Veteran Salute: Member of Big Red One recalls Vietnam

Veteran Salute

A Wellington veteran volunteered for service during Vietnam.

Doug Smith thought he would be in the service for about two years, but he ended up retiring as a Captain.

Smith says he figured out quickly how much he truly loved the Army and flying!

He flew dozens of missions in Vietnam, where he delivered supplies, fought the enemy and flew those who were wounded or lost their lives on the battlefield.

“Most war stories, when you are talking to vets, start out with this is no ‘S’ and there is three letters after it,” Vietnam Veteran Captain Doug Smith said.

Smith has a few of those stories and also very fond memories of his time preparing the next generation of Army officers.

He shared one message that was written by one of the platoons he trained.

“With a smile spread across your face, and we knew that we were about to face living hell, for the next 25 weeks, as you molded us into the officers that meet your standards, which were higher than those of the Army,” Smith said.

Even his drop bunny, as in ‘drop and give me twenty’ made the pages of the annual.

The greeting also wished the officer good flying, as Smith was preparing to go to flight school.

“When I was in basic training, you know the cadence songs, I want to be an airborne Ranger, I want to live the life of danger was engrained in me,” Smith said.
In Ranger school, Smith figured out while airborne was fun, the landings were not.

“I got into my parachute landing fall, my feet hit a scrub Oak that was six feet in the air, that absorbed most of the energy, I landed on my head, that was God telling me don’t do it anymore,” Smith said.

What Smith did do, was deploy.

“Vietnam, that’s what I wore,” Smith said. 

He was a member of the Big Red One, as the first infantry division to head to Vietnam.

“I took it to heart, and I did the best job I could do,” Smith said.

He vividly remembered being shot at, and many close calls with the enemy.

“Harvey has got a lap full of hand grenades, and we take off and he’s throwing hand grenades, three at a time in each pass and we are having a great time,” Smith said.

That was until ‘Ghost Rider Six’ made the third pass…

“…pulls the pin, flips the handle, drops a hand grenade on the floor of the Loach. There it is and it is rolling toward the pedals,” Smith said.

He said he managed to get the helicopter shifted enough that they were able to kick the grenade out.

“I told Harvey when we landed, I said you don’t tell anyone and I won’t tell anyone,” Smith said.

Smith still has one of Harvey’s pins, as weeks later Harvey would be killed, just like so many others during Vietnam.

Some of Smith’s missions were to fly those who lost their lives in battle.

“I looked over my shoulder, and I saw the horror, in those guys face. I’d never seen so much blood in my life,” Smith said.

He saw so much from above, as he logged more than 1,000 hours in a Loach, never taking for granted what he signed up to do and the stories he would live to tell.

“Excluding family get togethers, Vietnam was the best year of my life,” Smith said.

The 1st infantry division has a museum in Chicago and Smith was recently chosen as one of 6 to share his story, or stories, from Vietnam.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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