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Collection Michael W. Aird
WVM ID Number OH 1138
Object Name Oral History
Title Oral History Interview with Michael Aird
Date 2007
Event Vietnam War
Narrator's Name Michael Aird
Interviewer's Name Jim Kurtz
Description In this oral history interview, Michael W. Aird, an Antigo, Wisconsin native, discusses his Army service in reconnaissance platoons of the 101st Airborne Division during the Vietnam War.

Aird talks about his family's military history during World War II, his awareness of the Cold War as a teenager, and a lack of discussion about the Vietnam War amongst his peers. After a year at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he recalls his surprise at receiving a draft notice the day before classes started. Aird touches on basic training at Fort Campbell (Kentucky), infantry training at Fort Lewis (Washington), finding his training inadequate in retrospect, and, during a two-week furlough before deployment, attending the funeral of a friend who had been killed in action. He recalls flying overseas on a commercial airplane and, due to engine troubles, being diverted from landing at Okinawa, where his uncle had been prepared to take him off the flight for a year of temporary duty in Japan. Aird speaks of his impressions upon arriving at the replacement depot in Vietnam and his reaction to assignment with the 101st Airborne Division.

Assigned to the 506st Regiment, 1st Battalion, C Company at Fire Base Currahee (A Shau Valley), he details going on a long introductory patrol in the mountains, adapting to the steep terrain and high humidity, and walking point despite having broken both his pairs of eyeglasses. Aird discusses building a fire base on Hamburger Hill (Hill 937) and hearing in his first letter from home that his grandmother had died. Aird tells of pulling rear security during the night movement out, getting temporarily separated from everyone when he fell into a bunker, and going four days without food because rainy weather prevented air support. Sent back to Hill 996, he talks about being pinned by machine gun fire, witnessing a soldier shoot his own toe off, having difficulty seeing the enemy because he hadn't gotten replacement eyeglasses, and being one of nine men remaining out of his thirty-five man platoon. Aird states the remnants of his platoon were formed into a reconnaissance team and air dropped into enemy territory at night. After spending four days right next to a North Vietnamese Army (NVA) bunker complex, he describes being discovered by the enemy, taking charge of the retreat after an incompetent response by his commanding officer, and getting wounded by a ricocheted bullet. He explains he arrived at a hospital in Da Nang during a power failure, so he was sent to the hospital ship Repose.

Aird describes his recovery, receiving painful treatment for an old Achilles heel injury, and eventually getting sent back to his unit because the Navy personnel didn't know what else to do with him. He reports he was so angry after sixteen hours of KP duty in the rear that he volunteered to go back to the field with his company, where he convinced the medic to remove some imbedded shrapnel that was rubbing against his rucksack. Aird discusses a month of covering the withdrawal of the 3rd Marine Division around Khe Sanh and "the Rockpile," falling off of a mountain ledge, discovering a cache of NVA supplies, and hearing that a prisoner he had helped capture had "fallen out" of the helicopter.

Voluntarily transferred to a reconnaissance platoon in E Company, he evaluates the quality of his officers and the differences between being in infantry and recon platoons. Aird comments on doing Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols, training to rappel down a rope ladder from a helicopter, tiger hunting, and scouting for NVA activity around Fire Bases Ripcord, Granite, and Catherine. Aird touches on water supply in the field, having health problems he suspects are related to Agent Orange, and a lack of recreational opportunities. He explains how the company clerk helped get him an under-the-table leave to Bangkok and, shortly after returning, getting his official R&R to Bangkok. Aird reveals why D Company was nicknamed "The Dying Deltas" and relates seeing the destruction of a helicopter he had almost been on at a landing zone supposedly secured by D Company. Aird details a mission during which he reflexively shot a wounded NVA soldier rather than take him prisoner and another mission when Aird looked a soldier in the eye from eight feet away as Aird shot him from ambush. Aird recalls "getting pretty weird" near the end of his tour, telling off a commanding officer for wanting to redistribute ammunition, and refusing to go back into the field when he had only thirty-five days left. He talks about escorting prisoners from Charlie Company to a court martial in Saigon and, on the way back, running into another soldier from Antigo (Wisconsin).

Aird details nearly being arrested when he refused to get off a full plane heading to the States and being saved by an airline stewardess who let him sit in her seat. He discusses his homecoming, having deteriorated communication skills, and being assigned to the battalion S2 at Fort Carson (Colorado), where he felt unqualified for the office work he was put in charge of. After attending an NCO refresher course, Aird states he had nothing to do for his last six months. He touches on having zero interest in reenlisting, joining Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and getting into brawls at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point because "people were lining up to give you a hard time."
Extent and Medium of Description Analog audio recording: 2 audio cassette (approx. 2 hours)
Transcript: 43 pgs.
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Biographical Record Aird, Michael W.
Search Terms Vietnam War