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Subject: Lieutenant Rambo

Bill Bellinger
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Date Posted: 07:44:25 07/25/05 Mon

Early in 1967 the 85th Maintenance Company had no Ordnance Lieutenants. The CO, Captain Young was Ordnance, 1st Lieutenant Crawford, the XO, was Signal Corps and I, also Signal Corps, was the Technical Supply Officer. Lieutenant Crawford and I were refugees from the old 56th Signal Company (554th). We had two Warrant Officers, one Ordnance and one Signal and two Ordnance DACs. It was decided that the 5th Maintenance Bn would send one of itís company Ordnance officers up to the Dong Ha task force to oversee the maintenance effort there. They sent Lt. R. I knew R, we were in the Charang Valley together in 1966 and I considered him a friend. He had HEM experience, so he appeared to have been an excellent choice for the Dong Ha assignment.

Shortly after his arrival in Dong Ha we began to get some strange reports back from our troops up there. There were unit formations conducted by R at night and in the rain. There were classes conducted on strange topics such as the care and washing of socks and the proper way to open a C-Ration can. One day R showed up back in Danang. The Dong Ha Task Force commander apparently loaded him on a plane and sent him to Danang. He showed up in Danang looking like Rambo and Rambo had not been invented yet! He was wearing jungle fatigue pants and boots with no shirt on. He had an M-60 machine gun bandoleer draped around his neck. He was wearing a web belt with a loaded 45 on one side and a bayonet on the other. I believe he also had his M-14 with him. He reported to the DSAC Commander and was told to check his weapons, which he did. Since I knew R, the DSAC Deputy Commander, a hard-nosed Infantry Lieutenant Colonel, sent for me. I was told to keep R occupied until they decided what to do. I was his shadow from then on. We had a football in the tech supply office, so R and played catch out behind headquarters.

The Deputy CO arranged to have R admitted to the Navy Hospital at China Beach for the night. We took him there and left him in the Navyís hands. In the mean time the DSAC Transportation Officer (TO) arranged for a flight to Qui Nhon for R and I. I was told to take R to the 5th Maintenance Bn CO and nowhere else. The following morning the duty driver and I picked R up at China Beach and headed for the Danang Airbase. The TO had arranged a flight on a civilian aircraft to Qui Nhon via Chu Lai. We were the only American passengers on board. The rest were Vietnamese workers and families of Vietnamese workers. The plane was an old WWII DC-3. When we arrived in Chu Lai, the Loadmaster told us to get off, he had higher priority passengers to put on the plane. I protested, but it was a civilian flight and I really didnít stand a chance. We got off and checked on other flights to Qui Nhon. There were none. So we flew back to Danang. The Deputy CO was pissed and wanted to know why I let us get bumped off the flight. I told him it was a civilian flight and we had no choice. I also told him to tell his TO to get us on a military flight.

We took R back to China Beach for another nights stay. The following day we picked up R and headed for the airbase again. We met Lieutenant Seagle at the terminal. He was also heading back to Qui Nhon. Seagle also knew R. I believe Seagle was the 5th Maintenance Bn Assistant S3. Seagle told me that R had had problems and apparently had a nervous breakdown before he was sent up to Dong Ha. He had been under the care of an Army psychiatrist in Qui Nhon. While we were waiting for our flight R pulled out his wallet and removed a razor blade he had inside. He began to go through the motions of shaving. He said this is the way we shave in the field. Seagle and I looked at him in horror not knowing what to do. We told him he didnít need a shave and that he really needed lather to shave and some water all things we didnít have. We coaxed him into putting the razor blade away. We watched him like a hawk after that. We got to Qui Nhon without further incident on an Air Force C-130. I took R straight to the 5th Maintenance Bn CO. He told me I couldnít leave him there and to take him to the hospital which I did. We met with the Army psychiatrist who had treated R before. He took R into his office before I could talk to him. He came out and asked me what had been going on. I immediately told him about the razor blade in Rís wallet. I never saw someone move so fast as that psychiatrist did then. He rushed back into the room where R was. He came out later and asked me if I would escort R to Camp Zama in Japan. I would have loved to have gone to Japan, but my orders were specific, to take R to Qui Nhon and to come straight back to Danang. Why they sent R up to Dong Ha in the first place is a mystery to me. It was certainly a recipe for failure for someone with Rís history.

I left R there at the hospital in Qui Nhon. I guess he was evacuated to Camp Zama. He was another casualty of that war. I donít know what happened to him. I wish I did. I wish him well.

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