1st SGT HD Johnson and wife Jane at recent Reunion

   I enlisted in the US Army in January, 1951, and volunteered for Airborne Training. I served with the 11th Airborne Division, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky until ordered to Korea in 1953. Enroute, I was given a security clearance and assigned to Special Forces Korea. My primary MOS was light infantry with a secondary MOS of supply specialist. (I worked in supply while disabled for line duty) I was on light duty when ordered to Ft Benning, in July, 1965, to organize the 1st Air Cav for Vietnam deployment. I was assigned to Infantry Hall, Ft Benning, GA, and remained there until the summer of 1967. I was sent on emergency deployment to the Vietnamese Language School, EL Paso, Texas, and then to Vietnam. After my tour, I was assigned to the Training Center, at Ft Bragg, NC until my retirement. I retired in February, 1971 with 20 years service. My formal education is 10 years with a GED for 1 year of college.I have been disabled since back surgery in 1975 .I earned the Master Parachutist Badge, Green Beret, Expert Infantryman Badge, and four overseas bars, prior to my Vietnam Awards.

   I served as First Sergeant of A/3/39 Infantry, 9th Infantry Division, during the period 16 December, 1967, to December, 1968. Company A had some of the best leaders and troops that I have had to opportunity to work with. We missed the opportunity to "show our stuff" during TET due to the tragic death of our previous commander, Captain James E Reed. Our unit was frequently "visited" by Battalion to find out how we could put so many troops in the field on a daily basis. We did not send them to the field, we led them to the field, and put emphasis on their personal welfare. We we’re the first to receive the Air Medal, fought for promotions, awards and R & R allocations, and eliminated the "mickey mouse" harassment in the rear area. (unnecessary inspections, police calls. etc.) We did not have any incidence of the "fragging" of leaders that occurred in some units.

   The data that I included in my letters home are the basis for a unit history. I urge anyone who’s  remembers any specific incidents, after reading the notes, to provide the data to me at:, or forward it to the webmaster. When the daily journals, individual memories and my notes are combined, we may be able to better understand our tour in Vietnam.

H D Johnson ISG A/3/39 Inf

13 Dec 67: Arrived Bearcat yesterday. I'll be assigned to the 9th Division. It's stationed somewhere else-only HQ's and support people here. A SGT from the Long Range Patrol tried to talk me in to volunteering for that. Says they'll start drawing jump pay next year. He claims they haven't lost a man in the field in the past year. I don't plan on volunteering for anything yet. Funny set up. We're all on DA orders but have to wait in the Replacement Depot until our assignments are "verified". I guess they do that to pull the replacements they want for higher headquarters. Hope they don't do that to me. These base camps  are a mess. Permanent buildings, inspections, not enough work to stay busy. We could not process yesterday because of an IG Inspection.. Pretty miserable so far. Got my  nights and days mixed up  and still not climatized to the weather.

14 Dec: Just got assigned to A/3/39 INF, APO 96373. I'm hostile. I wanted to send you $200 but due to silly regulation can only send $100 now. My new unit CO will have to certify that the money is really mine . Should be on the move again tomorrow.CPT Smith cashed a check for me so I'm sending the rest. Please don't send anything to me unless I ask for it. I can't carry all the junk I have now.

15 Dec: Got tired of waiting and hitched a ride to Battalion by chopper.  I'll be stationed at an old French Fort by the South China Sea. Safest place in Vietnam.  I'm at Rach Kien and haven't seen a map yet.  VC mortared 3 nights in a row just before I got here.  Our artillery keeps us awake.  I've been staying around the CP. You should see all the pitiful mothers bringing their children to the aid stations., and the smiles on their faces  when they get treated and get some candy from the medics.  Must have been 100 in yesterday.  This will be like Korea. The children we help today will run the country soon.  The only bad thing here is the water.  It comes from the paddy and you have to hold your nose to drink it after it's purified.

16 Dec: Still at Rach Kien. Next chopper due at 1600.  My company is due to go on a sweep. Hope I can tag along.  A lot of the casualties are dumb acts by the troops .  This unit had four from a hand grenade that a pin slipped out of and two playing ball with an M79 round.  If they published the reason for KIA's it would be surprising how many are dumb accidents.  The SGM gave me a briefing on what needs to be done.  Most of it is administrative and should keep me busy for quite awhile.  It will be just like a stateside bivouac except while we're out on an operation.  All I've heard is hearsay-may find a dump when I get there.

17 Dec: Finally got to my unit.  The old fort has water on 3 sides and walls about 1 1/2 feet thick.  It sure is a mess.  We have a lot of building to do and a lot of policing there's  trash all over.  The old First Sergeant drank too much and the supply sergeant hasn't worked in supply in years.  The Co spends most of his time in the field and is pretty easy on the troops while he's in the fort.  I guess I'll have to make a list and set priorities.  I won't be going to the field much except to haul in the re-supply.  Go out at night with chow and come back the next morning.  Won't know the drill until I"ve been through a few operations.  We have a quartermaster laundry here but it's broke down.  We have a PX 6x6 foot.  Big enough for us though.

18 Dec: My APO has changed to 96371. The Sergeant Major is inspecting today.  They don't want equipment outside the buildings and want everyone shaved and shined. Pretty hard to do.  The troops are close to death every day in the field.  They don't like anyone to bother them in the rear area. I don't believe in messing with them but the wheels won't be satisfied until we get stateside inspection standards.  The whole area is a mess. Seems like everything is wrong and nothing was done right before I got here.  My 2 clerks are riflemen.  I'll have to train them.  The cannons fire for a couple hours every night and it shakes the whole building.  The CO told me that he does not want me in the field during the day.

19 Dec: We've got a pig and a dog for mascots.  The pig must think he's a dog the way they play. We're on Operation Santa Claus. Filling 1000 bags with candy and soap for the Vietnamese kids.  The troops donated all the stuff.  We must have 800 lb. of it.  We have 3 or 4 parties lined up for different villages.  One will be an Australian Shower Party.  Set up a shower at the village and we'll give them a bar of soap and some candy to take home.  Some of them don't know about soap or taking baths.  We'll show a movie too.  They like colored movies but wont watch black and while.  They fired HE all night and my "hootch" shook so bad I thought it would fall down.  Had a big airstrike across the river. Sure was a loud and flashy sight.

21 Dec: Busy as a dog and don't seem to be making headway.  Got some real weirdos in the unit. Some are scared of the field and try all kind of tricks to get out of going.. Two act crazy and tried to kill theirself.   We had to send them back.  It wasn't the field-,it was some kind of trouble back home. The troops attitude is different from the states.  They will talk back in a minute.  I'd forgotten about the combat attitude.  It will take awhile to get used to it.  All my troops are moving out on a 3 day operation.  I'll have to use the sick, lame and lazy to guard the fort.  We have some bunkers.  It should keep me busy checking them after dark.  We've got a Xmas tree with decorations in an open tent and sing Xmas Carols when  the sun is bright.  The troops seem to enjoy it.

23 Dec: I've been working from 0500 to after midnight.  A Private went berserk when they tried to put him on bunker guard.  Grabbed his rifle and threatened to shoot 2 NCO's if they didn't pull the guard themselves.  The SGT was scared silly when he came in.  Don't know whos the most trouble- Him or the private.  Finally got it squared away.  B Co killed  2 VC officers the other night in our company sector.  They had overlays of our positions and defenses.. Governor Romney is supposed to be here next week.  It seems like everyone's got a problem that requires paperwork.  I talked to the Deputy Division AG but he wasn't any help.  Got 3 troops that should be going home that haven't received orders yet.  I don't even try to explain to them why they can't go home when there time is up.

26 Dec: We decorated the messhall and had a big meal. Had 2 1/2 platoons in the field so I had a time feeding them.  I had to feed one here and carry chow to 2 different areas in the field, and fed one here after they returned. The Brigade and Battalion Commanders came here to inspect the mess area.  The choppers showed up 45 minutes early and there was a mess up on getting the troops out.  I managed to sneak some iced down beer and cokes to the troops.  I'm getting replacements faster that I can process  them right now

28 Dec: Finally got my mail.  Wish you could have seen the kids we had here for Xmas.  We gave away another 5 cases of candy and the leftover turkey.  They sure had a ball with it.  The troops were lucky today.  Killed one VC and captured some weapons including a rocket launcher.  One was carrying a Russian flag.  Troops have been chasing Charlie for a month and just recently started making contact.  Improved  morale.

31Dec: Pay roll. 21 men present that didn't get paid and 34 on the payroll that are not in my company.  I've got 42 men spread all over the place.  What a mess.  It will take a week to get everyone paid.  Finally got a movie yesterday.  First we've had in 10 days but couldn't show it because the generator wont power the projector.  The troops were hostile.  Got to get a new company roster finished.

 Click here to see January 1968 Notes