SP4 Richard “Tunnel Rat” Bradley, US Army (1963-1970)
SP4 Richard “Tunnel Rat” Bradley
(Veterans – record and share your own service story with friends and family by joining www.togetherweserved.com. This is a free service)
WHAT PERSUADED YOU TO JOIN THE SERVICE?
Until August of 1963, I was planning on going into the Navy and make a career out of it. My Father was in the Merchant Marines and then the Navy during World War II. I had read his Blue Jacket’s Manuel 1944 completely and was determined to become a good sailor. Then, my older brother came home on leave from Fort Bragg Special Forces Training. He was wearing a tailored uniform with French Fourragere and Jump Wings. The 82nd Airborne Patch complemented his high gloss Jump Boots. His stories about jump school enamored me. He left on August 9, 1963 back to Fort Bragg and on August 12, 1963 I got on a bus headed for Fort Leonard Wood for my Basic Combat Training. I had gotten my parents signatures for entrance since I had just turned 17 two months prior to this. I had changed my career path and now wanted to make the Army my career.
BRIEFLY, WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER PATH IN THE SERVICE?
I had enlisted for the Infantry. My immediate plans were BCT graduation, AIT Training and graduation and Jump School. I took the Airborne PT test while I was in Basic Training and took it again while I was in AIT at Fort Polk. In fact, my whole Platoon (about 31 guys) was going to Jump School after our AIT. After my graduation from AIT, I received orders for Korea instead of Jump School. Another guy got orders for Germany while the rest of my platoon went to Jump School. My first duty assignment was HHC 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division near the DMZ (38th Parallel) in Korea. I arrived in January 1964 and left about February 1965. While there, I became the Battalion Executive Officer’s Driver. This was after having been an Imjim Scout driver. I transferred my driving skills from a Truck, Utility, ¼ Ton, 4×4, M38A1C to a Truck, Utility, ¼ Ton, 4×4, M151.
The Executive Officer, Major Guy H. McCarey, was a big influence on my chosen career path. He was a real soldier and also Airborne qualified! I loved seeing his Glider Patch worn on the opposite side of his Garrison Cap (that’s not the name we called it). He encouraged me all the time to pursue bigger and better things. Because of him, I took the EIB Course and was later awarded my EIB. Because of him, I took a short discharge and reenlisted for six years. I re-enlisted for Europe for two reasons. First, because I always wanted to go to Europe and secondly, because I heard there was an Airborne School in Europe and I thought I could kill two birds with one stone by seeing Europe and going to the Jump School. I was assigned to A Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Infantry of Berlin Brigade. I soon found out that the Airborne School in Europe was just a refresher course for guys that were already Airborne qualified.
As the rest of my Army career will show, I never got the chance to go to Jump School. The closest I got was in Hohenfels, Germany when a group of Germans had an old T-10 Parachute hooked up to about 400 feet of rope and an Army ¾ Ton Truck. We were in a very large field and they allowed me to hook up. I probably made about 400 feet or so and even exercised a PLF upon landing which I felt a bit foolish about as I could have just landed straight up on my feet. The landing was soft. But I only had this opportunity to demonstrate all my brother taught me about jumping. While in the 6th Infantry, I was selected to do a training film done by a real Hollywood Director about US Army personnel who had defected to the East. I wish that I could find a copy of that as I did some fine acting in it! From the 6th Infantry, I went to HHC 4th Battalion, 18th Infantry, AMU. I guess my expertise with the M14 AR E2 came to somebody’s attention. I was also an Expert with the M60 Machine-gun. I was involved in a number of matches in AMU and received a number of badges, trophies and medallions. After a little over a year in Berlin, I decided I needed to put my training to a better use, so I volunteered for Vietnam. The Army accommodated me quickly and they sent me to A Troop, 3rd Squadron 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division at Cu Chi, South Vietnam.
DID YOU PARTICIPATE IN COMBAT OPERATIONS?
Yes, all from 24 April 1966 to 24 April 1967. We were a Mechanized Cavalry Unit where I served with my Infantry MOS. My Cavalry horse was an Armored Personnel Carrier (APC). My Track hit five mines while I was there. I was injured on the first hit in June of 1966 and on the last hit in early April of 1967. I received two Purple Hearts for these injuries. The second one was pinned on my pillow by Colonel Webb while I was in the Base Camp Hospital in Cu Chi. I had 17 days left. They wanted to evacuate me to another, bigger hospital to heal. I told them I could heal up just fine and went home at my scheduled time, although I did look like a spotted leopard with new skin and still healing skin in some areas. Sure ruined my tan I’d been working on for a year! I did take R&R in Taipei, Taiwan late in my Vietnam tour.
FROM YOUR ENTIRE SERVICE CAREER WHAT PARTICULAR MEMORY STANDS OUT AS BEING THE ONE WHICH HAS HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU?
When the Army sent me back to the United States and stationed me at Fort Hood, Texas with C Co. 2nd Bn 50th Inf 2nd Armored Division. They issued me an M14 Rifle with a Blank Adapter and sent me out into the field to play war games again! This was the turning point in my Army career.
All the rest of my buddies, who lived through Nam, went to units as trainers and instructors. One went to Fort Benning as an instructor in mines and booby traps teaching Officers. I, on the other hand, went to a unit to train for combat. I still had three years left on my re-enlistment of six years. So I asked to go back to Germany as I had always loved it and still hadn’t seen all I wanted of it. They accommodated me and sent me to 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division stationed at Kitzegen, Germany. This was Audie Murphy’s former unit.
Part of the units training was the regiment would march down to the post theater once a year and watch “To Hell and Back.”!!! This was the time period were the Sgt. Major of the Army went before a Congressional Subcommittee on EM Club Scamming in Europe. I was stationed there and I saw first-hand what was going on while the rest of the world was embroiled in the Vietnam War.
DO YOU HAVE A PARTICULARLY FUNNY STORY FROM YOUR SERVICE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE?
Yes, I do. While serving with A Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam, sometime in 1966 as a Tunnel Rat, I encountered a particularly small tunnel that I could barely move forward in. This was smaller than any I had encountered yet. As I was going forward, I heard a noise up ahead of me around an upcoming turn in the tunnel. I thought, ‘this time I’m going to catch Charlie and finally shoot him in his tunnel’. I turned off my flashlight and inched forward with my 9mm Star semi-automatic at the ready. The noise became louder as I approached the turn in the tunnel – it sounded like someone was breaking wood and scratching. When I reached the point where I thought I had turned the corner to where I was right on top of the noise, I turned on my light to see and get a clear shot. Before me was an immense mound of termites, thousands, all crawling over and upon one another! To this day, I do not know how I did it, but, somehow, I was almost instantaneously turned around in that tunnel, which I had had trouble going forward in, and was now headed back the way I had come as fast as I ever crawled in a tunnel! That was the scariest thing that ever happened to me while in a tunnel and I was in hundreds of them.
WHICH INDIVIDUAL PERSON FROM YOUR SERVICE STANDS OUT AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE BIGGEST IMPACT ON YOU…AND WHY?
That would be Major Guy Hector McCarey, the Executive Officer of the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division. He was an outstanding soldier who encouraged me all the time to be all I could be. He promoted me to the rank of Specialist (E4), a rank I held for 43 ½ months. We did everything together. Besides traveling all over Korea together, he brought me to Walker Hill in Seoul and paid for my room in the Hilton while he stayed in a Villa on the hillside along the Han River. This is where I wore the tuxedos I was into and purchased a number of them while I was in Korea.
Major McCarey, besides being a great soldier, was a very cultured individual at the same time. For example, besides his military skills, he was also a concert pianist! He associated with some very high class Korean officials and we, in fact, stayed at their houses a number of times. We visited every Korean National Park and Museum and also fished in the Imjim River! We are also, I believe, the only individuals to conquer Easy Queen (the mountain complex which towered above our compound of Blue Lancer Valley) with a Jeep (Truck, Utility, ¼ Ton, 4×4, M151). We had to stop many times to roll boulders out of our path before we conquered the summit.
The Tonkin Gulf incident happened I believe in July of 1964 while we were in Korea. Major MacCarey immediately volunteered for Vietnam. He finally left in January 1965 and I never heard from him again. It is only through my research on TWS that I recently discovered what had happened to Major McCarey. I since have been privileged to make his profile available through TWS and welcome any one to check it out. He became an Advisor after Special Forces and language training and saw Vietnam service from July 31, 1965 to November 27, 1965 when his ARVN Unit was overrun in the Michelin Rubber Plantation and he (Senior Advisor) and seven other advisors were killed along with their whole regiment. I didn’t know until just recently that I fought in that same Rubber Plantation about six months later and against the same VC Regiment that overran them. I can only hope I took out some of those that had a hand in killing Major McCarey.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU HAVE FOR THOSE THAT ARE STILL CURRENTLY SERVING?
Take pictures, take pictures and take pictures. I didn’t take as many pictures as I should have and some that I did take have been lost through the intervening years and I have regretted this greatly. Stay in touch with your buddies, especially your combat ones. They really have become a significant part of you and in most cases; they will be closer to you that any other friends, relatives or other acquaintances you’ll ever meet. The experiences of combat, especially as a youth, will be with you forever and will reflect and have a bearing upon your personality forever more. Those that experience it with you will therefore be very special to you. So keep in touch and attend those reunions as often as you can. I wish I had realized this 40 years ago as I have just figured these things out recently and lived for years not understanding why I didn’t feel complete. It’s very fulfilling finding your old combat buddies and reliving those old experiences. You feel the old adrenalin rush again and realize that was what was keeping you going in combat. You’ll miss that old adrenalin rush because you’ll remember in combat that was when you felt more alive than you’ll ever feel again.
WHAT PROFESSION DID YOU FOLLOW AFTER THE SERVICE AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?
I’m currently retired (since April 14, 2002) and taking care of my 13 year old handicapped daughter. I was widowed July 3, 2003 losing my second wife to colon cancer. I am also a 100% Disabled Veteran. Since 2006 when I got in contact with six members of my platoon and we attended our 40th reunion in Kansas City, I have really become more and more active in Veterans Affairs. Two members of my platoon live here in Florida by me and I enjoyed our reunion in Tucson, Arizona at the end of April and beginning of May, 2010.
HOW HAS SERVING THE ARMED FORCES INFLUENCED THE WAY YOU HAVE APPROACHED YOUR LIFE AND CAREER?
The military has had a great deal of influence upon my life and the way I view life. Because I spent my youth (from 17 to 24) I believe my young impressionable mind was forever formulated into a military way of thinking. I approach things from all angles and thoroughly study a situation and research everything out before going forward. When I do go forward I do so with confidence having thoroughly studied the situation out. This has served me well throughout my life because I have a tendency to make sure everything is true and correct before I attack anything. The military and the training I received there, is probably one of the biggest reasons I became a Jehovah’s Witness minister 39 years ago this September. I believe our Creator saw and knew the things I experienced in the military and knew the exact time to approach me with Bible truth. Although I became a minister 39 years ago I still have dreams at least weekly about the Army and me being back in it and still trying to get my 20 in. I still regret to this day not being able to be the soldier I always wanted to be.
HOW HAS TOGETHERWESERVED.COM HELPED YOU TO MAINTAIN A BOND WITH THE SERVICE AND THOSE WITH YOU SERVED WITH?
Togetherweserved.com has opened up a vast source of military information and comradeship. It offers not only the ability to contact hundreds of your lost comrades but contains the history of units with pictures and stories and graphics that are truly pleasing. I absolutely love the way everything is laid out on everyone’s profile. Personally, I think it is the best military site on the web and heartily endorse it.