Monday, April 25, 2016

Vietnam Veteran Remembers Nong Son Mountain

Vietnam Veteran Considered Guardian Angel 
Rutgers University 
By Robin Lally 
Monday, April 25, 2016
A War Memory

One incident of the war that will always be seared in Taylor’s memory: A lieutenant ordering the troops to fire on a low hill at the enemy. The round came in short, hit directly behind Taylor, killed his assistant gunner and wounded four others. A few months later, the same officer ordered Taylor to fire artillery through what he considered to be friendly villages. Taylor refused. “It was all about morality,” said Taylor who faced being court-martialed for disregarding the order of an officer and cancelling the mission. “It was something I knew I shouldn’t do and that’s all there was to it.”
Photo: Courtesy of Ray Taylor Ray Taylor in Vietnam in 1967.

“I found out many years later that if we hadn’t fired the artillery when we did nobody would have survived the attack,” said Taylor, who was with Bravo Company 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division. Of the 62 troops atop Nong Son, 43 were wounded, 13 were killed and only 12 – including Kuchar – could walk.
It was Ray Taylor’s last patrol in Vietnam, just before midnight on July 3, 1967. The 21-year-old Marine sergeant should have been sleeping, but he was going home in a couple of weeks and felt a little wired.

About a mile and a half away on top of the Nong Son Mountain – the site of the only active coal mine in Vietnam – Marine Corporal John Kuchar was asleep in his bunker when he became involved in the bloodiest battle of his 13-month tour.

Kuchar credits Taylor, a Rutgers University-Newark alumnus, for saving his life. Taylor is among the thousands of Rutgers graduates who have served – and sometimes died – in American military conflicts throughout the university’s nearly 250-year history. He has recorded his experiences as part of the Rutgers Oral History Archives, home to one of the nation’s largest collections of personal accounts.

“If it wasn’t for Ray, I wouldn’t be here,” said Kuchar, a Marine in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Division, and a buddy for almost 50 years, who met Taylor in 1968 after the two had left Vietnam and enrolled in Union County College. “I’ll always consider him to be my guardian angel.”

Taylor, who graduated from Rutgers University-Newark in 1971 with a degree in economics, arrived in Vietnam on June 14, 1966 after serving one tour in Guantanamo Bay. His jobs ranged from a machine-gunner, scout and sniper, to commander of the recon platoon and liaison at the division headquarters.

On the night of the attack at the mine, Taylor and another Marine in his reconnaissance platoon were sitting on top of an observation hill located on the other side of the Song Thu Bon River. Recon’s job is to be the eyes and ears of larger units, to find the bad guys before sending in the infantry, and going on to their next patrol.
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