A Hundred Miles of Bad Road: An Armored Cavalryman in Vietnam, 1967-68
Dwight Birdwell's coming of age took place, as it did for many young men of the sixties, in Vietnam. There he fought the war from the command cupola of an M48 Patton tank, an experience far removed from the stereotypical grunt in the rice paddies. The M48 was fifty-two tons of hell on wheels, equipped with a .50-caliber machine gun and a 90mm main gun, and Birdwell's hard-charging unit was responsible for securing the main supply route between Saigon and Tay Ninh. After extensive interviews with Birdwell, acclaimed Vietnam War historian Keith William Nolan transports the reader to the confident days of 1967 when Dwight Birdwell, then nineteen years old and raring for a fight, was first assigned to Troop C 3d Squadron, 4th Cavalry (25th Division) - a time when there really seemed to be a light shining at the end of the tunnel. Then came the Tet offensive and everything changed. Birdwell won the Silver Star and Purple Heart on January 31, 1968, when the tanks and armored personnel carriers of C/3/4th Cav smashed headlong into the communist regiment that had broken through the wire at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Tet was an allied victory. The decimated Viet Cong, reinforced by North Vietnamese Army regulars, refused to admit it though. Birdwell was wounded two more times, and won a second Silver Star in a little battle-wrecked hamlet called An Duc on the Fourth of July 1968. The pressure was relentless. Demoralized by heavy losses and the realization that the politicians and generals didn't really know how to win the war, the only goal for many of the troops became survival. By the time Birdwell rotated out, malingering, marijuana, and all the other problems that were to wreck the Army in Vietnam had taken root, and Birdwell himself had reached the verge of combat fatigue.
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2d Platoon aboard Adamo air base ambush ammo armor ARVN base camp beer Bill Watts Birdwell Brewer buddy bustle rack C/3/4th Cavalry Captain Charlie Troop colonel combat convoy damn Danylchuk Dau Tieng dead Dean Delacerda driver Dwight Birdwell field fire fucking Gearhart going grenade guerrillas gunner gunships guys hatch head helicopter hell highway hootch Huey infantry inside jeep killed laagered Lancey Lieutenant litde looked main gun medevac Mike Christie move never Nhut night Otis personnel carrier platoon sergeant pulled Purple Heart radio rear road rocket Russin Saigon shit shot shouted side Silver Star snapped Specialist Fourth Class spiderhole squadron talk tank commander Tay Ninh thought told took Trang Bang trooper truck turned turret U.S. Army unit vehicle Viet Cong Vietnam Vietnamese village Virant wanted Wolfhounds wounded