TRIBUTE TO LARRY FODGE

 

 

To those in Company D that may remember Larry Fodge,

I received an e-mail from Larry Wayne Fodge  announcing that his father had passed away.  I'm not sure how he came to contact me (he never explained) but I am grateful to know Larry's final destiny.  I sent the following information from my diary to his family, and I would like to share it with those in Company D who might have known him.

Larry was my RTO (radio man) from the time I became platoon leader of 1st  Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion 7th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile) on 17 February 1969 until he was medivaced as the result of a shrapnel wound on 28 March 1969. Being a rifle platoon leader's RTO had to be one of the most responsible, difficult, and dangerous jobs in Vietnam.  

To carry a twenty pound load of a PRC 25 radio with handset, antenna and a large and heavy battery with a spare in his ruck sack, in addition to the normal fifty to seventy pound load of a grunt rifleman, was hard work. When the platoon made contact with the enemy the RTO was always a priority target, especially if he was standing next to the platoon leader.  Larry was an excellent RTO. I could count on him to keep me in touch with command, fire support, air transport or any other network element I needed to monitor or contact. He anticipated my radio communications needs and was always at my side when I needed him.  He relayed my instructions and messages with accuracy and authority. He took care of much of the platoon's radio communications traffic.  Larry was conscientious about maintaining his radio equipment and keeping it operational.  Larry was courageous, never hesitating to go with me or wherever he was needed, no matter how dangerous.

There were around twenty-five to thirty men in my platoon at any one time. I got to know each of them very well, but none better than the man who had to be there with me all the time: my RTO.  Although Larry was my RTO for only about six weeks, we went through a lot together: firefights, mortar attacks, helicopter assaults, ambush patrols and just living the life of a grunt in the jungle. We lived in the boonies (the jungle) the entire time he was my RTO, digging fighting positions together every day, taking turns monitoring the radio or standing watch during the night.

Of the many things we shared, some funny, some frightening, the most vivid memory I have is the time Larry was wounded.  Our AO (area of operations) was about twenty-two kilometers east and north of Bien Hoa, just south of the Song Dong Nai (River). We were on a company-sized RIF (reconnaissance-in-force) mission. Our company had just completed a long grueling day trekking through the jungle without enemy contact and had stopped at the edge of a clearing to set up our NDP (night defensive position) and to be re-supplied by helicopter.  My platoon was the last unit in the column and when we arrived at the NDP the company commander instructed me to send a patrol around the outside of the clearing to make sure it was secure.  I planned to lead the patrol myself with about one half of the platoon but told Larry he could take a break from carrying the radio and someone else could go with me as RTO.  Larry stayed behind and started working on our fighting position.  It had begun to rain as our patrol started toward the far end of the clearing to first secure the flight path of any approaching helicopters. We had just gotten into the wood line at the far end of the clearing about two hundred meters from our platoon location in the company perimeter when a slick (re-supply helicopter) flew overhead toward the LZ (landing zone).  There was an explosion and the sound of small arms fire. We were immediately summoned back to the company perimeter. The Huey helicopter had been hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade) somewhere near where it was about to land. It had crashed inside the company perimeter and was burning in an intensely hot fire. Ammunition aboard the helicopter was cooking-off (exploding) and sending rounds and shrapnel everywhere.  When we got back to our platoon location I saw Larry lying in our partially dug fighting position.  The medic was already there with him. He looked ghostly-pale, as if he might be going into shock.  The rain was pelting him in the face as he lay there barely noticing it. I had the men erect a poncho shelter to protect him from the downpour. He had been hit in the back of the thigh and buttocks by a large piece of shrapnel. The medic thought it might have hit the sciatic nerve, the source of the intense pain. I kept thinking that my offer to give him a rest from humping the radio had ended up putting him in harm's way. Another helicopter landed a short while later and picked up Larry and another wounded and a man killed by the spinning rotor of the downed helicopter as it hit the ground.  That was the last I saw or heard of Larry.

Over the coming decades, I expect we will be saying goodbye to more and more of our brothers-in -arms,  just as the WWII and Korean Vets are doing today.   My life has been blessed.  Vietnam was a difficult chapter, but I have no regrets.  Slipping into old age, I think back on the times and those with whom I served.  We've gone our separate ways, taking with us the memories, maybe to our graves.  Seeing the word "deceased" next to their names on your roster makes me hope that the years have been kind to them and makes me feel, even though I would like to have made one last contact,  that it is just as well that I let them go the way I remembered them.

David  Hill 

 

COMMENTS:

I don't remember Larry, but I do remember the incident when he was wounded.  When the helicopter was shot down, I recall the one doorgunner crawling to my position.  He was in shock and burned pretty badly.  We pulled him into our little dugout, and tried to calm him down.  He wanted his watch removed from his wrist, and as I pulled it off, his skin came along with it.  I also recall the chopper going down into the command, or very near the command bunker.  By the time the chopper burned to nothing, I remember somebody covering the RTO's severed body.  He had not been in country very long.   That night, if I remember correctly, we had Puff the Magic Dragon on site most of the night, firing streams of beautiful red tracers into the jungle all around us, looking up I can recall what a beautiful sight that was.   Again, sorry to hear about Larry Fodge.  

Larry Rossi

 

 

I recently read your tribute to Larry Fodge and it brought back a flood of memories.  I had similar feelings about the battle you described.  When I received the word that because of a screw up at Battalion, we were going to be left here alone, with the brunt of an enemy regiment coming after us, I started planning for the worst. 

Not wanting them to get to the perimeter of that clearing and have us under direct fire, I sent your platoon to protect us.  I had also requested resupply and they sent in the only bird they could find.  As the helicopter was starting to depart, I asked the First Sergeant to get a short timer from mortar platoon on the bird.  I felt he was too short to have to go through what I knew was coming.

I was sitting at my CP on a mound of dirt planning our defense with my radio operator at my side.

Suddenly, a voice inside said get off your ass and thank that soldier for a job well done.  I did and as the helicopter lifted off, it was hit by an RPG and crashed on the mound I had been sitting on.  As you said everything started burning and exploding around us.  The First Sergeant and I rushed to cut the pilots out of the burning chopper.  We threw them in a foxhole for protection.  The soldier I had just said goodbye to was blown clear and checked out OK.  I then crawled over to my radio operator and as I started to pull him away from the burning chopper, I realized how light he was and lifted my head and learned that he had been cut in half.

During the first light airborne assessment, we were given credit for destroying the rest of the regiment we had encountered an element from the day before. 

You and your men and the entire company did an outstanding job of defending that plot of ground against enormous odds and won the day.

Thank you and Welcome home!

Bill Lacey
Heavy Bones 6

 

Page Created:  01/31/06
Last Updated: 02/12/06