Blood On The Risers: An Airborne Soldier's Thirty-five Months In Vietnam by John LeppelmanBlood On The Risers: An Airborne Soldier's Thirty-five Months In Vietnam by John Leppelman

Blood On The Risers: An Airborne Soldier's Thirty-five Months In Vietnam

byJohn Leppelman

Mass Market Paperback | June 2, 1991

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In three straight years he was a paratropper, and army seaman, and a LRRP—and he lived to tell about it. 

As an FNG paratrooper in the 173d Airborne, John Leppelman made that unit's only combat jump in Vietnam. Then he spent months in fruitless search of the enemy, watching as his buddies died because of poor leadership and lousy weapons. Often it seemed the only way out of the carnage in the Central highlands was in a body bag. 

But Leppelman did get out, transferring first to the army's riverboats and then the all-volunteer Rangers, one of the ballsiest units in the war. In three tours of duty, that ended only when malaria forced him back to the States, Leppelman saw the war as few others did, a Vietnam that many American boys didn't live to tell about, but whose valor and sacrifice survive on these pages.
John Leppelman was a paratrooper in the 173rd Airborne, serving three tours of duty in Vietnam. He then wrote about his military service and experiences in Blood on the Risers: An Airborne Soldier’s Thirty-Five Months in Vietnam.
Title:Blood On The Risers: An Airborne Soldier's Thirty-five Months In VietnamFormat:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:368 pages, 6.89 × 4.21 × 0.93 inPublished:June 2, 1991Publisher:Random House Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0804105626

ISBN - 13:9780804105620

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CHAPTER ONE     Vietnam/173d Airborne Brigade   Feb. 1967   The jet came to a halt at the Ton Son Nhut airfield, and we all very quietly listened for the sounds of mortars or artillery. There was nothing but silence, and I was relieved. It was hot inside the aircraft as we waited. When the doors in front of the plane were finally opened we started standing up. Almost immediately a young black air force NCO stepped on board and yelled “Yo’ll set down.”   We did as ordered, and he asked officers and senior NCOs to step forward. They did and were directed down the steps leading to the tarmac. Then we were ordered out, row by row. As I was in the rear, it seemed to take forever, and when I finally made it to the door, the sunlight was so blinding that my hand automatically shot up to protect my eyes. Good Lord, I had thought it was hot in the plane; it was unbelievable outside. Every pore in my body acted as if someone had opened a valve marked “sweat.” We stood in formation as several air force personnel called out our names to make sure no one had jumped ship. At one point Leyva said to no one in particular, “What is that smell?” The area did reek of some awful odor.   After the roll call, we were marched across the field to a large shed. As we neared the shed, we noticed a deuce-and-a-half (2.5 ton truck) with several men standing around it. In the rear of the truck five body bags with dead GIs waited to catch the same flight home. One of the men near the truck yelled, “Hey, cherries, this what you gonna look like if you fuck up!”   Croxdale quickly whispered to a group of us to sing the Airborne hymn, so we all yelled “Him … Him … Fuck … Him.” It was funny, and it helped us mentally as we were on unsure ground and didn’t know what to expect next. Once under the roof of the huge shed, we dropped our duffel bags, dropped our butts on the bags, and lit up. It was hotter than any weather I’d ever experienced, and most of us were bitching about the intense heat as well as the stink that seemed to be everywhere. Red dust hung in the air, and everyone had it on their boots and clothing. Vehicles in the area were coated with it. We got a lot of stares from small groups of men as they walked by on their way to God only knew. The men looked tired as they shuffled slowly through the heat, but some of them had the energy to yell insults like “Hey, cherries, welcome to the Nam.” A cherry was someone who had not seen combat firsthand. Surprisingly, we had the good sense to keep our mouths shut. We sat in the shade, smoking and waiting for someone to tell us what to do.   Further out across the airfield, we could see bunkers that were manned by armed personnel, but they looked as bored as we were.   After we had spent a couple of hours of talking and dozing off, about twenty buses arrived.   They looked just like school buses, but they were painted “OD” (olive drab) and had wire grilles welded over every window. We were lined up into groups, and then we boarded the buses. Most of us fought to get window seats, hoping we would get some fresh air and get to see close up whatever country we were to pass through. Croxdale and I grabbed a seat together while Cardoza, Brown, and the others settled in around us. Once we were seated, the bus driver yelled to get our attention and told us that we were going to the 90th Replacement Battalion where we would be assigned to units. He told us to keep our voices down so he could watch the road as he drove us to Long Binh.   As we left the airfield, the bus went through part of the town of Bien Hoa. I was amazed at the number of bars, restaurants, and other small businesses. The roads were crowded with all types of vehicles, including hundreds of Hondas and other types of motorcycle. There seemed to be no right-of-way, and it was every driver for himself. At one point, the bus swerved out of the way of a girl riding a bicycle and then the driver jammed on the brakes to avoid running over a half-naked Vietnamese kid.   “Hey look at that,” someone yelled from the rear of the bus.   We craned our necks to see what he was pointing at. It was a Vietnamese woman with her pants down urinating in the gutter.   We all started laughing and hooting, but she never blinked. This is really a foreign country, I thought as I watched Vietnamese people on the walks stare at our bus convoy. Many of the looks were not friendly, and I wondered how many of the people were actually Vietcong. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why the wire was welded over the windows. The brass had obviously wanted to keep foreign objects such as grenades from finding their way into new groups of fresh meat.   The Vietnamese themselves were very small, and many of them wore funny-looking conical hats. They were dressed in black or white pants with a long-sleeved, silk shirt to match.   After we arrived at the 90th “Repo Depo,” we were broken into groups, our money was taken from us, and we were issued MPCs (military payment certificates) scrip, which looked like Monopoly money. Most of us didn’t like parting with our American greenbacks. Then we were pointed to a large group of tents and told to find a vacant bunk (really just a cot). The sides of the tent we moved into were rolled up, allowing minimal air movement and maximum dusting. By this time red powdered dust had covered everything, including us. Along the sides of the tents rows of sandbags had been stacked to a height of about five feet to provide some cover if mortars or rockets dropped on us.   After dropping off our gear, Cardoza and I and a group of the rest went off to explore the tent city. There were only a couple of wood-framed buildings in the area. We wandered around the camp in a small group and checked out the perimeter where bunkers and some towers were positioned. The bunkers were occupied by two or three men, and each bunker had an M-60 or .50 caliber machine gun as well as several M-16 rifles. Beyond the perimeter was a cleared area, offering a field of fire for the bunkers. Beyond the cleared area was a brush and tree line that was home to the enemy.   Loudspeakers suddenly blared and ordered group number four to report for formation. “That’s us,” Leyva said, and we headed toward the large group of men that was assembling.   Once we were in formation, the latrines were pointed out as well as the mess hall. We were directed to go to lunch and then to hang around our tents and wait for further orders via the loudspeakers.   The mess hall was one of the only frame buildings in the area, and it had real screen windows. We lined up in a long line facing the mess hall and stood around smoking and talking as the line slowly inched forward. There were probably three hundred men in the line, and I was right in the middle.   A sergeant at the entrance was keeping tabs on men. When five finished eating, he allowed five more in. We figured it would take an hour or more just to get to the door. It was so hot that my mind was blanking out, and I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I was miserable, debating with myself whether standing out in the sun was worth whatever was for lunch.   Approximately twenty minutes had passed, and the line had moved very little, when all hell broke loose around me. Men in front of me and behind were running in all directions, yelling and screaming. Then the perimeter to my left opened up with automatic weapons. After looking left and right, I sprinted toward the mess hall. As though in slow motion, my mind took in a man lying on the ground in a pool of blood, yelling for help as I ran past him and on to the mess hall door. When I got to the door, I found a few others who had taken the opportunity to move from the rear of the line to the new front. The sergeant was leaning against the building, looking at us with a big grin on his face. He asked me why I hadn’t stopped and helped that poor bastard who was still lying in his own blood, yelling. I still didn’t know what was happening and told him so. His reply was, “She-it, troop. That mothafucka done got sniped.” A sniper outside the perimeter had earned his pay by shooting a poor guy who had just arrived in-country. It didn’t occur to me at the time that any one of us could have been shot. I was too preoccupied just trying to keep track of what was happening.   Eventually our perimeter got quiet, and a couple of men with a stretcher came and picked up the wounded man. The line slowly reformed, and I noticed my hand was shaking slightly as I lit a cigarette. Thinking how we had all scattered like a covey of quail, I wasn’t too proud at the time, but didn’t know what I could have done.   After a few minutes, five of us were allowed into the mess hall to have one of the very worst meals I’ve ever encountered anywhere. The milk was powdered and looked like white slime, while the little hamburger patty thing was not even cooked through. We sat at wooden tables lined up on wooden benches and tried to force down the slop on our trays. There were large bowls of Kool-Aid on the tables, and in each bowl were at least a dozen dead flies floating on their backs.