When the name Vietnam is mentioned, what runs through many peoples’ minds is the Vietnam War. The United States fought in Vietnam from 1959 to 1975, with the help of the South Vietnamese, against the spread of communism. David MacAdam, Sr., of Gadsden, Alabama tells of his experience during his time fighting in Vietnam.
MacAdam was a specialist in the 4th division in the U.S. Army. He spent one year in Vietnam, from February 1968 to February 1969. “I didn’t think much about it when I first got there. They sent us to formation and after that sent us to our post. My Post was 101st Airborne, in Phoucbinh. We had a little base camp next to a small village. When I saw that, that’s when the realness hit me.” When asked about his fellow soldiers who were killed in action, he said “it was about a month before I saw any action, there were some that I really didn’t know but they were Americans and I felt bad about that. It was pretty scary to have to carry a guy wrapped in a plastic poncho under fire to a helicopter pad. One thing that bothered me was when a short-timer was sent out to the field. A short-timer was someone who didn’t have much time left before going home. Everyone hated it when the Seargent sent them out. One boy only had two weeks left and he was sent out to the field and was killed. That really made me mad.”
Mr. MacAdam’s response to the use of guerilla tactics used by the Vietnamese soldiers hit a more personal note. “Guerilla tactics were basically a hit and run. We always chased after them. They’d do an ambush and run, and we would do a search and destroy mission. We would destroy entire rice fields. They liked to hide in the rice fields.” “Yeah, there were kids used. There was one I saw one night who was about 16. That’s still a kid to me. He came up close to where we were at. There were a few more down the road, so the guys starting throwing grenades at those. I was really good at throwing grenades, so I threw one at the kid close to us. It landed right between his legs and blew his feet off. After we did a sweep later I found out he was only a 16-year-old kid. That has always bothered me since then.” When Mr. MacAdam was asked about the use of torture, he stated “We didn’t use it but I heard firsthand the Vietnamese did. They were close to us and you could hear it being done.”
Mr. MacAdam has since turned against war in general after his combat in Vietnam. He did say that while he was in Vietnam he did not have access to information on whether or not the Government tested any substance on U.S. soldiers. He did say that he was proud he was there and did his job, but there were too many soldiers and kids dying. He said he wondered what it was all for when he returned home from fighting in the jungle. He asked,” have you ever seen the movie Platoon? It was pretty much exactly like that.”
By Melissa Monk
Interview with David MacAdam Sr.