You can either look at the slideshow above or the individual pictures below have captions.
A day in the life of "Boonie" Dahl, Republic of S. Vietnam, March 1969.
South China Sea. We were pulling Fire support that day to protect fire support bases that provided Artillery barges. Was very, very, very, wet place. The ground was never dry.
This was the actual funeral for one of our guys. We tried to make them when we were on the ship and not in the Field which wasn't to often. --Boonie
No Hollywood Grunts
Dick "Boonie" Dahl first day aboard the U.S.S. Colleton and in the field.
On a hot humid morning in March 1969, I arrived in Dong Tam, South Vietnam. Headquarters assigned me to Alpha Company 3rd. Battalion 60th infantry 9th Infantry Division, The unit was part of the Mekong Delta Mobile Riverine Force, and I was waiting for a small boat to take me out to a larger ship named the U.S.S. Colleton where my unit was located. I boarded the small boat and we made our way up the narrow muddy Mekong River. We arrived at the hull of the Colleton about an hour later. The Colleton was a huge ship, and it was the ugliest ship I had ever seen. It was olive drab green, and it resembled a huge green Dumpster sitting in the middle of a river.
The Cotteton was anchored in the middle of the Mekong River near a village named My Tho. I wondered what the government had done with all those beautiful aircraft carriers that I had seen in the enlistment brochures. I grabbed my gear, and I stumbled onto the pontoon that was attached to the side of the ship. The small boat left, and I was standing in the middle of this pontoon wondering what to do next. I noticed that there were numerous Navy personnel moving about the ship, and I was in the Army.
I was rather confused, and I thought that maybe I was dropped off at the wrong place. I picked up my gear, and I approached one of the sailors and asked him if he knew where Alpha Company 9th Infantry was located. He did not say a word he just smirked and pointed toward a door on the side of the ship. He made me feel as if I had the plague. I opened the door to the sound of Johnny Cash music and a private first class sitting at a small desk.
He looked as if he had just woken up. I told the clerk I was eager to join the unit so I could start doing my part for my country. He snickered and just shook his head. “Let me see your orders,” he said. I was starting to think nothing was too important around here, and it was evident he did not care if I existed.
He said, “Report to the 3rd platoon right down those steps, and find a guy named Spanky” he mumbled. I now was under the impression that maybe I had come all this way to join up with The Little Rascals. I was a typical patriotic l9-year-old kid who wanted to serve his country, and I wanted to be a soldier I was living kind of in a fantasy world when I got to Nam. I was thinking that to go to war was the same thing as watching the Sunday morning movie.
I thought of John Wayne as the courageous marine that seemed invincible, and Audie Murphy who acted in war and cowboy movies doing heroic acts. He actually was a war hero. Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier during World War Two. I guess I wanted to experience that. They seemed like real men. I went down the steps and met Sgt. Spanky; he looked like death warmed over.
I became an active part of the war a couple of days later. We were flying by helicopter to a village called Ben Tre.” I remember while flying in the chopper my heart was pumping fast as I looked at the other guys who had been there longer than me, and they looked back and shook their heads as if I was some kind of a stupid joke. To them I was just another new guy who did not know anything, and they knew I might do something stupid when we landed. They did not want to be anywhere near me.
As we started to descend into the rice paddy gunships sprayed the area with machine gun fire and what seemed to be multiple colored rockets. I thought this might be what was known as the twilight’s last gleaming.
One of the guys looked at me and told me to do whatever he did after we jumped off and if I did maybe I might live. I thought that was a good reason to follow what he said. As we got off the choppers, I was very clumsy and the blades from the choppers created a din, and the water lying in the rice paddy swirled around as if you were in some type of typhoon/ I felt stupid, this was not like television at all. The choppers were almost out of sight and I now could hear. I heard explosions and gunfire, and I knew that we had been ambushed. I heard someone yell the word “Medic.” I was really scared now I guess I was just being human. I ran over to where the medic was as he ran around feverishly overwhelmed by the many wounded. He had a piece of brown medical tubing hanging out of his mouth, and he had tears streaming down his face. He was looking at me like what should I do next.
I never saw soldiers on television cry or look scared I guess this was reality. We patched the wounded up the best we could and put them on medivac choppers. Some of them waved as the choppers left, and some of them just lay there motionless. I never found out if they lived or died. I know a part of me died that day.
It’s 30 years since I was in Vietnam, and I realized that war was no game. I also learned that television was not reality. The “Grunt” or infantry soldier was expendable in Vietnam. He was used to flush out the enemy, and then the artillery and air strikes finished the job.
Today you will see the military using its air power and artillery first. They have learned to be more cautious with human lives. I am glad the military is being more protective of our soldiers, and remembering they are human and all have family or someone that waits for their return.
-Dick “Boonie” Dahl
One of the families we met during our tour of duty
Boonie on PRC 25 radio waiting for Air and Artillery information. This was not a good day. We bombed them good that day.
Picture of me with my platoon at Fort Ord in California. I was a Drill Instructor when I came back from Nam. I was there 28 months and then I got out of the service
This was a picture of me going to a funeral, in the picture below, on the flight deck of the USS Colleton the LST. We slept on when not in the field. Was run by the Navy a group called Riv
This picture was taken by a combat photographer near Can Tho South Vietnam in the Mekong Delta
Me and my M-60 Machine Gun also have 300 rounds of extra ammo. I am sitting on the pontoon that is hooked to a large ship known and the USS. Colleton. This is the LST we slept on.