In September 1968, on his second tour of duty in Vietnam, Spc.-5 Bob Rogers’ squad walked into a Viet Cong ambush near Chu Lai in the Que Son Valley and was almost captured by the enemy.
“They penned us down for four or five days. We called in artillery and helicopter gun ships. At one point we were fighting ’em hand-to-hand,” the 60-year-old Deep Creek resident said. “None of our guys got killed, but several were wounded. It seemed like there were 500 VC around us.”
With the additional firepower his unit was able to call in on the enemy, the 10 men in his unit, members of the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, were able to escape being captured or killed.
By then, Rogers had received his first Purple Heart during his first tour of duty when he was shot in the ankle by a round from an enemy AK-47 assault rifle. A while later, after recovering, he was struck by shrapnel from an enemy mortar round, garnering his second Purple Heart.
A few days after the VC ambush, Rogers was nearly killed when a truck he was riding in struck an enemy land mine. He received his third Purple Heart as a result of this incident.
“Our squad was coming back from patrol and we hopped a ride back in a dump truck. Trucks in Vietnam were driven backward with sandbags all around to protect soldiers from the blast if the truck hit a mine,” Rogers said.
“We were in the bed of the truck when it blew up. Six solders riding in the truck with me were killed, and I was blown out of the back and landed in a rice paddy,” he said. “I had badly damaged one hip, and my pelvis was broken in five places.
“They pulled me out of the paddy and put me in the middle of the road we had been driving down. While I waited for the Medevac helicopter to arrive, they caught the VC who pushed the plunger that triggered the mine. They brought him in front of our guys, and four of the survivors emptied their M-16 rifles on him. Each rifle holds 20 rounds of ammunition.”
Rogers was flown to a M.A.S.H. unit for immediate medical treatment, then back to the states by plane. He spent the next five months in Chelsea Naval Hospital in Massachusetts recovering from his wounds before he was released from the service.
“The priest back home brought my mother to see me in the hospital. I asked my mother where my father was, and she said he said to tell me, ‘Anyone who was stupid enough to volunteer for two tours in Vietnam deserved to be in the hospital’
“He was a tough SOB — a really tough SOB,” Rogers said. His father never came to the hospital to see him during his recovery.
Rogers and his wife, Christine, have lived in Deep Creek for two years. They came here from Weymouth, Mass.
This story first appeared in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Thursday, April 30, 2009 and is republished with permission.
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