The Bloomington Pantagraph recently profiled Vietnam veterans, including Laborers 362's Dennis Huber.
As members of the 1st Marine Air Wing went about their business at the main helicopter base known as Marble Mountain, the supposed civilian fishing boats on nearby Vietnamese waters presented a picture of tranquility.
After returning to Marble Mountain one evening from delivering troops and helicopter parts to other bases around the region, Dennis Huber of Bloomington experienced first-hand how looks can be deceiving.
“When we got back one night, just before dark, all hell broke loose,” Huber says. “We came under attack and every copter that was stationed on the base got hit. They hit all the fuel lines, all the supply dumps, all our buildings, everything. It just wiped it out.”
The assault left the troops on the base immobilized in bunkers that had been constructed to weather such an attack.
“When we got hit, we couldn’t get out of the bunkers and we couldn’t find out from where we were getting hit,” he says, adding that some F-15s from the nearby Da Nang air base were sent to the rescue.
“Finally, they spotted them out on the fishing boats,” Huber says. “They were firing from the fishing boats.”
Prior to the attack, the Marines had orders to peacefully co-exist with what were believed to be civilians earning a living as fishermen.
Afterward, the boats were no longer off limits.
“We had orders to kill anything that moved out there,” he says. “After that, there were no more fishing boats.”
While Huber lost friends in the attack on the base, another casualty of the Vietnam conflict struck very close to home. Upon graduation from Bloomington High School in 1966, Huber enlisted in the Marines with Donnie Monkman, his best friend at BHS.
Monkman was killed in the conflict.
“I got the memo that he was killed and I was supposed to escort his body home, but by the time they got to me, his body was already on the plane coming home,” Huber says.
Huber served a total of 18 months in two stints in Vietnam, 1967–1969. He was honorably discharged in 1970 and became a union tradesman in Bloomington, helping to build the monument to the Vietnam vets that stands at Miller Park. by Bruce Yentes
“Those Who Served: Vietnam” publishes daily through Sept. 30 in The Pantagraph and at Pantagraph.com. View the collection at Pantagraph.com/ThoseWhoServed.