R. Michael Rosensweig
January 1969- February 1971
“After my first tour of duty in Vietnam I had orders for Fort Bragg. I got back to the states and at that time my family was in Baltimore. I was walking up Howard Street in downtown Baltimore-I was still in uniform. A truck backfired about two blocks behind me. I just yelled, ‘Incoming!’ and hit the pavement. It just freaked everybody out. I said, ‘To hell with this.’ Next morning I took the bus, went down to the Pentagon and had orders changed to go back to ‘Nam-just wasn’t ready to come back to what we like to call ‘civilization.’ I wasn’t done fighting my war-there was still a cause to be fought for.
I enjoyed the combat-the adrenalin. Don’t mistake that. Don’t mistake the love of combat for the lack of fear. We were all scared-just some of us got off on the adrenaline…
As far as getting orders changed, it was no problem. I just went down there, told them I wanted a change to go back to ‘Nam. Eighteen days later I was back in country. I went through Rangers school-we had our own school in Vietnam. It was ten days of sheer hell. Our training was geared to guerilla fighting. I was stationed in the same area as my first tour, Central Highlands. The company was based in An Khe.
I loved being with the Rangers. We were a six-man hunter-killer team. Our mission was to go out and kill. Go in, strike, get out-covert. Sometimes if there were too many NVA we had to call in air strikes. Sometimes we had to call them in a lot closer than was allowed by military regs. In some cases it was do that or die anyway.
War just leaves scars that will never heal up in your head because of the overall trauma. The first person I ever had to kill was an eight-year old boy. We were escorting the 101st Airborne in the A Shau Valley. A little boy ran out of the village with a grenade in his hand heading straight for a truckload of GI’s-kind of hard to balance that one out. The grenade was in his hand. We tried to get him to stop-‘Dong Lai!’ ‘Stop!’ He just kept running with that Chi Com in his hand-it’s a Chinese Communist grenade with a string fuse. We didn’t have a choice. If we hadn’t killed him he would have ended up throwing it in a truckload of GI’s. He was about 25 yards away. There are too many other instances like this to list and I say that in all sincerity. I just can’t talk about them.
They deactivated my company just a few months after I left when they started the withdrawal. A lot of guys who stayed went to either Special Forces or went to work for the CIA as black ops in Cambodia. The time I served with the Rangers was the pinnacle of everything I’d ever wanted to be. And when I lost that, I couldn’t see past the war.
They sent me to Germany to an artillery unit as a mechanic and four months later I was out. A couple of Puerto Rican guys from New York were having some kind of big war among themselves and they made the mistake of coming through my room in the middle of the night. You don’t just take somebody fresh out of combat and startle him in the middle of the night because he ain’t going to hide his head under the covers-he’s coming out attacking. And that’s what I did. The first I threw out the window; the other I pinned up against a locker and stuck a bayonet right up against his throat. I almost killed two of our guys-four months later I was out. There’s a lot of stuff especially with the Rangers that’s still classified and I can’t talk about.
I have plenty of firepower. I stay pretty heavily armed at home and everybody that knows me knows better than just to drop in-I’m in my bunker. The woman I was married to for fourteen years was scared to death of me the whole time we were married because of the nightmares-wake up in the middle of the night crying, screaming, roaming around.
You know, because of my background in Vietnam, we had to watch our tempers more than anyone else. Society did not give us the right to get angry and shout. If we did that we were considered lethal. I got fired more than once just for doing nothing more than anybody else would have done-got mad at somebody for doing something really stupid. Yelled at him. The reason I was given was because when I get mad, all people see in my eyes is death.”