carried a compact camera in my large trouser pocket. This photo was taken during a lull in a firefight. I tossed the camera to the platoon's machine-gunner, who snapped the photo when I turned to look forward. You can see other troopers from the second platoon in the background.
When Ed Blanco left Brooklyn, New York for a tour with the 101st Airborne, he purchased a leather bound bookkeeper's journal from a local stationery store to use as a diary during the time he would spend in Vietnam. He carried that diary in his fatigue trouser pocket for the entire twelve months he spent in the jungle. Besides listing what he saw and experienced, he kept a record of the names of men from his company who were wounded, and those who were killed in action. Eddie continued to write when he returned from Vietnam. First, he wrote about problems of reentry and the discomfort of re-adjusting to civilian life. Then, he wrote about his return to Vietnam, twenty-one years later, when he began a search to take him to find the place where he and his company fought an all day firefight during the Tet Offensive of 1968.
That battle which was to make an enduring mark on Blanco's life happened in a Vietnamese village on the fringe of Phan Thiet, just southwest of the city's cemetery. The area was moderately populated, and the lives of civilians were lost in the advancement to take the village. Blanco recalls something said by a hardcore grunt, "If you went in there worrying about women and children, you couldn't do your job." (Edward Blanco, 2000) Nonetheless, the occurrences of this day left an imprint on Blanco, a memory he would carry to this day.
As Blanco's platoon opened fire entering the village, peasants became casualities. Hearing crying coming from a nearby hut, Blanco entered to find a dead woman surrounded by hysterical children. Eddie remembers, "The dark anger welling up inside me became suppressed rage." War is never black and white. Pressing on, Viet Cong soldiers are also found among the dead. Seeing the VC seemed to justify the taking of the village.
The pages that follow are Blanco's recollections, as recorded in his diary, and posted on his own website: Pieces: Recollection of a Rifleman. They are used here with Edward Blanco's permission. You can contact him.
Visit Ed Blanco's website to view his picture albums's and to gain access to a number of resources.