Me in front of my hooch in Dong Ha.

Growing up in the ‘Burgh, I had an overly protective set of parents, with very limited exposure to the real world to say the least. To escape, I joined the service. To stay out of Vietnam I joined the Navy. Boy was I in for a rude awakening.

After boot camp they sent me to Seabee school and the Seabee battalion sent us to USMC infantry training in North Carolina, then off we go to Vietnam. My C-141 landed on a Sunday in DaNang and from there a C-130 to Dong Ha. On Wednesday we went up the road to a place called Con Tien to dig a well for the Marines and Army artillery.

We were greeted by a Marine Captain. His spiel went like this, “Welcome Seabees, I’m Capt. Kelly of Charlie Co. 1st Bn 9th Marines and you have nothing to fear, North Vietnamese and Viet Cong have only tried to overrun us twice in the last six months.” I thought to myself, (expletive), what did I get into this time?

When we’d get up in the morning, we’d go to the top of our bunker (it was cut into the hillside), look north and see the North Vietnamese flag in the distance. Lo and behold while only there for approximately 3 months, they made one major push to overrun us and we were mortared every couple of nights or so. We fought back and we survived.

Ralph Norman
West End, Pa

Front gate to Camp Barnes, part of the Dong Ha Marine Combat Base.

Where we would take the scraps from the chow hall and put them in a trough for the Vietnamese.