PRESERVING A MILITARY LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS
The following Reflections represents SP 4 Richard Bradley’s legacy of his military service from 1963 to 1970. If you are a Veteran, consider preserving a record of your own military service, including your memories and photographs, on Togetherweserved.com (TWS), the leading archive of living military history. The following Service Reflections is an easy-to-complete self-interview, located on your TWS Military Service Page, which enables you to remember key people and events from your military service and the impact they made on your life.
Please describe who or what influenced your decision to join the Army.
Until August of 1963, I was planning on going into the Navy and making 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 entirely 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 Khaki 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.
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 before this. I had changed my career path and now wanted to make the Army my career.
Whether you were in the service for several years or as a career, please describe the direction or path you took. What was your reason for leaving?
I had enlisted for the Infantry. My immediate plans were BCT graduation, AIT Training, graduation, and Jump School. I took the Airborne PT test while I was in Basic Training and retook it 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 I graduated 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, and 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 then transferred my driving skills from a Truck, Utility, Ton, 4×4, M38A1C to a Truck, Utility, Ton, 4×4, M151. The Executive Officer, Major Guy H. McCarey, was a significant 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 awarded my EIB. Because of him, I received a short discharge and re-enlisted 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 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 exceptional 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 several matches at AMU and received several badges, trophies, and medallions.
After a little over a year in Berlin, I decided I needed to put my training to 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.
If you participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, please describe those which made a lasting impact on you and, if life-changing, in what way?
Yes, all from April 24, 1966, to April 24, 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. Colonel Webb pinned the second one on my pillow while I was in the Base Camp Hospital in Cu Chi. I had 17 days left and a wake-up. They wanted to evacuate me to another, bigger hospital to heal. I told them I could heal up just fine back in the world and went home at my scheduled time, although I looked like a spotted leopard with new skin and still healing in some areas. Sure ruined my tan I’d been working on for a year! I did take R&R in Taipei, Taiwan, late on my Vietnam tour.
There were many significant events during my tour in Nam. However, the most significant was having my buddy, PFC James Nelson Wymer, died in my arms on December 15, 1966. Part of an RPG-2 had gone through the right side of his chest after it hit the TC’s Cupola at a glance. He was the M60 Machine-gunner on the right side of his Track. After he was pulled off the Track with a continuing firefight going on, I left my Track and held Jim in my arms. He tried hard to continue breathing but could not seem to get enough air. He died trying. Afterward, we wrapped him in an OD Blanket and loaded him on a MEDEVAC Chopper, and that’s the last I saw of him ever. I, for one, will never forget him.
Did you encounter any situation during your military service when you believed there was a possibility you might not survive? If so, please describe what happened and what was the outcome.
I experienced this position every day during my one year in Vietnam. Seriously, I never felt I was going to live through it. It was non-stop from the day we arrived in Nam. We were immediately put in tents before we were processed out to our Base Camps the next day. However, they mortared Ton Suh Nhut that night!
During my year of combat, I was wounded twice and hospitalized with the second wounds, which happened on April 8, 1967, 17 days before I was supposed to “go back to the World.” I recall I went home with scars, new skin, and scabs, looking like a spotted leopard. I only woke up and realized I had actually made it while we were flying over the Philippines and a round-eyed beautiful blonde offered me a drink. Seriously, that is my recollection of the fact I didn’t get killed. I was 20 years old leaving Nam, but I guarantee I was really about 40 years old when I left Vietnam!
Of all your duty stations or assignments, which one do you have fondest memories of and why? Which was your least favorite?
I have fond memories of every one of my duty stations in my seven-year career in the Army. Some are not so fond, like coming off an automatic weapons range at Fort Polk, Louisiana, while at AIT and told that John F. Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas, Texas. (November 22, 1963) Or April 4, 1968.
While stationed with A Company, 1st Battalion 15th Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, in Kitzegen, Germany, being informed of Martin Luther King’s assassination on June 5, 1968, when Robert F. Kennedy was also shot to death. This same year, I believe the Sergeant Major of the Army went in front of a congressional sub-committee over EM Club scamming was being done in Europe. But, in all of these duty stations, there were many, many good memories of an exciting youth growing up at an accelerated pace.
Out of all my places of assignment, however, I think that Berlin in 1965 stands out as the most memorable. Berlin proved to be the best city I have ever been in. The cities I can compare it with are many during my hitch. Seoul, Korea; Tokyo and Yokohama, Japan; Taipei, Taiwan; San Francisco, California; New York, New York; San Antonio and Austin, Texas; Paris, France, Amsterdam, Holland and all the major cities in Germany, none could compare with Berlin in beauty, adventure, and night-life. Berlin had it all. The best bars in the world were in the British sector of the city. History is throughout the city, and no other city had a checkpoint Charlie separating east and west.
I met three Russian spies while out partying, two guys and a girl named Christiana. I also dated a Nurse who was from Kabul, Afghanistan, and she worked at the US Army Hospital (Kraunkinhause). We’d always meet at the Snack Bar at Headquarters, US Army Berlin Brigade. It was here in Berlin where I pulled prison guard duty at Spandau Prison, watching over Rudolph Hess and Albert Speer, just a year before Speer was released from his 20-year sentence for his war crimes. He was the only one who received such a sentence, and the rest either got the death sentence or life. It was fascinating watching him work in his little garden spot he had made in a portion of the yard inside Spandau. I was in one of the numerous guard towers.
Each country occupying Berlin (west) took a three-month tour of guard duty at Spandau. The French, British, and American. We also had Parade Season, when all the dignitaries of the various countries would come, and we’d have to parade for them, with lots of practice. We had to continuously present ourselves as STRAC (Skilled, Tough, Ready Around the Clock) Troops. So much so that this was the only duty station I was ever at where it was a requirement that we have tailored uniforms. Not just our Dress Greens but all our fatigues, including Field Jackets, were tailored. I had zippers on both sleeves of my Field Jacket! It was here that I became a member of AMU (Advanced Marksmanship Unit) and had many leg matches and tournaments.
Many hours of practice at the KD range. Including tours in the target area where I could present “Maggie’s Drawers” for misses on target. I loved everything about this duty station and would like to go back to Berlin at any time. I have so many experiences and memories from Berlin that I could probably write a book on just this one duty station from January 1965 till February 1966.
From your entire military service, describe any memories you still reflect back on to this day.
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. On the other hand, I 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 the 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 also the time period when 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. It forever killed any desires I had of being a soldier for at least 20 years. Something that to this day haunts me, and I still have dreams of being back in the Army with just a little time left to fulfill my 20. One of the big regrets I have in my life.
What professional achievements are you most proud of from your military career?
Besides my Valorous Unit Award, the only individual award for Valor I’ve gotten would be my Vietnam Gallantry Cross which the Government of South Vietnam awarded every Vietnam Veteran who received a Vietnam Service Medal. I have an article dealing with this fact on my TWS Profile page, which describes the authorization for this award in detail.
Basically, the South Vietnamese Government wanted to show its appreciation for all the soldiers, sailors, and Marines, that sacrificed so much in the fighting, the blood they spent, and the toil they went through against communist insurgents and NVA determined to take over the South.
The achievement I’m most proud of is earning my EIB (Expert Infantryman Badge), a badge that must be earned in order to receive it. Most awards are given just because you were in a unit or in the wrong place at the wrong time, like my two Purple Hearts. Having good conduct for a period of three years gave me my first Good Conduct medal, something they would never award me again. My conduct and attitude changed dramatically after Vietnam. Already I was dealing with my currently diagnosed malady of PTSD; however, they would probably still have labeled it as “Shell Shock” at the time. They never diagnosed me while I was in. But I did receive about 18 Article 15’s, a Summary, and a Special Court Martial before I got out! But my EIB is something I had to train for, go through special testing for, and felt a certain pride and dignity in achieving. They just don’t give them away. Believe me, they are earned, and I’m proud I wore one.
Of all the medals, awards, formal presentations and qualification badges you received, or other memorabilia, which one is the most meaningful to you and why?
I would have to say it is my EIB (Expert Infantryman Badge). It is the one badge I really had to work hard to get. All the others were relatively easy in comparison, and my shooting badges weren’t that hard. I learned how to shoot early in life.
Getting my two Purple Hearts were easy. Just being in the wrong place at the right time seems simple enough. Same with most of my other medals. I got them cause I was stationed somewhere. I admit, my CIB was a little harder getting but only because of what it required, having an Infantry MOS and engaging in combat.
But I really had to work to earn that EIB and in every aspect of my Infantry MOS. Then I had to pass a course in every aspect of my Infantry MOS. They don’t just hand them out for shootin’ straight! Anyone who has an EIB has earned it!
Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having the most positive 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 always encouraged me to be all I could be. He promoted me to the rank of Specialist (E4), a rank I held for 43 months. We did everything together.
Besides traveling all over Korea together, he brought me (I drove for him) 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 in to 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 stayed at their houses several times. We visited every Korean National Park and Museum and also fished in the Imjim River! We also, I believe, are the only individuals to conquer Easy Queen (the mountain complex that towered above our compound of Blue Lancer Valley) with a Jeep (Truck, Utility, 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, finally leaving in January 1965, and I never heard from him again. It is only through my research with TWS that I recently discovered what had happened to Major McCarey.
I have since been privileged to make his profile available through TWS and welcome anyone to check it out. He became an Advisor after Special Forces and language training. He was in Vietnam from July 31, 1965, to November 27, 1965, when his ARVN Unit was overrun in the Michelin Rubber Plantation. 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 some of those out that had a hand in killing Major McCarey.
Can you recount a particular incident from your service, which may or may not have been funny at the time, but still makes you laugh?
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. It 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, and 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.
Right ahead of 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 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.
What profession did you follow after your military service and what are you doing now? if you are currently serving, what is your present occupational specialty?
I have had about 45 jobs since I left the Army, and I believe this fact alone was one determining factor in proving I have a bit of PTSD. I like to say that I have done just about everything, from being an assistant to a Geophysicist to working at a Dairy Queen and everything in between!
My longest held job was for the United States Postal Service (4 years) as a Mail-Handler. But, I retired early from that and took up the full-time ministry for a while. One job I kept coming back to was being a Security Officer for several different firms. My last job was with Wackenhut Security, where I was instrumental in apprehending a guy who brought a gun to work and shot a fellow worker four times.
My part in his capture was stopping a Cop going by in front of my gate and telling him I had just heard shots fired. Within minutes I think I had the entire Lakelake, Florida Police department in my parking lot! I did find the individual that was shot lying on the floor in the lunchroom bleeding from at least three hits he’d taken. I initially asked him, “where are you hit?” He responded, “in my heart.” I knew that couldn’t be true. I saw the one in his arm and the one in his leg. I figured he must have been hit above his heart nearer his shoulder cause it certainly wasn’t in a lung. I’ve heard and seen too many sucking chest wounds, so I know a little about it. As I began taking off his shirt, a Lakeland Police Officer finally stepped in, so I just told him what I knew and left to the parking lot again.
They had the shooter in custody by now, and he gave up quickly. If fact, he had placed the gun down on a butt can and was just sitting on some steps, smoking a cigar and waiting for the Police to arrest him. It all happened at the back gate of the Watkins Trucking line. I suppose to keep in contact with the main gate on the radio, but when this thing went down I found that my radio was down also!
That’s why I stopped a Police car going by my gate. Fortunate indeed that he was there just in time! Anyway, my fellow Security Officer at the main gate (a former 82nd Airborne Trooper, by the way) only became aware of what was going on when he encountered the SWAT Team that began entering his gate about five minutes after this. All started! Several months later, Wakinhut Security decided I should get an award, and I got a goofy certificate! I could have used a raise or a reward, but no, just a Certificate.
I’m currently retired (since April 14, 2002) and taking care of my 14-year-old disabled daughter. I was widowed on 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 become more and more active in Veterans Affairs. Two members of my platoon live here in Florida by me, and I’m looking forward to our next reunion in Tucson, Arizona, at the end of April and the beginning of May 2010.
Now, I’m looking forward to our next reunion in Nashville, Tennessee, from May 16 – May 20, 2012!
What military associations are you a member of, if any? what specific benefits do you derive from your memberships?
I am currently a member of about 23 different military associations. Specific benefits are somewhat limited. But mostly, it’s just keeping up with the current goings-on of the unit or association that is satisfying. The two that give me the most satisfaction are the 3/4 Cav Association (those that were with me in combat), and Togetherweserved.com, TWS.
Both of these organizations are replete with many features that make being a member very satisfying. Keeping in touch with battle buddies and creating new friendships are just two of the many benefits of belonging to these organizations. Research on the site is vastly superior in finding old friends or relatives. TWS offers a unique and visually satisfying profile page showing its members’ service in the most complete format that I have seen anywhere. I heartily recommend memberships in both of these organizations.
In what ways has serving in the military influenced the way you have approached your life and your career? What do you miss most about your time in the service?
The military has had a great deal of influence on 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 go forward, I do so with confidence, having carefully studied the situation.
This has served me well throughout my life because I tend 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 (now 40) this September. I believe our Creator saw and knew what I experienced in the military and 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, even to this day, regret not being able to be the soldier I always wanted to be.
Based on your own experiences, what advice would you give to those who have recently joined the Army?
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 have become a significant part of you, and in most cases, they will be closer to you than any other friends, relatives, or other acquaintances you’ll ever meet. The combat experiences, especially as a youth, will be with you forever and reflect and have a bearing upon your personality forever. 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.
Finding your buddies of combat and reliving those old experiences is very fulfilling. You feel the old adrenalin rush (a little bit) again and realize that was what was keeping you going in combat. You’ll miss that old adrenalin rush because you’ll remember that was when you felt more alive than you’ll ever feel again when you were in combat.
In what ways has togetherweserved.com helped you remember your military service and the friends 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 truly pleasing graphics. 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.
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