At the time I served with the Tigers,(6/68-1/69) we were brought in by invitation only. Only the most experienced and qualified men were included. Although nominally a platoon sized element, most of the time we were lucky to have about 12 to 15 men. The team was lead most of the time by a Lieutenant and staffed by two medics, and sometimes an FO.
At the time I served with the Tigers, I had been in country about 6 months. After being with Tigers for about 3 months,we received out in the field a PIO photographer from the Division, SP/4 Stan Parker, an Infantryman who had been wounded a couple of times in another battalion. Some of the black and white photos taken here were shot by SP/4 Parker.
Tigers had been in a lot of contact prior to when these photos were taken. While Specialist Parker was with us, we would often ask him to take our photos to send home to our families. He explained that he would have no way of getting random shots back to us if he shot any, so he gave a roll to one of us, and let him get the pictures to each of us. 30 years later, Roy "Zeke" Blevins was going to go to the 101st Airborne Reunion in Omaha, Nebraska. He dug around in a box and found the roll of film that he'd gotten from Parker that day in Viet Nam. He developed the roll and brought it to the reunion. None of us had seen these pictures until that day in 1998.
This and the next 4 pics are of several of us eating freshwater crabs and little fish that we caught in a small stream. The "Cheu Hoi", a young former(?) Viet Cong who had given up and agreed to travel with us in his old stomping grounds, had suggested this as good eating. We barbecued the crabs on a bamboo skewer that we splintered from a bamboo pole cut right at streamside. Pictured here are: the Cheu Hoi, "Raider Rick", Zeke Blevins, Myself, T.J. McGinley.
Rick, Zeke and Myself.
Cheu Hoi and Myself, cooking over small stove made out of c-rat can.
Rick and Zeke eating some Pork slices (with juices), that we cooked over the small fire. Zeke is wearing an Aussie hat emblem, that he got from some Aussies that provided mutual combat aid in a bar fight in Malaysia. That is another story.
Rick, Zeke and Myself with the skewered crabs. Zeke at this point was still dubious.
This is a better photo of Gray. He was a real fighter, and walked point and/or slack with Zeke Blevins quite a bit. Still trying to locate Gray.
Grey and Zeke. Although Grey is shown holding an m-16, He was a machine gunner. He packed the M-60 MG. Grey was a good man who ended up in a bad situation. After leaving the Tigers for the Battalion Aid Station, I later learned that he was alleged to have shot a Marine. The stories abound as to what happened, all different in detail to the point of near legend... I hope he is doing well.
Ray May, and Zeke Blevins
Left to right: unable to get name of the first guy on the left. He is carrying an m-79 grenade launcher. Next to him is Raider Rick. Next is Zeke and finally Specialist Parker, a representative of the Division PIO office. These are particularly tough guys. I would walk anywhere with these four men. In fact I did walk in the most dangerous place on earth (the A Shau Valley) with these guys.
McGinley and Blevins: Point and slack man, in heavy rain forest on the edge of the bamboo thicket. Point man walks with the rifle on full auto (rock and roll), the slack man walks with rifle on single shot, everyone else on safe.
Zeke crossing a stream. Extremely thick bamboo forest in A Shau Valley. When the wind blew, the larger poles would sound like wind chimes.
Page, Zeke, Setting up a machine gun position.
Ray May, Lew Legat, Sgt Page.
Roy "Zeke" Blevins, taking a trail break. Packs (rucksacks) weighed around 60 lbs. Inside and strapped to it were items from ammo, to c-rations or,if we were lucky, LRRP meals. We also carried extra machine gun ammo, one or two claymore mines, C-4, trip flares, water and personal items. It added up fast. Zeke habitually wore NVA web gear, captured from slain enemy soldiers. Carrying the M16 rifle,Zeke was a point man. A good one.
The group saddles up. l-r: unknown, Zeke, Toberman, Mouse Campos, unk, unk, Sgt Paige.
Toberman and Field.
Toberman, and Zeke Blevins.
Rear: Zeke Blevins, Lt Toberman. front: T.J. McGinley, Sgt. Field also known as Fang
Lt. John Toberman. This man was really cool. He had a year of medical school before joining the army, according to legend. See the war story that features him on the war story page, "Dropped From a Helicopter". He led us well.
Sgt Fields (Fang), Sgt Page, the Chue Hoi, Saddling up to return to the hills. The Cheu Hoi didn't speak but a little English and we had no VN speaker. At a later date, I went fishing with this kid with hand grenades in some bomb craters that were right next to a river. The floods would allow fish to get into the craters, then as the water dropped the kid would try to get them before they just died. The best method was to drop a grenade in the middle.
Entered 11/8/98 The next 8 Photos were taken with a camera that had just been received in the field by Roy "Zeke" Blevins. The camera box is visible in the last picture in this series. The time is about Christmas time of 1968. The film was developed in 1970, and the prints have degraded over time.
We were young and strong and vital, and all we wanted out of life was to get home alive. It was my decided philosophy that the best way for me to do this was traveling with the Tigers. One cannot sneak in the woods with 100 men (a line company) but one CAN sneak in groups of 3 or 4. These were young men who took the art of combat very seriously.
These are photos of Jeff Paige. Jeff was a consumate warrior, and spent later time with LRRPS and Rangers. These photos are of Jeff on his way home for his first extension leave.
Taken in Ben Hoa, the 101st division Base Camp down south, near Saigon. Details of the uniform; Stingy brim hat: The guys from up north or back east seemed to prefer their hats cut this way. Jump wings on hat: Although we didn't jump in Viet Nam, the wings were an important distinction to those of us who wore them. Flower Power fatigues: We mostly wore Tiger Stripes, but had to buy them ourselves. These were issued to us. Double Eagles: Non camoflaged patches, since camo or not, we wore this patch as an icon of our status in life, paratroopers, Above the Rest! Worn on both sides, since after a year in a combat zone, we were entitled to wear the Eagle on the right side, showing assignment to a division in a combat zone.The left side is current division of assignment. Double Eagle soldiers were top of the heap. Metal sergeatnt stripes, on pocket: since uniforms were changed weekly in the field, name tapes and rank was not sewn on.Tiger patch: in 66 the unit had a round pocket patch, in later years, the patch was a black and gold banner type that rode over the 101st patch. Stance and look of confidence. Look back at the picture of Jeff, McGinley and myself, in the elephant grass in the middle of A Shau...we all had that look, young but ageless. 19 year old eyes that had seen a million years of horror and death...
Comparison photo: Tiger and a REMF. Jeff sent me this photo, of himself and a guy who's name he doesn't remember. What is so noticable in this picture is the distinct difference in appearence, carriage, and demeanor. There is more to this difference than uniform alone. REMF's had access to daily showers, slept on cots under a roof, ate in a chow hall, and went to movies, chased nurses, or cyclo girls, clean clothes daily, px trips. We didn't. Not everyone who lived in the rear was a REMF. Some were Nurses, Doctors and medics who cared for the wounded, Others kept the trucks moving up and down the highway,at great risk to themselves. Still others flew the helicopters in and out of hell. Jeff sent a quote with this photo. Neither of us remember who said this, but it goes something like this:
"...If I could have two Armies, one would be for display and would march, etc. The other Army would be comprised of warriors that had more to do than concern themselves with garrison life..."
Stan Parker, Division PIO, and Ben "babysan" Croxton, with captured weapons. 1968
LT Fred Raymond on hill 292, wherever that is. We had just taken a resupply, and were near Veghel. Note the defoliated trees. This is the terminal effect of Agent Orange. McGinley is on the extreme left side of the photo, Zeke Blevins is seated facing the camera, just below McGinley. Need names on the others. Lt Raymond was one of the most capable officers I ever met, before and since. His was the team that hauled the two men who were dropped by a helicopter back up the hill, and his platoon was one of helicopters shot down in the initial invasion of the area surrounding Veghel. He was a friend and compatriot of John Gertsch. His leadership of the Tigers was impeccable
T.J. McGinley at Veghel firebase, only a couple of months after it had been taken. Trees still crowded the perimeter, and no bunkers had been built yet. The tops of the trees had been blasted or burned off in intensive bombing before we actually assaulted the hill. The area was heavily sprayed with Agent Orange during the time we were in the area.
Myself at the edge of an elephant grass forest, deep in the A Shau Valley. The grass towers overhead, and is sharp as razors. Point men would constantly receive cuts on their arms from pushing thru the thick grass. these cuts were very hard to heal.
My pal, Roy "Zeke" Blevins. Zeke was a great story teller, and aggresive point man. He and McGinley and I were very tight. I thank God that we all got home alive and well. I met with him at a recent reunion, and noted that he still makes this same face.
Myself, T.J. McGinley, and Sgt. Paige, shortly after a fire fight. Attitude is plain on our faces.
Roy "Zeke" Blevins at Veghel. Ho Chi Min sandals were made by the Viets, out of inner tubes and truck tire tread. Zeke captured these off an enemy soldier who had had a bad day.
T.J. McGinley, point man. He and others often wore NVA web gear, captured from enemy soldiers. The Tiger Stripe uniform is typical of the colors worn by Tiger Force and other recon outfits. Later we began to get "Flower Power" jungle fatigues from supply. We usually had to buy our own Tiger Stripes.
Phu Loc, late 68. Tigers had moved out of the A Shau Valley for a time, and was involved in "cordon" operations in this small village. We recieved a number of replacements, Mostly experienced troops from the line companies. We were hanging out in an abandoned school house, seen behind us. The guy in the hat, and pipe is TJ McGinley
Each evening we would go out of the town limits and set up ambushes. Each day the line companies would surround the Village of Phu Loc, and the Tigers would walk around the confines of the village looking for the usual stuff. We didn't find much, I think mostly because the operations we conducted as a Brigade up in the A Shau and the surrounding mountains had pretty much confined the NVA to the wilderness.
Zeke Blevins, Sgt Ky, A Vietnamese Special Forces troop who traveled with us. Jeff Paige, Myself.
This is a great picture of a good man. Lew Legat was one of the Tigers who came to us later in my tour. He is shown here in or near the A Shau Valley, cooking some C rats. His M-16 lies before him in easy reach.
Jeff Paige, and I were drummers in our mispent youth, prior to the military. Jeff had been in LRRP's before Tigers and went to Rangers later. During the "cordon " operations mentioned above, we ran across a group of itinerant musicians who were going to a wedding. They were all dressed up, and ready to rock the house. Unfortunatley, we could not let them pass out of the cordon, so we detained them there, and rocked all day with them. In addition to the school house, we also used the grave ....
.... yard out back to set up. The vietnamese put walls around the graves, that made great fighting positions since the walls were made of cement. I'm wearing a blue T-shirt, because I just got back from R&R, in Hawaii. This was my "surfer shirt", and everybody wanted to trade me out of it. I wore it to rags. That is Charley Knott sitting just outside the block buiding. I have just located Jeff Paige, thanks to Fang Field, who somehow located him.
I just heard from "Birdman", shown here in this black and white photo, taken on Veghel or Eagles Nest. Mike Chesmore, found my name in "Static Line", and contacted me. One day he caught a small owl down on the bank of a creek that he'd gone to to wash up and do a water run. Birdman caught the bird with a mosquito net, from a hat, and tied it to his ruck. That night someone stepped on it or sat on it, and crushed the poor bird. Birdman cut off the legs, and taking the wrapper from a ....
....C rat spoon, he melted the plastic around the legs and feet. Later, he and a buddy hung the leg and claw from their newly pierced ears. Like many Tigers, Chesmore is wearing a captured NVA belt. The NVA soldier that he got it from had had a bad day.
Albee in Phan Rang