SALINA, Kan. (KSNW) — Former Corporal Ed Robbins was assigned to the 3rd Marine Division, 26th Marines, initially deployed to Danang during Vietnam.
“They told us at that time that no one was going to have any of the careers that they wanted to go into — that everybody was going to go to Vietnam, going to be a rifleman. I said, ‘OK,'” Robbins said.
With his M-79 grenade launcher at the ready, Robbins went to work guarding the base in preparation for what lay ahead.
“We were guarding artillery base for thirty days, and if we weren’t doing the guard duty, we got our platoon would go out in the field and sweep the area,” Robbins said.
After one month in Danang, Robbins and his unit were taken to an aircraft carrier off the coast of Vietnam.
“They shipped us in by Chinooks to wherever they knew the NVA was,” Robbins said.
Robbins and his unit swept through remote areas and villages for weeks at a time as they worked their way back to the landing zone.
“This is something that was just drilled into you — when you’re in ‘Nam, you were watching everywhere for movement,” Robbins said.
The first five operations Robbins was a part of lasted anywhere between two to four weeks at a time.
“You never knew when you were going to get attacked at night,” Robbins said. “That was, that was probably the most scariest part because it was pretty dark out there, and all you see are these tracer rounds coming at you.”
During his sixth and final operation, Robbins and his unit were ambushed.
“We had to go across the rice patty to get to the other side of the paddy where they were shooting at us,” Robbins said, “A lot of guys didn’t make it across the paddy.”
Robbins eventually made it to the other side, but when he got there, he heard the crack of an AK-47 above him.
“Started to shoot some rounds into where I thought [the] guy was coming from because it was too close to throw a hand grenade or anything,” Robbins said.
Moments later, three rounds fired toward Robbins ricocheted off his armor, piercing through his right arm.
“I think, you know, I complained all the time about having to wear this big heavy flak jacket that they issued us, and I think that was the only thing that saved me from being in a body bag,” Robbins said.
Just 24 hours after he was wounded, Robbins received his Purple Heart.
“I was alive — that’s the only thing that really mattered at the time,” Robbins said.
After spending 30 days in a hospital in Yokosuka, Japan, Robbins was transferred to the Great Lakes Naval Hospital.
“I was just hoping I could keep the arm — I was just hoping they didn’t have to amputate it,” Robbins said.
There, Robbins would spend an additional nine months — undergoing four different surgeries to save his arm.
While Robbins never regained the full use of his arm, he says he’s grateful for the medical staff who saved his arm and his life.
“I think about it every day … how lucky I was to make it back,” Robbins said.
Of the 300 men in his company, 90 were killed during the ambush that day.
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