I graduated from college in May, 1968 and was drafted into the US Army in June. My daughter was just 5 weeks old when I began my training first at Fort Leonard Wood Mo. and then Fort Ord California, and later, Fort Benning Georgia. I arrived In Cam Ranh Bay Vietnam via Fort Lewis Washington, Alaska, and Japan. My first assignment was with Bravo Company, 2ed of the 2ed, First Infantry Division. Our area of operation ranged north of the Saigon River from the suburbs of Saigon to the Cambodian border. However, we mostly worked in and around the Michelin Rubber Plantation and our Basecamp was outside the town of Dau Taing. The town contained a small French settlement that tried to keep the plantation running. Our principal duty was to provide security for the Army Engineers Rome plow units. (These massive armored bulldozers were designed to knock down jungle to expose enemy tunnels and weapons bunkers) and to interdict any large scale movements of enemy troops toward Saigon (either by road or river.) We were usually attacked after dark on our NDP (night defense position) with first mortar rounds, a barrage of RPG (rocket propelled grenades) and small arms fire. Our casualty rate was relatively low but steady. The Army Engineers did not fare as well, with one out of three being wounded or killed by mostly bobby traps and accidents.
After Nixon withdrew the First Division at the end of 1969, I was assigned to a ground infantry unit (Grunts) with the Americal Division with a Basecamp at Chu-Lai on the central coast. Here the weather was cooler and the terrain more mountainous. Whereas the locals were generally friendly in the south, here they were hostile and usually disappeared as we advanced. There are few photos from this period because everything had to be carried our backs and a camera was not essential. These last three months were hell as our company suffered 50% casualties from mostly booby traps and hit and run ambush attacks. This area of the country had suffered greatly with whole towns destroyed and deserted. Starvation was common in the countryside.
A portion of these photos were first shown in San Francisco by a local veterans group and later a selection of black and white enlargements were shown in London in 1984. This is the first time I have published the entire collection in both color and in B&W.
Cam Ranh Bay Vietnam
Pfc. Gary L Rath
50 Cal Machine gun with Starlight Scope
James De Bold holds RPG. The most feared enemy weapon.
Saigon River and The Black Virgin Mountain
Night Defense Position: A mechanized infantry company consists of 20 APC (armored personal carriers) plus the company commanders track, Communication track (my job) and a Mechanics track with a compliment of about 120 men. Our range of weapons consists of mounted 50 cal Machine guns, M-60 mounted or carried machine guns, M-79 grenade launcher, and M-16 Rifles. Claymore mines and C4 plastic explosive in bricks and cord form and shoulder held anti-tank missiles were also available. Artillery and air support was available on call. We never stayed in the same place for more than one night. Night attacks were frequent and often deadly.
Captured Enemy Weapons
Chinook lands at Dau Taing Basecamp
Kip, our Cambodian Guide with lunch. This is an adult tiny deer native to Vietnam.
Huey Helicopter, the workhorse of the war....
Company commander inspects captured Ak-47
Death in the night from a direct RPG hit..
Please don't tempt Charley...
Loach Helicopter and Viet grave
Counting the dead..
Catholic Mass in the field...
French house in Dau Taing
Rome plow stuck in a hole
River Boat Patrol
Swimming in a 500 lb bomb crater
Christmas day 1969
Town of Dau Tiang
Withdrawal of the First Division
Beach at Chu Lai
Chu Lai Barracks
On the way home.
The future of Vietnam