from Neighborhood to 'Nam......and back.

Growing up in a close knit neighborhood during the ‘50s and ‘60s was not unusual, it was the norm. Friendships were long and the bonds were tight. Friends walked to school together; joined scouts together; played sports together; grew up together. They dated and married girls from the neighborhood. . .And, most of them went to war together, not as a group, but as single individuals….and those same friends parted ways for a time. Each moving on to a new phase of their life.

The neighborhood was ‘Kaisertown’, a Polish-American community on the far east side of Buffalo New York. . .the war was Vietnam.

This blog is a collaboration of stories and experiences from this group of men, childhood buddies, all now in their sixties, whose friendships have lasted a lifetime.

These are also recollections from those young men who stayed behind. . ’caretakers’, as you will, of the old neighborhood that was a part of them . . .keeping the memories alive until all returned.


Dan: My tour in Vietnam, and my 28 day ship cruise on the USS Whiegel

Why I didn't go on a plane like everyone else, I'll never know. Before I left for Oakland, California, my Mother always said "maybe tomorrow it will be better", we'll see.

We got to the ship yard, and there it was, a troop carrier from WWII... You’ve got to be freekin kidding me!! .Being the first unit there, the Navy guys put us in the bottom of this thing, so, there we were, six stories down. In about two days the ship was full and we were on our way. Then it started. . . .my first breakfast, the food was great, the eggs were a beautiful shade of green (powdered eggs}, burnt bacon, and God only knows what the other stuff was, it looked like wall paper paste!!!!!! So much for chow. . . how about a nice hot shower, sounded pretty good. No one told us that the water was salt water, needless to say, the soap only turned to paste, and we needed to scrape the crap off. In a little while we found out that the fresh water shower was right across the hall.

It was a very boring cruise. The only exciting thing that happened was the propeller fell off. There we were, in the middle of the freak 'n ocean, waiting for another ship to bring us parts so that we could be on our way. Maybe tomorrow it will be better!

After 28 days, it felt great to see land. There we were, in Vung Tau South Vietnam. The water was muddy, and air smelled like our feet, NASTY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In a few hours we came ashore and for a few minutes I wished that I was back in Kaisertown, at Wiechec's, with a cold beer! They put us on a truck convoy, and took us to a place called Thu Duc. This was to be our base camp for our tour of duty.  As we looked around, there was nothing, no trees, no grass, nothing! Later on we found out that the Air Force dumped some stuff to kill all of the green vegetation, and that it did. . .everything was brown. In a few hours the engineers came in and put up a bunch of tents. " Maybe tomorrow things will be better". HOME SWEET HOME!

A few days went by, everything was pretty quiet. Then I heard a loud explosion, the ammo dump was hit by small arms fire, in a few seconds I looked up, and there was a small mushroom cloud in the sky.  We started to scramble for cover, till it blew over. The next thing I heard was the old man (first sergeant) telling me to get my team together for a patrol. This would be the first time to do something like this in country. After the first half hour on patrol all the training started to come back and we were all scared shitless. We received small arms fire, didn't know where it came from, just sat back and waited for daylight. We returned to the base camp and this ended our first day in country.
MAYBE TOMORROW IT WILL BE BETTER, but for 385 days it NEVER did.

Along the way we had some good times, many got drunk, just to keep your head together. I had a few Vietnamese friends, one little girl, her name was Lan, cutest six year old you ever saw. Gave her many C_rats {army ration food}. I think that I found a special friend for life, and who knows maybe after too.

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