SP4 Richard “Tunnel Rat” Bradley
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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.