Bob Taylor: 13 months in the jungles of Vietnam.

January 4, 2015
Bob Taylor, far right, with two other company members during his time in Vietnam.

Bob Taylor, far right, with two other company members during his time in Vietnam.

Survivor Story.

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By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – Serving 19 months in the 101st Airborne, Ludington resident Bob Taylor has seen a lot of things in his life, but spending 13 of those months in the jungles of Vietnam is something Bob will never forget.

From September of 1969 to October 1970, Bob was stationed in northern Vietnam, deep in the jungle and at times, far from civilization.

“I spent most of my time in the jungle,” Bob said. “It was hot, wet, cold, dry. People don’t really know that it can get cold there and it got over 100 degrees easily, too. It could be very humid.”

all_access_sponsorship_100114His squad would stay out in the jungle for months on end. They would carry everything they needed, which included a rucksack, which weighed around 100 pounds. They slept on the ground and at times when the helicopters could not get into the area, due to the monsoon season and low lying fog, Bob and his squad would have to rely on eating whatever they could find out in the jungle.

“There are many parts of bamboo that are edible,” he said. “We would kill birds and eat them, along with lizards, bugs, worms, whatever we could find.”

The bugs in the jungle were very large and Bob remembered finding a worm that measured far over two feet in length.

He said one of the most memorable things was how dark the jungle could be. “At night it was pitch black,” he said. “You’re not moving, but neither really was anyone else. It was even dark in the daytime.”

They would go out on patrols at night to complete ambushes on the enemy. During the daytime, Bob recalls the natives acting like their friends, but during the nighttime, it was a completely different story.

“In the day, they were our buddies,” he said. “During the night, they tried to kill us, but we tried to kill them, too.”

Bob worked as an infantryman, he became a master at many things during his time in Vietnam.

“As an infantryman, you do it all,” he said.

Bob spent the majority of his time in a free-fire zone, which meant anyone could be a target where he was stationed.

“Anyone could be killed,” he said. “If you saw anyone who wasn’t you, you could kill them.”

His platoon would travel back to their base camp, Camp Eagle, at times and spend about a week there to rest, replenish supplies, train, drink and watch movies then they would venture back deep into the jungle.

Bob recalled in May of 1970, the battle Hill 882, where the majority of his company was taken out.

“We lost most of our company,” he said. “After that I didn’t try to remember most people’s names. I would black it out because I knew they probably wouldn’t make it.”

There are only a few men that Bob really remembers from his time during Vietnam and he said that’s because of the huge loss of company members, when they sent over new guys, he just didn’t really establish new relationships because he never knew how long he was actually going to spend with them.

When Bob came home in 1970, it really was a non-event, he said. People just kept on with their normal lives, but it wasn’t as easy for him to just leave Vietnam behind.

“Some people can handle it better than others,” he said. “My wife has helped me a lot over the years. Having a good woman helps a lot. All of us have survivor’s guilt. We wonder why we made it and some didn’t.”

When the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall came to Ludington back in August, Bob spent a lot of time there and found the wall to be a very nice thing for veterans.

“I helped with the wall a bit,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing for vets, especially those who can’t go to D.C. or don’t want to.”

Bob has been to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. and he found some of his buddies listed on the wall he said, but he also said that he wasn’t able to get rubbings, so he was able to get them in August at the traveling wall.

“I think a lot of healing went on here,” he said. “It was a good thing. I think the best thing about the wall was the gentleman with all the Vietnam paraphernalia.”

Not discussing a lot of his time in Vietnam, Bob said he took his daughter Lexi through the memorabilia tent and was telling her about his time and he remembers Lexi not knowing a lot of what he did because he didn’t talk about it much.

Reflecting back, Bob said he was glad that he went to Vietnam.

“I was good at my job, he said. “I was only really scared once or twice. One of those times is when we were getting mortared. We didn’t know where they were coming from.”

Bob said his good intuition helped him and his company through a lot of uneasy times while out in the middle of the jungle.

“I think I saved some lives,” he said. “I’m good at knowing when something was going to happen. More than once it really helped us out.”

Retired from Great Lakes Casting, Bob helps out with different veteran affairs when he can. He may not take a lot of time to reflect on his experiences with other people, but during those 19 months during 1969 and 1970, Bob and many other young men and women went through more than a lot of people could ever imagine.

“I always say it was the ultimate hunting and camping trip,” he said. “I’m glad I went. I could have been killed or wounded badly, but I didn’t.”