A veteran of the 173rd Airborne Brigade writes about what Ukraine can learn from his former unit
A severed ear on a necklace and a bloody machete are depicted in the upper left hand corner of the billboard. They are not drawn to scale. Next to the ear is “Sorry ‘Bout That,” which was G.I. slang used to mock the misfortunes of others. Below that is “All the Way Sir,” which clearly signals that the depicted activity was sanctioned by the officers as was the erection of this billboard.I was a rifleman in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and in the second battalion and in “Charger” Company. I was there from about the Spring of 1965 to the Spring of 1966. I don’t remember seeing this billboard, and even if I had, I wouldn’t have thought it noteworthy at the time. We took ears and even a few heads. It was common, and it was common knowledge that we did so at all levels of our brigade. Just for the record, I bet ranking officers at the brigade level also took ears.
What I want to focus on is that this billboard was large and clearly visible to all. What’s more, Camp Zinn was a sort of “Show Case” firebase because of its proximity to Saigon. Visiting dignitaries, both civilian and military, were common. We were visited by playboy bunnies, Hollywood celebrities, politicians, and members of the press.
Do you recall the scene in the movie Apocalypse Now when the G.I.s rushed the stage with the playboy bunnies on it? Well, such an event actually did occur, and it happened to the visiting playboy bunnies while I was with the 173rd. The troubled officer Capt. Willard of the same movie is clearly identified as a 173rd veteran by the 173rd unit patch on his right shoulder.
In addition to mutilating corpses, we also burnt down houses; I Zippoed up a few myself. We also commonly shot livestock, from chicken size up to waterbuffalo. Anecdotal evidence also credits a Vietnam-era 173rd paratrooper with the unofficial record number of ears on a necklace: 17. Also worthy of noting is the fact that many West Point graduates sought postings to the 173rd Airborne because its fierce reputation enhanced their promotion prospects. We were a showcase unit heavily infused with West Point officers. And what did we do? We started committing atrocities almost from the day we arrived in Vietnam, then bragged about it publicly via this billboard.
Nowadays, the 173rd has been sent to the Ukraine for the stated purpose of “training” Ukrainian troops. Gosh, I didn’t know that those Punisher battalions needed any instructions in mutilating bodies, torching homes, smashing property, popping stimulant pills, and looting. Judging from the videos I’ve seen on Youtube, those frisky Right Sector fellas are up to speed on all those activities.
And last, but still worthy of note to any Rooskies, this is a “Jody Chant” that we aspiring paratroopers ran and marched to during paratrooper training at Ft. Benning, Georgia, back in 1964:
If I die on the Russian Front
Bury me with a Russian cunt
Pin my wings upon my chest
And tell my mom I did my best
Tom Chittum was a member of the 173rd Airborne in Vietnam. He is a retired computer programmer and author of "Civil War Two: The Coming Breakup of America", published by America First Books. His works have also been translated into Russian.