Joe May | Vietnam War Veteran

ATLANTA VOICES: MEMORIES OF VIETNAM

Joe May's Vietnam War Photos

Joe May

HIS VIETNAM WAR STORY

3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, U.S. Army

Joe May was playing Single A baseball in Pennsylvania in 1967 when he received his 1A draft notice.

The Pittsburgh Pirate organization could not protect us from the draft. I think President Johnson had called up 250,000 troops. It was a big push and unfortunately, I was one of them. My feelings about that is that I was petrified and angry, but helpless.

Originally assigned to a psy-ops unit, May was dropping propaganda leaflets over suspected enemy territory. Unfortunately for May, the program was judged a failure and was scrapped one month after he arrived.

They exchanged my M-14 for an M-16 and told me I was a grunt.

He was assigned to the 25th Infantry Division to do search and destroy.

The purpose of search and destroy was simply to kill the enemy, basically. The thing about killing the enemy is that there was a lot of civilian casualties.

He particularly remembers one mission.

We had some intelligence that there was an enemy concentration in this village. We burned the whole village...we leveled the village, and as we were passing through one of my commanders ordered me to throw a grenade in a hut. So we went on by and all of a sudden we hear a lot of hollering and screaming and we went back and there was this little girl and an old lady (injured by the grenade). So we had to call a medevac chopper to get them out. I felt guilty about that but the Sergeant told me what if you had stuck your head in there, it could have been blown off. I thought about that but I couldn’t accept it, because I didn’t come there with that mentality of killing. I’m just not that kind of person.

It changed me emotionally forever. My life changed forever. I still think about it today, and I still feel guilty. It’s a day to day struggle.

Watch May talk about his experiences with Agent Orange:

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