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Friday, April 08, 2005

“Behind the Badge”

"Behind the Badge"

by Kelsey Baeth
   Grade 12, Fairfield High School

Some of the most interesting things I heard in the interview were said after we quit asking questions. When we let Sheriff Anderson talk about whatever he wanted to, he explained some of his war situations and the conditions that he lived under for seventeen months.  He told of his battles and his near death experiences.  These are just a few of the most exciting or interesting parts of the interview. 
George Anderson volunteered to go to war.  He grew up in a military family and lived on a base his whole life.  His father even served in Vietnam at the same time that he did.  George enjoyed writing home as often as he could.  He would write his mom almost everyday.  He also wrote his girlfriend, who is now his wife, almost every day.  He even got to see his father a few times while they were in Vietnam together.  They were not stationed at the same base, but his father would occasionally fly into Tonsinute, where George was stationed, for meetings. 
Georgeís job was to defend the perimeter of the base where he was stationed.  An interesting point was the weather.  We were told that it was so hot in Vietnam that if a person were to stand on the asphalt for a period of time, he would leave footprints where he was standing.  It was so hot that their feet would sink right into the asphalt.  He told us about the Vietnamese people and how the soldiers fed their C rations to the families.  One C ration of rice would feed an entire Vietnamese family for one whole day.  The Vietnamese were also very short compared to the American soldiers.  George stated that they made you feel like the Jolly Green Giant. 
The most exciting and interesting stories were about the battles he was in.  He was crew chief of an armored personnel carrier (APC) that contained a lot of guns and ammunition.  His unit would patrol the perimeter of the base.  George stated that they would occasionally exchange fire with the Viet Cong, but, for the most part, nothing too exciting happened.  They would often sleep out on the perimeter in fox holes and would store their guns and ammunition in a big aluminum casket on a truck.  One day the Viet Cong hit the base hard.  The men were supposed to jump on a truck and head to a specific area when they heard the siren go off.  They knew that this was not a practice because they didnít see the explosions and tracers going off.  Everything was happening in front of them.  As they drove to their designated spot, there were all sorts of bombs and rockets flying everywhere.  They couldnít see anything besides the explosions or hear anything but the shooting.  The unit ended up in a previously dug trench for about four or five days.  George was the only guys out of thirty-two who had a machine gun to help protect them.  There were helicopters and jets flying overhead that were firing at the Viet Cong, trying to give support to the men on the ground. 
Georgeís unit had to try to help a Quick Reaction Team that was farther down the road, and while driving, they began to receive small arms fire.  They unloaded from the truck and jumped into a ditch that looked like it had water in it.  In reality, it was an open sewer, but the men didnít even notice the smell. 
By dawn, a unit located twenty-five miles away was on its way to the base to help George and his unit.  Out of twenty-five tanks and armored personnel carriers, only four made it onto the base.  Those four armored personnel carriers were then destroyed inside the perimeter of the base, and all the people on them were killed. Georgeís unit finally got support, and he said it felt pretty good to see the tanks come up behind them.  Once the help arrived, they were able to eat and get some water.  They eventually gained control of their position and drove to the section of the perimeter where the main attack had been most successful.  They came over a hill and saw bodies everywhere.  Buildings had been blown up and everything was destroyed.  There was a man in a tower that was trying to point out where movement was and others that were trying to find if the men on the ground were friendly troops or not.  It was all just a confusing mess.  George stated that the reason the Viet Cong got through the gate at that section of the perimeter was because the men that were guarding the gate just left.  They disappeared and no one ever heard where they went or why they left. 
There were only five men that were fighting on that end of the perimeter.  Four of them were killed and the fifth man was in a tower.  He directed air strikes, artillery strikes and machine gun fire for the people that finally showed up to help him.  He could not shoot, and after two days, no one knew if he was alive because the batteries in his radio died.  Once everything calmed down and the area was secured, they found that he was still alive. He was awarded the Silver Star for his achievements. 
Once everything was calm again and, for the most part, secured, certain troops had to begin cleaning up the bodies that were lying all over the perimeter.  George tried to explain what these bodies looked like.  He said they looked like black people, but they werenít.  They looked like a hot dog cooked over an open fire that got too hot and split, exposing the red meat on the inside.  In one hundred degree weather, the smell was horrible.  Georgeís unit had to stay at this location for several months.  They didnít get to shower or change their clothes for a month or two.  The men found it easier to smell their own armpits than the stench of the bodies.  Sometimes the smell would start to disappear, but then the men would pick up a piece of a blown up building that would have body parts underneath it, and the smell would become strong again. 
The main attack was handled in about five or six days, but they were under attack for about six months.  They had to sleep in trenches out on the perimeter, and they would have rockets launched at them all through the night.  But George stated that when it was your turn to sleep, you did.  You didnít even wake up when the rockets were landing all around you.  The unit spent the next few months siting in fifty-caliber machine guns.  Sheriff Anderson said that he developed an expertise in handling the big machine guns.
One of the most poignant experiences that he shared was the time that he was most aware of almost dying.  The Viet Cong began firing rockets in his direction, and he was supposed to get on his truck and go through a certain number of procedures.  However, they began firing at him as soon as he put one foot on the tire of the truck to pull himself up. A rocket landed right in front of his truck, then more rockets proceeded in a line away from the back end of his truck.  He was blown off the truck, or he jumped off, he wasnít sure which one it was, but he landed safely on the ground.  He then decided to change his procedure a little bit; he would now wait until the rockets hit the ground before he climbed onto the truck.
He also remembered a battle that he got to sit back and watch unfold in front of him.  He was located further back in the perimeter, and the Viet Cong never made it that far in.  The things George recalled most clearly were the planes that shot the bigger guns that could shoot six thousand rounds per minute.  He said shots looked like a solid red streak from the plane to the ground.  The streak appeared to move back and forth in the air like a hose spraying water due to the movement of the airplanes. 
Overall, Sheriff Anderson is very proud of his service in Vietnam.  He also has respect for the people who are fighting now in Iraq.  He completely supports the troops in Iraq and feels they deserve to be praised and have the big homecomings that they do today.  He feels that a lot of people died in Vietnam for no reason and he does not want to repeat that same mistake today.
Sheriff Anderson didnít have a big homecoming.  They didnít speak of being in Vietnam because they were not supported in the United States.  I, personally, didnít know what war was like until I did this interview.  I think it is so amazing what these people did then and still do today for our country so that we can all live in peace.

_______________________________
Veteran's Data

Name of Veteran: Sheriff George Anderson
Date of Birth: 7/02/1946  Place of Birth: 
Date of Induction: 11/1967  Branch of Service: Air Force  Rank at Discharge: 
Location of Interview: Fairfield High School
Interviewed by: Ashlie McInerney

Posted by kari_patterson on 04/08 at 01:04 PM
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