Bob Smith bravely served his country in the United States Army from 1968 to 1970 as a soldier in the Vietnam War.
Private Smith grew up in Abington and underwent basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana, where he underwent rigorous training that would prepare him for the jungles of Southeast Asia. Private Smith was sent to Vietnam in May 1968.
âWe flew to Ben Wah in the middle of the night. I was assigned to a company of infantry-trained soldiers who were part of the 1st Cavalry Division, âhe recalls. “I was in Vietnam just one day and we were ambushed … hit and run … all the time, hit and run … NVA [North Vietnamese Army] was relentless, âhe recalls.
Private Smith’s missions would take him deep into the very dangerous jungle at the bottom of the Ho Chi Minh Trail. âI was assigned to Song Beâ¦ we were in constant conflict and always had to be on alert for the threat of enemy ambushes,â he said.
When asked how he handled intense day-to-day fights, he replied, âYour nerves were on edge all the timeâ¦ we didn’t have time to play dumb or fool aroundâ¦ you. instantly recognized the sound your AK-47 makesâ¦ specific soundâ¦ you know it right awayâ¦ the crackleâ¦ I still lock myself in my basement downstairs on July 4thâ¦ been doing this for over 50 yearsâ¦ when you are in the jungle in a shootout, you shoot, NEVER aim … it’s you or the enemy.
He continued, âOur platoons were unusually closeâ¦ had to beâ¦ had to support each otherâ¦ had to think the sameâ¦ never forget to be on patrol in the rainâ¦ side rainâ¦ we stopped for about 10 minutesâ¦ a Bengal tiger was hiding in the bushes and getting ready to pounce on one of our guysâ¦ our sergeant shot him in the airâ¦ that’s what I mean about the other’s backâ¦ really depended on each other.
What were the missions in the jungle like? âGetting in and out by helicopterâ¦ two weeks at a timeâ¦ we protected Alpha, Charlie and Delta’s companiesâ¦ in rotationâ¦ I was at the front several timesâ¦ nobody wanted to be at the front (expletive)â¦ had to do watch out for the ANV trapsâ¦ they were masters at it in the jungleâ¦ saw four to five good men lose limbsâ¦ another guyâ¦ was my friendâ¦ bamboo shoots went through himâ¦ he held his hand as he died.
Asked about his absence for the holidays, he shared this: âIt was the worst place you ever wanted to be outside of an NVA prison campâ¦ no words can describe the loneliness you feel, especially when you are in the jungleâ¦ but you I had to try to put that aside and stay focused and on my toesâ¦ you had to treat it like any other dayâ¦ lose your focus, get dark and you dieâ¦ purely and simply.
Any other memories, apart from his experience in combat? “I was off a patrol on December 23 … back at base camp … I was sitting in front of a tent collecting my thoughts while smoking a cigarette … for some reason, j I wanted to go to a morgue they set up in a tent … no. I don’t know whyâ¦ I walked inâ¦ saw only one youngsterâ¦ a childâ¦ the first day in the fight he was killed, they saidâ¦ sat down next to him and just criedâ¦ didn’t never forget this show.
He continued, âWe (Vietnam vets) never had anything when we got homeâ¦ some people say it’s the same old story but I’ll keep sharing that same old fucking storyâ¦ it’s my right and that’s what I fought forâ¦ it wasn’t looking for a medal or a parade, just a “thank you”, nothing more.
Private Bob Smith, welcome home and thank you for your service to our great country.