56 years ago, 14 December 1964, I was a Sergeant E-5 Demolition Specialist on Detachment A-6, Company A, 6th Special Forces Group (Airborne). Our team, as well as three others, had returned on 3 November from a seven-month mission to Ethiopia, during their border war with Somalia.
I ended my 30-day post-deployment leave, arriving at Ft. Bragg NC the night that my leave ended, Sunday, 13 December.
COMPANY B, 3rd SPECIAL FORCES GROUP
The following day, 14 December, I was assigned to an A-team in B Company, 3rd Special Forces Group, at Ft. Bragg. I was assigned as the team’s Demolition Sergeant. I was warned right off the bat that I needed to prepare for a week in the field. The 3rd had been formed shortly before we deployed to Ethiopia. Because of the many missions being sent out by Special Forces it was decided that a group needed to be formed, that would be responsible for Africa. That became the 3rd Special Forces Group.
Since we had just returned from Africa, most of us were transferred to the 3rd to impart our knowledge of Africa to the group. You might say we became a sort of cadre. The 6th had been responsible for Africa but was also responsible for the Near and Middle East, and was finding itself spread too thin.
Besides now having a car, I was able to rent a house on my own, off base. My housemate was another Special Forces demolition man I had met, Sergeant Mike Donahue. It was a great feeling of freedom. In most military units, unless you were married, a very high ranking NCO, or an officer, you had to live in the unit barracks. Special Forces treated its men like MEN. The unit trusted us to act maturely and responsibly, which included being able to live off base.
On Wednesday, 16 December, I made my 15th parachute jump, a night combat equipment tactical jump onto Luzon Drop Zone, in Camp Mackall. We jumped from a U.S. Air Force WWII-era C-46 “Commando.” The drop was the official beginning of a week-long FTX (Field Training Exercise). The official end of the exercise was a hike back to our team barracks at Ft. Bragg on 23 December, with weapons and loaded rucksacks.
Another military coup took place in South Vietnam, on 20 and 21 December. This one led by Nguyen Cao Ky and Nguyen Van Thieu. They kept the deposed General Khanh on as part of the new government.
On 24 December we heard some disturbing news from South Vietnam. A Viet Cong car bomb had exploded at the Brinks Hotel, in Saigon, during “happy hour.” Later reports indicated that 2 Americans had been killed, and 38 wounded. 1964 marked the first Christmas season I had not spent with my parents. It made for a rather lonely holiday season.
On 29 December, a friend of mine, Staff Sergeant Harold Bennett, was captured, along with Charles Crafts. They had been assigned as MACV advisors to an ARVN (Army, Republic of Vietnam) unit. They had made contact with a Viet Cong (VC) unit that afternoon, engaging in a firefight. They were captured during the firefight. I didn’t learn of his capture until the following year, when he was executed. The news of his execution, for no reason, led me to volunteer for Vietnam in 1965
On the Vietnam front; as of the end of 1964, troop strength had jumped to more than 23,300 (including 1,300 Special Forces), 147 men were killed and 1,039 wounded, and 60 aircraft were lost in combat. Also, there was an estimated 170,000 Viet Cong and NVA fighters in South Vietnam.
One of the first things that occurred after returning from the field exercise was that I was selected as one of many Special Forces men to be a part of the Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, DC for the newly elected President Lyndon B. Johnson. He had, for the previous election, been the vice presidential selection for President John F. Kennedy, who he had replaced as President when Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
The 3rd Special Forces Group was instructed to provide a marching contingent for the Inaugural Parade, led by Deputy Commander LTC William (Buz) Miley. Members of the 6th and 7th Special Forces Groups were added to the Special Forces contingent in the parade, as well as some cadre from the Special Warfare Center.
From Book #2, of my four-book set of SLURP SENDS!, #1 (“SLURP SENDS! On Becoming a Green Beret Book 1”). Books # 2 (SLURP SENDS! Experiences of an A-Team Green Beret Book 2”), #3 (“SLURP SENDS! Experiences of a Green Beret In Vietnam Book 3”) and #4 (“SLURP SENDS! A Green Beret’s Experiences In Vietnam Book 4”) are all available on Amazon, or from me.
PHOTOS: The “official” Inaugural Parade photos of me, included in a participants’ folder (my photos).