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Lieutenant William H. Bassett

"7 weeks after I left Vietnam, the place I had set up camp in got overrun by the N.V.A. One of my friends even had to play dead, while the soldiers walked over his body"

My name is William H. Bassett, and I was a Lieutenant in the US Army during Vietnam.  There was a tradition of serving in the army - my dad and my uncles served in WW2 . I was in the ROTC at UCLA and could have gone to grad school if I wanted. I was expecting a short 2 year gap between my undergrad and my postgrad, however this was when the war started in 1965 and I was drafted. Military life was a huge change; I was put into a situation where I could not choose my own destiny, and I really disliked that. I served in Vietnam from September 1966-September 1967. Ethically, Vietnam was not a good war. The Vietnamese had been fighting for a long time - against the Chinese, the French.There were plenty of stressful memories; it was very dangerous and we were always exposed to risk no matter what we were doing. I commanded an amphibious boat company. 60 men and 10 vessels. The problem in Vietnam was that you could be shot anywhere as there were no frontlines. I was deployed at Vung-ro Bay in the middle of Vietnam. It was all jungle with a small beach. We built our own hooches, or tents/log cabins. The danger was that we could have been attacked at any time; we got mortared a couple of times. I was responsible for supplying the front line. For every rifle person on the front line, there were 7 soldiers behind him to escort him. Food men, nurses and doctors, etc. I offloaded men off the vessels and took materials inland to trucks so that they could be transported . 6-7 months into my tour, I learned that there were protests going on against the war in the US and I didn’t like that.  When the Tet Offensive happened in 1968, it showed the audience at home that the US may have not been winning the war as was commonly believed, which sparked even more controversy. The public did not support us and the policies we were fighting under. Because of this, I did not share my story for over 25 years, which was not a healthy thing to do. It was after the First Gulf War that the public decided to separate the policy from the men serving. When that happened, the veterans felt free to start sharing their stories. War is not something I recommend; it is chaotic, unpredictable. Some call it “diplomacy by other means.” War should be avoided if it can, but a military should be preserved. Military service is wonderful. It is important to take part in serving our country. However, we also have to consider the morality of what we are doing. Looking back on my military experience, there were certainly stressful memories, but I am proud of what I did. 7 weeks after I left Vietnam, the place I had set up camp in got overrun by the N.V.A. One of my friends even had to play dead, while the soldiers walked over his body! I commanded a group of men, and we didn’t lose anyone; one of them even got a Purple Heart. We ended up having very close brother-like relationships. I am proud that I took care of all my men, and I have no regrets.

Lieutenant Bassett, pictured with his developing camp in the background


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