War Stories

The World meets Vietnam

by Kevin Ryder
July 1968

The World meets Vietnam

By Kevin Ryder

D company 2/35th


I was assigned to 3rd platoon Delta Company in July of 1968. My first night with the company was spent guarding a deuce 1/2 truck stuck in the mud on a road right next to an old French Firebase and house in Bam Me Thout. I remember a short timer named Holly, who took this new guy under his wing and tried to tell me how to stay alive that night at the truck. The next day we moved out to a firebase on the top of some long forgotten hilltop from which we started to run SURPs. My first SURP mission is a story for another time. When we left that firebase, the 3rd platoon was walking point. Because of what occurred on that first SURP mission, the platoon leader, I think it was Lt. Norris, told me to walk point as I "needed to get right back in the saddle". He also told me not to worry as there were no "dinks" in the area. And this is where my story begins.

When I was about 10 years old, I had a newspaper delivery route that covered a sprawling neighborhood surrounded by farmland in Hamden, Connecticut. I used to ride my bike early in the morning around the neighborhood to deliver the papers. Many days I passed an old Italian gentleman walking through the neighborhood on his way to work in the fields behind the homes. I never talked to the old man but knew him by sight. Some years later, I started at my local Junior High School. I used to walk to school with some friends of mine and along the way we would stop and pick up other friends to walk to school with us. Much to my surprise, one day, when we stopped to pick up a guy named Rocky Daddio, there, sitting on his front porch, was the old Italian farmer. He was Rocky's grandfather. Now! Flash forward about 6 years. I'm 19 years old, walking in front of about 100 heavily armed soldiers down a dirt road in Vietnam. The dirt road kind of petered out and turned into a dirt path winding through farmland. As I was quietly walking down the path, a guy stepped out of the brush from my left side directly in front of me into the middle of the path. At first his head was down and he didn't see me. I raised my rifle to shoot him but for some reason, I lowered it saying to myself, "he looks just like Rocky's grandfather". In those split seconds, I saw a bicycle tube around his neck filled with what I was later told was to carry rice. I did not see any weapon but my friend Mickolonis, said there was one slung over his shoulder. When I raised my rifle to shoot, he quickly looked up and froze, then turned to look down the column of men. He spun around and raced back into the brush. From behind me all that I heard was "shoot him, shoot him." I emptied my magazine into where he ran, pulled my second magazine from my top pocket where I kept a meticulously clean one, and finally a third one. At about the same time there was a gun team about four men back who opened up with everyone else. No one hit him! I'll bet that VC ran for 2 days before he stopped to contemplate how lucky he was. As for me, I remember Lt Norris saying that he would have bought me a case of beer if I got him and if anyone else runs from me again I was to shoot him. In hindsight, I was also thankful that the VC was daydreaming and didn't get the jump on me. Later that day we walked into the artillery firebase, I believe it was called "Mud hole" where we pulled security for a while. It was for days like this, that I tried to stay close to the Lord.