SP 4 Tom Hirst, U.S. Army (1969-1971)



The following Reflection represents SP 4 Tom Hirst’s legacy of their military service from 1969 to 1971. 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 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.

Which individual(s) from your time in the military stand out as having had the most positive impact on you and why?:

Day 25 

Let’s face it, I didn’t know anything about “Jungle Living” or “Infantry Life”!  It was my 25th day “In Country” and also Easter Sunday, March 29th, 1970. So, that said, I think the people that made the biggest impression on me were the first two people I met after the Huey dumped me off in the “landing zone” on log day. 

The “RTO” from 3rd platoon, SP/5 Gene Tetzlaff, basically “adopted me” and took me under his wing, explaining “how to do this” and “how to do that” and to “expect the unexpected”. Perhaps Gene was more concerned that I’d be walking right behind him as the platoon moved out!

Later that day, I met the 3rd platoon leader, Lt. Rick Friedrich, an ROTC officer from Wisconsin who seemed to be pretty competent and business-like.  Rick and I became good friends and unbeatable partners at “Spades”.  After our Cambodian adventure, Rick was given “Interim Command” of Charlie Company.

After all, I was the “NEW GUY” and my MOS was 91A10 “Medical Corpsman” and I was replacing the previous Medic that was ending his 6  month “tour of duty” with Charlie Company.  This was to be my “home” for the next 6 months.  Living out my rucksack, sleeping on the ground, and fighting off the mosquitoes and leaches. Taking care of the men of 3rd platoon was my mission.

Charlie Company was working “company size” around Song Be and had been in a “fire fight” the day before with one man, KIA, and another wounded.  The Huey that had brought me “Out to the Bush” took away the body bag of the soldier that had been killed the day before.  The reality of my situation was staggering to say the least! 

DAY 26.  I finally met the “wounded soldier” who turned out to be the Company Commander, Captain Michael Christy. “SIX” was his jungle nickname, and he was sporting a nice clean bandage on his neck where he had been grazed by an AK47 round the day before.  I didn’t know what “experience or qualifications” were required to have a “Command” but it looked kind of dangerous to me!.

Fortunately, the next few weeks were fairly quiet, and Charlie Company continued to patrol the area around Song Be until the end of April. Then things changed. 

5 MAY 70 found Charlie Company loaded into 20  Hueys and headed into Cambodia.  “Operation Rock Crusher” was in full swing and Captain Christy was excited to get into “action”.  Tactics were different due to the “open terrain” of Cambodia, but we adapted well.  We spent the next “7 weeks  in Cambodia” finding stockpiles of equipment and caches of weapons and ammunition. 

It wasn’t apparent to me at the time, but 40 years later, at our Charlie Company Reunion, I found out how lucky I  was to be assigned to Charlie Company led by Captain Christy.  Turns out he was in the  U.S. Marines for two years before joining the Army and was a “Special Forces” and “Army Ranger”.  He retired in 1984 after 26 years at the rank of Lt. Colonel. 

EPILOGUE:  I tried to find my Gene Tetzlaff to THANK HIM but only found an obituary in an Ohio newspaper.  I did find Lt. Friedrich,  ex-school teacher and still in Wisconsin.  Then we met again at the Charlie Company Reunion in Las Vegas in 2012. Even though he was wheelchair bound after a stroke, he was still pretty feisty and vowed to walk at our next reunion.  I’m not sure of his SITREP today.  Lt. Col. Michael B. Christy passed away about 18 months ago from “suspected complications” of Agent Orange.

Mike Christy was a prolific writer/producer and wrote many articles here on the TWS Dispatch pages.  He also produced many features for the History Channel and was a technical advisor for the television show “Tour of Duty”.  In the last season of “Tour of Duty”, he played the part of XO “Major Duncan”.  In the VIETNAM Magazine, [AUG 2016] issue below, is one of his accounts of the many successes that Charlie Company 1/12th conducted in Cambodia during “OPERATION ROCK CRUSHER” in 1970. “Smashing Sanctuaries in Cambodia”.   

Positive Impact? I SURVIVED!

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Tags: Agent Orange, Captain Michael Christy, Easter Sunday, Operation Rock Crusher, VIETNAM Magazine

1 Comment

  1. Robert Pryor

    RIP, my old friend, LTC Mike Christy.


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