An Autobiography by Allen B. Clark
Dak To, Vietnam
4:30 a.m., June 17, 1967
“Muffled sounds of distant mortar fire infiltrated the quiet stillness of the predawn darkness. This sounded so familiar by now that, even though we were expecting a ground attack, I barely took notice and only glanced up briefly from the letter I was writing to my wife. The sounds came increasingly closer, though, when suddenly, from just outside the inner perimeter, I heard the alarming shouts of a Vietnamese man employed in our camp at Dak To (pronounced “dahk toe”). I recall not understanding what he was saying, but soon realized that mortar fire had begun dropping into our camp. In a Special Forces camp, an American Special Forces team member or attached personnel such as I were responsible for a two-hour shift inside the inner perimeter all night long.” “With a rifle in my left hand and a radio in my right, I looked across the river to spot the enemy and started to respond to the command bunker when a sudden jolting thud knocked me forward, and I landed flat on my stomach. There is no flash with mortar fire; it makes impact, and a splash of metal shoots out in a giant cone, hitting everything in its path. One had exploded about eighteen inches behind my left leg, knocking me to the ground. “Oh, God, my legs, my legs! Help me!” I screamed. “Oh, God, I’m dead!” “My assignment to B-57 began when I reported to a Green Beret villa, the ‘liaison office’ in Saigon near General William Westmoreland’s headquarters. I didn’t know who my commanding officer would be, but I did have an idea about our mission: send agents across the Cambodian border to see what the Viet Cong and NVA were up to.” “I named the mission “Operation Cherry,” a name that would be splashed all over the pages of the New York Times years later.” “Every type of imaginable patient populated the psychiatric ward – alcoholics released from active duty, new recruits who cracked under the pressure of basic training, combat-traumatized Vietnam veterans, “druggies” boarded out of the military, and just plain and simple nervous breakdown patients. While all of them had valid reasons to be there, I felt different and had difficulty relating to them.” “Through it all, I had been true to my upbringing, training, dedication, and discipline. My Silver Star citation indicates that I asked that the other wounded be treated before me.” “‘Who was the poor white, brown, or black man who took your place in the army and possibly died?’ I asked bitterly during one of our joint appearances.” “I felt that the most important thing about the ceremony in Washington was not the fact that the president singled me out, but that I was able to share it with Dad because he died just two days later. I went to his bedside and shared the honor that President Reagan bestowed on the Clark and de la Fuente families by reading him the president’s remarks:” “I wrote this book for the purpose of telling you that there is victory – victory that brings peace and forgiveness and promise. I hope it has shown you that, no matter what your own personal battle, Christ’s love can bring healing and victory.”
Copyright © 2006 Allen B. Clark.