The Bridge at Tan Tru
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I am posting here a copy of the email I sent out the night we discovered our primary destination that morning.

Discovered base camp

 Sunday Night 9:33 p.m.---9:33 a.m. Mississippi time

I cannot begin to describe to you the morning.  We were coming back from Can Tho, our guide said he and the driver now knew the way to Tan Tru.  3 hours later we were asking for directions.  Look, I knew how to get there.  We went over and stopped at two places with bridges.  I had indeed built a bridge at both places which were eventually replaced by concrete bridges.  Then an old man said he knew of a bridge that Americans built that was still there.

Now as you view these pictures, any hardtop roads you see were dirt when I was there...we called the material laterite or as some of us Southerners noted, "The red clay of Georgia".  You will see just how wide/narrow the road was in the dirt road scene.  Those roads have not changed.

In this group of pictures, you will see me with a group to townspeople.  THEY WERE CHILDREN WHEN I BUILT THE BRIDGE!  I had my original pictures and they began yelling for friends and pointing themselves out in the pictures.  They all remembered us doing the bridge.  When I get hole and post the pictures on my website, you will see "then" and "Now"  The 287 foot bridge is now concrete, mine was timber.

This bridge forever changed my life, gave me direction, a goal.  Revisiting it has had a tremendous impact me today at 61.  I wish I could describe the feeling so that you would understand just how I felt when these people mobbed, hugged, kissed, held my hand.

You will also see a river.  This is a major tributary of the Mekong.  From here we launched our large rafts to carry APC's or the small ones to carry infantry.  You will see a picture with a van on the road.  This was a large dirt, just plain dirt path.  We landed our helicopters here to load up and start an assault on a position.

You will also see a modern two story school following those river pictures.  This is a community college.  It is built on our base camp and the first one is exactly where my platoon's positions were.  We eventually took matters into our own hands because every time a Chinook landed, it would lift our ten man (GP MEDIUM TENTS) out of their stakes.  We traveled to where Mac Huddleston was stationed and stole corrugated tin roofing from the supply point for our roof and got rid of the tents.

Unfortunately we were ordered by the battalion commander who saw the contraband to steal some more and pass it out---we did---we were good at what we did.

You will see a tall memorial.  This is dedicated to the VC who died in the area.  This spot was where we held our POW's for transfer.

Keep in mind, whatever you see was all rice paddies and dirt roads...all of it.  This was a hamlet of maybe a few hundred people, now it is a town with a modern school for the surrounding students.

I hit the ceiling when we came to this American Bailey Bridge.  Made of structural aluminum, a squad can put on together like tinker toys in no time.  No nuts and bolts all pinned together and clamps.  With me is Tran "Tony" Traun, our guide and someone who was excited as I was.  My brother was shot in the area of this bridge in '67.  I was talking with him on the radio about 2 a.m. in the morning.  His platoon and a V.C. unit saw and open fired on each other about the same time.

Depending on the length of the bridge, you can add eight foot panels to strengthen the bridge.  For example, this is a double, double with two panels side-by-side and two high.  The largest you can go is a triple, triple.



This is the bridge we built in 1967.  Note the far right bank and the house on the near left bank. Today, there is a concrete bridge.  Note the far right bank and the change that has taken place.
This picture shows the side of the river we worked from.  Note the house on right and the two doors and second story. The lady who lives in the house said she removed the original double doors and the second story is gone.
Children in 1967 Adults in 2008
This is not our chopper road, but it looked like this.  Here is where the copters would have lined up for us to board and assault some position somewhere in the Mekong Delta.  Don't kid yourself, we were in Cambodia before Nixon announced we were in Cambodia. Today that dirt road is now paved and runs from the river, back to the village, passing the community college which would be on the right.
Before the rainy season, we lived in holes.  Could not dig too deep, or you would flood your living quarters. Today, on the very site where the tent to the left was and where my platoon and the battalion had its base camp is a modern junior college, located just over four miles from a larger town.  Small world as I would work for a community college four miles from town.

In the picture above, three of our assault rafts are struggling to come back across the river after taking infantry across the river to assault the other side. The M4T6 raft at the bottom was used to transport APC's down river to land them on the banks.  We were ambushed twice while operating these.  Grenades exploded on the decks, bullets went through the pontoons.  You do not want to piss me off when I am on the river.  The VC paid for their indiscretions.

Today, the other side which had nothing on it but rice fields, is a growing hamlet.
We are preparing our rafts on the "friendly" side of the river.  Three of my men would ride these-one on each side in the front and one in the back guiding.  A squad (10 men) of infantry would straddle the sides and row to the banks. Note the wooden boat in the background.  This was a Vietnam navy gunboat blown up by VC sappers a week or so before this picture was taken. Today. someone's house stands on this site.
I could not find the two room school house we built a playground for, but this gives you an idea.  The teacher is wearing a "ao dai" traditional dress, very comely for the right person-and she was. This is today's modern elementary school house about a quarter mile from the one on left.
Me, circa 1966-67 Me, late June 2008 on the bridge that changed my stars.

A little blurry, but before we built the bridge, we put APC's on a light tactical raft and pulled them across the river.

I am haunted by little from the war.  But, one thing I do think about are all these graves scattered throughout rice paddies.  We swept the road this was taken from for mines every morning.  The road was dirt.  One morning, two of my men were injured by a command detonated mine.  I called in a dustoff, it came quickly.  We had one man on and were loading the second on a stretcher.  We started taking in heavy small arms fire when the chopper unrepentantly lifted off, dropping my soldier to the ground.  I was upset to say the least with the chopper pilot who I thought was a coward.  He told me he's come back when we suppressed the ambush.  I called in for artillery to take out the V.C.  The arty would not fire because a village was behind the tree line.  We were all hunkered down behind our vehicles as we were still drawing fire.  I had a two recoilless rifles each mounted on a jeep.  We loaded them and fired on the graves because the V.C. were behind them.  To say the least we took two of them out.  And got the enemy.  While I had to do that, I regret it to this day.

Everywhere we went Mothers wanted to show us their babies and children.

I cannot begin to tell you what this scene did for me.  Please, read the "Final Thoughts chapter.  When folks saw my 40 year old pictures, they hugged, kissed, and wanted to hold my hands.  People are the same no matter where you go.  they want peace, what's best for their families.  They want to laugh, worship how they choose.  We're all so much alike that war is insane.  This was a very moving and spiritual time for me.  The American Soldier got it right!  We did win the "Hearts and Minds of the People"

And, here is the last picture I took at "The Bridge".  These are the children and grandchildren of the folks above.  I was trying to take a picture of the bank on the other side when they jumped into the picture. Thank God for the American Soldier.




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