John Wylie Othic (1946 – )

US Army, 1964-1967 – 69th Engineers Battalion

After high school graduation I couldn’t find a decent job because of my age (17.) So I joined the Army. The only problem was I didn’t weigh enough. I needed to be 117 pounds. So an Army recruiter took me aside and said, “Hey, wait here. I’ll be back.” He came back with a bunch of bananas. He led me over to the water fountain and told me to eat as many bananas and drink as much water as I could. I did and weighed in at 117 pounds. I thought about that a lot during my stint in the Army. My first duty station was in Germany. I was a heavy equipment mechanic, but I usually drove gasoline trucks. Then from Germany I went to Ft Hood, TX, on my way to Vietnam.

My Vietnam experience started in California. We went from Ft Hood, TX to Oakland, CA by troop train. At each railroad crossing there were people protesting the war. At one crossing we stopped right in the crossing with about 50 protestors begging us to jump off and go with them. Of course no one did and as the train pulled out they ran along side screaming “I hope they kill you.”

After a couple of months in country my platoon leader and I had a difference of opinion which resulted in me being sent out in the field assigned to the Australian army. Our job was to clear the jungle away from villages and roads with bulldozers. The military knew that the Tet Offensive was coming and they were trying to prepare for it.

After I got back to my unit we moved up river to as place called Can Tho. It turned out to be a hot spot after I left. At the end of my duty I went to Saigon and left on a plane with a tired body and a head full of memories.

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