Wednesday, February 01, 2023

Adrenaline and a Vietnam soldier's tale

by ROGER GREGORY Contributing Writer
| December 1, 2022 1:00 AM

Here is a quip from an old-time friend, whom I met when first coming to Priest River. Kenny Nacarrato, even knew his dad, Willard France; I am talking now about Rob France.

Rob came into the store and told me he had ready my article about what adrenalin can do, as he had experienced it first-hand as well.

In 1963, Rob was in the Marine Corps aboard the USS Ticonderoga in the Tonkin Gulf. Prior to the U.S. getting into the war, President Kennedy had sent advisor troops as advisors for the South Vietnam Army. Even before him, President Eisenhower had sent a few advisors.

So prior to the war, Rob was on the Navy ship, the USS Ticonderoga off of South Vietnam. He and four other enlisted Marines were sent ashore as advisors to the South Vietnamese Marines. This was in the Mekong Delta, where there is lots of water, thus the Marines and South Vietnam Marines.

At this time, he didn’t even know there was a war going on, they thought they were just going ashore to train troops, but he was soon in for a rude awakening. Rob was a sergeant and with his other four Marines they were going with a company of about 200 South Vietnamese soldiers in some rice paddies in the delta.

Soon they came under fire from the wood line, they returned fire. Rob had a M60 machine gun, he quickly laid down behind a walking path in the rice paddy and commenced returning fire. His assistant with the tripod seemed to have disappeared. Rob went through the belt of machine gun ammo of 500 rounds, looked for his assistant to reload, but low and behold there wasn’t anyone there, in fact the whole Vietnamese company were running away, so Rob was out there all by himself.

Immediately he said to himself, I can’t handle all the incoming fire by myself, he then picked up his machine gun and took off toward the retreating Vietnamese and his own troops. He said that is when the adrenalin kicked in. He said he was running so fast, it was like running on top of the water in the rice paddy, he didn’t even get his boots full of water. In fact the adrenalin was so intense, he ran right past the retreating soldiers.

For some reading this, it may be hard to believe, but those who have been fighting soldiers understand.

As a side note, Rob told me they made him a tunnel rat. Three times, he had to go into tunnels with just a .45 pistol and a flashlight. Luckily for him, he didn’t run into any enemy. I replied, they only used little people to do that, he replied that he was taller, but very skinny so he was selected. For those who know about tunnel rats, it takes a guy with a lot of guts to do it.

Rob also mentioned that he was on this ship in the Gulf of Tonkin, when the North Vietnamese attack U.S. Navy ships with torpedoes, which then put us into the Vietnam War, of which I went in 1965 with the 1st Infantry Division.

Roger Gregory is a Vietnam veteran, serving in the 1st Infantry Division, and is business owner in Priest River.

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