I was a member of an Army boat unit in I Corps. Our main duty was to take ammunition from the ammo dump on the Han River in Danang, out the Bay, then up the Coast on the South China Sea, then down several rivers, the one closest to North Vietnam was the Cua Viet River. There weren't many of us.
Editor's note: When asked if he would like to include any photos with his account, Robert Garcia elaborated on his time in Vietnam and experiences afterward.
I am very honored to be selected for your "Vietnam 50" project. And that sense of honor extends from me to the little known group of U.S. Army "Riverine" soldiers that served, principally as Ammunition Transporters, in I Corps.
Though I did not know it at the time, one main role of the Army boats in I Corps (the picture is of me in 1971, perched by my 50 cal.) was in support of "Vietnamization" and specifically, to transport huge amounts of ammunition from an ammo dump on the Han River in DaNang, up the South China Sea to and down the Song Cua Viet which was a river that snaked it's way to Dong Ha "bridge ramp" where the "ammo" was off loaded and eventually hauled yet again and used to support the ARVN soldiers in Laos (Operation Dewey Canyon and Lam Son 719 , I believe). We did this kind of thing around the clock , day or night, in still waters and heavy , lethal storms.
And of course, the Viet Cong and NVA knew of us, and as my friend SP5 Ed Bernt said "many villagers said that the enemy had a reward out for those who would get us."
This brings up my second photo of myself and Ed Bernt (originally from Nebraska , then he led his civilian life in Chandler, Ariz., where he had a wonderful family and wife). It was many decades after we departed Vietnam that we started a few years of emails and phone calls. Then after a somewhat lengthy period of no contact, he made contact and informed me that he had a rare form of cancer and that he had a leg amputated.
When things did not improve for him, I knew that I had to fly to Arizona to be with a fellow Army "River Rat." We did not really know each other a bit in Vietnam but through email, phone contact and my trip to Arizona, we became like brothers. Ed Bernt crossed over to the other side, but he had a proper U.S. Army Honor Guard at his ceremonies.