Cliff, a lifelong resident of Forest Park, was born November 3, 1944. He served in the U.S. Army as an artillery battalion in Vietnam with the rank of Sergeant E5. Cliff was drafted at age 20 in August of 1965. Although he did not have the benefit of a college deferment and saw young men flee to Canada to avoid the draft, Cliff embraced his desire to do his duty for his country. Within only one week after completing his physical, Cliff was sent to Fort Knox, KY for basic training, then to Oklahoma for artillery and infantry training for deployment to Vietnam. Orders quickly changed as Cliff’s unit was re-routed to Hawaii for jungle warfare training where rigorous training took place in a climate and terrain that was similar to that of Vietnam. Trainings included ambush training, mountain climbing, belly river crossing on a rope. After being transported to Vietnam on a ship housing 3,000 soldiers, Cliff was a member of the artillery battalion with duties of providing artillery supply by convoys and helicopters and firing rounds to protect South Vietnam Army bases. The artillery battalion went to many operations wherever Viet Cong were spotted. Viet Cong would find U.S. artillery rounds that didn’t explode and bury them in the roads. When his artillery convoy made contact with the unexploded rounds, Cliff endured a concussion when a huge explosion occurred where he witnessed many casualties and serious injuries. Cliff extended his time in Vietnam by two months for an early Army discharge in July 1967. He was awarded an Army Commendation Medal Against Hostile Forces. Upon returning to the U.S., young people spit on the ground as Cliff and his fellow soldiers dressed in uniform came off of the plane. Despite the political unrest of the times, Cliff is proud of his service and would do it again for his country. He feels comfortable talking to other veterans and proudly wears a Vietnam Veteran cap. Cliff continued his willingness to serve under pressure as a Forest Park Fire Fighter for 33 years and has been retired since 2003.
Sergeant E5 – 25th artillery battalion in Vietnam
Drafted at age 20 in August 1965
Embraced his desire to do his duty for his country
A SHIFT IN TRAINING
Fort Knox, KY for basic training
Artillery and infantry training in Oklahoma
Jungle warfare training in Hawaii
“…I never thought I could ever…crawl across a river on one rope on my belly…we had ambush training, we had mountain climbing…they were readying us for the mountainous area region of Vietnam.”
DEPLOYMENT INTO COMBAT
“The water was pretty rough…It took me about 6 days…for my stomach to finally get used to it…We finally get to Vietnam – it took about 12 days…We sat in this harbor for 3 more days in the heat…We were surrounded by destroyers and boats with 50 caliber machine guns to protect us…It would have been easy for somebody to throw a bomb on that ship…”
Transported to Vietnam on a ship housing 3,000 soldiers
Boats carried 50 caliber machine guns
The front of the boat would drop and troops would go out into about a foot of water.
Nearby destroyers were firing rounds and smoke was coming up from the land
MEDAL OF HONOR
Awarded an Army Commendation Medal Against Hostile Forces
Endured a concussion when his convoy made contact with unexploded rounds
Witnessed many casualties and serious injuries
“We were on this convoy and there was a huge explosion 2 trucks up. It was so big that I felt a concussion. I saw the door of the driver’s side of that truck go flying like a Frisbee in the air, and I saw the driver. He was projected into the air like a rag doll; his leg was pretty well ripped off. He ended in the field and my first instinct was get out and help this guy. The medics were on their way. We were ordered to move out as quick as we could because Charlie was well known for ambushes after we would hit a land mine. So, we hit the gas and got out of there. To this day I don’t know what happened to the soldier, I did not know him. He apparently was from the infantry, but that was probably the closest thing I’ve had to losing my life"
GRATITUDE AND FINAL REFLECTION
Full Interview - Transcript
Interviewing, research, writing and design by Nancy Cavaretta