Joe Amodeo

At Khe Sanh: January - May 1968
PFC, Marines, 2nd Platoon, Hotel Company, 2/26

I was the pointman in my Platoon.

When we arrived at Khe Sanh, it was mass confusion. We slept the first night on the ground without any cover. I'm glad the NVA wasn't ready to play with us the first night. We would have suffered serious casualties. The next morning, the battalion headed for Hill 558, which was approximately one-half mile north of the combat base.

Laying in elephant grass at hill 558 upon arrival in January of 1968

We immediately started to knock down the elephant grass to set up fields of fire. This grass was razor sharp, and I dare say that all of us experienced cuts that could be compared to severe paper cuts. We also started to run day patrols in the area and bushwhacks at night. Barbed wire was choppered in with empty sandbags, and we started to dig.

Hill 558 towards end of siege

One day, on a patrol after a rain, I encountered the tracks of a huge tiger. Its paws were the diameter of my head. It was ahead of us in the grass, and I wanted to get a shot at him. I could never do that today to such a magnificent animal. But I never did catch up with the tiger.

Once we dug in, set fields of fire, strung the wire and placed mines, it really looked like fortified position.

At the end of January, I was sent back to the main base by chopper with a shopping list for the platoon, I was only to be there a day or two at the most. I ended up staying until the end of February. The shelling started the same day and choppers could not come in. Every morning at about 0500-0530, I would take care of bodily functions near our 155 artillery battery. At approximately 0600-0630, the NVA would start shelling us. On one morning, those no goods started early, and I had to dive head first into the nearest hole, which also happened to be where the waste was dumped. To this day I can close my eyes and still smell Khe Sanh.

Hair and bad attitude in 1974

It's really amazing that I made it out of that place. I was always pushing the envelope. Hotel 2/26 suffered the fewest casualities of all the companies there. We just didn't see the evil that others experienced. My listening post was being probed one night (could have been that damned tiger). We withdrew and ended up running into our own bushwhack that someone had sent behind us. We thought we were surrounded and threw a grenade, and wounded five of our own. I felt bad about that for weeks. Then one of the guys returned from the hospital and thanked me for getting him his Purple Heart. All of them thanked me.

Towards the end of the siege we were choppered to Hill 881S. That was the most evil place I have ever been. I only spent two weeks there, and I'm sure there are other veterans who spent more time there who could expound on the definition of evil better than I. But it was evil. Just plain evil.

Commanding Generals Awards Toys for Tots 1993

While I was in Vietnam, I used to live day-to-day. When it was finally time to leave Khe Sanh, that's all it meant. We were just leaving, going hunting in a different place.

Joe Amodeo was raised in an Italian-American neighborhood in Des Moines, Iowa, and currently resides outside of Chicago. He says that every day is a celebration.

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