Birmingham native experiences engineering under fire | News
In January 1968, a young Military engineer officer was on a flight destined to Vietnam for his yearlong assignment. But simply because of the Tet Offensive, the plane acquired diverted to Guam where by he expended a single week right until the airfields in Vietnam were reopened.
A week later, 2nd. Lt. John Vaughn, 24, was between the Soldiers on a chartered army flight which landed at 3 a.m. at Tan Son Nhut Air Foundation in close proximity to Saigon.
“We ended up the initially industrial aircraft that was allowed to fly into Vietnam when they opened it again up immediately after the Tet Offensive,” Vaughn explained. “When I acquired to Tan Son Nhut that night, every thing was in disarray.”
He was in the beginning despatched to Da Nang even though he experienced orders for Cu Chi. So, he had to just take a further flight to Cu Chi.
When he at last checked into his unit at Cu Chi, they had him listed as missing in action for two weeks.
“They had no idea wherever I was,” Vaughn stated. “When I checked in, they experienced me outlined as missing in motion.”
The Birmingham indigenous joined the 554th Engineer Battalion which was attached to the 25th Infantry Division in Cu Chi. He was in the beginning assigned as the battalion design and style engineering officer liable for coming up with assignments. In three months, he designed two bridges and the 25th Infantry Division headquarters bunker. He also put in time on the “dawn patrol” in which he would have early-early morning rides aboard a Huey helicopter to glimpse for enemy-brought on disruptions together a 20-mile highway applied as a offer route.
A person of the bridges he designed was for Dau Tieng, miles northeast of Cu Chi, to change a blown-out bridge crossing the Saigon River. His upcoming assignment was to go construct that bridge in Dau Tieng. He served as leader of an engineer platoon for his two and a 50 percent months there and completed the bridge right before leaving.
Vaughn was promoted to initially lieutenant and returned to Cu Chi as commander of Enterprise C of the 554th Engineer Battalion for the subsequent six months.
“In Cu Chi we experienced rocket attacks on a very standard basis,” he reported. “They appeared to have data about Cu Chi. We lost some troops. You obtained to the issue you’d wake up in a bunker.”
In drop 1968, a bomb placed by infiltrators went off inside of the battalion mess hall in Cu Chi. A espresso can crammed with explosives, set off by a candle, was positioned on a head-large ledge at the entrance utilised by customers of Organization D. Fifteen Soldiers in Corporation D had been killed and 45 hurt. Vaughn saw the explosion and the resulting carnage and rendered help. “It was very devastating,” he said.
He experienced other close calls during the yr. In spring 1968, the style and design engineer was on a aircraft that landed in Dau Tieng. But a rocket assault happened after the pilot decreased the back again of the airplane for the 15 passengers to depart. The pilot closed the doorway, and absolutely everyone scrambled to return to their seats. The plane departed properly with rockets exploding powering it.
Months afterwards, the engineer platoon chief in Dai Tieng was woke up by a rocket assault on their tent.
“Even nevertheless I was asleep, I quickly hit the deck,” Vaughn explained. “The rocket landed about 6 feet from me. The explosion went up. It blew a hole in the tent.”
He been given a Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. His unit acquired several device awards. “We experienced a prime-notch unit, we really did,” he reported.
Asked to describe his calendar year in Vietnam, Vaughn reported he has two views – a single as an engineer and just one as a Soldier. “I gained about 10 years’ worth of (engineering) experience in that 12 months,” he stated. “From an engineering standpoint, it was huge expertise. So lots of factors to deal with in a short time period of time. From a Soldier standpoint, it was a hard working experience. You hardly ever understood what to hope. So, you by no means knew who to trust.”
He said he most remembers “I guess becoming exhausted most of the time.”
Vaughn returned to the United States in January 1969. He was commissioned as a result of ROTC at Auburn University the place he graduated in 1966 with a bachelor’s in civil engineering. He served in the Corps of Engineers from 1966-72, on energetic obligation from 1967-69 and remaining the Army as a captain. Following engineer officer coaching school at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, he was an engineer platoon leader at Fort Benning, Georgia, prior to heading to Vietnam.
He was the youngest of 6 youngsters. All four boys served in the military – the two oldest in Earth War II.
Vaughn was a construction engineer with Chicago Bridge & Iron Enterprise, and he retired at the end of 2000 as manager of estimating, putting work jointly. He was operations supervisor in Venezuela from 1980-85. He moved to Huntsville from Chicago in 2007.
He and his wife of 8 several years, Margaret, have a combined 6 daughters and three grandchildren. Vaughn had 4 daughters with his first wife who died in 2013.
At 79 he is a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Vaughn has uncovered he is amongst four adult males at Rivertree Church in Huntsville who served in different models in Cu Chi in 1968.
He shared his views on this nation’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.
“I’m not extremely amazed about that. There does not seem to be recognition of the achievements of our military services,” he reported. “I’m very, very involved about our armed service. I don’t see recognition of the military and support of our military that there applied to be. The support of the armed forces doesn’t seem to be there right now.”
Editor’s notice: This is the 397th in a sequence of articles or blog posts about Vietnam veterans as the United States commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War.