Colonel Healy's Lonely Hearts Club Band
by SSG George "Sonny" Hoffman
[nb: an allusion to "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"
by the Beatles (1966)]
In June of 1968, General Creighton W. Abrams assumed command of
all U.S. Forces in Vietnam. The very conventional Abrams was no
lover of Special Forces. With orders to begin Vietnamizing the
war, he moved quickly to phase out the SF role and send the 5th
Special Forces Group home. His early efforts were thwarted by
many high level people that thought SF was an efficient use of
American manpower, and that their use should increase as US
forces pulled out. The mad rush to turn over the SF camps to the
Vietnamese resulted in disaster, and Abrams was forced to slow
The perception in the Abrams camp was that the Special Forces
were digging their heels in and resisting their phase out. The
perception throughout SF was that Abrams was out to get them.
Both were right.
When I arrived in-country on September 17, '69, the war between
the SF and Gen. Abrams was in high gear. In August, Abrams
relieved the 5th SF Group commander (COL Rheault). MACV jailed
him and seven other Green Berets on a charge of killing a
Vietnamese double agent. The charges were later dropped, but
Abrams replaced our commander with a non-Special Forces colonel,
a man that wasn't even jump qualified -- what SFers call a
To be led by a "leg" was a tremendous blow to the Green Berets.
It was meant to be a slap in the face; the slap stung. SF slapped
back by playing to the media. The Green Berets are almost as good
as the U.S. Marines when it comes to protecting and projecting
The press came down hard on Abrams and made heroes of the eight
Green Berets sitting in Long Binh Jail -- the infamous LBJ.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the new colonel was trying to earn
his jump wings by making five jumps in a jump school designed
especially for him. He broke his leg and was shipped home in a
cast. His replacement was Colonel "Iron Mike" Healy. At that
time, he was arguably the finest Special Forces officer anywhere.
He was Mr. Green Beret. How he got command was a mystery, but a
pleasant surprise. One thing for certain, though, it wasn't
"Iron Mike" was loved and respected by every man that soldiered
under a green beanie. Colonel Healy was hard core and told it
like it was; but more importantly, he took no crap off of anyone,
including Abrams and his command staff. He was an officer we
would have followed into hell without a map or compass. We all
knew that the end of our involvement in the war was near, because
the American people were tired of the endless stalemate. We knew
we would go, but at least under Mike Healy, leaving would look
less like a rout and more like our own idea.
Leaving Vietnam was difficult for many of the old timers. Some
traced their involvement all the way back to 1944 when -- as
members of the OSS -- they trained Ho Chi Minh's ragtag band of
guerrillas to fight the Japanese. Special Forces advisory teams
were making regular visits to South Vietnam as early as 1957. Our
first casualty was recorded that same year, just outside Nha
Trang. He was Captain Harry G. Cramer. He died two years before
we even started counting Vietnam war dead, so his name is not on
The Wall in DC.
Many old timers seemed to be homesteading Vietnam. Encountering
men with six, seven, or eight tours was not uncommon in 1969. On
my team, A-502, SFC Jim Tolbert had become an icon. He was
reputed to have beach front property, a pig farm, and a fleet of
pedicabs. Others had gone native and were deeply involved with
the people, especially the Yards. The prospect of leaving was
traumatic to contemplate. We all knew the South Vietnamese could
not, or would not fight. We feared the worst for the Yards, as
they had thrown in their lot with us and we were packing it in.
Closing an A-camp (they were actually turned over to the
Vietnamese) was a sad affair. Most of the camps had been in
existence since 1961 and were a home away from home to many
SFers. When I arrived at camp A-502 around the first of October
of '69, we had just been told to plan on closing the camp by the
first of March 1970. I took the news in stride, but the guys that
had spent years building the place and training the troops were
despondent about turning it over to the Vietnamese.
When the big day finally arrived, we stood in formation with the
camp strikers (now called Rangers), the LLDB, and local
dignitaries for the change of command. That night, the American
team members gathered at one of our old outposts in Nha Trang for
a private party. For the party, we hired a Filipino Rock band
(they were common in Vietnam, and played the U.S. club circuit)
and invited SF support personnel from the Special Forces
Operational Base in Nha Trang for a real blow out. The object was
to let it all hang out and get curb-crawling, knuckle-dragging,
The bash was to be the last time many of us would see each other,
as we were all slated to be either sent home, or sent out to
other A-teams to finish out our tours. Since SGT Bemis and I
still had six months to go, we were awaiting reassignment. Don
Bemis and I had become great friends and we shared a common past
as members of rock and roll bands in high school. I had been a
drummer; he was a singer. Jim Tolbert was a balladier and guitar
player who had several records out that were popular in Vietnam.
He wrote and sang, Purple Heart and Choi Oi
among others. He was well known in the 5th Group and could be
counted on to pick up his guitar and keep guys entertained for
hours, strumming his war ballads. The guy was damn good.
During the performance, Bemis and I asked to sit in on a few
numbers with the band. Later, Jim picked up a guitar and was
joined by Dalton Kast, a staff sergeant from Project Delta. Kast
was outstanding on guitar, but his real talent was his singing.
He sounded more like Johnny Cash than Johnny Cash did. For a
group that just fell together out of the blue, we weren't half
bad. Maybe it was all the booze, but we were a big hit and stayed
on for the rest of the night. When the band's time was up, they
left their instruments with us to be picked up in the morning.
They knew we wanted to keep playing, and they didn't want to stop
our party. Long into the early morning hours, A-502 went down
partying hard. It was a close-out party none of us would ever
forget, and a most fitting way to end our involvement at Camp
A lieutenant colonel (his name escapes me) from "Iron Mike's"
staff attended our party. As we played our hearts out, the seed
of a bizarre idea began to germinate in his head. He said nothing
to us that night, or for several days following the party, but
after the party, strange things began to happen.
The first inkling that something was up came the next morning
when Bemis and I went to find out what our new assignments would
be. While all the other team members that weren't going home drew
assignments and headed for the four corners of the war, we were
told that our orders were flagged -- put on hold. No explanation
was given, we were just told to wait. Waiting is hell when you
wait in the dark.
Two days later, we bumped into Jim Tolbert who was supposed to
have left for Cam Ranh Bay to board a freedom bird for home. In
his case, they had asked his permission to flag his orders, still
saying nothing except that they wouldn't ask if it wasn't
important, and that he wasn't in any kind of trouble. Jim wasn't
happy about the flagging, but being a good soldier, gave his
consent. Jim had good reasons for wanting on that freedom bird
and missing home wasn't one of them. Evidently, he had some
problems with liquidating some of his unofficial assets and was
With Tolbert's inclusion, we at least had something to go on --
we were the three team members that got on stage at the party.
Why that would generate a flag on our orders was beyond our
reasoning. The only thing we could figure was that some big wigs
wanted us to jam at their private party. If that was the case, we
knew Tolbert would go berserk. Out of curiosity, we looked up
that staff sergeant from Project Delta, Dalton Kast. He was easy
to find, as he had been put on administrative stand down (no
combat operations) the morning after the party.
He was happy to see us, as it gave him a clue as to what was
going down. Dalton gave us the only rational explanation for the
puzzle: the Filipino band had obviously put a claim against the
5th Group for damages to their instruments, and until it was
settled, no one would go anywhere . We knew we hadn't done the
instruments any harm, but it would not have been the first time
someone tried to scam Uncle Sam.
The idea of being wrongly accused bothered us greatly. The
Filipino band was still in the area. We found them at the Air
Force NCO Club and cornered the leader between sets. He was very
friendly and swore they had made no complaints against us. We
were back to square one.
The riddle unfolded the next morning in a briefing at the
headquarters building . Present were Jim Tolbert, Dalton Kast,
Don Bemis, the lieutenant colonel from the party, a few staff
officers and me. We were in a briefing room about to get briefed.
We sat around a large oblong table with a huge map of Southeast
Asia on the wall. The lieutenant colonel stood at the map end of
He said, "Gentlemen, I'm sorry for keeping you in the dark, but
until last night, I had nothing to put out. I know you all
realize that we are in the process of closing out A-camps
throughout Vietnam. Your camp, A-502, was one of the first. The
pace of camp closings will pick up in the coming months. Within
the next six months, most of the camps will be closed. We are
slated to be out of Vietnam by the end of the year. The way you
guys went out, is the way Colonel Healy wants all A-camps to go
out -- with a party. Iron Mike said, 'In Special Forces, we fight
hard and we party hard. When the fighting's over, it's time to
"The problem is, most of our camps are in the most remote regions
and getting a civilian band to them is too risky and would
probably cost a small fortune. The men on those border camps
haven't seen any form of entertainment in years: no bands,
dancing girls, TV, not even a donut dolly.
"What we need, gentlemen, is a combat band -- a band, every bit
as good as anything that tours the rear areas, but composed of
volunteers from within the ranks. We need a band that can play
popular rock and country music to go to the camps and provide the
entertainment for their close-out parties. We have no idea how
this will go over. You may get blown away the first time you set
up out in the open and start playing. Charlie may not like rock
or country; we just don't know how he will react.
"The bottom line is this: Colonel Healy wants a first-rate combat
band ready to roll out of here within thirty days. He promises
all the support that is required. What I need to know is: can it
be done, and who wants in?"
Jim wanted in but for personal reasons had to decline. Dalton,
Don, and I readily agreed to sign on for the duration. Dalton,
being the ranking NCO, took command and we went to work building
a combat band.
Our first order of business was to figure out what a combat band
was, then decide how to go about building it. We needed to locate
instruments. Special Services loaned us drums and guitars and a
third-rate PA system. The equipment would not serve our purposes,
but it would do as a start. Jim Tolbert remained to help get the
show going and serve as a scrounge. When it came to scrounging,
Jim put me to shame. What ever we thought of, he found, and we
We needed a lead and a base guitarist. Jim found them both in Nha
Trang. Pete Barra was a jazz guitarist from New York. Pete was
drafted into the army as a clerk, but his passion was jazz. Pete
could make a guitar do anything: jazz, country, rock, blues, and
he made it all look easy. When Pete heard something once, he was
ready to play.
Red Sirois, from Maine, played base with the group that put out
Bird is the Word. He was a real pro and needed little or
no practice. He, too, was a draftee and Nha Trang clerk -- the
band had two "legs." Getting the two clerks released to us was no
problem. Getting them to go out in the jungle to play their
guitars was another matter. In the end, the desire to play music
for a living won out and a band was formed: Dalton, Don, Pete,
Red, and Sonny.
The band needed a name, or so we thought. We learned that there
was no place for a band of any kind in the Special Forces
organizational structure. The whole project was to be low profile
-- no promotion. Without promotion, what good is a name?
Unofficially, we were referred to as the 5th Special Forces Group
Political Warfare Band. We were also called: The 5th Group, The
Green Beanies, The Round Eye Band, Iron Mike's Lonely Hearts Club
Band. Mostly, we were just, "The Band."
Equipment was a big priority. We needed the right equipment, and
fast, so we could begin working with the instruments we would be
going out with. The funds to buy this equipment came from a CIA
special operations slush fund -- or so the story went. I doubt we
will ever know where the money came from, but it was unofficial
funds to be sure. We were warned not to discuss the band's
business with anyone. This was typical of unconventional
operations. I doubt that the band appears anywhere in SF
documents or unit structure.
Regardless of how they did it, Dalton and Don were flown to Hong
Kong with a blank check and told that Colonel Healy wanted an
American band that was to bands what the Harley Davidson was to
motor scooters. They returned with the best equipment money could
buy. I got a set of Ludwig drums just like Ringo Starr's. The
guitars were Vox and the amplifiers were Stadium Super Beatles
designed for outdoor concerts. Cranked all the way up, they'd
blow a tank off the road.
We had echo chambers, fuzz and wa-wa effect machines. Our PA
sound system was state of the art. When the boys came back from
Hong Kong it was like Christmas in March. We went nuts over our
neat stuff. We were riding a hog on a highway with no cops and
the gas was free.
Our next challenge was to play up to our equipment. We dedicated
ourselves to perfecting our craft to the best of our abilities in
the shortest amount of time. We wanted to give the guys on the
line the very best the instruments and the musicians could offer.
Many American performers toured Vietnam rear areas. Most gave
their stylistic renditions of popular music. The equipment they
brought to Vietnam was little better than the Special Services
loaners we started with. These performers were always
well-received, but the men wanted to hear the familiar songs that
took them home, sung without an accent.
We agreed that authentic recreation was what they wanted -- live
American music, loud and clear. To that end, we became mimics of
the popular bands of both country western and rock. We gathered
the recordings and copied them beat for beat, note for note.
Dalton Kast did one hour of the best Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard,
and Charlie Pride I'd ever heard. Don Bemis was a dead ringer for
Paul McCartney. We put together three hours of music -- one hour
of country, sandwiched between two hours of rock. We also became
familiar with every piece of 50's' and 60's' music that might be
requested. The most popular ones were the sounds that were
playing when the guys were back in "The World." They were:
Proud Mary, Purple Haze, Jumpin' Jack
Flash, Fire, Smoke on the Water, Inna
Godda Da Vida, Leaving on a Jet Plane, Yellow
Ribbon, House of the Rising Sun, all of the Beatles
and all of the country standards.
We had the use of the base theater for practice sessions; and, as
our shows came together, we played before live audiences in the
Nha Trang clubs. Even in the first shows that were more live
practice sessions than performances, everyone raved about our
music. The GI's thought we were great; we thought we were good.
The clubs were packed every night we performed. In all honesty, I
was the least talented member of the group, and I wasn't bad,
except when I sang Dock of the Bay.
We were asked by the lieutenant colonel to learn two Vietnamese
numbers to add to our show. It was thought to be a nice gesture
to the Vietnamese in our audiences. Since I spoke some
Vietnamese, that job fell to me. My other task was to learn the
lengthy drum solo from the Iron Butterfly's Inna Godda Da
Vida beat for beat. I managed to do both before we went on
the road, but I spent many hours playing records over, and over,
and over again. I worked hard, but no harder than anyone else.
We had one week left to practice before our scheduled departure.
We played the Officers Club in Nha Trang with Iron Mike in
attendance for the first time. He was ecstatic with his combat
band. With the "old man" we were a big hit. He was in a good mood
anyway, because the siege on camps Dak Pek and Dak Seang had just
been broken. For over one month the two camps north of Kontum
near the Laos border were besieged by the NVA 2nd Division.
Thousands had died. SF Mobile Strike Forces and B-52s broke the
NVA's back. The camps were down but not out. They had survived
several human wave assaults, B-52 air strikes, and continuous
ground combat for weeks. They hung on tenaciously and survived.
Though they weren't due to close in the near future, survival was
cause for celebration.
The next morning, we were awakened early and told to get our
shit. Half awake, we stumbled as a group into the lieutenant
colonel's office. Dalton said, "What the hell's going on? We were
supposed to have the morning off. We were playing till past
The lieutenant colonel smiled and said, "Iron Mike says you're
ready, and he wants his band at Dak Seang on the next chopper.
Need I say more?"
"Sir," said Dalton, "from what I hear, those camps were leveled.
Do they even have generators? Electric guitars are real hard to
hear unless you plug them into something."
"We understand. Look, the 2nd NVA is still in the hills licking
their wounds. The camps are still standing and still being
defended. What better way is there to say 'up yours' than to
bring in a live band and have a party under their noses. The
beer, ice, and generators are already on the way. All they need
now is a band. You call yourselves a combat band; here's your
chance to prove it."
"Sir, we'll go get our shit!"
At noon, we were in Kontum. At one, we were in a low flying
chopper snaking our way towards Dak Seang while F4 Phantom jets
dropped napalm on the mountain ridge to our right. As we banked
hard to the left to approach the camp's airstrip, .50 caliber
machine guns raked the opposite hills. The chopper touched down
(slid down, actually). A group of Yards ran out and roughly
man-handled our precious gear off the chopper as we scrambled to
the ditch alongside the battered runway. The chopper took off and
we were left with a very confused welcoming party. The Yards had
never seen band instruments. One unzipped a drum case and peered
in at the pearl and chrome tom-tom that had rolled to the ditch
under the rotor wash. When he looked to me with a puzzled
expression, I simply said, "Ludwig."
Dak Seang was everything we'd imagined, and worse. Along with
aircraft wreckage that littered the area, the scorched and
battered earthworks, the B-52 insulted terrain, we were also
assaulted with the stench of decaying bodies that had been left
for weeks in the sun. Bodies and pieces of bodies littered the
jungle surrounding Dak Seang, but there was no time for sight
seeing or smelling. We had a show to put on.
The A-team members of Dak Seang were in agreement with Iron Mike
-- it was party time. We all speculated as to what the enemy
would do. With their hillside vantage, they were looking right
down our throats. Some thought that just setting up for the show
should bring the expected incoming rounds. Others said the enemy
would wait until we started playing. Several thought the enemy
would settle in and listen along with the camp defenders.
Whatever the reaction, we had to set up and start playing to find
out. The camp defenders simply looked on with an amused
detachment as we worked to set up.
We chose the broad flat top of the medical bunker to set up our
instruments. Each of us went about setting up our respective
parts under the watchful eyes of friend and foe. As we unpacked
drums, amplifiers, mike stands and cords, the Yards and American
team members looked on from protected areas. The NVA watched from
Twenty minutes later, we were ready to start; and so far, no word
from Chuck. As we were about to kick in with our lead-in song,
Proud Mary, I felt ridiculous sitting in the open beside
a twenty-four inch brass cymbal, shining in the afternoon sun. I
just knew some enemy gunner had his cross hairs on my cymbals and
was waiting for the downbeat to cut loose. The band's "legs" were
a bit wobbly to say the least. When all was ready, Don Bemis
turned to me and said, "Hell of a way to die, huh? ... ONE, TWO,
THREE, FOUR ...."
For whatever reason, the hills remained silent throughout the
show. Eventually, the Yards and American team members came out of
the bunkers and moved in on the stage. They were fascinated with
the sounds we were making. The beer started flowing, and the
defenders of Dak Seang had a party. Loud music echoed through the
valley well into the night.
The next day, we were air lifted to the next valley and camp Dak
Pek. Dak Pek was an unusual SF camp in that it sat on seven hills
surrounded by mountains. The Americans occupied a hill to
themselves, centrally located. The team at Dak Pek was glad to
see any friendly face, but they were beat. They had had little
sleep for weeks on end as the camp had been breached many times
with a significant loss of life. They'd lost several American
team members . We set up in the team house for a low key private
Afterwards, the band took up positions to relieve the tired
defenders. Red and Pete took turns on radio watch. Dalton manned
the tactical operations center. Bemis and I alternated on the 4.2
inch mortar, firing illumination rounds every fifteen minutes
throughout the night. The team members got some much-needed rest
that night, and the band learned what it meant to be a combat
band. How many band members have ever had to do a four-hour gig,
then man a mortar pit all night?
For five months, the band went from camp to camp. We traveled
from the tip of the delta in the south, to the DMZ up north. We
brought with us a little respite from war. Even our tired
adversary seemed to appreciate the break, for they never
interrupted a show with a show of their own. We were fired on
coming into a camp, but only once when leaving.
At camp Ba Xoai (Ba Swi) in the delta, our show was interrupted
by a B-52 strike. We stopped to watch the awesome display of
firepower being vented on the mountains fronting the camp. It
felt like a rolling earthquake with the sound of muffled thunder.
When we departed the next day, the enemy fired a 51 caliber
machine gun at our chopper. The fire came from the area of the
bombardment. I suppose if you bomb your audience, you can't
expect good reviews.
Visiting so many places over a five month period, the camps began
to blend as one in my memory. Typically, we offered our services
to the A-team commander to use us as he saw fit. Mostly that
meant putting on two shows: one for the camp population, the
other for the A-team. The show for the camp was a one hour affair
featuring my Vietnamese songs, which were a big hit, mostly
because of the novelty of seeing an American singing a popular
Vietnamese song. Even the Yards liked it. The Yards liked the
music with a strong jungle beat. Yards especially liked Inna
Godda Da Vida.
One team commander asked us to set up in the nearby Montagnard
village. He provided a portable generator. The curious villagers
quietly watched us set up. We did not tune our instruments,
wanting the first sounds they heard to be our opening. Proud
Mary sent Yards scrambling for the trees. They slowly
emerged and gathered near, wearing big smiles. Yards have a sense
of humor as well as good taste in music.
In the team houses afterwards, we put on a more relaxed and
informal show that often lasted long into the night. After one of
our performances, the enemy could have easily overrun the camp
with little difficulty, as the team was usually stone drunk.
Being the only ones left standing after an all nighter, manning
the important camp defenses fell to the band by index.
Fortunately, we were never tested, and the worst that ever befell
a team was a group hangover the next morning.
Before we began our tour, we speculated as to how the old-timers,
the team sergeants, would take to rock and roll -- "hippie
music." They are a very conservative group, die-hard country
fans. Early in our tour, while playing in a team house bunker, a
grizzled old top sergeant stopped us at the beginning of
Jumpin' Jack Flash. We thought he wanted us to turn the
volume down, but we were as low as the amps would go.
He said, "The night before I left the states, my daughter was
playing that song. I yelled upstairs for her to turn that shit
down. Do me a favor, will ya? Turn that som bitch up all the
On a scale of ten, we were set between one and two. Even
outdoors, we usually set the volume at six. Ten could knock birds
from the sky. We tried to discourage him. He insisted. We cranked
it up and resumed. Sand poured from the steel rafters; bottles
and glasses danced across table tops; the other team members
covered their ears, but the old sarge stood before us with a big
smile. His daughter would have been proud.
When we played the larger, rear-area units, riots broke out from
the drunken revelry as men under long periods of stress let off
steam. Alcohol, firearms, and loud rock music are not the best of
combinations. In the movie, The Blues Brothers, there is a
scene where the band plays a country honkie tonk behind a chicken
wire screen. That scene brought on a Vietnam flashback for me.
Many of our big base shows degenerated into madness as the men
let it all hang out. We played the clubs at just about every big
base. These were goodwill gestures by the SF "C" and "B" team
commanders. Few knew who we were. We were billed simply as "An
American Band." GIs had a hunger for real American band sounds,
played loud and strong. They say music soothes the savage breast;
ours never did. Brawls were common when men of different units
The civilian bands never played under these conditions. Females
(singers, dancers, Go-Go girls and strippers) were almost a
prerequisite for touring bands. The presence of any female
tempered the crowd. Civilian bands were treated as special guests
and security was high. Fights were rare and would stop a show.
With our band -- having no women and being GIs -- security was
almost non-existent. The GIs, the commanders, and the MPs
pretty-much let it all hang out. Fights were common and would not
stop one of our shows. We played through fights. We played
through riots. We even played through incoming. We stopped when
the man in charge told us to stop, which was usually at the point
where firearms might be brought into play.
In Can Tho, the SF sergeant major had to end the show which
pissed off a drunken Sea Bee. He was then tossed out by the
sergeant major. I walked away from my drums and headed for my
bunk to get clear of the chaos. A short while later, the Sea Bees
were in the room next to mine arguing among themselves. I was
about to go find a quiet bunker to sleep in when the sound of a
sub-machine gun firing a long burst came from their room. A
crying wail followed.
I crawled outside and peered over the sandbag wall into their
room. Standing just inside the door was a See Bee with a smoking
grease gun still aimed at a writhing figure on a bottom bunk. The
man on the bunk was the loud mouth from the club. He had six .45
caliber holes in him, but was still alive. I came up behind the
gunman and took hold of the gun. He let it go. I unloaded it as a
medic arrived to see about the wounded man. I don't know what
happened to either of them. I returned to my bunk, and we left
first thing in the morning.
At Kontum, home of CCC recon, a wild brawl and a general club
destroying melee highlighted a stellar performance. At the sister
base in Ban Me Tuot, home of CCS recon, beer was so deep on the
concrete floor it made waves when people walked through it or
fell in it. It was there that Red was almost electrocuted before
the equipment shorted out from all the beer it had absorbed. CCS
was like the bar scene from the Blues Brothers movie,
except without the protective wire cage. Special Forces likes to
We lost Dalton to rotation in June; his time in-country was up. I
was made the NCO in charge for our tour of I Corps. Red proved to
be a competent country western singer, though he was no Dalton
Kast. By the time we got to I Corps, we were the best combat rock
'n' roll / country band in the world.
In the five months that we toured, we saw a side of the war that
few knew. Both sides took a vacation from combat to hear us play
music. I saw Americans, Vietnamese, and Montagnards standing
shoulder to shoulder, smiling, laughing, and clapping, swinging
to the beat of "hippie music." I saw a battle-hardened Green
Beret crying like a baby over some silly song that was probably
playing in the background at some not-so-silly time in his life.
I saw an old Montagnard mouthing the words, "I'm proud to be an
Oakie from Muscogie." When you've seen that,
you've seen it all.
I've heard it said that war is hell, but that was said by a man
who never served in a combat band.
I don't know the details, but Dalton Kast died in 1975. I last
contacted Don Bemis in 1972. He was singing professionally. I
haven't been able to locate Red or Pete. A reunion is in order.
If the Beatles can do it minus one member, so can we.
Don and I returned for another tour with CCC recon at Kontum. We
tried to turn in the band equipment, but nobody would receive it.
The equipment wasn't on any supply system. No one had
responsibility for it, and nobody wanted it in their supply
We took it to Kontum and locked it in a shed. It remained there
while we ran recon. When our time was up, we again tried to turn
the stuff in. We contacted the supply officer in Nha Trang, a man
who knew the band well. He said, "You earned it; take it home. If
you don't, it will go to the Vietnamese."
We divided it and sent it home in our hold baggage. I traded my
half for a 650 BSA chopper and did the Easy Rider scene for a
year. Bemis put his to good use. At least it didn't fall into the
hands of the Communist menace. That would have made the Vietnam
War an even worse tragedy. Thank God that didn't happen along
with everything else.