ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM
James Howell's Vietnam War Photos
HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY
Sergeant, 9th Infantry Division
James Howell received his draft notice and served in Vietnam from June of 1968 to June 1969.
Primarily I was drafted, but I came from a military family. Several of my friends were getting deferments by going to college, for being married, for having children. There were various deferments but if you were given a draft status of 1A, if you were fit to go, it was very hard to get a job because they knew that you were going to be pulled away at any time.
He was assigned to the Mobile Riverine Force, a unit tasked with search and destroy up and down the coast in the South China Sea. They lived on ships and debarked on Tango boats that would take them to a waiting chopper onshore for insertion.
If you were lucky you wouldn’t go into a hot LZ. That’s one of my most vivid memories… it looked like a red carpet, there was so many tracer rounds and we would fly, you know, right through it... but it was just the most incredible thing that you could go through something that looks like a solid sheet of metal, red metal, and come out of it alive.
Howell remembers being wounded during an ambush.
I raised my machine gun…and all of a sudden the lights went out and I actually thought I had been killed because I was just laying there, watching clouds passing by. Anyway, a piece of shrapnel had hit me between the eyes and it splattered blood all over my face, and my company actually called me in as KIA (killed in action). A medic discovered me as I was coming to and stopped to help me, and then he caught a round in the stomach and died. I finally managed to get back to the pickup site for the medevac and while we were waiting I got hit again in the back of the leg.
There were constant close calls…a lot of injuries… people refusing to go out in the field. You ask yourself why do I keep going out every day? You essentially elect to die. You just don’t know when.
Watch Howell talk about his experiences with Agent Orange in Vietnam: