My name is Glenn Edward Johnson, born in Mineola, New York on December 31, 1946, to Mary and George Johnson. I grew up in Deer Park, New York on Long Island and a member of the graduation class of 1965 at Half Hollow Hills High School. In June of 1966, at the age of 19, I was drafted into the US Army, entered active duty in Brooklyn with basic training at Fort Gordon, Georgia. Before chow, we had to maneuver across 14 rotating monkey bars, and I was three seconds off the record when running the obstacle course. My footlocker was always straight, my shoes were polished, and I could make my bed like a professional soldier. Haircuts were ninety cents, and my hair was short short.
While attending advanced individual artillery training in Oklahoma at Ft Sill, I volunteered for Vietnam. During the Vietnam buildup, many units, primarily artillery, trained and deployed from Ft Irwin, California. My military operational specialist (MOS) was 13E20; field artillery, fire direction control specialist. Our battalion shipped out from Oakland California, May 1966, and sailed for twenty-three days to Vietnam with a stop in Subic Bay, Philippines. We arrived at the port of Vung Tau which lies in southern part of South Vietnam and assigned to a very large and safe base camp, Cu Chi. This camp was located south of the Viet Cong stronghold known as the Iron Triangle. The 25th Infantry Division had its headquarters at Cu Chi from January 1966 until February 1970. I was afraid of the sound of every round fired during the first few months, even when not on duty. After four or five months, I was made head of my section of fire direction center. We worked twelve hours on and twelve hours off. When not in base camp, we made fire support bases. About one hundred guys would build bunkers and fox holes, and we moved every three to five days. During the monsoon season, we would move by helicopter fairly regularly. Water was scarce and we often had to shower in the monsoon rain or swim in B52 bomb craters that filled up with water.
December 1966, when travelling in the back of a truck, we were moving fast and hitting bumps like crazy. My rifle slipped out of my hand hit me in the mouth. My lip was badly cut, and I knocked out my front teeth. I must have cursed for an hour or two. The doc fixed me up and made me a temporary bridge, which was no big deal, but better than walking around with no teeth.
It was easy to lose track of time and I forgot my dad's birthday, May of '67. On the 27th, about a mile outside our perimeter, the Viet Cong over ran one of our base camp patrols but we brought our artillery fire on them and most got back to base okay.
I wrote to my parents as often as possible to reassure them I was okay, and let mom know I missed her cooking. The dehydrated eggs provided for breakfast tasted like a combination of leather and rubber. I was sending money home, on payday, to buy a car and my parents would mail me auto buy-lines to check out prices. I would cut out pictures of cars that interested me and I would send the cut outs to them to keep in a regular album for reference. I was interested in the Chevy Chevelle, Dodge Charger, or Dodge Road Runner.
In my letter of June 19, 1967, I stated I was learning to live with the rain and heat. I was getting tanner by the day and my hair was down to my back. I asked my mom to send Kool-Aid, cashews, pistachios, and some albums by Bobby Vinton and The Beach Boys. It was always a treat when she sent me ravioli. I lost track of time again and wished my parents a Happy Anniversary. It was east to lose track of time, but I always knew when it was Friday because we got fish to eat and on Mondays, we took our Malaria pills.
For a change of pace, I was out on patrol, September 1967, walking through rice patties two feet deep in mud and blowing up Viet Cong tunnels. We moved in October to our next position along the Saigon River and experienced heavy rains.
On January 16, 1968, I reported to my parents that we had moved nine times over the last three weeks. I had 87 days left in Uncle Sam's Army and remember when I had 328 days... time was sure on my side.
We received word that we were heading back to Cu Chi. It was Chinese New Year, and there was to be a 72-hour cease fire, which never happened. We were rocketed and received mortar fire every night through early February. Our bunker took a direct hit on February 3, 1968; one dead, four wounded (including me) and three of us had been scheduled to be shipped stateside. I spent seven days in a hospital in Vietnam, seven days in Japan, then transferred to Valley Forge General Hospital in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. When in Japan, I contacted my parents to inform them of my injuries. I knew my mother would have a heart attack if military showed up at their home with the notification so I opted to wait and call them directly. I was paralyzed from the waist down and wondered if I would ever walk again and enjoy playing ball. It was months before I started to get some feeling and movement in my legs. I spent nearly ten months in the hospital and was honorably retired from the United States Army on November 12, 1968.
When returning to the states, I was hoping for a "welcome home Glenn" sign which did not come to pass. I know thousands of soldiers had it a lot worse than me and I'm fortunate to be alive as over 57,000 service men and women did not return home to their families. My life moved forward and I have two beautiful daughters and three grandsons.
I am grateful to all who have served and those who are currently serving our country. Thank you for providing me the opportunity to share my story.
SP4 Glenn Johnson
B Battery, 6th Battalion
25th Infantry Division
Now of Wilson, NC
P.S. I bought a 69 Chevelle.
This letter was read on the 50th Anniversary of the TET Offensive in South Vietnam at the Calverton National Cemetery
Calverton, Long Island New York