Glenn Miller went to Vietnam in January 1969 as an 18-year-old helicopter mechanic with the Army’s 20th Transportation Company. He was stationed at Cu Chi, a base camp some 20 miles north of Saigon.
“I wanted to see some action so I volunteered to join the 25th Infantry Division that was operating in the ‘Hobo Woods’ outside of Cu Chi,” the 59-year-old former soldier said. “’Hobo Woods’ was a large area of jungle defoliated by Agent Orange. There were many acres of dead trees.
“I think everybody in South Vietnam got Agent Orange on them. The reason they called it Agent Orange is because the defoliant they sprayed by air came in orange barrels,” Miller explained. “Our clothes were soaked with Agent Orange most of the time. Most all of my buddies, who were in Vietnam with me, are dead from the effects of Agent Orange.”
He had hardly been in the country six months when the VC attacked their base camp at Cu Chi one night.
“I was on guard duty that morning when the VC came out of the woods surrounding the camp in a human wave. They were carrying AK-47 assault rifles, antique long rifles, satchel charges or nothing,” Miller said. “I was on guard duty in a sandbagged bunker along the parameter of the camp. They started their attack about 4 a.m. and we were almost overrun. We called in helicopter gun ships and we shot them down in the killing zone — a cleared area between the woods and the barbed wire surrounding our camp.”
In the fire fight Miller was hit in the shoulder with an enemy bullet that put him out of commission for three months. He recovered in a MASH hospital unit at the Cu Chi base camp. After he was well again he was sent to a 9th Infantry Division operation called Bear Cat, along the Mekong River Delta region of South Vietnam.
“There were about 40 of us out in the bush at Bear Cat that spent most of our time on patrols searching for the VC. We did a lot of walking around in the jungle and ran into all kinds of VC booby traps,” he said. “The VC would use a mortar round with a trip wire as a booby trap. Sometimes they’d take a captured .50 caliber machine gun round bury it in a can with a point at the bottom to set off the primer when an American soldier stepped on the bullet.”
Miller said it wasn’t until the late 1980s he learned, while looking on the internet, that Bear Cat, their base in the Delta, was honeycombed with VC tunnels. They had schools, hospitals and who knows what else dug into the hill right under the feet of the American soldiers who were searching for them.
While in the bush fighting the VC he almost never saw any friendly artillery units until one showed up unexpectedly and opened up on the enemy one morning early.
“I was down in Bear Cat one time when the Army sent in three 105 artillery pieces. We were on standby sleeping on beds with springs, it was a real treat. About 2 or 3 a.m. our artillery opened up. The ground shook and it felt like the whole world was coming to an end,” he said.
Occasionally they’d get to Saigon for a night on the town.
“There were a lot of places in Saigon off limits to American soldiers, so we’d make a point of going to them. They were covered with White Mice, Vietnam police who wore white uniforms,” he said.
Miller was scheduled to return home in January 1970 after a year’s tour of duty in the country.
“I was kinda enthusiastic about the war and signed up for a second tour. However, they made me come home after six or seven moths because I was too gong-ho,” Miller said. “It was dangerous having someone other there who was as enthusiastic as I was. I served out the last of my second tour at Fort Hood, Tex.
“On the airplane flying back to Travis Air Force Base, San Jose, Calif. we were told, ‘Make damn sure you don’t leave the base wearing anything that identifies you as military or you may be attacked. We didn’t know anything about the Peace Movement or what was going on in this country at the time with the war,” Miller said.
“When I got out of the Army in June 1971 I was a month away from my 21st birthday. I couldn’t vote, couldn’t drink booze, and couldn’t get a hunting license. I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do. Yet I had spent 20 months in a combat zone in Vietnam and had two Purple Hearts,” he said reflectively looking back at his predicament.
Miller enrolled in the University of Phoenix and graduated with straight A-s and an MBA. He went into the real estate business out west and did well. He retired to Oyster Creek several years ago.
Just by chance he was talking to a friend a few weeks ago at the Englewood Elks Lodge who is a member of that organization’s Veterans Committee. Miller learned that Calvin Bou, also of Englewood, who served in WW II had his Purple Heart stolen in 1947.
He went home, found one of his Purple Hearts, still in the dark blue box, and gave it to his Elk buddy. The Elk’s Veterans Committee made a presentation of the award to Bou, who was in a local hospital at the time. Miller has a picture of Bou holding his Purple Heart in a hospital bed with a big smile on his face.
Name: Glenn Miller
Entered Service: 8 Aug. 1968
Discharged: June 1971
Rank: Specialist 5th Class
Unit: 25th Infantry Division
Commendations: 2 Purple Hearts
This story was first printed in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. December 2009. It is republished on the web with permission.