The Geography of Death

21 Apr

Firepower Demonstration Napalm

The Geography of Death

By: Bob Gersztyn

Photography: Copyright Bob Gersztyn

Back in the summer of 1967

When the “Summer of Love.”

Happened in San Francisco


The “Summer of Burn Baby Burn,”

Exploded in Detroit and Newark

I was in the army

In the 593rd Engineering Company

Stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma

The fort that the

“Buffalo Soldiers” built

For General Sheridan in 1869

At the height of what came to be called

“The Indian Wars.”

A century later,

Ft. Sill was training artillery soldiers

To fight in Vietnam.

One day in June

A new SP/5 named Lonnie

Reported for duty

He just returned from Vietnam

After a 13 month tour.

He was issued a rifle, gas mask and bunk

But he talked about

His wife and 2 year old daughter

Who were going to join him

In August

When he would live off post

Like a civilian.

Then in July

We went on our yearly maneuvers

Also known as war games

With the 225th Maintenance Company

As our oponents.

We used blank ammunition

To simulate live action

In mock battles.

The second day

The 593rd was in a convoy

deploying to a new location

When they were attacked by

The 225th

Lonnie and 2 other NCO’s

Were in the cab

Of one of the trucks

When they were attacked

From both sides

by a barrage of M-14’s.

When the smoke cleared

One of the trucks was riddled

With bullet holes.

It was the truck that

Lonnie was in.

Everyone in the cab was hit,

But only Lonnie

Died from his wounds.

Somehow live ammo

Was issued instead of blanks

But not discovered until after the fact.

An investigation and court martial followed

But Lonnie was still dead.

The way that I see it

Is that it doesn’t matter

Where you are

When your time comes.

Riot Control Practice April 1968


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