Extending In Nam

Extending In Nam

Just a note to respond to Robert Bliss' question in the 14 May Newsletter on extended tours in Vietnam. Someone had told Robert that he had extended his tour in VN for up to two years ('68 to'70) which raised the question whether a Marine could stay that long in the field.

For all it's worth, I drew combat pay for some 41 months in RVN, all but the first six months in direct combat assignments. I arrived in May of '67 and was assigned to the 1st MarDiv G-2 shop on Hill 327 until November of the same year. (My OQR showed I spoke French and somehow Division thought that might come in handy – it didn't.) From there I went to 1st Force Recon Co. until June '68, extended and went to 1st Recon Bn. until January '69, extended again and was seconded to the PRU program until September '69. While on extension leave in Jan. '69, I managed to visit Kabul, Afghanistan and stayed with the MSGs at the Marine House. The Gunny there, the MSG NCOIC, was a great host, showed me all around town, and helped me get a flintlock musket at the bazaar that had been captured from the British army by Afghan guerrillas ca. 1842. It has a stamp on the firing mechanism "VEIC 1807", for 'Venerable East India Company 1807'. I haven't been back to Kabul since – maybe now's not a good time to visit.

After I left the PRU, I returned to CONUS for Lao language school and returned to RVN in January 1971 for a year with the Naval Advisory Detachment (NAD) MACV/SOG, operating out of Danang. If I've done the math right, that works out to 29 months in-country on the first tour ('67 to '69) and 12 on the second ('71 to '72).

A good friend of mine, Col. Andy Finlayson, also had extended tours in Vietnam, a year on his first tour with 1st Force and about 19 months on his second, 6 months again with Force, then 6 months with the 5th Marines, and finally 7 months with the PRU. Andy has written a couple of books covering his extended tours in Vietnam which should be required reading for any military professional or historian. I recommend to you "Killer Kane" and "Rice Paddy Recon", both on Amazon. And, yeah, this is a shameless plug for the books – but they're worth it.

The guy Robert Bliss ran into sounds a little fishy to me. Recon, whether it was Force or Recon Bn., just wasn't "working in small units 'all over Nam'".

At least during my time there, 1st Force was in direct support of either 1st MarDiv at Hill 327 or Task Force Xray out of PhuBai and 1st Recon Bn. was opcon/adcon solely to 1st MarDiv in the Danang TAOR. (I understand that 1st Force was forward deployed elsewhere in I Corps later, but that was after my time.) Even operational units under MACV/SOG tended to focus on specific areas, such as CCN (North) out of PhuBai, CCS (South) out of Kontum, and CCC (Central) out of BanMeThuot. NAD and Monkey Mountain FOB ranged a little more widely and NAD conducted maritime ops literally from the Delta (tho' infrequently) to the DMZ and points north.

Sgt. Grit, I think you can tell Marine Bliss that he's 'outed' another wannabe, otherwise known as a bald-faced liar.

That said, it was possible to stay for extended tours, if you were a bit crazy. But then again, in my case, I was young and indestructible. People to this day ask me why I stayed in RVN so long. I tell them it was the right thing to do. I believed it then and I believe it now.

Semper Fi,
Fred Vogel
USMC/USMCR 1960 – 1995​ 

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