind and would go with them that night. About an hour after they left someone came over to me and said they had all been killed. As I asked what happened I was told they drove the jeeps into an ambush. Where I normally sat took a direct hit from one of the mines. If I had gone with them I would have been killed. The casualties were 2 had been wounded and 2 killed including the LT. I had 15 kills as a sniper and have never fired a weapon since returning from Nam. When I first came home I bought a 22 cal rifle with a scope, the one that one of you will or have inherited, went out to Willard Bay shot 2 rounds and found out I had lost the desire to shoot. This is all I will say about being a sniper it was something that had to be done but was not the most pleasant thing. The way I coped with it was I felt that ever kill I made I saved some of our soldiers. One night in the field I was listening to our radio and the soldier on the other end said that the 1st infantry division was going to come home. As we talked he did not have much information. The next morning we were lifted out of the field and went back to camp where it was formal announced that the 1st was being taken out of Nam. The rules were that if you had less then 45 days left in country you would come home. I fit in that group and was excited. After leaving Nam the flight home was very quite as we were all remembering what we had been through. We arrived at Travis AFB on Apr 7, 1970 got on busses headed for Oakland Army Depot, where the adventure had begun. All the busses had wire over the windows, which I thought was strange, this was to keep the eggs from hitting us. Demonstrators throw eggs and various other things at us the soldier we had just been through HELL and now our own Americans did not like us. They took their anger for the government out on us. We were just young men doing what we were told to do. We did not deserve what was being done to us. Some of the things that I saw and did are just faded memories. Many of the things were done just because they were needed to accomplish the mission. Many firefights while in the � Cav happened with people on both sides being killed or injured. I cannot remember all of them or do I want too as Viet Nam has been with me the rest of my life. There were many things that happened that were funny and kept us going not everything was bad but everything was stressful. Ever breath you took could have been your last and I think that was the hardest thing of not knowing. Many nights I have had dreams of things that happened to me. There have been nights that I would wake up sweating. There have been nights that Teri would wake me up and say I was talking in my sleep. I would tell her I was just dreaming but I was having a dream about that place. I don't know what caused me to have these flashbacks. There are certain smells, sounds, sights that sometimes brings back memories. Some things will never be forgotten they are just a little faded.

The greatest thing that has happened to me was being a father. I have had the opportunity to have 2 families and I love each one the same. I may not be Jodi's, Kevin's, or Ryan's real father but I love them as if they were mine. I consider all the grandchildren as mine. Teri has been the greatest wife a man could ever ask for. She enjoyed sports as much as I do. She treated both set of children the same and I will always LOVE her. Amy, Laynce, Trent, and Brett I am so proud of all the things you have accomplished in your lives. I have been so proud to say these are my children. Take care of your spouses as they are all great individuals. Before I get too mushy I will close this. Trent I want to thank you for asking me to do this because if you hadn't I would never have completed it. I hope all of you the very best in life. Enjoy it and take care of each other because the only thing that really matters is family.

Dad and Grandpa to the greatest family a man could ask for.



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