Veterans' Voices: Getting Caught In Combat In Vietnam
In Vietnam, the war was fought in the air, in the jungle, and in tunnels. Some soldiers were assigned to administrative duties, and they too were caught up in combat. Army veteran Norm Schrein of Kettering remembers his year in Vietnam.
Norman Schrein: Well, so I was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1946, and then our family moved down here when I was nine months old. So, the rest of my childhood growing up was growing up in the Dayton, Ohio area. I went to Wright State University, which is right here in Dayton, and I went to the very first semester that university ever had. Eventually, I was placed on academic probation, and when that happened, the Army thought that I was a good candidate. I decided that I didn't want to take my chances on what the Army might pick for me to do. Again, we were in the Vietnam era, you know, a lot of people being killed. I didn't have a desire to be one of those statistics. So, I went down and I was able to enlist in the Army, which means that I would be in there for three years. But I could pick what I wanted to do. I thought the easiest job, because I could type well, would be a personnel specialist. So that's how I joined the Army, as a personnel specialist.
I arrived in Vietnam during the very first Tet Offensive, I flew into Cam Ranh Bay. From Cam Ranh Bay, I did a little hopscotch on his little transport planes ahead to Danang, which is where I spent the remainder of my time in Vietnam. Even though we weren't on the front lines, it didn't make any difference because the Danang airbase was right across the street from us. So, we would get these rocket attacks coming in and they would have the sirens going off to warn us. You know, most of time we could get out and in a bunker while the rockets were going on. Sometimes they were shooting mortars at us. It hit close enough that you could hear the dirt hitting the roof and I remember laying on that concrete floor under my bunk. You can hear a couple of guys crying, you know, “Save me.” Nobody was injured, but the guys were scared. Okay. Before I got there, they had one actually went through a roof of one of the barracks and killed several guys there. So had that or had guys had a guy stand outside my window who was really stressed out and committed suicide outside my window with his M14 rifle, and I was able to sleep right through it. I never heard it.
The tour in Vietnam was supposed to be a year. I think mine was maybe a couple weeks short of a full year. So, I left Danang and flew back down to Cam Ranh Bay, basically hung around there for a couple of days until we had a flight back to the U.S. They gave us brand new uniforms. Even though we were leaving the Army, we have a brand new suit and tie and coat and what not, with all the badges and whatever we had earned. They gave orders to put us on a plane to send us home. So, they put us on this big plane. I don’t know what it was, it wasn't a 747, but it was a big plane, and it was a commercial plane. So, we all got onboard the plane. And one thing I remember is after that plane left the runway and the wheels were up, you hear this big cheer come up from all the guys on the plane.
Army veteran Norm Schrein shared his story at WYSO as part of StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative which visited the Miami Valley last summer. Veterans’ Voices on WYSO is presented by Wright-Patt Credit Union with additional support from CareSource. This story was edited by Tony Holloway and Will Davis and created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.