Combat engineer in Vietnam recalls the lighter moments in war

1st. Lt. Gordon Quick is pictured in Vietnam when he served with the 588th Combat Engineer Battalion attached to the 1st Division in 1965. Photo provided

Gordon Quick, who lives off Burnt Store Road south of Punta Gorda, Fla. near the county line, served in the 588th Combat Engineer Battalion in Vietnam in 1965-1966. His unit was under command control of the 1st Infantry Division—the “Big Red 1” with division headquarters and the support command located at Tây Ninh.

Quick was a platoon leader in B Company, 588th Combat Engineer Battalion located at Phouc Vinh home of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division.

“Mostly we built latrines, mess halls and gun emplacements for the artillery, and helicopter landing pads,” the 67-year-old former 1st lieutenant said. “When the 1st Infantry guys came back from the field and saw the new facilities, you can’t believe how much they appreciated us. We hit a home run over there with the troops in the field.”

“During the year I was in Vietnam we didn’t get involved in any combat action, but we did have two men killed due to enemy action. We did perimeter guard duty next to the airstrip,” he said.

They did their duty, did it well, came back in one piece and went on with their lives. While going to Vietnam they had some crazy things happen.

“We left on the first leg to Vietnam from the airport at Richmond, Va. on a civilian charter airline. There were six or seven DC-6s—four engine prop jobs—and one Boeing 747 jet,” Quick recalled. “Our battalion commander decided it would be better if all the key personnel went on the 747 to the west coast. The idea was to have key personnel in place when the rest of the battalion arrived because the 747 was faster.’

“The brass and the 747 never got off the ground that day. It developed mechanical trouble,” he said. “Meanwhile the DC-6s were lumbering across the country headed for the west coast. However, several were delayed due to engine problems that developed en route.’

“By the time we reached the west coast it was chaos. The DC-6s were scattered all across the country and came in a day or two late. The 747 arrived in California a day or so after everybody else,” Quick said. “Our advanced planning for going to war was shot.”

Even before they took off from Richmond they suffered their first casualty.

“When we were boarding the plane, the guy in front of me, who had his rifle slung over his shoulder, was having trouble handling his duffle bag.  As we were going down the center isle of the plane, he dropped something and reached over to pick it up. At this time a stewardess who was standing nearby inquired, ‘Can I help you?’

Gordon Quick wears his ball cap with his 588th unit emblem, 168th unit emblem, and airborne pin as he looks at a map of Vietnam before him on the table. Sun Photo by Don Moore

“She bent down to pick up something from the floor at the same time as the guy with the rifle slung over his shoulder. The butt of the rifle came up and hit her square under her chin and knocked her out. The stewardess was not seen the rest of the trip. She was our first casualty of war.

“When we were about to board ship and leave for Vietnam, our battalion commander got all the officers together and told us, ‘I don’t want to see any 588th unit emblems on any enlisted soldier’s cap when we get over there. Secondly, all beards and mustaches must go. This applies to all officers and enlisted. The enlisted men threw all of their 588th unit emblem pins overboard as they went under the Golden Gate Bridge on the way out.’

“We got to Vietnam and we were met on the ship by a full bird colonel who commanded the 18th Engineer Brigade. He told our battalion commander, ‘None of your enlisted men have their 588th unit emblems on their baseball caps. Aren’t you proud of your outfit?”

Quick added, “To make matters worse, the full bird colonel was wearing a long waxed handle bar mustache. It wasn’t long before our troops grew mustaches too,” he chuckled.

“Our first real job in Vietnam as combat engineers to impress the 1st Division Headquarters at Di An was to improve the drainage ditches along the roads in the Di An compound. Unfortunately, while installing a drainage ditch using a grader, we cut the main communication cable between the outside world including Saigon MACV headquarters,” Quick said. “There must have been 10,000 wires in this cable. It took several days for experts to repair it.”

The 588th B Company’s crowning achievement in Vietnam during the year he served with the battalion was refurbishing the dirt airstrip at Phuoc Vinh for the Big Red 1.

“We rebuilt the airstrip the best we could using a grader on loan from the 362nd Engineers, a CAT D-8 dozer, a pay loader, and five-ton dump trucks that we owned. We heard the airstrip had been built by the Japanese during World War II. We reduced a swale in the runway, added runway turnarounds needed for the big C-130s and C-123s that used it, and created the access roads on both sides of the runway. No fixed wing aircraft stayed overnight, in fact they never turned their engines off,” he said.

“In July 1966, our 588th Combat Engineer Battalion was placed under command control of the 25th Infantry Division. Logistics prevented B Company from being relocated. A paper change was made and we became C Company, 168th Combat Engineer Battalion. The 588th and 168th served with recognized distinction while in Vietnam.”

When Quick returned to the U.S. he spent his remaining service time as the battalion operations officer, 2nd Battalion, 4th Engineer Specialist Training Brigade at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. He returned to civilian life and worked for Pratt & Whitney (P&W), manufacturer of flight and land power generating jet engines. Quick, who held a degree in metallurgical engineering from the Colorado School of Mines (’65), worked in P&W’s materials development laboratory for 37 years until he retired.

He and his wife, Linda, moved into their present home in 2004 right after Hurricane Charley devastated the area.

Quick’s File

Name: Gordon Quick
D.O.B: 13 October 1942
D.o.D.: 02 September 2012
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Current: Punta Gorda,  Florida
Entered Service: 8 May 1965
Discharged: 31 December 1970
Rank: 1st Lieutenant
Unit: 588 Combat Engineers, C Company, 168th Combat Engineer Battalion

This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Florida on Thursday, June 3, 2010 and is republished with permission.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be republished without permission. Links are encouraged.

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Gordon M. Quick
October 13, 1942 – September 02, 2012

Gordon M. Quick, 69, of Punta Gorda, FL passed away peacefully on September 2, 2012 at the Tidewell Hospice House in Port Charlotte, FL.

He was born in Denver, CO on October 13, 1942 to Gerald Henry and Dorothy (Snow) Quick. “Gordy” will be remembered as a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, uncle, brother and friend to many.

After graduating from the Colorado School of Mines (CSM), Golden, CO in 1965 with a degree in Metallurgy, he served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer officer in Vietnam. He attended one semester at the University of Kansas after returning from Vietnam but left due to war protests on campus.

Gordy always said he was proud to be an American and to have served his country. Subsequently, he worked at Pratt & Whitney, East Hartford, CT as a Metallurgical Engineer for 37 years.

He and his wife Linda lived in South Windsor, CT before retiring to Punta Gorda in 2004 where Gordy served as a director of the Burnt Store Lakes Property Owners Association from 2009-2012. He also served on the golf handicap committee of the Burnt Store Golf and Activity Club where he enjoyed much of his retirement golfing with good friends in the Over-the-Hill Gang golf league.

He is survived by his loving wife Linda of 42 years, their son David (Samantha) Quick; grandsons, Gregory and Geoffrey Quick of Bellevue, WA. He is also survived by his sister Dorothy “Gerrie” Swart of Brighton, CO; brother-and sister-in-law, Michael and Joyce Jylkka of Punta Gorda, FL and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents.

A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday September 8, 2012 at 10:00 AM at the Kays-Ponger & Uselton Funeral Home, 635 E. Marion Ave, Punta Gorda, FL 33950. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Tidewell Hospice, 1144 Veronica Street, Port Charlotte, FL 33952 or to the Burnt Store Golf and Activity Club (BSGAC), 24315 Vincent Avenue, Punta Gorda, FL 33955. Inurnment will be at Sarasota National Cemetery, Sarasota, Florida at a later date.


  1. Note to Gordon Quick: I was with the 1st Engr. Bn. during its initial year in VN. Is there a way I can get in touch with you? I am working an article regarding our 1st few 2-3 months in Nam. I am also a graduate of Mines.
    Don Ott
    GP ’63

  2. 588th Combat engineer Co. C . July 1966 to july 1967. Sp.4 squad leader. Built first 20 buildings for 12th evac. Hospital. Cu chi. Other areas tay ninh. Dau tieng. Built buildings for troops, roads, helicopter pads, cleared mine fields, ambush patrols, listening posts.

    • My name is John Hardy I served with the 588th in S-4 as a radio operator and wiremen from October 166 to October 1967. We move from Cu-Chi to Yay-Ninh around April 1867. I put up the antenna and the 50 foot pole near the command bunker in Tay Ninh

  3. I am writing on behalf of a client who would like to make contact with anyone who served with him during 1969 to 71. His name is Larry Cooper and he is currently living in the family home in Middleport, New York. He does not have access to a computer and lost a good deal of his vision during his service. He was looking for any kind of reunion news for Combat Engineers from 588. Thanks for any help you can give.

    • What unit,company,plotoon were you.with. I was in co (D) 588th 1st plotoon.Jan 12 68- Oct 19 1968 any info you can give me would be much appreciated.

      • Mr. Heth –
        Gordon Quick’s “file” is below his story. And we’re not sure Gordon is following War Tales and would see your comment.

        Entered Service: May 8, 1965
        Discharged: December 31, 1970
        Rank: 1st Lieutenant
        Unit: 588 Combat Engineers, C Company, 168th Combat Engineer Battalion

      • John, Dave Anders here. Just ran across this post. Its been 54 yrs ago that we served together in C company 588th. Do you remember company CO, Capt Pigg. I think that is how u spell it. Wandered what ever happened to him. Did not remember his first name.
        I will ask John Humbert if he remembers. Hang in there John, I will try and call some time next wk.

  4. my name is irving joe quinones i was in vietnam from 1966 to1967 the only names i remenber is tettamante reneier perryman 588th engineers 18th brigade

  5. Wheew…… I finally found a site remembering my old unit 588th that changed to the 168th Combat Engineers. My name is Don Bosworth and I served in Vietnam in March of 66 thru 67.I was a mechanic in the motor pool. I still remember some of the guys there. There was Treadway…..mechanic he would have to go out sometimes in the middle of the night and fix our generater when the lights went out. Sefert equipment operator, Red Fisher D 8 operator, Jack Beck fellow mechanic and good friend who I came into the 588th with in March. The first thing we did was to build our fox hole out of psb and sand bags which we used a few times when the mortor rounds came in. Sargent DeYoung ….motor pool sargent and Sargent Green who replaced Sargent DeYoung when he turned. Marshall … another fine fellow mechanic There was a guy we called Blue and he would imitate his donkey named old Blue back home by yelling out HEE HAW HEE HAW loud eneoghfor the whole company to hear . There where a bunch more but I just can”t put a name with the face I’m seeing. One thing I do remember with no problem and that is cleaning and changing the brake shoes on a 5 ton dump truck day after day!!!!. While working in the motor pool every day I feel very lucky that I didn’t have to fight in the jungle and risk my life like so many others did. I have much respect for those who did and many times think I should have been with them. I would love to hear from somebody who served there.

  6. Ted DeYoung Bco 588th How you doing bos? tel 702 219 5079 Las Vegas do you know how to get in touch with anyone?

    • Hay Sarg! It’s good to hear from ya! I haven’t heard from anyone from our unit except you. I’ll call you or you can call me at 352 213 1492 We’ve got some catching up to do.

  7. My husband E4 Delmas ( Mac ) McCauley from West Virginia was in the 588th in 1968 & 1969 he was at the bottom of the mountain Nuh ba Din. He was with a couple of buddies, Ed Lecount and Fred Savoy. His email is

    • My brother Ray Cawley E4 was 588th 66-67…He passed very young 1990 45 yrs.old …Stay good…Steve Cawley

      • Did Ray work in the motor pool by any chance? His nane sounds familar.or maybe he operated some heavy equipment? I worked there along with Ted DeYoung.

    • I was with the 588th Combat Engr. Delta co. 1st platoon which was attached to the 25 inf. I was drafted at 26 years old married 3yrs sent to nam Jan 5 1968 made buck Sgt. Feb 25. Took over as 1st platoon Sgt. Wounded,Bronze Star etc. I have 3 of my men on the wall. Screwed up by agent Orange 78 years old today.

  8. was in c company 588th,65 thru 66,was there in nam about 14.5 months after entended,after a few days at long bin waiting for our equipment we went to our first location at phu-loi from there we headed out on our way to cuchi which after afew excursions in dion,phuc vin,tayninh i ended up in cuchi under the command of the 2/27th of the 25th inf. first true base camp even had a shower.i left nam a sp-5.9my name is jimmy d rife can remember anyone for sure from my unit but a few faces.if you recall this rebel from va.give me a holla

  9. My name is Matthew Cawley. I’m looking for anyone who served with Raymond A. Cawley served from 66′-68′ in the 588th. Looking for some stories or memories that someone has. Thank You all for your service “Trump now”.

  10. Gordie was a good friend of mine and a fine officer

    Dennis M. DeJesu 1Lt CE
    588th Cbt Engr. 1965-66

  11. I departed Oakland via the USNS Upshur as the 588th left for ultimate relocation to Vietnam in November 1965. Located Bin Hoa (I think) then moved to Phu Loi with the 1st Division and then battalion moved to Cu Chi with the 25th Division. Departed for US in November 1966

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