What Battlefield?

In yesterday’s post on aloneness, I mentioned supporting troops on the battlefield. That led one reader to ask what battlefield and what did I do. I’ve written about that subject here before, but I’ll risk repeating myself to answer the question.

The battlefields I can talk about are those in Vietnam. But after the fall of Saigon in 1975, I went on assisting troops elsewhere in the world until I retired in 1991. Where and who is still classified, so I can’t discuss it. What’s not classified is the seven languages I was comfortable in: Vietnamese, Chinese, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Latin. One is free to speculate on where and with whom I might have used those languages.

What I did during combat on the battlefield was to assist friendly troops with signals intelligence against the enemy. That meant using information derived from the intercept and exploitation of the enemy’s radio communications to advise the friendlies on where the enemy was, what he was doing, what his troop strength and weaponry were, and what his plans were.

To do my job, I had to be on the battlefield in the middle of combat. I spent more time on the battlefields of Vietnam than I did anywhere else in the world simply because I was in Vietnam so long—between 1962 and 1975, when Saigon fell and I escaped under fire, I spent more time in Vietnam than I did in the U.S. The miracle is that I was never wounded in combat, even though men next to me were killed in ways too ghastly to describe. I ended up with a roaring case of Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) that I will have to contend with as long as I live.

More next time.

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